Neighbourhood manager Emma O’Sullivan blogs for us on the importance of getting to know every customer, approaching every situation with a positive outlook, and utilising all resources within a community.
Colin* had lived in his Bromford home for almost 15 years. He always paid his rent on time and was certainly never involved in any reported cases of anti-social behaviour. So imagine our surprise when we received complaints to our contact centre of loud music being played throughout the night from his flat recently. We double checked the system and, sure enough, there’d never been any similar concerns raised.
The housing manager visited Colin to see if everything was okay with him but Colin’s manner was immediately aggressive and intimidating and it was quickly clear that he was unwell. Realising that it was not the right time to discuss the noise complaint, we left Colin and went away to find out some more information from those who know him.
We contacted the Lichfield community mental health team and neighbourhood police team to discuss our concerns and we were introduced to Mark, the community psychiatric nurse who has worked with Colin for a number of years and knows him very well. Mark was able to advise us that Colin suffers with paranoid schizophrenia and has, until more recently, always worked well with the community mental health team and managed his own medication effectively. However, just before Christmas a personal tragedy struck Colin when his father passed away – it was around this time we believe he stopped taking his medication and the loud music started.
Mark, being an expert in his field, was increasingly concerned about Colin’s welfare and erratic behaviour and he was sectioned. We remained in close contact with Mark and were eventually invited to a meeting at the secure mental health unit where Colin was staying. The meeting was attended by Colin, his consultant, Mark and other nursing staff. Colin had agreed to a ‘depot’ injection which slowly releases his medication over a four week period. The injection is administered by Mark at Colin’s home with no requirement to visit the clinic.
At the meeting we jointly discussed a phased return for Colin who was by now almost ready to leave hospital and eager to be back at home. Colin confessed some real concerns to us about upsetting his neighbours previously and was also anxious that we would ‘take action’ against his tenancy. Through building up a stronger rapport with Colin he also revealed that the neighbour he’d been disturbing with his loud music was once a friend who often cooked him dinner and chatted to him in the hallway.
We quickly reassured Colin that we were there to help him, not to penalise him, and that his neighbour was looking forward to having him back in the community. Colin talked about his feelings and how much he loves his home and mentioned that he sometimes struggles to understand his benefits so we explained how we could offer him some more advice and guidance moving forward.
Following the conclusion of the meeting the consultant openly remarked how refreshing it was for a landlord to be so understanding and not quick to label Colin as a perpetrator of anti-social behaviour. We walked away with Mark who admitted that it hadn’t even crossed his mind to get in contact with us initially as he assumed we were “just a housing provider” and wouldn’t be interested in joint working. We’ve now agreed that regular joint visits will be held over the next few months to ensure that Colin has a smooth and happy transition home.
It reaffirmed my belief that by joining up the dots within a community and delving deeper to understand the lives of our customers in detail, it can only have a wider long-term benefit not only to the individual customer but also Bromford and wider society. Mark is right: we’re far more than a housing provider.