Spotlight on volunteers: Meet Darja
This Volunteers' Week, we are shining a spotlight on five of our resident volunteers, all of whom are working with us in partnership to improve our services.
Darja is the Chair of the Meridia Court residents association. As part of our shift to a patch-based housing management model, Darja was one of 100 resident volunteers who helped us recruit 180 Neighbourhood Housing Leads (NHLs).
Our vision for the remodelled service is for our NHLs to tap into the local expertise of resident volunteers on the ground, so it was vital to ensure that any candidates were able to work constructively with residents. We also know that residents are the best people to identify the elements of high-quality housing management.
During the application process, candidates prepared written responses to fictional complaints, which residents then rated based on empathy, tone of voice and communication skills, and alignment with L&Q values. The feedback provided by resident volunteers informed the final decisions and helped to shape the training that NHLs received.
“Being the Chair of the Meridia Court residents association since 2020 has been a fascinating experience so far. Working with residents is not always easy, especially when things aren’t going right, but through my time as Chair, I’ve learnt what things make the biggest difference - empathy and communication. I have witnessed the gradual transformation of L&Q and taken part in recruitment activities and the re-design of services.
Most recently, this involved helping housing management appoint Neighbourhood Housing Leads following the re-structure. I wanted to get involved to make sure the people who were hired were the right people and had the right skills and attitudes.
It was interesting to sit on an interview panel and observe candidates’ approach to the complaints handling assessment. But what was even more interesting was how aligned my thinking was with the other resident volunteers. We all wanted the same things from the applicants – proven empathy and good communication skills.
It is great to see residents' voices are finally being heard, and changes are happening slowly. Previously, it would take a long time to get meetings set up, and we would often experience breakdowns in communication.
Small things can make a huge difference. Receiving a call before I have to chase up information brings a smile to my face and makes me feel like my landlord cares. Even if the person calling is the bearer of bad news, it still proves to residents that you are committed to keeping us informed.
There’s a great sense of camaraderie in our building and it’s really lovely to feel like you know your neighbours. We have an active WhatsApp chat, and we often help each other out with things like parcel collections, the distribution of items like kids’ clothes and furniture, and general advice for people for whom English isn’t their first language.
I’m pleased to say that we have managed to establish a good working relationship with L&Q. We’ve discussed what information residents need and how they want to receive it. We’ve worked together to resolve issues around services charges, broken lifts and building safety.
With service charges, we were able to bring these to more manageable levels after residents discovered the increase in communal electricity consumption was due to electric cars being charged from the wrong socket. With building safety, whilst we are still waiting for our cladding certificates, we remain in frequent contact with L&Q and are regularly updated on progress.
Overall, it feels like a much healthier relationship, and I have an optimistic outlook for the future.”