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Cunninghame House, Irvine, KA12 8EE

A Day in the Life of a Housing Options Officer

As part of our ongoing communication and engagement we are back with our series featuring articles that focus on a ‘day in the life’ of people working in a variety of services and organisations across Ayrshire, whose dedication and efforts are key to reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for people caught up in the justice system, their families, victims, and the wider community.

We would like to thank Clair for sharing her story with us.

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Clair works as a Housing Options Officer with East Ayrshire Housing Options Team and one of the main aims of the service is the prevention of homelessness within East Ayrshire.   Whatever type / tenure of house you are currently in, the local authority has a legal duty to help people who are homeless.

The role

My role as a Housing Options Officer is to offer advice and guidance in housing related concerns to individuals across East Ayrshire who are predominantly homeless or threatened with homelessness. It doesn’t just stop there; we are extremely passionate about working towards prevention of homelessness where possible and early intervention is crucial in establishing key issues and assisting to address those.

Multi-agency working is a huge factor as quite often it is apparent that there are more than housing concerns and it’s about getting to know the applicants and quickly ascertaining their needs whilst they are in crisis, liaising with other professionals such as NHS, Social Work and Justice Services to name a few.

We have also implemented Housing First, which is part of the Rapid Rehousing Transition Plan (RRTP) whereby we are providing tenants with the foundations of a home first and foremost alongside intensive wraparound support. This is to combat repeated cycles of homelessness, prison and addiction and assist individuals / families to sustain their tenancies.

My role is somewhat challenging, working in a unique environment but provides a platform to assist people in a number of ways, not only their housing but to link in with other services that may be crucial and allowing positive changes and direction.

How I got where I am

You could say I fell into Housing. On leaving school, I began my career journey in administration services and undertook a vast amount of training and gained skills in project administration and financial budgets.  The organisation I worked for at the time assisted people to gain employment, so I became a trainer for the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) as well as assisting people develop their CV’s.   Whilst in this role, I completed an online Child Psychology Diploma.

Unfortunately, the funding for this post came to an end however, I quickly sought employment as an Outreach Worker for a local charity who offered befriending and respite to children and adults with disabilities, and I remained in this role for 10 years before the funding came to an end.

I applied for the role in Housing, which was a completely different career path for me, and I hoped my passion for assisting others would be apparent at interview. I was successful in securing the role and have been with Housing Options for over 10 years now.   I work with an amazing team, we always come together and have the same goals, which is to help people achieve a housing outcome with a vast amount of support.

A typical day

You never know what kind of day lies ahead working within Housing Options. The service is very much reactive to the needs of the people in crisis, offering advice and guidance based on the individuals or families’ circumstances.

I work on a rota to attend to out-of-hours referrals where people have contacted us looking for emergency accommodation through the night as well as homeless requests that come in each day, a call back is required to each request on the day they come in.

I am often required to attend multi-agency meetings such as adult support & protection or social work meetings when families request assistance. I need to keep track of my decision making in respect of homeless applications which is driven by legislation.

We are also required to undertake regular training both internal and external to keep in line with the latest legislation or purely to improve levels of awareness.

“I enjoy my days in the office, as it’s an opportunity for team building”

What impact has Covid had on my work and are there any positives / learning that can be taken

Covid very much brought about many positives for me. Working in a hybrid manner allows me to be able to work full time but offers a better work life balance. I enjoy my days in the office, as it’s an opportunity for team building, to thrash ideas out and discuss specific scenarios. Covid forced many services to move into the 21st century, it pushed us into being available through other methods and being able to offer a varied service, such as telephone interviews as well as in person, which makes us more accessible to people who need our assistance.

Challenges affecting my work

There are many challenges in my line of work.  Limited housing stock and availability across East Ayrshire is one example and so trying to achieve a housing outcome can be somewhat challenging and frustrating especially when we want to limit the time spent in temporary accommodation before moving into a secure tenancy.

As if Covid wasn’t difficult enough, the current climate in terms of the cost-of-living crisis is having a huge impact just now across the board, so many individuals and families are facing difficulties in keeping their home, so I am kept on my toes. I support people by directing them to the many financial wellbeing supports offered by the Council and our third sector community partners.

“I strive to continue to make our service better”

What I love about what I do

Every day is a learning curve, I am presented with new challenges, new legislation, and the introduction of new services.  I strive to continue to make our service better in line with our service improvement plan and as a team we are all very much involved in this process.

If I could change anything

More, more, more of everything!!

Can I say unlimited budgets too, to allow more houses to be built, more upstream prevention of homelessness and more investments across services within East Ayrshire such as housing support and mental health provision.

Where I see myself in five years

I am striving to be in a more senior role in five years.  I am currently looking into working towards the Chartered Institute of Housing Level 4 qualification in the hope an opportunity arises for a more senior role within Housing in the future.

I feel it is always important to be optimistic and maintain a good positive work attitude in addition to learning new skill sets which can be applied to other areas across Housing.

“I’m passionate about helping people and helping them to achieve their goals”

Would I choose this path again if I could

I would definitely choose this path again.  I enjoy a challenge, and I’m passionate about helping people and helping them to achieve their goals.  Being able to work with people from their initial contact until they achieve their goal of a tenancy is extremely rewarding and many are very thankful for the help.

What would I say to someone considering this career path

Do it!

The job is very rewarding.  Sometimes it can take a lot of work and there is no quick fix. Getting to know the people that engage with the service well and building a relationship with them – seeing them put their trust in you and how grateful they are when they get their outcome in the end.  It’s amazing!

Housing Options Officer