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Warrington Housing Association is doing all it can to tackle anxiety and loneliness for its tenants

Earlier this year, the government published its annual English Housing Survey covering 2019/20. Sadly, one of the standout findings from the report after looking at the wellbeing of individuals across all types of occupancies was that social renters felt more anxious than others and had the lowest wellbeing scores.

Loneliness was another area where social renters were worse affected, with responses suggesting they were more than twice as likely to feel lonely than any other tenure.

In total, 12% of social renters said they are often or always lonely compared to just 5% of private renters and 4% of owner-occupiers.

At Warrington Housing Association their tenants’ and customers’ health, happiness and wellbeing are incredibly important to them. And there are many things that they have been doing through the pandemic to support them – and change the shocking statistic.

A new Customer Voice Officer joined the team

The Social Housing White Paper, updated in January of this year, aims to shake up how social housing organisations operate. It has seven themes altogether, each one linked by one common thread – that the safety, wellbeing, and opinions of social housing residents’ matter, and that it’s down to landlords to demonstrate this to their residents.

Reflected in how committed Warrington Housing Association is to adhere to the white paper their first decision after this was updated was to create a new role in the organisation – that of a Customer Voice Officer – a role which is dedicated to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of residents, as well as to give them a platform to voice their opinion.

Bernie Hubble was appointed earlier this year.

Bernie said: “One of the initiatives I have in mind, which is part of our Community Action Plan, is to start running roadshows where we can get out and about to meet our tenants, learning about them and letting them know what we are about and how we can work together. We care about our customers and their wellbeing and we want them to know that.”

Housing Officers

Being a Housing Officer at WHA is a front-line role – they offer a great deal of support to their customers and will often get to know individuals on a personal level, enabling them to often pre-empt if there is a problem or if the resident needs help with more than just a housing issue.

As each case is very different and there is no one size fits all, the support or emotional help on offer will vary a lot.

Many of their customers have their own support networks in place but if they don’t, we would go through social care, or take advice from our network of people including mental health teams, social workers, health care agencies, specialist organisations such as Pathways to Recovery which deals with addictions.

They also offer support for victims of domestic abuse. This support may come directly through their own team of people, or through other local agencies that can give appropriate support. They can also arrange for counselling through local victim support groups.

Mental Health First Aiders

WHA now have four Mental Health First Aider colleagues within the organisation, and whilst these positions were initially developed to create a more positive workplace culture and to support their colleagues at WHA it soon became clear that the training they received also equipped the first aiders to help and support their customers as well. Apparently, there is more training planned for the future and they hope to continue to support any customers in need.

Scrutiny panel made up of our customers

WHASP is a scrutiny panel made up of their customers, and their role is to scrutinise the work the association does and to suggest improvements. It is such an integral part of Warrington Housing Association as the members’ input directly shapes what they do.

WHASP was in place before the government white paper was published, which shows clearly that they were already an organisation that saw the importance of involving our customers in their work, believing it to be integral to their wellbeing.

Bernie, who works with the scrutiny panel, said: “Even the act of joining WHASP has proven to help some members with their confidence and self-esteem. We have members who have lost their confidence after experiencing mental health issues and joining the panel has given them a feeling of belonging and enabled them to learn new things.

“To see customers on the panel, grow in confidence is priceless and illustrates that not only is WHASP an integral part of improving the work of WHA but it is helping our customers in their own lives and personal development.”

Free Money Advice

Mental health and wellbeing can often be affected when there is anxiety around finances which is why they offer a free money advice service for their residents that helps them to share their money struggles and worries.

Many people struggle with debt and aren’t aware of what is available to them to help get them out of it – the practical advice that WHA offers can help to take back control and get started on their debt-free journey.

They also believe they can help unravel the confusion around benefits and help people understand what they are entitled to and offer practical support to help them make a claim and appeal decisions.

If there are concerns around how to make the most of the money they have coming in, WHA can also help to find ways to save money on bills and shopping to help their customers make their money go further.

If you would like to talk to their money advice officer contact Steven Higham at WHA.

Activities for the over 50s

Loneliness can often occur when you retire and you see fewer people on a day-to-day basis. This is often why their Housing Officers are so valued by their customers.

They also offer the Lifetime Centre which is based next to the Gateway in Warrington Town Centre. It’s free to join and is available to anyone over 50.

Whether you are in your fifties, sixties, seventies or eighties and above, Life Time can offer age-relevant advice, training, social events, exercise classes and, if someone has a health issue, they can be introduced to the right information and support.

Joining Lifetime is a great way to keep connected with like-minded people and there really is something for anyone.

To find out more visit the Lifetime Gateway website.

Young People’s Voice group

At WHA they value all the young people that live in and have tenancies in their properties, and with this in mind, they plan to encourage the young people’s voices across WHA and create a Young Peoples’ Voice group.

They have started by consulting with their younger colleagues and asking them for their thoughts on what young people would think about forming a group to have their voice heard, and what approaches would work in the age of social media. So far, they have received some amazing input and ideas from them.

Bernie, who is working on setting up the new group, said: “We are already passionate about giving young people opportunities here by offering apprenticeships at WHA, but we plan to expand this to include our young customers as well. The creation of a Young Peoples’ Voice group will encourage the members to have a say about where they live, look at ways we can improve our town and see how WHA works.

“This will hopefully not only give the volunteers amazing life lessons such as learning to plan and deliver on changes they wish to implement but it should also improve their self-esteem and confidence.”

If you would like more information on any of the above, then please visit their website or call WHA on 01925 246 810.