“I see this as a stepping stone towards a job”
Shortly after moving into her new home, bpha resident, Louise, spotted an advert in Talk magazine for tenants to work as volunteer resident inspectors.
She applied, did some training and is now one of a team of inspectors who work to make sure that our repairs and maintenance service is the best it can be. Here she tells us about the role and how it’s given her the boost she needed after a difficult time in her life.
“A few years ago, my life took a turn for the worse. After a relationship breakdown, I was forced to sell my home, which effectively made me and my four-year-old daughter homeless,” says Louise. “All of a sudden I was in this whole new world where I needed help from the state for the first time. I’d always worked and supported myself but now I had to rely on others to support and guide me.”
That help came in the form of Louise’s family as well as the council’s Family Care Service Centres. Without their support, Louise says she doesn’t know where she’d be now. “My local Family Care Service Centre gave me a path to go down and it ended with me moving into a bpha home. It was such a relief to have a place of my own. We have a lovely ground floor flat in a small block, and we’ve been here for about a year now.”
Becoming an inspector
After moving in, Louise began to think about work. As the main carer for her daughter, she couldn’t commit to a full-time job but wanted to keep busy and put her skills from previous roles back into use. “I worked for a bank for several years but got made redundant. After that, I worked at Tesco as a trainee manager. So when I saw the advert for the volunteer resident inspector role, I knew it would suit me, and luckily I was taken on.”
Louise joined with a group of five other residents who trained together, learning about health and safety, safeguarding, telephone skills, data protection and IT.
“The job involves contacting residents after a repair or maintenance job has been carried out at their home,” says Louise. “We ask them a series of questions to find out how satisfied they are with the work and what could be done better. In some cases, there may be ongoing issues so we pass them onto the property services team to resolve.”
In most cases, Louise visits customers at home. The team work in pairs and there’s always a bpha staff member on hand to give support if needed. Visits have been put on hold due to the lockdown restrictions but are set to resume soon with the appropriate social distancing measures in place.
Louise says: “It’s a really worthwhile job because residents feel they can be honest about the service they’ve received. And it means that bpha gets a clearer picture of how the service is running and what can be improved.
“I enjoy the role and it works for me as it’s only a few hours a month. It’s really helped to boost my confidence too, particularly as I suffer with anxiety and depression.”
Stepping stone towards work
“I enjoy the role and it works for me as it’s only a few hours a month. It’s really helped to boost my confidence too, particularly as I suffer with anxiety and depression. Before lockdown I got a chance to work in bpha’s Customer Service Centre, helping with complaints, which is what I did at the bank. So I see this experience as a stepping stone towards getting a permanent job.”
Louise has also become Chair of the PTA at her daughter’s school and has been put forward to be a school Governor. And she helps out at her local Family Care Service Centre, doing admin work and co-ordinating the children’s club. “It’s great to give something back after all the support they’ve given me,” she says.
Part of a community
During lockdown, Louise managed to bring her neighbours together in the block where she lives to enjoy the outdoor space. She says: “We don’t have a garden as such but I thought we could make use of the large grassy area in front of the building. I bought some windbreaks to shield us from the road, and my neighbours – many of whom had never met before – joined in and brought their chairs outside. Now, when the weather’s good we often meet up for a chat, from a distance. Me and my daughter have settled into our new home and it’s lovely to feel part of the community there.”