On a grim Wednesday afternoon I had the absolute pleasure of being invited by Julie Fadden, chief executive of South Liverpool Homes to visit them for their ‘Walkabout Wednesday’.
What is Walkabout Wednesday? On the first Wednesday of every month, everyone at South Liverpool Homes goes back on the beat – out of the office to lead a walkabout in their neighbourhoods meeting residents in the community where all the action happens.
The walkabouts are a great way of finding out what is going on in the area, seeking ways to improve it and spotting any potential problems before they arise. They also provide tenants and residents with the opportunity to let the SLH team know about measures that could be taken to make the neighbourhoods safer or more attractive – or discuss any issue that may be on their mind.
We were welcomed by the SLH staff and kicked off the day in the team talks prior to the walk. SLH has won awards for being an excellent employer and it wasn’t difficult to see why – there were team congratulations for a host of different reasons; significant birthdays, length of service and jobs well done – a very positive way to start the day off.
Once the formalities were out of the way, the teams were provided with identifying jackets to wear and we headed to Garston Urban Village Hall where we met with the fire service and community support services. This particular walkabout Wednesday was all about fire safety awareness, so each group was given allotted streets to visit, most of which had SLH homes on them. The teams had to meet with residents, provide them with a fire advice leaflet and let them know that the fire service were in the area doing checks and fitting free smoke alarms. In parallel, the teams took the opportunity to check how residents were and report back on anything that may be useful for the housing authority to know. Without these visits, this kind of first hand informal feedback from the residents would never be formally heard, and so it’s often an invaluable way of learning things. Residents often don’t have the time to report minor issues – perhaps related to repairs or issues in the community. All of these can be heard, and are raised easily with the housing officers on the beat.
What I like about walkabout Wednesday is that it offers an opportunity for SLH to get to know some of their residents and tailor a truly personal service to them – which undoubtedly makes the residents feel more secure in dealing with the housing authority. We live in an increasingly digital world, but no matter what the in-house systems can do, there is no substitute for this kind of personal contact, and it often reveals things that would never otherwise be unearthed. It’s an exercise in how to deal with people the right way.
The two hours we were there flew by and it was clear that the work SLH are doing is beneficial and making a difference to the community.