In August, Peter Bedford Housing Association ran a focus group with tenants led by staff member Mandy Mansfield and theory of change expert Rosie Chadwick and Mandy looking at the difference Peter Bedford makes in our tenants lives. It helped us to describe how we support and house tenants, and pick out what we do that is most valued and helps our tenants most their journey to independence and recovery.

Tenants described how when they came to Peter Bedford, they were homeless, unwell, depressed, drinking, harassed, in a state or feeling victimised. They described how they were initially happy to have a home, to have found somewhere secure, quiet and very reasonable. One of our tenant’s described Peter Bedford as “a community of amazing people that, despite the odds, stuck with each other and helped each other. You are welcome whichever way you are, you were accepted.”

Participants in the session then went on to describe how it is to be ready to move on “Things are looking positive and optimistic. I haven’t been at Peter Bedford for a long time but despite my problems things are quite good and let’s say promising.” Tenants described themselves as more engaged with the world, less fearful, apprehensive but open to options, content, feeling good and hopefully stronger.

There were a range of things which had happened in between – mainly a lot of support, but also canteen and joinery placements, being given responsibility, setting up the Clissold garden project, working on the Rising Star and support groups like the Women’s Group.

We have used this in a new Theory of Change which describes what Peter Bedford does to help tenants on their journey, why it works and how. This was published in the Annual Impact Report and Value for Money Statement 2015-16 in September.

More generally, our tenants asked us to improve the following:

• Look at whether resources are getting to general needs tenants as they should
• Try not to make too many changes too quickly
• New staff to introduce themselves and explain what they do
• Give tenants better information about courses on offer
• Write with updates in a timely manner
• Give an answer when asked a direct question, and be available on the phone
• Explain what we mean by Peer support and Recovery, and use simpler language
• Put Forum minutes in each publication of our Tenant’s newspaper, Rising Star
• Listen better to feedback and be open to how things can be improved
• Encourage tenants to apply for jobs within PBHA
• Look at whether tenants may be employed to do the gardening rather than contractors
• Respect those who cannot make small repairs themselves such as older people, not overcharging
• Pay good attention to matching people with like minds who will be able to live together

All the above are good suggestions, some we have acted upon already. So now there are staff updates and a Forum report back in December’s edition of Rising Star. We are also trying to be careful to explain new services and the words we use more clearly.

The feedback is incredibly useful and we will be reintroducing the section in the Rising Star – ‘You said, we did’ in the next edition so we can feed back more about how we are changing to meet our tenant’s needs.

Clare Norton – CEO