Hello and welcome to my June Blog. This week is National Volunteering Week, a chance to celebrate and thank volunteer contribution. It’s an area we are deeply involved in across our communities and so something I’m keen to focus on this month.
Counting on volunteer help
At Southway we rely heavily on volunteers working with us; they review our services to tell us what they think is good, and more importantly, what they think we could do better. Whilst doing this valuable work for Southway our volunteers are improving their own prospects for employment, as well as sharing essential skills and gaining great experiences across the community. I'll go into more detail about some of these people and opportunities below.
A crucial role in shaping crucial services
A recent example of the importance volunteers have at Southway relates to the way we support tenants affected by domestic abuse. In the past, we commissioned an external company to investigate victims’ homes to look at security measures, such as window locks and door alarms. Tenant volunteers told us the service we were paying for was simply not good enough. Based on their feedback we developed an in-house solution which increases the range of security measures and support we offer. This new, improved, and crucially, tenant-approved service is due to go live in the next few weeks.
What is it like being a volunteer?
Jim Hutton is a long-standing volunteer who has been involved in our Residents Consultative Group, Tenant Scrutiny Panel and Complaints Services Improvement Group, and has recently added the People and Places Committee to this list. I spoke to Jim recently about his role as Chair of the Tenant Scrutiny Panel.
Jim says the work of the panel is really enjoyable and rewarding, if also challenging at times:
“I see it as a way to represent tenants’ views and to get the best for our areas by making sure the landlord is doing their job well.
Living in social housing provides an opportunity to get involved in making decisions which impact directly on our lives. I’m a proud tenant representative and I represent the best interests of all tenants by holding Southway and their staff to account over policies and decisions which affect everyone.”
Some of the things Jim and the group have achieved which I am proud of, include launching an Antisocial Behaviour Service Improvement Group, to tackle poor satisfaction with the service, and recommending that we cut back the Concessionary Decorating Service to save the organisation over £70,000 a year to put back into the community.
Opportunities to volunteer
There are lots of ways to volunteer at Southway including helping residents access affordable food at Quids In food clubs and getting involved with the Timebank – where people share skills for free across the community.
We’re also looking for tenants to work with us to gain skills and knowledge to enable them to become Southway Board Members: click here to find out more about those roles.
We want to make these positions truly beneficial for volunteers, with training provided and a great experience offered that can prove really useful in other aspects of life, including in employment. One of our longstanding tenant volunteers, Memuna, through her involvement at Southway has gained the skills, experience and qualifications to obtain a full time position in housing, which I am delighted about.
A big thank you
Finally, I would again like to send out a personal thank you to all our volunteers; people who use and feedback on our services, help shape our work or help within our community. It is a crucial and hugely worthwhile role and one that our organisation, and the community as a whole, are indebted to.
Get in touch below with your questions, feedback, or ideas for future blogs