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Team Loreburn Go The Extra Mile

Over the past five months, the team at Loreburn Housing Association have been even busier than usual, supporting customers during the lockdown.
They also launched several initiatives – many suggested by members of staff – to make a positive contribution to local communities across the region.

And if that were not enough, they have been volunteering in their spare time too. Chief Executive Lorraine Usher said “I’m always impressed by the teamwork at Loreburn but never more so than during lockdown. These are just a few of our stories”.

Homes of choice

Many of us have come to appreciate our homes even more over the last few months. Big or small, they have come to represent a place of safety, where we can properly relax – without wearing a mask.
Loreburn’s approach to how it advertises and allocates its homes puts prospective tenants firmly in the driving seat.

Clare Burns PPEClare Burns, of the Housing Team explains “At Loreburn, even before the pandemic, we have always tried to give prospective tenants choice over where they call home. We advertise available properties on our website twice a week on a Tuesday and Thursday at noon. Customers can “bid” for properties that best suit their circumstances.

“Not every housing association offers this service, but I think most of us would agree that it’s more important now than ever that people are able to choose where they live. We want our tenants to be happy in their new homes for a long time to come.”

Loreburn continued to provide accommodation to those at risk of homelessness and domestic abuse during the height of the pandemic and is also now back up and running with a full allocations service. It recently became the first Housing Association in the region to carry out new tenancy sign ups to get new tenants moved into their homes without any further delay.

Hello Dolly! Firing up imaginations

Reading became more popular during the lockdown, often giving people a chance to ‘escape’ from day to day challenges.

Frankie's booksLoreburn Housing Association signed up to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library in March 2020. The initiative recognises the positive benefits for children who read in early life, as well as the quality time parents and carers, spend with their children – something that has been more important than ever during the lockdown.

As a result, Loreburn is providing a free book each month to around 95 children, until each child reaches the age of five.

Frankie (pictured) is enjoying receiving a new book each month. His mum, Heather Steele, said: “The quality of the books is fantastic. So far, we’ve had a lovely hardback of Peter Rabbit, an educational book ideal for Frankie’s age group and one where he can join in while I’m reading to him – he thinks it‘s great fun! It’s so lovely that this is available and that Loreburn is thinking of their youngest tenants.”

Customer Support Fund

The economic impact of the pandemic is becoming increasingly clear, with many facing new or increased financial hardship.

Loreburn Housing Association swung into action in April, launching a new fund to support their tenants in these challenging times.

Kerris ParkinsonA fund of £50,000 was set up to help tenancy sustainment and has been used to cover the cost of essentials such as food, childcare and household bills, and buying items to help support children.

A total of 40 children have been gifted tablets, laptops, or other equipment to help them continue their education with homeschooling while schools were closed.

Lorraine Usher said that the team had received lots of letters from customers who were over the
moon to have been helped during such a difficult time.

“A single parent without childcare contacted us when she heard about this new fund. Her car had broken down the day before lockdown and without it, she would not be able to work as a carer. Having her car back on the road also meant she could shop for her mum who was shielding and lived several miles away. We were delighted to help this lady get through a difficult situation by funding repairs to get her car back on the road.”

Reaching out… by phone

Loreburn were conscious many customers could be isolated at home.

At First, the team made calls to their elderly customers and others who they thought may like to hear from them.

To begin with, the priority was making sure everyone had food, medication, and other essentials, but the calls quickly proved popular and soon, both staff and customers were looking forward to their regular chats.

Volunteering

Elsewhere, Loreburn team members were helping others in their own time. Setting a great example was Deborah Thomson, a Lead Housing Officer, who volunteered for the Food Train based at Tesco in Castle Douglas.

Deborah explains, “I did the shopping in store for those unable to leave their homes. I would do five or six ‘shops’ each week which was then delivered by Food Train drivers. It was a great feeling to know that we were supporting people who were shielding in their own homes. The Food Train services are completely run by volunteers, they’re amazing.

Deborah also helped by shopping for other people. “For ten weeks I shopped for six people over 70, who live seven miles away from me. On the odd occasion, I also made them cakes and scones, which they loved. I am still shopping for two of them

And Jackie Mortiboy, Clerk of Works, was also busy “Alongside other members of the village, I checked on elderly and vulnerable residents, making sure they were all ok and that they got their shopping or any medical supplies. We gave them a red card to put in the window if they needed us, so we knew which people to call on first.

Agnes Johnstone, Later Living Development Manager, and her daughter Rachael volunteer with the Wigtown resilience group checking on ‘red cards’ and carrying out shopping/deliveries. And Jagdish Patel, Later Living Development Manager, volunteers through his Rotary club doing the shopping for vulnerable people.

Hot meals aplenty

Loreburn also supports the work of charities and other groups in its efforts to look after its communities. Along with several other organisations, Loreburn donated funds to the Fed-Up Café in Stranraer.

Set up in 2018 the community café offers free food, drinks, and support services to those who need it.

Throughout the height of the lockdown up to 200 meals a day were being distributed.

“The café is run entirely by volunteers”, said Lorraine. “They were already doing great work before the pandemic but their efforts since then have been nothing short of miraculous.”

Good as new – the work of the Inhouse Repair team

New initiatives are most welcome of course but Loreburn has also ensured that their ongoing service delivery has been maintained throughout lockdown.

Ryan McCallieQuietly, with little fanfare, the in-house repair team has been busy maintaining properties, getting new homes ready for those who need them and carrying out essential repairs.

This support has proved invaluable with one customer commenting: “Key workers like these are often
forgotten but I truly appreciate them getting my heating and hot water up and running so quickly.”

The team has also adapted their day jobs to support customers in different ways. Some team members found time in their day to phone customers for a chat and to find out if anyone needed a bit of extra support. Others have added delivering prescriptions, food vouchers and food parcels to their list of daily jobs.

Ryan McCallie, an apprentice joiner, delivered food vouchers to customers in need. He said: “It’s been a difficult time and I wanted to do more to help people in our communities. I have enjoyed dropping off the food vouchers knowing this is making a real difference to our customers.”

Take it EASE-y

If 2020 has taught us anything it has reinforced the importance of looking out for each other, checking that family members, friends, and neighbours are doing ok.

But what if you do not have someone you feel you can talk to? That is where Loreburn’s Wellbeing Call initiative was useful making lots of calls to people shielding and isolated in properties across D&G. The initiative was quickly launched straight after lockdown and has supported over 400 of Loreburn’s more vulnerable customers.

Additionally, Loreburn introduced EASE a free telephone counselling service which is available 24/7, 365 days of the year. Friendly, qualified counsellors, legal advisors and nurses are on hand to offer confidential support. They can help people suffering from stress, depression, family difficulties, financial difficulties, legal issues, the loss of a loved one, or anything that someone might be worried about. They can even arrange some follow-on sessions if they would be beneficial.

Lorraine said, “We are all proud to work for Loreburn, a forward-thinking, customer focussed housing association, and during lockdown, it was even more important for us to go the extra mile for our tenants. If anyone in a Loreburn tenancy is struggling with their finances, their health and wellbeing or just need to hear a friendly voice I’d encourage them to give us a call as we are always happy to help.”

What’s Next?

Always looking to improve, Loreburn has been looking at what’s important to local communities and has changes planned for how it delivers housing services across the region. Sue Irving said “Our housing team want to really get to know our customers and to be there for them, visible in their communities. Neighbourhood Officers will have reduced ‘patches’ so we can give this high quality service, focusing on what’s important to customers and communities.

“Over time, we’ll also be expanding online access to services to meet the demands of those who prefer to interact with us digitally”.

In spite of 2020’s challenges, the Loreburn team has every reason to remain optimistic about the future and achieving their mission to ‘Create GREAT places to live’ across Dumfries & Galloway.

For information on Loreburn’s services including how to rent a home and job opportunities, visit the website at www.loreburn.org.uk or call or email the team – 01387 321300 / customerservice@loreburn.org.uk