'I don’t always have the answers so building my network is massively important'
Universal credit, building more homes, the looming Local Housing Allowance cap and making sure residents' voices are heard post-Grenfell - we spoke to Wellingborough Homes head of housing and support services (and CIH Eastern board member) Dave Lockerman about the big issues for debate at CIH's Eastern Conference.
What are the biggest issues facing you as a housing professional right now?
I'm responsible for the frontline operational housing services, so the biggest issues for me are the majority of the ones faced by the organisation and the sector generally which I’ll talk about in a mo. I guess one of the biggest issues is keeping up to date with all that's going on in the sector, it’s been a busy old time and CIH has been fab for helping with this. As well as keeping up, it’s about understanding the implications which can be difficult when there is lots of uncertainty like with supported housing.
I am a keep it simple kind of guy so I continuously work with my teams to ensure that our service offer is clear, efficient and gives the customer a decent experience. This can be tricky when housing and welfare policy create massive obstacles and challenges, so it’s about thinking outside the box and finding new ways of doing things. I don’t always have the answers so building my network is massively important and another reason why conferences like this are so good.
I also think it’s important to keep developing myself so finding the time to make the most of my CIH membership is a biggie but also taking on new stuff. I am our lead for Rentplus which has been a steep learning curve and have just taken on the role of senior management team chair which will definitely have its challenges!
And how about your organisation and the wider sector?
So I think most organisations are facing the same issues and indeed the wider sector. With mounting homelessness we need to maximise our capacity to build more homes so as ever efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. However, it’s not just numbers, new homes need to be affordable and they need to be quality.
Although it’s brilliant news that the government are chucking more money into the affordable homes pot (although sadly not as much as Help to Buy) and we now have rent certainty this is at odds with the government's welfare policy. The Local Housing Allowance cap is going to cause a massive affordability gap and while like most organisations we are looking at what we can do I can’t see how this isn’t going to increase homelessness numbers generally. The cap also places a massive question mark over the future viability of supported housing.
We also have the roll out of universal credit (for my organisation we will become a full service area in August next year) and this is going to cause massive pressures for our customers and for us in terms of arrears levels and resources needed for income collection. I was really hoping for a pause and re-design and disappointed this hasn’t happened.
Mixed into all of this, Grenfell exposed that organisations aren’t as close to their customers' voices as they should be. Thankfully we were already looking at how we can strengthen our customers' role in governance and seeking to bring together all sources of customer interaction so that we can make sure we are listening. This is something all organisations are going to need to be on to.
It’s a busy time but when isn’t it in housing?!
I’ve never been to an unconference – what can I expect from your session on innovation?
Shut the front door, you’ve never been to an unconference? You can expect some brilliant facilitation from me and Adam but ultimately the floor is yours! We’ll recap on some of the big themes popping out of CIH East17 and then it’s over you to discuss with people you may not necessarily work with, with a big focus on solutions. Like I said above we have to keep thinking outside the box, so let’s generate some new ideas we can all go away with. Next you’ll be saying you don’t know what a fishbowl is!
- Dave is co-hosting an unconference session on innnovation at CIH's Eastern Conference 2017, which takes place on 1-2 November in Cambourne. Find out more and book your place