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It’s great to see so many more men in support roles.

(5-minute read)

Hi, my name is Bill, and I am an Independent Living Coordinator at ateb Group, a housing association in West Wales. I would describe my main duties as offering support and signposting services to the less independent in our supported housing communities.

I’ve always enjoyed ‘support’ types of work and I guess people would describe me as a helpful person, so this type of work comes quite naturally to me. But my path to this position has not exactly been straightforward.

At the age of 18 I joined the Armed Forces as an Infantryman and stayed in that role for over 15 years. I was in the Black Watch and served in conflicts in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq. I joined the Army as an escape from my childhood and it was tough although at the time it didn’t feel like it. However, I do struggle now and It’s important that I recognise it had an impact on my mental health, as I like to say I’m a little bit warped!

When I left the Army, I decided to relocate to Pembrokeshire where I ran a timber yard for 9 years, and then managed two sheltered homes for 7 years. This latter role was difficult mentally and physically, and I would often come home with fresh bruises, cuts, and even bites. I was also caring for a family member at the time, which was challenging and I made the daunting decision to find a new role. That’s when I discovered the housing sector.

I joined ateb as a Facilities Assistant, my role was to carry out safety checks, opening and closing of premises, general maintenance and occasional cleaning. This was the perfect role for my circumstances at the time. It gave me a relatively stress-free time at work (compared to my previous role) and allowed me to focus on my challenges at home. Looking back, I am extremely glad I made that decision as without it, I don’t think the outcome at home would have been very good.

I think that’s the bonus of working in the housing sector, there are so many varied roles that if like me, you need to change position because of personal circumstances there are options.

Once my personal circumstances improved, I decided I wanted to return to a role that had, in my opinion, greater job satisfaction – I enjoy helping people. I successfully applied to become an Independent Living Coordinator.

My favourite part of my job is getting an end result. It can be really tough for customers with personal challenges to chase a referral or pick up the phone to ask for help, or even just report a repair. I really like that I can support a person, especially when they perhaps don’t have the energy or ability to resolve that issue themselves, to reach their goal or get things done. That’s the most rewarding part of my job, helping people and seeing results. I won’t pretend you can always get a good result, or that the person asking for help is focusing on the right solution, but in those circumstances, you help to the best of your ability. I want this write up to be realistic too, if you’re thinking a job like this is going to be all about getting results, happy customers, praise, and thanks all the time, well you are going to be disappointed quite often. You have to select the right objectives and make the right judgement calls.

When I joined the Independent Living Team I was the only male member of staff, but we now make up 43% of the team and it’s great to see so many more men in customer-facing support roles. It’s important that our customers have a choice of who they can go to for support and gender can be an important factor for some.

The skills you need to be a great Independent Living Coordinator are to be a great listener, have astute observation, and probably the main one is empathy. Everyone is different, people’s needs are different, what works for one person won’t always work for someone else.

Would I recommend a job in the housing sector? Well, I can’t speak for all organisations but I can say my current employer has been there when I needed them and we are constantly being reminded to look after our wellbeing. In terms of happiness, well I am writing this on a Friday so feeling really positive today and would probably say this is one of the best jobs I have ever had.

Would I recommend my job? I absolutely would!

Bill Faichney, Independent Living Coordinator at ateb Group.