How did you first hear about jobs in housing?
I always had an awareness of social housing and the services that were offered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE). I knew people who were working as Housing Officers when I was at school and was very aware of the some of the changes that were happening to social housing in the seventies.
How did you find further information about a career in housing?
The Larne and District Housing Association was very small when I was looking for a job. No one really knew a lot about them as they only had about sixty properties in their stock. It was only when I started working for them that I found out more information about the organisation and how the Housing Associations worked and also how they are funded.
What was it that appealed to you when you were thinking about a job in housing?
I was looking for a part time job as a bookkeeper as I had two young children at home and wanted to spend some time with my family as well as work. The job in Larne and District was local and this was something that appealed to me. At the time I wasn't really aware of the opportunities that exist within the Housing Associations. I was the second employee at the Housing Association and it was only when I joined that they started looking at a development plan and took on a new scheme to develop a large site in the centre of the town. My part time working didn't last very long and within a couple of months I started working full time.
How did you get your first job in housing?
I saw the job advertised in the local press and felt that it would suit my circumstances and experience. I applied and was successful, even though I turned up 12 hours early for the interview! I had read the letter inviting me to interview as 9.30 and just assumed that it was in the morning. I was only when I was waiting patiently to be asked in to the interview and started wondering why I was the only person in the office that I found out that the interview was at 9.30 in the evening. Most of the board members had full time careers elsewhere and could only carry out interviews in the evening! That is an indication of how times have changed and how the organisation has developed over the years.
What personal skills and qualifications did you have that helped you secure your first job in housing?
The job was for bookkeeping, general accounts and clerical work. I had already worked for 12 years in a busy office environment where I had worked my way up to Office Manager.
I had worked in Public Relations for a couple of years and had developed good communication and people skills.
Also working full time while looking after a couple of young boys meant that I had good organisation skills.
What skills & training have you gained since you have had your job in housing?
When I started working at Larne and District there was only me and the Housing Association Manager. She was a great mentor and taught me so much about social housing, how it is funded, developed and how properties are maintained. Much of my training was just by going out and doing the job. I loved it and learning about housing seemed to come naturally to me.
I have also completed the Post Graduate Foundation course at the University of Ulster Jordanstown and have attended many formal courses covering various aspects of housing.
In more recent years it has been me training other people in my specialist area of Income Recovery!
Describe a typical day?
The job of Income Recovery is maintaining the rent accounts, bringing in our annual rental income and collecting arrears.
As the team leader I have responsibility for three income recovery officers and train and advise them on how to maintain the rent accounts and reduce arrears. I also deal with the complex cases and speak to tenants all the time. I provide practical advice to tenants on maximising income and reducing outgoings. I also work with tenants in building up their confidence and ability to manage their own finances and recognise the categories of problems that exist.
Our team is a specialist team and we always try to identify solutions to problems and often liaise with external agencies to provide additional services. These groups include the Citizen Advice Bureau, Social Services and charitable organisations.
At the moment I am defining the procedures and processes for Income Recovery and ensuring that all existing processes are working properly.
What would you tell people who are interested in a housing career?
Go for it, it's wonderful!
It is very interesting and if you are a people person you have the opportunity to work with a vast range of people, from academics to people needing support to live independently. I feel the job is very fulfilling.