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In the following interview, Kimberleigh Parsons, Social Housing & Support Executive Consultant, discusses her experience in this sector and shares some tips on how to get ahead.
What are the needs that have arisen in response to Covid-19, and how are these being addressed?
Many people ended up losing their jobs, which meant that rent arrears rose to the highest they’d ever been, causing massive strains on the Housing Associations in terms of the arrears they had to chase. We held a conference call with multiple Housing Associations to discuss which procedures would make the process easier. There was a collaboration of Associations working together to pass on correct benefits use to the tenants and provide further support; for example, hotels were used as accommodation for homelessness.
What are the top skills and characteristics that employers are looking for in Social Housing & Support candidates?
Someone who is outgoing and with a good communication skillset; you have to be able to diffuse situations as you will come across high levels of anti-social behaviour. Some individuals have been in their situations for so long they don’t trust that you are indeed helping them, so you need to be able to gain trust quickly and show you’re there to support them. Employers will also be looking for someone who is knowledgeable within the sector and up to date with legislations.
What are some important questions for candidates to ask employers?
Candidates would do well to ask about the cases they would manage and the type of clientele they would be supporting. It shows engagement, and employers always like to see that candidates are interested and passionate about this sector. It is a community-based sector, so it’s important to show that you are compassionate towards these individuals and have the mindset that you’re there to support anyone you come into contact with.
What challenges should candidates expect to face in their work?
Dealing with anti-social behaviour is a big challenge. You must have a willingness to adapt within your work; individuals may have completely different attitudes towards what they’re going through than others in similar situations, so you have to treat each person uniquely. You will also go through such a rigorous system for each tenant in terms of the legalities, and it may seem like going around in circles waiting for someone to make contact back to you, so you have to be resilient on both of those fronts.
What would be your top tips for someone looking to start their career or progress in this sector?
Train yourself with the up-to-date legislations, they’re ever changing in housing, so it’s important to keep informed. It would be beneficial to enrol in external courses such as Total Success Training’s Social Housing module, or the free course on Homelessness and Need from OpenLearn. Once you move to the higher end of the Housing spectrum, the Chartered Institute of Housing is a valuable resource.
If you’re looking to get into the support side of Housing, the usual route is to start off as a Support Worker within the Housing Association and then progress to a Supported Housing Assistant and then a Housing Officer. At this stage you can branch off. There are transferrable skill sets within the whole sector, so it’s all about perseverance and having that internal drive to get where you want to be.
What are the rewards for someone in this field of work?
The benefit of knowing that you got someone out of a dangerous situation, helped them from being dependent or on the streets, or solved an individual’s debt issues by advising them on benefits. If you’re a person that wants to support individuals going through tough times, then it’s the sector for you.
Why do you recruit for the Housing sector?
Our clients and candidates are very compassionate and level-headed because they know what the sector is about: providing a service to support vulnerable individuals. I feel like I’m helping those individuals indirectly; when I place a candidate who is passionate and has a good skillset, I’ve helped society. Everyone should be entitled to secure accommodation and to sleep in a bed; I want to support this sector as much as I can.
Please contact Kimberleigh to discuss finding work or hiring talent in this sector. firstname.lastname@example.org