Being a housing officer
30/09/2010 12:34 pm
Hello. I am a sociology graduate. I've been looking at possible career ideas. I think being a housing officer would suit me, but I think it could potentially be dangerous. Is it dangerous? From what I imagine, you have to go and see people in their homes - do they ever get angry and try to beat you up, or try to lock you in? I don't want to do a job in which my safety is at risk. I've found your forum via a webserach. Can any of your experts please tell me whether what I'm imagining is correct?
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30/09/2010 12:40 pm
There is more danger of being stigmatised by the government, the press, and posters on sites such as these. But, there is a danger from clients who are often under pressure themselves - lone working and safe working procedures mitigate such risks generally but the forthcoming cuts and anti-unionism may remove such protection.
30/09/2010 2:16 pm
I'm not an expert, but in my experience (eight years in the housing sector), potentially dangerous incidents are rare.
When visiting tenants, or interviewing them in the office, emotions can run high. You are dealing with matters that affect people's lives. But when I compare the number of potentially dangerous incidents against the number of tenants and housing applicants my colleagues and I have dealt with over the years, it is a small minority.
Any good company will give you full training, and as PSR mentions will have appropriate lone working procedures.
Incidentally, I used to work for a large electrical retail company. I was threatened, verbally abused, and physically intimidated more over broken TVs than I have been over housing issues! I can remember washing machine repair men being locked in houses and delivery drivers being robbed.
I guess what I'm saying is that any public facing job can put you in potentially dangerous or abusive situations. My wife is a teacher and faces it from parents. Nurses in A&E; the police; train guards... the list goes on.
What I would focus on is why you want to get into housing? What appeals to you about it?
30/09/2010 3:10 pm
I started work on the public counter and I have done a great number of different jobs in my career, but by far, the Housing Officer role was the most rewarding. As a Housing Officer you can change someone's life by just visiting them - they may be in despair but with your help and expertise their lives can change for the better.
As for the challenge and danger, you can experience that everywhere, but I have always felt that the attitude you use with the public is your best protection - if you empathise, are honest and straight with them you should not come to any harm - obviously use your instinct and prior knowledge when assessing whether to enter a property, be friendly, open and helpful and you won't go far wrong.
Housing is a brilliant, varied career that is rarely dull, I am sure you would not regret your decision if you joined the rest of us - why not ask your local housing organisation for work experience so that you can judge for yourself - I am sure they would welcome a volunteer like you with open arms - just believe in yourself and go for it!!!
30/09/2010 4:28 pm
I work in housing, but I don't have a 'public facing' role. I've never been a housing officer, but it seems to be a bit like Marmite: either you love it or - my colleagues say - you can become disillusioned over time.
Some of the kindest people I've ever met work in social housing. Staff can be inclusive, friendly and sociable. I'm happier working in housing than I've been in any other sector. It's not all wine and roses, and I've heard bad things too - but of course, that can happen anywhere. If an organisation has a reputation for treating its staff well, that's worth its weight in gold these days.
I think housing would be an ideal career for a sociology graduate: your degree should be highly relevant, and as Julie said you could really make a difference! Social housing is a very complex topic, so there's always something new to learn.
01/10/2010 8:52 am
I think I'd echo the previous comments. Having worked in housing for over 20 years, much of it as a housing officer I've generally enjoyed it and have come across very few incidents of the type you are worried about.
Common sense is an over used phrase but it does have some bearing as you may be encountering some residents with particulalr problems. Be prepared, read the case file and know what you are trying to achieve. It may seem obvious but be respectful, polite and courteous and you'll encounter few problems.
01/10/2010 10:43 am
the reason housing officers will not get a violent response from tenants is because most tenants are well aware that they are trying to their job and the real responsible of tenants abuses lies with the managers and directors of social housing departments, not with their frontline staff.
that's why a customer would be more aggressive against a private washing machine repairman, because he is the solely responsible for his conduct and service.
On the other hand if social residents are aggressive sometimes, housing officer should realise that they have been made angry by their managers and directors and they are the one responsible for p-utting them at risk in the first place causing their customer to be angry and then using front line staff to cover up for lack or bad services and abuses.
01/10/2010 11:02 am
Any job can hold such dangers as the example above from electrical retails shows. Kass above is also correct in stating that the overwhelming majority of tenants are well behaved, although the point about if they are not its due to housing policy I dont agree with.
On a practical level why not seek some work in supported housing where the dangers of violence from residents is higher and known to present a much higher risk, such as a homeless hostel. Risk there is very well managed and provides those working there with an excellent appreciatio of the (very much lower) risks that a HO would face in general needs housing.
In doing so you will see that risk is not just lone working going to a tenants house as is largely seen to be the case by general needs HOs but a great deal deeper than this.
In summary most of the risks are minimised in Housing just as in any other 'frontline' position so its as safe as any other sector
01/10/2010 11:12 am
"Kass above is also correct in stating that the overwhelming majority of tenants are well behaved, although the point about if they are not its due to housing policy I dont agree with."
You might not agree with it, by I did not say or mean it was due to housing policyt. I will say it again. Those putting frontline housing staff at risk of being attacked by a violent resident are directors and managers (individuals giving orders to frontline staff) who do not do their jobs properly whehter through laziness, incompentence or by just being careless and not giving a damn about their social residents customers, and therefore creating a climate of anger in their residents. Once they have created a climate of anger amongst residents it is no surprise someone might repsond violently to frontline housing staff being them the only landlord representatives they personal have contact with.
01/10/2010 12:18 pm
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01/10/2010 12:27 pm
Hi David - I echo a lot of the other points about it being a rewarding, yet challenging job, but if you do decide to move into housing management, then you do need to get over those fears. I am also a little worried about what those fears say you assume or think about social housing tenants, and maybe you need to reflect more on the source of your concern and deal with that.
If you are clearly afraid or uncomfortable when working with customers then that will translate to people and will appear to be disrespectful or unhelpful, which may increase the possibility of challenges and tension, which may then in turn adversely impact your response as you will already be on edge.
The point about supported housing is a very good one - hostels tend to have excellent arrangements for managing the safety of staff and you could learn a lot about ensuring your own personal safety but also learning more about how you respond to and deal with challenge when it does arise. As it will because it does in any and every job where there is a customer facing role.
04/10/2010 5:05 pm
That's an interesting one. I would say:
As ASB Manager I do tend to hear about the more serious incidents that occur. Yes, there are times when residents get angry but this can happen in any area of our life and in any public facing role. In my 7 years working for a large Social Landlord I have not come across a situation where one of our staff has been beaten up or a resident has tried to lock them in as you describe. Social Landlords, like other employees take the health and safety of their staff seriously and have measures in place to reduce risk. Risk cannot however be eliminated entirely.
I do not work on the front-line so I put your question to one of my colleagues and this was his response " This job brings many challenges and sometimes I do have to deal with difficult situations. I have never been in the situation described. Working in housing brings something different each day and I get a lot of satisfaction when I resolve an issue for a resident. No two days are the same, but that's what makes it so interesting"
I would say that if you are interested in a career in Housing look into one of the many Graduate Trainee Programmes run by Social Landlords. That way you can try the many roles of housing and decide which suits you. Good luck
04/10/2010 5:17 pm
There are many career paths in housing that one can take and generally the huge reward in relation to housing is the ability to able to assist people. There is no doubt that housing is fundamentally about people and being ready and able to deal with all manner of issues that a person's life may present. I think you really needs to ask yourself...am I a people person? If the answer is yes then I don't believe that housing presents any greater risk than other professions, but in terms of rewards and job satisfaction they can be immense.