A group of dedicated Futures Housing Group customers that seek to improve the lives of other customers is looking for new members.
The Scrutiny Panel regularly give up their time to challenge the organisation and influence changes in strategies, policies and services.
In recent years, recommendations made by the panel have helped improve issues and processes around anti-social behaviour, repairs and complaints.
The youngest member of the Derbyshire-based panel is 32-year-old Gemma Richardson who lives in Heanor. Gemma has been a Futures tenant for eight years and first became a Scrutiny Panel member four years ago.
“I was in the middle of a distance learning course but didn’t have a job. I like to be busy and the Scrutiny Panel seemed like a good opportunity,” Gemma said.
“I’d done quite a bit of voluntary work in the past with local groups and was keen to get involved. I wanted to help make a difference and improve the lives of other tenants.”
After attending a meeting and following a successful interview, Gemma joined the panel and was soon made to feel welcome and supported by Futures team members and the other customers, including 62-year-old John Bullock.
“I met John soon after I first started and we’ve been good friends ever since,” Gemma said.
“He’s been a bit of a mentor for me. I have Dyspraxia which means that I struggle to understand things that are written down and John has been really supportive.
“We work hard on the reviews but it’s also a good way of socialising and making new friends. We have good relationships with the managers and the executive team at Futures. They ask us to scrutinise issues for them, which shows that they trust us.”
That trust and support, combined with further experience, has enhanced Gemma’s confidence and led to her becoming Chair of the panel.
“It can take a while to get your head around all the housing details, trends and abbreviations,” Gemma explained.
“But in the last year we’ve flown as a panel and we really know what we’re doing. It’s amazing when you see changes happening following the work you’ve put in. We can change things that might seem small, but they are really important issues for other tenants.
“I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that the work we do is helping tenants feel happier in their homes. I take pride in making a difference and helping to make positive changes for other tenants.”
As well as contributing to better homes and services, Gemma has enjoyed gaining new qualifications and regional and national recognition as part of the panel.
“I’ve taken great satisfaction in gaining qualifications such as a CIH Level 3 in Housing Management and CIH Level 1 in Housing Performance Management,” she said.
“It’s been great to network with other organisations, go on site visits to new developments and be shortlisted in several awards, including a national awards ceremony for Scrutiny that was held in Liverpool last year.”
Working part-time and having two young children, Gemma has to be well organised to fit everything in, but she credits Futures with helping her meet her Scrutiny Panel commitments.
“Futures have been very supportive and have made it easier for me to fit in my responsibilities around my job and my children,” Gemma said.
“They try to avoid arranging meetings during school holidays and have helped out with childcare expenses when I’ve needed to be at an event or meeting.”
So what would Gemma’s advice be for any customers reading this and considering joining the Scrutiny Panel?
“Come along and give it a go. If you have an opinion, you’re keen to help other tenants and want to improve the services provided by Futures then you’ll really enjoy being an involved customer.”
To find out more about becoming part of a team that makes a real difference to fellow customers, please email email@example.com or call 0300 456 2531.
Anybody that wants to get involved but is concerned about the level of commitment can still contribute by becoming a co-opted panel member. This more flexible role still enables tenants to help out with specific reviews or pieces of work and to fully contribute to discussions, questioning and making recommendations.