Coaching conversations helping to connect communities
These days neighbourhood coach Nicola Pearce parks her car on a particular road and then goes about her day by walking between customer properties and interacting with the local neighbourhood.
It hasn’t always been like this but since Bromford rolled out the localities way of working to its south Gloucestershire customers last year, Nicola has seen her patch size significantly reduce and is noticing a steady improvement in her relationship with customers. Fuelled largely by her increased visibility as well as her ability to build that all-important rapport by meeting more of them face-to-face, nowadays her operating area includes just four roads and adjoining cul-de-sacs on the same estate in Cadbury Heath. It is also home to another two neighbourhood coaches.
Nicola recently received a telephone call off a private owner on one of her roads complaining about an overgrown tree which was encroaching onto her property and threatening to cause damage to roof tiles and cabling.
“I reassured the lady that I would visit our customers to assess the situation and that I was sure we would be able to find a resolution without it causing any kind of dispute,” she said.
When Nicola visited husband and wife Richard and Carol Hammond, who have lived in their home for 39 years, the conversation was approached amicably and it quickly became clear that there were extenuating circumstances behind the situation.
Mrs Hammond had been a keen gardener for many years, planting cherry trees and clematises in her garden and taking pride in its appearance, before poor mobility exacerbated by heart problems and severe osteoarthritis had led to the tree becoming overgrown.
“Carol has always been so proud about the appearance of her home and it was only because of bad health that she’d not been able to maintain it,” Nicola said. “We discussed the options and I then got a quote off an external company to come and do the work which would allow Mr and Mrs Hammond to pay for the work in monthly instalments of £20.”
Through speaking to the couple more in depth, Nicola established that Mrs Hammond was entitled to Attendance Allowance due to her age and disability but had never even contemplated making a claim. Assisting them with the forms, Nicola helped the couple secure an additional £380 a month to help towards the cost of maintaining their home and heating it properly throughout the winter months.
Mrs Hammond, who worked in stocks and shares in London before becoming a retail manager locally, said: “I’ve worked and paid tax throughout my adult life and hadn’t even considered applying for Attendance Allowance – to be honest, I never really believed in it. But Nicola helped me understand that it’s there for people who genuinely need it and to be truthful meeting her has been a godsend as I’m now using the extra money to help me buy my medication.
“Meeting her was a lovely experience and she now always waves when she comes past or stops by for a quick chat. We’ve probably seen more of Nicola in the past 12 months than any of my other housing officers and we’ve certainly had a few over the years.”
Nicola added: “This way of working really helps to embed myself in the local community and by talking to people like Richard and Carol, I find out other things or context about the local neighbourhood which helps me weigh up subsequent conversations.
“By taking time to talk to people you also really get to understand how many strengths already exist within the community – there is a guy down the road who cuts other people’s lawns and another that helps some of the elderly residents take items to the tip so I can use that information to build a better picture of my patch and a more productive and proactive relationship with the customers living in our homes.”
Fancy learning more about the role of a neighbourhood coach? Keep an eye on our latest vacancies for more information.