Shaping Property Services Around Elderly And Vulnerable Residents

The most basic principle behind providing property services for social housing is that the provision should adapt to suit the needs of residents – rather than the other way round. In most cases this isn’t too demanding and calls for features such as flexibility over appointments and offering a range of communication channels.

But some residents have more profound needs – particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable. Here, the way the repairs and maintenance service is provided must be even more flexible and ensure that issues such as safeguarding and client wellbeing are given the priority they deserve.

Within one of our partnerships there is a particularly high percentage of elderly residents. Responding to their requests Osborne limited working hours to between 10.00am and 4.00pm. This is less disruptive to routines and less likely to clash with care visits.

We also engaged with elderly residents to help design the content of toolbox talks that we use to help our operatives to understand residents’ expectations.

The toolbox talks are an effective way to reinforce the training that all of our operatives and subcontractors undergo to raise awareness of vulnerability issues such as dementia, reduced mobility, sensory impairment and safeguarding.

Communicating Needs

Ensuring that vulnerable residents’ needs are always met means incorporating these considerations into routine workflows and communications. Our works management system incorporates ‘flags’ to notify our staff of any known priority needs. Special instructions are communicated with the works order. If residents are uncomfortable being alone in the house with a male we always send a female operative or ensure that a female member of staff is in attendance throughout the visit.

Safeguarding and wellbeing are always the highest priorities. Operatives know never to start work if there are risks to the physical and mental well-being of the resident.

A Team Effort

Meeting the needs of vulnerable residents is always a team effort that calls for liaison with housing officers, carers, family and support workers. This can include asking them to attend when gaining access and at key stages of the works.

Because we are working in people’s homes, repair and maintenance operatives are often well placed to spot potential signs of neglect or abuse. It’s vital that there are clearly understood protocols in place for reporting and following up any concerns.

Ultimately it all comes down to people. Soft skills matter just as much as technical capabilities in our recruitment process. For many residents the ‘experience’ of the repair and maintenance service is often all about the interaction with individual operatives – we never forget this.

To find out more about our approach, visit our resource centre