Focus on: Chris Fletcher

Chris Fletcher, Partnership Coordinator Special Projects

Today is Starts at Home Day, where we celebrate our care and support services, and the difference that having a safe and secure place to call home can make to our customers’ lives.

Chris joined Grand Union in 2014 and is our Partnerships Coordinator (Special Projects). Chris previously worked for another housing association in a tenancy support/housing management role, helping vulnerable customers to live independently. Now he works with customers with learning difficulties and/or autism, alongside a team of six other Partnership Coordinators, but Chris has extra responsibilities, hence the ‘special projects’ part of his title.

“I’m responsible for acquiring funding from the NHS, as part of the Transforming Care programme, and finding properties on the open market that we can purchase, renovate and refurbish to make them suitable for individuals with challenging behaviours.

“I assess the needs of the most vulnerable people who have been living in institutionalised care, and draw up a specification of what’s required, taking into account anything and everything that may happen. I’ll look on the open market for suitable houses, view them and then make any offers.

“I work with our special projects team to oversee the work; it can cost anything in the region of £250,000 to make a property safe and suitable for one person. We can apply for Disabled Facilities Grants and Occupational Therapy grants too to help with costs.

“I find my job really rewarding. I get to see someone, who’s not able to live in the community, live safely and securely in a home that meets their individual needs. And when those needs change, it’s my job to come up with solutions.”

As well as the special project work, Chris also has responsibility for visiting a number of our schemes to check that everything is running smoothly.

“I visit at least once a fortnight, making sure that each place is clean, tidy and well maintained and check whether repairs have been reported and actioned. I also help with any paperwork that needs completing, liaising with families, advocates, care providers and appointees, as well as the customers themselves. I enjoy taking ownership to ensure things get done.

“Of course there can be challenging situations. It could be that I just need to manage expectations; repairs can’t always be carried out straight away, or there could be funding or budget cuts to challenge us. But by far the worst situations are those where customers have been abused, physically, sexually or financially, by their families or carers.

“It’s my job to protect our customers, raising safeguarding issues if I need to. I’m not afraid to ask difficult questions if they’re in the customer’s best interests.

“I know I’m a resilient individual and I’m open and honest in all elements of my job. I’m consistent too; colleagues from other teams ask for my help because they trust me.”

Chris tells us about some of the customers he’s helped.

“Anita has been living in this Aylesbury scheme for 35 years. She used to live upstairs, but mobility issues meant she needed ground floor accommodation and a bathroom with a hoist, so we moved her downstairs.

“Another customer who’s been here since 1987, also has declining mobility, but because she has no family or advocate, we’ve had to apply for deputyship from the court so we can move their tenancy and move the customer to more suitable accommodation. It’s not been a quick and easy process!

“Another customer, who’d been in the same institution all their life, since childhood, just had two rooms and a courtyard. We moved them into one of our properties in Hertfordshire, a bungalow with a garden. They’ve now got their own home and a Motability vehicle. They’re now living their own life, and it’s our job to maintain that life though the building of partnerships to manage their safety in the home.

“Sometimes the simplest things can make a big difference. Tomorrow they’re having a beach day at this scheme, so the customers have been using the activity room to create artwork. They’ve been painting the sun, sea and sand to attach to the fence to make a big beach picture and they’ve made origami crabs, fish and ice cream cones. They’re having fish and chips for lunch and are looking forward to a visit from the ice cream van!

“With my knowledge of housing, repairs, renovations and defects, my special project work and working with all sorts of different people, I’d love a career in development or project management. But I’m happy with my role and very proud of the work that I do.”