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“I bet you didn’t think I’d call back,” said 28-year-old Felicity* whilst coming to the end of a telephone conversation with neighbourhood coach Sharon Harvey.

“No, not at all,” Sharon responded. “When you said you’d call me, I absolutely trusted your word and knew you would call back.”

It was arguably this simple but powerful exchange that planted the seed for an evolving and positive relationship between the pair.

A few weeks previously, Sharon had tried getting hold of Felicity to talk to her about her rent account after payments had stopped suddenly nine weeks ago. During that time, almost £1,000 in arrears had started to accumulate and Sharon wanted to introduce herself to the Oxfordshire resident to see if everything was okay.

Sharon continued: “I managed to contact her by text originally and when we spoke briefly and it transpired that she was at work, I asked if it would be better to speak a different time due to the call being of a sensitive nature. Fliss said that would be better and that she’d ring me back at 5:30pm that same day.”

Felicity, who works for the Youth Offending Service, telephoned Sharon back as promised and explained that because of suffering with extreme anxiety she wouldn’t be comfortable with a face-to-face visit.

“And of course that was completely fine with me,” Sharon said. “Instead we had a really good conversation over the phone and Fliss explained that she had started a new job in mid-December and, due to the holidays, she had only been paid a very low amount of salary. She had holiday pre-booked for January and was paid accordingly so had very little income to manage on.

“She didn’t want to apply for benefits during the low-income period as she suffers with anxiety and felt it would make her very uncomfortable.”

Invaluable

From the conversation, it transpired that Felicity had worked extremely hard to land her current job – overcoming a criminal record and 117 other candidates as her new employers maintained her past experiences would give her invaluable insight for helping other young people in the county.

“We did talk about the arrears and she’s agreed to put in place a plan to pay it off gradually. She thanked me for my understanding and the way I’d treated her when discussing the arrears and that it was a pleasure to speak with me – and it was at this point she said the line about not expecting me to call,” Sharon went on.

She also established that Felicity had been a functioning alcoholic for a number of years but had been teetotal for around five years.

“That’s huge, isn’t it?” added Sharon. “And we didn’t know any of these things until I started building that relationship with her.

“Seeing the positives in people is how I’ve always been. I always try to see the best in everybody and I guess that’s why the neighbourhood coach role suits me so well. Everybody is an individual and it’s a philosophy I’ve always lived by throughout my adult life so of course I expected her to ring me back. Thankfully that positive mind set was vindicated when she was true to her word and called me back at a more convenient time.”

From that initial text message and follow-up telephone call just a few weeks ago, Felicity is now tackling her demons and has asked Sharon to set up a face-to-face meeting so they can get to know each other even better.

*name changed to protect identity

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