29 September 2020
Summary: In north London, our frontline Community Investment team have provided tailored support to nearly 300 lone parent households over the ‘back to school’ period.
We spoke to Ash, Dennis and Shingirai, our Resident Connectors in the region, to hear more about how they have been helping families meet their individual needs during this time.
Back to school
September has seen many children return to school for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown. Having missed out on months of socialising with friends and the normality of classroom teaching, this has been a welcomed change of routine for many families across the country.
However, with the introduction of localised lockdowns and much uncertainty around the logistics of a safe return to the classroom, for many MTVH residents, this year’s ‘back to school’ period has been a cause of anxiety and stress. In north London, our frontline teams have been working hard to alleviate these worries through proactive, one-to-one support.
Led by residents
At MTVH, we believe that supporting our residents to live well requires relationships of trust and a genuine understanding of the issues impacting our communities day-to-day. The resident voice is very much at the heart of this and our frontline Community Investment teamswork with customers to inform and shape the services they receive. As Resident Connector Dennis Mensah reflects “It’s very important that we support the needs of our residents and build positive relationships within our communities. In many cases, residents don’t often expect this kind of support, so they are often quite happily surprised.”
Through local knowledge and their understanding of our customers’ needs, our Resident Connectors in north London identified 288 lone parent households to proactively contact over the ‘back to school’ period. These calls have provided space for residents to share their concerns and for Connectors to identify solutions, whether it be through emotional support or referrals to partner agencies.
Reflecting on the common issues lone parent families face at this time, Dennis says, “Everything seems to centre around their kids, as you would imagine. They simply want to give their kids the best life possible”.
In some cases, our frontline Community Investment teams have been able to meet residents’ needs directly – for example, through helping them with financial planning or completing Universal Credit applications. For those facing financial pressures as a result of Covid-19, we have provided food shopping vouchers or supported families to access school uniforms and essential household items through our ‘Make it Happen’ grants and Tenant Welfare Fund.
Our frontline teams have also leveraged connections with partner organisations d, such as Step Change for debt advice and Mind UK for those seeking mental health support. In some cases, residents have been connected with national parent support agencies for information and advice about their children’s return to school. Reflecting on the importance of these partnerships, Resident Connector Ash Loksor reflects, “A collective approach that brings in different teams from across the organisation and partnerships with external organisations, helps to make a more sustainable impact on our customer’s lives.”
This support is as much about creating sustainable solutions to some of the broader issues facing our communities at this difficult time, such as economic participation and social mobility, as it is about addressing short-term needs. Our Resident Connectors have supported those seeking employment to access the Love London Working programme, a partnership of nine London-based housing associations aimed at addressing long-term unemployment and economic inactivity. Through providing holistic support, our frontline teams want to empower people to identify and work towards their own solutions. As our Resident Connector Shingirai Nyabango describes, “taking a holistic approach means providing support that looks at the whole person, considering their physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing”.
The importance of listening – not just during the pandemic, but always.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of community investment for housing associations’ ability to effectively support customers to live well. As social housing providers we have a responsibility to support those who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and at MTVH we are seeing the positive impact of this for our residents. As Ash explains, “our engaged response to the coronavirus crisis has been welcomed by many of our residents and has helped them to see us, not just as a landlord, but as a team who cares and wants to see positive, sustainable impacts in our communities”.
At MTVH we believe this starts with listening to the everyday concerns of our residents on issues such as employment, financial security and opportunity for their children and allowing our services to be guided by residents’ voices every step of the way. As Ash reflects, through providing tailored support, “customers are feeling better informed, assured that there is support available and that they are not alone.”