Housing support service marks 10th anniversary

David Waddell, Support Worker.

David Waddell, Support Worker.

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ASSIST, the housing support project established by Grampian Housing Association and Tenants First Housing Co-operative, is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Since its official launch in 2006, almost 1,000 vulnerable tenants in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Moray have been helped to manage their tenancies and live more independently.

In the past year alone, 93 clients were supported to maintain their own homes and avoid homelessness. Assistance is offered with a range of issues. These can include family problems, ill-health, social isolation, access to benefits and paying bills.

Part of the success of the project is the early intervention work with tenants, often at the start of a tenancy, which has proved to be the most effective way to help people be as independent as possible.

With funding from The Big Lottery Fund secured in 2015, the service expanded and now employs a specialist support worker to meet the needs of an increasing number of clients with mental health and substance misuse issues and develop a befriending service.

Michelle Thomson, who was appointed to the post, said: “I previously worked for a mental health charity so this post was an ideal fit with my skills and experience. The work is motivating and challenging and I feel empowered to provide person-centred support. It is really important to be able to see things from a client’s point of view to gain their trust and help them develop their strengths. A strong positive relationship delivers the best outcomes for clients and it is very encouraging to see people gain confidence to tackle the challenges they face.”

During its latest unannounced inspection by the Care Inspectorate, ASSIST received a very good grading across all aspects of its service. Grades of five, the highest ever achieved by the project, were awarded for the quality of care and support, quality of staffing and quality of management and leadership.

Chris Mathieson, Operational Service Development Manager at Grampian Housing Association, said: “ASSIST makes a real difference to the lives of people we work with, giving them more confidence and skills to cope with issues and make positive changes in their lives.

“I am delighted with the grades awarded by the Care Inspectorate. Not only are the grades testimony to the hard work and professionalism of the ASSIST staff, they are also a reflection of the project’s support workers focus on the needs of their clients. Through annual feedback, we know how vital ASSIST is to our tenants. The Care Inspectorate’s award confirms that ASSIST is a high-quality service that delivers strong results for clients.”

Tenants First is a member of Sanctuary Group and has around 1,500 homes in the North-east.

Pat Cahill, Director of Sanctuary’s housing operations in Scotland, said: “ASSIST’s support has been invaluable to many residents, all of whom have been delighted with the project’s caring and professional service.”

ASSIST’s participation strategy makes sure that tenants can give meaningful feedback on the quality of their support and also get involved in how the service developed. The overall aim is to empower tenants to become more confident in having a say about things that affect them.

ASSIST carries out a feedback survey in March annually and high levels of satisfaction were reported with 100% of respondents saying that ASSIST had successfully helped them deal with their issues and this had resulted in their quality of life improving. 94% of respondents said their confidence had increased and 82% were managing their tenancies better.