This is just the beginning.

I woke up at my usual time this morning, a little after 6:30am, and my daily routine picked up where I last left it on Tuesday. I poured myself a steaming mug of coffee, opened a sachet of wet food for the cat and settled down in front of the TV whilst scrolling through my tweets. But today didn’t feel quite the same as it usually does.

I felt guilty.

You see, on Wednesday 14 June my routine took a slight deviation. I, like many others, took part in #ukhousingfast. We forfeited our meals for the day and made a pledge to donate money, raise awareness and gather items for our local food banks, a service which so many families (too many), rely upon.

HF tweet

 

We stood united. An army of housing people posting messages of support and sentiment throughout the day.

We achieved some amazing things that day; our tweets reached over 178,000 people; we smashed our £1000 fundraising total, and; hundreds of items made their way to local food banks, specifically those run by the amazing Trussell Trust.

UKhousingfast analytics cropped

Huge thanks to Asif Choudry for providing the stats

 

But my guilt remained. It was far too easy for me to get up at 4am and scoff some porridge and banana to help get me through the day. Far too easy to call at my local chippy to feast when the clock struck 10pm and the sun settled down for the day. To go to bed that evening, get a good night’s sleep then wake up the next day smoothly easing myself back into my normal routine just felt wrong.

What I’d experienced for one day is sadly the norm for so many, day in, day out. Food poverty doesn’t just affect those who find themselves homeless, some of them are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads, they may even have work to go to, but they come home, they’ve paid their bills and they then search the cupboards with nothing but a void space staring back at them. These people are our customers, our tenants, our neighbours, our friends, our family.

I spent 14 June trying not to think about food. 1000s of people in the UK cannot think of nothing else but food.

Food banks are an essential service which is relied upon too often and this has got to stop. Evie Copland nailed it with this tweet:

EC tweet

 

My guilt is slowly easing knowing the good work we have all done; seeing the coming together of people who have shown endless generosity and kindness for others in need has been wonderful.

Donations

Donations made by my awesome Bromford colleagues

 

We have made a difference, so thank you, each and every one of you, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is the end.

Let’s make a stand, let’s make a change, for this is just the begninning.

 

Advertisements

Let’s share facts about the Bedroom Tax

Bedroom Tax 1

In less than 3 weeks time there will be some big changes across the UK that will shake-up 1000’s upon 1000’s of people. Sadly I’m not talking about the long-awaited Glastonbury Festival line-up, nor am I talking about One Direction’s 23,000 capacity sell out gig at the O2 Arena in London. It’s of a serious matter that will see the launch of the Bedroom Tax, the first wave of changes brought about by the coalition government’s Welfare Reform.

Tickets for that One Direction gig I mention are selling for around £125 each on eBay. For somebody whose weekly rent is £100, that ticket price is equivalent to an average shortfall of under-occupying by 2 or more bedrooms, in a 5-week calendar month!

I’m no expert on these changes but I was asked recently to deliver a session on Welfare Reform as part of my Leadership journey. It was decided that we would use the time to open this up as part of a wider-discussion, to realise the impact these changes would have on our business, on our teams and most important of all; on our customers.

We could have spent forever discussing all the reasons why these changes are wrong, how sorry we feel for one another and asking the how’s and why’s. But we didn’t. Instead we had a small moment for reflection and spent a large sum of time digesting these changes, checking in with one another’s understanding and looking at the bigger picture implications of all this and what we need to do as a business, as leaders and as individuals to get us through this.

Goal posts

There is so much to absorb in all that is Welfare Reform, the goalposts are forever moving. Only yesterday Inside Housing reported of yet more amends to the Bedroom Tax which has led to planned protests being axed today. But my best guess is that yet more changes will come about as more pressure mounts on Iain Duncan Smith. This piece in the Telegraph included an online poll where over 83% of people felt that the changes were not fair.

So here at Bromford we’re doing our upmost to keep abreast of the changes; we’re forever updating our website; sharing our stories through Social Media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Yammer; and we’re continually checking in with our customers to gauge their understanding of the changes and the impacts these will have upon their lives.

And I’d like to urge you and your organisation to do the same. The changes are going to happen regardless, we can’t do a lot about that, but we must ensure that our customers and colleagues are kept well informed and supported throughout this. I heard somebody say the other day that they felt there had been more publicity about the Digital TV Switchover than there has for Welfare Reform – and I agree. But could we, as a society, be doing more to change that? With the world going more and more digital and with social media becoming further acceptable in the workplace – do we have good reason not to share in our knowledge? The power of communication is in our hands.

Once a Leader, always a Leader

Follow the leader

Leadership is something that’s very relevant in my life right now, both at work and for me personally. Here at Bromford I’ve recently completed the first part of my Living Leadership training which is designed to deliver our core strategic objectives:

  • Delivering A Role Model Service
  • Creating A Great Place To Work
  • Leading Innovation and Change

With an itinerary that covered topics ranging from Fierce Conversations to Getting to Yes and Knowing the Numbers to Leading Change, I knew this was going to be a journey that I could look back upon to help me improve my leadership qualities. My next steps see me walking within our Talent Academy; a 12 month journey which was launched on 16th August by our CEO Mick Kent and special guest Jeff Grout. You might ask; why so much learning? Before I answer that let me share a Mahatma Gandhi quote with you that Mick used in that opening session:

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever.”

We should use every opportunity we are presented with to enhance ourselves and build on our personal development, Mick himself will be the first to admit; “we are all trainees”.

For me Leadership is about how you portray yourself, how you represent the organisation you work for and the influence you have on others. And you don’t need to be directly managing anybody to be a leader. My current secondment means that I don’t have any direct responsibility of a team but I do feel that I’ve always got a wider team at heart. I feel that I have a duty of care to anyone who may turn to me for help, advice or support within their work – and even if I don’t know the answer to something I’ll always do my best to point them in the direction of somebody that will. I always try to do my best for others, encouraging their work and demonstrating a positive attitude when I’m around them, if I don’t then I would feel as though I’ve failed the people who turn to me and I’d even feel as though I’ve failed myself.

John Terry was recently stripped of the England captaincy after he was found guilty of racial abuse by the Football Association. But despite his actions he is still seen as a role model to many young Chelsea fans up and down the country and most probably in many countries around the world too. Chelsea’s recent dip in form, which led to the sacking of manager Roberto Di Matteo last week, is said by some to have been contributed to by John Terry’s absence through suspension and injury. Whatever your opinion of John Terry, rightly or wrongly, he is a leader. On and off the pitch, inside and outside of football, people watch his every move and a number of people look up to him for inspiration, guidance and support. So John must always be at his best, if not for his own sake most definitely for others.

Andy & Paul

I’m not posting this saying I want to be the next John Terry, I’m not the best at football for starters (although I’m told I do resemble Paul Scholes in the looks department) but we can take something from his situation. John Terry has achieved pretty much everything a footballer would dream of having captained his team to Premier League glory, lifted the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Community Shield. He’s won the Champions League, PFA Player of the Year and captained his country – but is John Terry the best player in world; no. Are there things he wishes he would have done differently; I’d say so. Is he still learning; most definitely!

Leadership is a journey that’s one for all, not all for one. You can be at the very top of your game but if you’ve not careful things can come tumbling down very quickly around you. If we want to achieve amazing things in our careers we cannot afford to become complacent. We need to surround ourselves with fantastic people, have a willingness to get better at what we do and we must use our experiences to help one another. Even when our circumstances change we must remain true to ourselves and one another. If we want to be better leaders we must continue to learn. I believe that we must act on the basis; Once a Leader, always a Leader.

Sow our Futures

 

This week saw my role take yet another turn as I was asked to take part in an online debate through the Guardian website discussing how housing providers can help to cut rent arrears. The approach to take part came just last week and whilst I was pleased to have been asked I must admit I was a little confused as to why they would ask me. How does Tenant Cashback appeal to this audience? Why me? It got me thinking about an earlier blog I’d written: Your presence is out there!

So, the discussion is only hours away and I’m doing some reading in preparation for the midday kick off. Lots of debate around Universal Credit and Bedroom Tax – I’m still scratching my head, a little self-critical on the value of my presence but hey, I’ll give it 100% and speak of what I know.

The introductions are laid down and the conversations under way. Questions and viewpoints come from all over with customer’s welfare rightly at the forefront. There’s talk of rent collection, Universal Credit, Direct Debits and customer eviction notices! These are some worrying but very genuine and pressing matters that are circulating within the very organisations from where we work, but there’s an underlying message behind all of this which I quote from one of the commenters on the forum:

“Education, education, education”

Something new is happening right now and something that some of us know little about or we are uncomfortable with, so we need to ensure the message is out there and we need to support our customers and our colleagues. But we must remember that with education also comes communication. I made a comment in the debate:

“If customer’s are given a voice they will speak, give them a choice they will make one, give them an opportunity they will take it.”

In the shape of society today we can ill-afford to walk around with the blinkers on, we need to open-up our senses and be more aware of what’s going on around us, whether that means to integrate our services, listen to advice from others or adapt our approaches – we simply cannot continue on a single track without accepting and embracing change. Some changes will happen regardless, with or without our influences, so it’s down to us to greenhouse our ideas for the sake of our customers and each other – we need to sow our futures.

20120809-095831.jpg