P49 Social Vanessa Biddiss2
Vanessa Biddiss Head of Region

At some point in their tenancy, residents might need support with various things at once. For instance, they might be struggling to pay their rent while adjusting to their first housing association tenancy after leaving care. Or they might be suffering from mental health problems arising from domestic abuse or indebtedness. There are too many examples to list. But the point is some residents sometimes require a higher level of support than a non-specialist team can offer. And that’s where our dedicated tenancy sustainment team comes in.

Our Tenancy Sustainment Team helps residents improve their self-sufficiency and quality of life with the aim of helping them sustain their tenancies. It provides wraparound casework support for those who need it most, looking at all areas where they can make a long-term, sustainable difference.

Residents often need help taking the first steps. So, the team acts as a single point of contact for other teams across Southern Housing (for instance, our specialist financial inclusion and anti-social behaviour teams). It also helps coordinate assistance from other agencies, including local authority safeguarding teams and debt advice agencies.

Since our merger in late 2022, the Tenancy team have supported 796 residents who were facing tenancy challenges.

They’ve achieved 1,606 outcomes. These include referrals to external support services, support with arranging repairs and compliance checks, and helping residents into jobs and training. They’ve also approved nearly 300 applications for cookers and other essential items. 

We have found residents working with the team are more likely to grant us access to their homes, having built up a trusting relationship. This is vitally important since it enables us to perform essential repairs and gas and electrical safety checks. These are crucial to the health and safety of residents, and our compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Our approach has received external recognition. In 2023, we were crowned ‘Team of the Year’ at the Kent Housing Excellence Awards. This recognised the unwavering support we provide to our residents, ensuring they’ve everything they need to maintain a home and build a bright future.

We’re always on the lookout for ways to improve the service we deliver. And that’s especially the case now given the Housing Ombudsman’s current focus on services for vulnerable residents and the Regulator’s increased focus on tenancy sustainment.

In 2023, we ran a resident scrutiny project on tenancy sustainment. Residents identified several areas for improvement. These included the need to regularly review policies and procedures to ensure they reflect best practice and encourage and seek out feedback directly from our residents to ensure the service reflects what’s really important. We’ve embedded these recommendations into our service delivery model.

We’re now working closely with Sheffield Hallam university on a piece of research called Holding on to Home. Researchers have surveyed hundreds of our residents and interviewed several colleagues responsible for tenancy sustainment. We’ll be acting upon their best practice recommendations once published later this year.

Find out more

Our dedicated Tenancy Sustainment Team support some of our most vulnerable residents, including domestic abuse survivors. Hear how Tenancy Sustainment Officer Sally helped one mum who was forced to relocate with her young children after experiencing abuse at the hands of her partner. Watch the video to hear her story.

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Featured in the photo (from left to right): Bunmi Atta (Director of Construction at Southern Housing), Mike Link (Chair of the ABE CLT), Cllr Michael Warden (Chair of Aldingbourne Parish Council) and Steve Underwood (Development Manager at Southern Housing).
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