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Training Fund Stories - Blackpool Housing Options

Training Fund Stories - Blackpool Housing Options

Training Fund Stories - Blackpool Housing Options

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

I am Madison and I have worked on the frontline for Housing Options Blackpool Council for the last 12 years. Delivering housing advice and taking homelessness assessments is a very rewarding yet difficult job. Blackpool is quite a unique authority – it is Unitary, 12 miles square, has the highest rates of drug related death, is one of the most deprived towns in the country and has a large amount private rented sector housing. All these factors impact upon our service significantly. To give you an idea of how many people approach us, we see the same footfall as Liverpool City Housing Options Department.

As with all Housing Options departments in the UK, since the pandemic we have seen a rise in the numbers of people approaching us. We strive to prevent homelessness and identify ways to improve our service whilst doing so. We noticed due to the courts closing during the height of the pandemic and the ban on evictions making it impossible for Landlords to evict tenants lawfully, that we saw a rise in illegal evictions. Whilst I understand that some Landlords are facing financial hardship and difficult personal circumstances, there is still a law to follow to evict a tenant. Our department holds the power to investigate such complaints under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977.

Unfortunately, one of our longest standing members of staff and most experienced, decided to retire this year. We needed to identify quickly what knowledge gaps we needed to fill in preparation for their retirement. This member of staff was the only person who had successfully prosecuted a landlord under the above legislation. We needed to upskill as soon as possible.

To be able to utilise these powers we had to learn how to interview landlords and tenants in an official framework, like the Police, following the PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984) guidance. We needed to be able to interview landlords under caution and prepare a case for solicitors to take to court. Given that this type of work is fairly specialist, I set out to find a training provider to facilitate this. It can be difficult to find good quality affordable training, we are public sector and need to be responsible with the small training budget we have.

I found out about Frontline Network training funding quite by chance, when looking at my own personal development opportunities. I successfully applied for funding to cover PACE Training for 16 members of staff.

This training was most useful and has given us a basis to create a new policy as well as information to be able to train any future/new members of staff. We are now equipped as an entire team to investigate these complaints which I am sure will be beneficial to many residents of Blackpool.

Quotes from staff who took the training:

‘I felt more confident after receiving this training to act upon complaints of illegal eviction’

‘It was nice to get back to training as a group since COVID as the department had been so busy and chaotic so things like training days had been postponed’

‘We are lucky to have funding from charities for training given all the cuts to governments over the years’

Thankyou Frontline Network for allowing us to improve our skillset and deliver an important function for the Council!

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