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Chief executive’s blog – #ScottishHousingDay 2020

Posted: September 16, 2020
Hillcrest chief executive Angela Linton.

Our sector provides good quality, affordable housing to people in need, but more importantly it provides people and families with a home. A home that they can enjoy knowing that it is safe, secure and well maintained by a responsible and caring landlord. A home where they can live and become part of a community.

The current pandemic has reinforced how vitally important social housing is for the safety and well-being of people but it has also taught us how important a community is.

At Hillcrest, we have been overwhelmed by how much people have pulled together during these unprecedented times. There are so many examples of how and where people have made a difference that it is impossible to cover them all. In many cases, the rules were disregarded and new relationships and partnerships were set up. All with the key aim of protecting the people who were most vulnerable.

The money from the Supporting Communities Fund, awarded jointly to Hillcrest and Abertay Housing Association was gratefully received. It was used to help individuals facing challenges like social isolation, financial difficulties and those with physical and mental disabilities. The support went directly to people who needed it in the form of provision of food, starter parks, well-being packs and emergency fuel top-ups. The normal protracted process for both claiming and distributing the money would not work so more streamlined and efficient systems were put in place.

Various communities also rallied together to ensure people were kept safe. In our development at Wharton Square, residents organised a food distribution service to make sure that people who could not get out shopping or were in financial difficulties had access to essentials.

In our supported accommodation, life had changed significantly during lockdown. Staff worked tirelessly to bring activities to the projects as they could no longer go to their usual activities. Activity packs were delivered to homes, competitions arranged, virtual meetings with family members set up and a lockdown video challenge was produced.

Working within the guidelines produced by the Scottish Government, voids were turned around to provide accommodation for people presenting as homeless. Accommodation was also provided to prisoners on early release. The help didn’t stop there, the staff teams engaged with individuals to identify what else was needed and referrals were made to other agencies for additional support if required.

Our cleaning team was one of the busiest teams throughout the crisis with a real focus on infection control and hygiene measures.

The pandemic has had a major impact on all of our lives but it has also brought home what is really important. The provision of housing is fundamentally important, but so are the “wrap around” services that sit alongside the house. The sector has shown that we are up to a challenge and can deliver enhanced services to make it a home.