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Change for the better

30 June | More Than Homes | News

One of the positives we can take from pandemic is that it’s shown the huge difference housing associations make to people’s lives. We’re not just about bricks and mortar – we’re about people.

Like so many Housing Associations, Yorkshire Housing moved quickly as the country headed for lockdown.

In just a few days we developed and launched our Customer Assistance Scheme.  We made 6,000 welfare calls to customers who were vulnerable due to either age or health reasons.  We offered befriending calls to combat isolation and help with accessing food and essentials such as medicine.

Rather than furlough colleagues we chose to move them into new roles to support our customers. The new homes sales team switched to making some of our 4,600 befriending calls. Colleagues from our adaptations service dropped off food parcels and medicine. We set up essential food stores in locations across Yorkshire, including one in a colleague’s garage. We also increased the size of our Income Team to help those who had lost their jobs and were struggling to make ends meet.

I was, and still am, overwhelmed by the response from our team. They were willing to do whatever it took and worked long hours to support those in need. It showed the great heart of our people which is mixed with Yorkshire grit and determination. It’s one of the reasons I’m incredibly proud to lead the organisation.

Over the past few months we’ve seen the pandemic hit those in poverty the hardest. One of our team helped a single parent of two boys aged 9 and 7. She was a self-employed cleaner, who couldn’t work due to the lockdown. When our team delivered a food parcel her boys couldn’t contain their excitement. The family only had two yogurts and some milk left in their fridge.

There are many thousands more families and individuals in similar circumstances. The sharp rise in foodbank use during the crisis shows the true impact of Coronavirus. This is why Yorkshire Housing didn’t hesitate to pledge our support when Paul Dolan from Accent approached us about the More Than Homes  campaign to raise £1 million for the Trussell Trust.

The pandemic has caused a lasting shift in society that is here to stay. It forced us to adapt quickly, to find new ways of doing things and challenged our thinking on what’s possible. It catapulted Yorkshire Housing forward in the space of just two months to where we had planned to be in three years. This has now enabled us to deliver a flexible, agile approach to delivering services that make such a difference to the lives of our customers.

As a sector we need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and start to unpack what that means for us and our customers. Let’s ensure we don’t let go of the positive changes this has created in many of our organisations so that our customers continue to have the support, services and homes they need, not to survive – but to thrive.

We’re told that this is a once in a generation event, that people will study it in history classes like we learned about the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. I hope they’ll also read about a shift in society that brought change for the better, and that Housing Associations helped to lead the way through campaigns like More Than Homes.

If you were able, would you be willing?

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