Why social housing contractors must have a duty of care, beyond repairs

2019-03-06

You may have seen our comment piece in 24Housing Magazine’s January issue but for those who didn’t, here are our thoughts on ‘Why social housing contractors must have a duty of care, beyond repairs’.

Being allowed to enter a tenants’ home to carry out repairs is always a privilege, and meeting people is the best part of the job. We want our customers to see us as a friend calling, rather than a tradesperson, and likewise, our team treat every tenant as if they were a relative or a friend.

Building trust is important and we want to make sure the customer feels important too. This is why we only ever book a team member on one job at a time, so that they’re never under pressure to rush off to the next job and the customer therefore feels more comfortable.

Of course, we still have a responsibility to show our ID and make sure they’re happy for us to enter, but this is just the beginning.

Understanding people helps to protect tenants and contractors

Most jobs are pretty straightforward – the tenant is expecting us and work is completed without any issues. But what if the tenant appears to be upset, frightened or unwell? And what if a domestic argument breaks out or there’s evidence of abuse?

These occurrences aren’t common, but it’s in our own interest to understand what do to in all situations which is why we give mandatory training on social issues to all staff.

We cover many topics; cultural diversity, the elderly, mental health, child abuse, loneliness, sexual orientation, and many more.  Ongoing learning prepares our staff for all eventualities and leads to more rewarding relationships.

For example, understanding cultural diversity teaches us to respect other people’s beliefs or personal environments, whereas with the elderly, they may simply take a while to open the door or may need clearer communications.

Understanding the needs of people with disabilities or mental health problems, ensures that we’re mindful of things like access whilst work is being carried out, or the wellbeing of the customer.

Looking out for the most vulnerable

None of us are here to judge others, but if staff are trained to spot the signs of child, domestic or animal abuse, they can report their concerns to the landlord.

It’s also not uncommon to be asked to send a female to carry out repairs, particularly where the tenant has been a victim of domestic abuse.

Training to safeguard ourselves

Whilst most homes are safe to enter, we know that there is an element of risk.  Threats such as dangerous pets, drug paraphernalia or even violence can be very frightening so we train our team to be aware of their surroundings and use an emergency code via a phone call or text for immediate assistance.

In an industry that’s all about people and service, understanding social differences is essential, and we have a duty to ensure that all people feel safe and looked after.