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BCHA Who we are blog - Kirsty Matlock, Tenancy Officer

My role as Tenancy Officer has numerous responsibilities, but the overarching priority is reletting void rooms (rooms without tenants), of which we have on average eight voids per week.

It is a reactive responsibility, as we don’t often receive notice that a tenant is vacating their room. As a team we strive to have rooms re-let as fast as possible and completed in conjunction with the various support teams.

We also keep track of all the repairs that are required. It is important that our customers are accommodated in properties that are safe, so regular health and safety inspections are completed, including fire alarm testing.

We are also involved in complaints handling, anti-social behaviour, support work for Move On customers, liaising with other social housing providers, private landlords, the local authority, social services. We regularly speak to other departments within BCHA, such as finance, compliance, repairs and other tenancy teams within BCHA

The tenancy team in Plymouth consists of four people, three of whom came from other teams within BCHA. Chloe Millar started at BCHA in 2015 as a Relief Cleaner, Steve Underhill who has recently joined our team, in January 2020, came from the Plymouth Temporary Accommodation Team as a Complex Needs Support Worker and I started in 2015 as a Relief Night Worker. We also have a part time Housing Support Worker, Sarah Filip who has a case load of Move On customers to support. Sarah started with us in July 2020 and has a background in social work as a qualified social worker.

The favourite part of working with BCHA is coming into work each day and not knowing what's going to come your way. Often reactional problem solving. It makes the job interesting and challenging. Having to think on your feet, assessing a situation and the need to be confident in decisions that are made.

As a team we have daily engagement with our customers, regardless if they are accommodated in supported schemes or tenancy managed schemes. Customers always want to talk and we are happy to assist where we can, signpost when necessary or sometimes just sit, listen and have a conversation. Many of our customers feel isolated and if we can lessen that just a little by taking the time then we will.

My role hasn’t altered considerably since lockdown, I continue to work within the office and within all of our properties. Support for our Move On customers did increase and it was necessary to have additional considerations such as face masks for these customers. Many of whom live outside the city centre where their support networks are.

We were concerned how these customers would travel if they didn’t have the funds for face masks. A plea was made on social media and the number of people who volunteered to hand stitch face masks for our customers was amazing and gave them the ability to keep to appointments and be less anxious about having to go outside when necessary.

My most challenging task to date was as a Project Officer for a transfer of Mears housing to BCHA while continuing my role as Tenancy Officer. BCHA required a minimum of 14 properties. After surveying the properties, persuading and negotiating with landlords to make improvements to their properties, BCHA transferred 20 properties for use as family temporary accommodation.

This is a huge benefit to BCHA, especially within Plymouth where we previously hadn’t provided accommodation for families. It means that the families accommodated have local housing management to assist with any issues that may arise. I have built up good relationships with these landlords and am learning the different processes with families as I had previously only been involved with individual customers.

The multi-agency working that is incorporated with families is a new area of learning for me and I now have an increased involvement with Plymouth City Council, Children’s Social Care, Family Support Workers in housing plans.

This transfer project was complex, with so many different agencies and stakeholders involved, all of which had to be time managed to ensure no break in housing management for tenants already accommodated within these properties. However as demanding as it was, it was extremely rewarding. Witnessing the standard of housing improving for families, which has many benefits for both their mental and physical wellbeing. Seeing smiles on children’s faces will always make any difficult task worthwhile and feel like a difference has been made.

I don’t think I would have been able to complete this transfer of stock if I hadn’t previously been given the responsibility of finding additional or replacement properties for Plymouth since 2017. I have personally found 80% of our leased accommodation in Plymouth, including negotiating with landlords for improvements and set up.

As a team we are proud of the achievements that we have accomplished and alongside the responsibilities that we have with properties, we have our Move On Scheme of 48 customers, that comes under Tenancy, and in the past two years we have successfully moved 73 people into either social housing or private rent with none having returned to homelessness.

We have spent evenings and weekends collecting donated goods from charities, freecycle or through requests on social media, for our move on customers so that they have basic essentials when they move. And every trip was worth it. Our customers do not stop being our customers once they have moved, they remain our customers until they feel like they no longer need us and are settled. We walk alongside them on their journey to independence however long that may take.

We as a team have been through two re-structures since 2018, which has brought about many changes and varying responsibilities. However, the changes within both has meant that individually we have gained additional skills and increased our learning and knowledge.

I have learned and developed throughout my time with BCHA, having been pushed to complete tasks and responsibilities, which prior to joining BCHA I would never have thought I was capable of doing. Having the support and the belief of BCHA in my abilities has meant that that I have gained the confidence and determination to continuously step outside of my comfort zone.

I feel privileged to be part of the Tenancy Team, we have involvement with every support scheme in our location, as well as with many departments within BCHA. We interact with all of our customers in Plymouth regardless of whether the scheme falls under Homelessness Health and Well Being or under Customer Homes and Tenancy.

BCHA is a unique Housing Association and if it wasn’t for BCHA I would not, I believe, have been able to have the experiences and learned the skills that I have done, which can carry me into other challenges and roles that may come my way. 

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