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With Scottish Housing Day taking place this week, and this year’s theme focusing on housing as a career, we’re looking behind the scenes to see what our housing staff members do, and how their roles are vital in operating and continually developing the service we offer our tenants.
In this a day in the life feature, we’re following Housing Operations Manager, Russel Gray.
Tell us a little bit about you.
I am a Housing Operations Manager with Hillcrest Homes. I have operational responsibility for our housing teams in Aberdeen, Angus and Dundee. My role is to ensure we are providing an effective landlord service to our tenants, meeting our key performance targets and operating within our budgets.
I also have responsibility for our Tenancy Sustainment Service (TSS) and Hillcrest Energy Advice Team (HEAT). TSS work with our tenants to ensure they are supported in sustaining their tenancies by accessing grants or funds for goods, and providing benefits advice to help maximise their household income. The award winning HEAT supports tenants with energy advice and controlling condensation, accessing funding for tenants and providing demonstrations on how to use heating systems most efficiently.
Outside of work, I am married with three children and enjoy sports, particularly football and socialising with friends or family.
How did you get into a career in housing?
My career in housing started in 1992 when I got a job as a Housing Benefits Adviser with North East Fife District Council. I’ve been fortunate to then progress through different roles within housing including Housing Benefit Fraud, Anti-social Behaviour Officer, Housing Repairs and then management roles within housing operations.
What would you say to others who are considering a career in the housing sector?
I would say to absolutely consider it. A career in housing can be so varied and rewarding, and often no two days are the same. If you want to make a real difference to people’s lives then working in housing is definitely for you.
9 am: I always start my day by checking my emails, then checking my diary to see what I have planned for the day. I normally have about 10-15 emails each morning which include various automated reports including any emergency call outs from the night before. Today’s emails included requests to authorise outstanding invoices, which I reviewed and approved, to allow payments to be made.
I also received a request to schedule a joint meeting with our Hillcrest Maintenance service, who are reviewing their void procedures (the changeover process when one tenant moves out of a property, and getting it ready for the next tenant).
I then made a quick call to one of my area managers to discuss an anti-social behaviour report I had received, so I could get an update on the situation.
My first meeting of the day was a training session on a new Risk Management System that we are bringing in over the coming weeks. I made a cup of tea before heading down to the meeting room for the training. The session was really good, and it was a relief that the system looks straightforward! I will now need to think about a training plan for staff, however that will need to wait for another day! I headed straight back to my desk for another quick check of my emails and phone to make sure there wasn’t anything urgent before I went to my next meeting.
11 am: My next meeting was with my fellow Housing Operations Manager (yes, there are two of us), one of our area managers and our Policy and Process Analyst. We discussed rolling out a new process for tenants signing for their new homes, which had been piloted by one of our local housing teams. We agreed a plan for this roll-out, and also took the opportunity to discuss some small changes we had made to things like our pre-tenancy interview form.
Having another quick check of my emails, I saw I’d received a transfer request for one of our tenants from one of our area teams. We have a procedure for transferring a tenant to another home in certain circumstances based on specific criteria and their housing needs. This would need to wait until later in the afternoon, as it was time for a quick lunch before I needed to head off to Arbroath for meeting number three.
1 pm: I arrived safely at Angus Council HQ in Arbroath. I always enjoy the drive to Arbroath as you follow the coastline with some great views. I was here to meet with officers from Angus Council’s Homeless Service, staff from our Hillcrest Futures service, and was also accompanied by Lucy, one of our housing officers from our Angus team. We discussed various operational issues with one of our supported accommodation blocks, and explored ways to improve the situation. It was another very successful meeting, and I’m always delighted by the willingness of everyone to work together to come up with good solutions. I’m confident that our plan moving forward will work.
After the meeting, Lucy invited me to accompany her on a visit to one of our tenants who is under investigation for ongoing anti-social behaviour. I’m always happy to support staff in our area teams with these types of visits. Unfortunately on this occasion, the tenant wasn’t home, so we’ll follow this up again as soon as possible.
3 pm: I headed back to our headquarters in Dundee to meet with our Tenant Services Manager. I meet with her fortnightly for an update on TSS and HEAT. We discussed some funding opportunities and a project that the team are working on, which will support our tenants with applications for the upcoming Warm Home Discount that will be opening for customers soon. We also discussed the progress of one of our housing objectives over the coming year and I was pleased that this is on track to be achieved.
After this, it was time to head back to my desk to pick up the emails that had come in during the afternoon. I reviewed the transfer request that had come in earlier and agreed with it, so I signed to approve it and sent it back to the area team to carry on with the process.
My final task for the day was to update my housing objectives plan in preparation for a meeting with our Head of Housing and Enterprises that’s in my diary for tomorrow. Our objectives are key to improving our internal policies and procedures. Housing never stands still and you are always looking for ways to improve the tenants’ experience.
5 pm: It was now time to head off home. It’s been a busy day with lots of meetings, but I feel that I have achieved a lot today, and look forward to what tomorrow brings!