"It’s exciting to be involved in shaping services"

Tenant and TQT Client

Having secure accommodation has made me more independent. It’s been a really positive change. It’s meant I’ve been able to pursue voluntary opportunities at Southdown and look at the possibility of returning to work.

I’m a tenant in a Southdown-owned property.

I live in an open-plan one bedroom flat in Brighton. It’s quite close to the London Road shopping area, the city centre, and close to the beach. It’s good.

I’ve been here since July 2011. It’s been a long journey - there have definitely been lots of ups and downs.

I went through two placements of temporary and emergency accommodation at the council which all began after having a motorbike accident in 2009 whilst I was working as a Sales Manager at the Penguin Group in London.

I had physical injuries and some psychological ones as well. I was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder and PTSD. I also had psychosis. It was full on, I’d never had it before.

I later developed a mood disorder called cyclothymia but psychiatrists suspect it was an underlying condition that existed before the accident. It’s like a milder form of bipolar disorder. I took the diagnosis really badly. I was in a state of denial and didn’t want to accept it.

My behaviour was very erratic. I was doing very odd things like putting flour on people’s cars and singing and dancing on the beach. I was doing 24 hour trips to London, not sleeping, and the next day spending money and coming home with lots of shopping. I got into really bad debt and became insolvent.

I left my job because I couldn’t sustain it. I couldn’t concentrate, I was dizzy and couldn’t look at the computer screen. I was getting to work late and I just wasn’t interested in it. I had the motorbike crash in February and left that August. 

I moved down to Hove to live with my mum but she wasn’t able to manage my erratic and aggressive behaviour. She formally evicted me and my sister decided to take me into her flat. It was then that I had an intervention from the psychosis service after she went to my GP. 

My sister then had to formally evict me so that I could make a homeless application with the council. I was housed in emergency accommodation before the council made a decision. I stayed there for a few months and then moved into privately rented accommodation where I didn’t have to pay for the deposit.

Unfortunately my poor mental health led to me losing that accommodation because at the same time I bought a boat and handed in my notice for the property. I started dismantling it so it became a matter of safety and I sold it.

I then spent time living with my mum but she had to evict me again. I’d stopped taking my medication because it had made me feel lethargic and numb-headed. I was taken back into the council’s emergency accommodation and stayed in three hostels. 

Finally I was housed in Southdown accommodation. It was really brilliant. It was just what I needed at the time and I was lucky as it only took three months.

Having secure accommodation meant I could attend to my mental health needs. I started seeing a psychiatrist and took a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) course.

As a Southdown tenant, I have a Housing Officer who can answer any questions I might have and support me with any repairs I might need. Housing Officers also help with antisocial behaviour problems and send the rent statements. They are a helpful link between a tenant and the organisation. 

For example, I had to put in a complaint that my shower door was broken and the Housing Officer was key to safeguarding my interests. Even though they’re your landlord, you can be quite candid with them where you wouldn’t be with a private landlord. There’s an element of them being quite impartial.

I wasn’t stable in the beginning. For a long time I didn’t have furniture. I was sleeping in the bathroom on a mat because I’d taken up the flooring. It was only in 2015 when I was put on the right medication that I felt more stable.

I don’t have any debt anymore. It’s a real relief. I’m no longer receiving letters from creditors threatening me to go to court. 

My tenancy will be reviewed periodically but I don’t have a good credit rating or money for the private rented sector and I have mental health needs. I’m quite private with my problems and seclude myself, and I really have to fight for people to see I have problems and need help.

Having secure accommodation has made me more independent. It’s been a really positive change. It’s meant I’ve been able to pursue voluntary opportunities at Southdown and look at the possibility of returning to work.

I’m part of the Tenant Quality Team, which is part of Southdown’s Client Involvement strategy. The role of the team is to facilitate feedback on the Housing Management Service, which is responsible for tenants. It means the service’s output can be tailored and they have the end-user, the tenant, in mind.

We meet once a month, but contact is often more regular because things will come up throughout the week. Our co-ordinator creates an agenda and presents us with something we can provide feedback on from the tenant perspective, such as anti-social behaviour letters, rent statements, and the tenant handbook. 

We have also had the opportunity to feedback into Southdown’s readiness for Universal Credit, have given our feedback on the tenant newsletter, and have conducted a survey to tenants on their experience of the repair service. The organisation has also asked for our input regarding creating a culture of rent in advance. We’ve shared our ideas and any concerns we might have.

The Tenant Quality Team also assist in staff recruitment. I recently sat on an interview panel for the new Director of Housing role. It was pretty intense because it was at such a high level and I had a feeling I had to really perform. It was quite a responsibility but I felt like I rose to the occasion.

We put a lot of preparation into the interview but on the day you also have to enter a conversation and develop a rapport - I enjoyed that part of it. I felt valued by the organisation, by Southdown’s Chief Executive, and his colleagues.

It makes me feel like I’m going back to how and where I used to be. It’s let me sharpen my teeth, build up my toolkit, and get involved in something. It’s provided me with manageable steps to get back to full employment. 

My IT skills and administrative management need to be developed because I lost a lot of time out of work. In terms of negotiating, debating, and taking part in meetings – the professional skills I had have been honed. 

It’s exciting to be involved in shaping services. There’s a new organisational client involvement development group that I’m looking into joining.

Having something tailored to the client means that their needs are matched. It’s also an efficient way to operate and provide support that actually works, and that saves time and resources.

Client Involvement makes clients feel empowered and feel that they have a voice. Having a voice means there is a constant dialogue. It’s about being heard and feeling a camaraderie with the other clients you are representing. You’re developing your empathy and compassion and seeing things from a collective perspective.

The regular routine of my Client Involvement work has been really important. Being out of work means I have a lot of time on my hands and it’s difficult to get into a rhythm. It’s made me feel energised and improved my self-esteem.

 

Southdown provides different types of affordable housing from temporary accommodation to a long-term home for people who have health and/or support needs. As a specialist supported housing landlord the majority of our tenants also receive additional support from our housing officers to help maintain their homes. 

At Southdown the people that use our services are at the heart of everything we do. We believe that their views, knowledge and experience should have a real influence on reviewing and shaping our services to ensure they meet people's needs. We increase the opportunities for our clients to help shape how we deliver our services through Client Involvement activities.