Grant Shapps presents the 2012 Young Leaders award to Sara Parkin
She’s been described by her head of housing as “quiet and reserved”, but her approach to management since becoming leader of the homelessness team at Futures Homescape has helped cut B&B usage by 93 percent. Not only did this year’s Young Leaders winner Sara Parkin win over 24housing magazine’s panel of independent judges, she wowed Grant Shapps who’s now looking over his shoulder... and busy scribbling down her ideas.
The Top 30
- Sarah Parkin
- Rachel Molyneux
- Joanne Claridge
- Hannah Boyd
- Aaron Peake
- Amy Hamilton
- Chris Marshall
- Crystal Fernandes
- Emma Moody
- Edward Farnsworth
- Michelle Evans
- Anna Lambert
- Hannah Spriggs
- Abi Mistry
- Carly Hodgetts
- Rachel McGregor
- Sian Lewis-Harding
- Joanne Whittingham
- James Back
- Frances Herman-Squance
- Charlie Teare
- Joe Elwood
- Rebekah Parr
- Liam Smith
- Aimee Cleveland
- Donna Male
- Matthew Deprez
- Cath O'Neill
- Stephen Samuel
- Laura Masters
He’s the media-savvy minister overhauling the way social housing is allocated while his government makes hard and fast cuts to welfare payments.
She is the quiet and reserved housing advice manager feeling the impacts of government policy on the ground.
Despite the obvious frictions, however, there is mutual respect when this year’s Young Leaders winner meets the man at the helm of the Government’s radical housing plans.
Sara Parkin, 30, joined 5,500-home Futures Homescape – which manages the council’s homelessness contract – as a graduate eight years ago.
Now she’s leading the homelessness team and is quietly going about her business ensuring she’s got buy-in from her team and that they’re fully engaged in key decisions.
What Grant Shapps is desperate to know, however, is how she’s cut B&B usage by 93 percent.
Her no frills answer pleases him more, as it has cost next to no money.
“A lot of it was changing people’s attitudes,” she says. “I got the team involved and asked them how they thought things could be done differently.”
It also included a tougher approach to those that present themselves as homeless.
“When people approached us we were quite persistent and where they said they didn’t have anywhere to stay we asked for their mobiles and went through from A-Z to see if they had somewhere they could stay.
“It’s just about being a bit more creative.”
And with a heavy focus on prevention, it’s been about “utilising the mediation skills the team has got to try and find different way of doing things”.
So, for example, she says mediators will spend time with parents no longer willing to house their children. “It’s more about the prevention before it gets to that stage,” she says.
Her team has also been going into schools to talk to 15 and 16-year-olds about their housing options.
“Some think they can just turn up, see us and get given the key to a council house. They need to know it doesn’t work like that,” she explains.
In many ways Parkin is the new guard of housing professional – she’s not stuck in the warp of asking for more funding, something the judges noted in her presentation, but is working with what she’s got and to some success.
Private sector leasing
In April, Futures took the plunge into managing private rented properties and hopes to work the scheme up to a local lettings agency.
Private lease schemes are used to provide temporary accommodation to homeless households with leases typically running between two and seven years, providing guaranteed rental incomes for landlords.
It has already hit its target of placing 10 homeless households into private accommodation and the only barrier from doing more is resources, she says.
“We were at 10 within the first month,” she said. “We’ve actually got landlords coming to us to build homes for the private sector leasing scheme.”
This even pricked the housing minister’s interest who asked Parkin to liaise with the department’s homelessness team.
“One landlord wants to build properties just for veterans, some will even come to us and ask where to build. They want long-term leases for five to seven years.
“Certain landlords have also suggested to us that their mortgage costs are reduced by up to two percent should they engage with a reputable landlord/ provider.”
After presenting the award – and after Parkin spent time with the policy lead on homelessness at DCLG – a clearly impressed Shapps tweeted: “Just met the winner of 24housing's Young Leaders Award. Very impressive winner with great ideas. May have to watch my position!”
This next year will see Parkin guest edit a future edition of 24housing magazine and take on an ambassador role for young leaders in the sector. She will also get the opportunity to shadow National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr for a day.
What they said about Sara
“I could honestly see her as a future chief executive”
David Orr, chief executive, National Housing Federation
“Sara’s quiet, reserved and determined approach to leading the team has helped deliver top quality performance and both regional and national recognition for her team”
Paul Whittingham, head of housing, Futures Homescape
“She is keeping spirits up at a very difficult time. She’s obviously a very shy person but commands a team working in a very serious area of housing”
Jon Land, editor, 24housing
2. Rachel Molyneux (‘The talent spotter’)
At 24, Rachel has come a long way very quickly with four promotions since start ing at Helena as an apprentice. Her focus on her own personal development (she has achieved a post-graduate degree) is combined with an equal desire for others to succeed. She devotes much of her time to supporting the professional development of Helena’s diverse work force. A passionate advocate of apprenticeship schemes, her big idea at the judging day was the creation of housing association consortiums to provide employment opportunities, using small rent increases to pay for apprenticeship places.
Nominated by: Penny Aspden, Head of Organisational Development, Helena Partnerships
“Rachel has progressed from enthusiastic learning and development apprentice to well-respected organisational development business partner. She used her first-hand experience as an apprentice to transform Helena’s apprenticeship programme and is an inspiration to the young people involved.”
Key leadership quote: “My passion is for helping young people to learn and develop. Helping people overcome barriers is what makes me tick, but I’m also focused on my own development.”
What the judges said: “Bags of passion, drive and determination” Steve Douglas, Altair
3. Joanne Claridge(‘The silo breaker’)
Act Family Manager
Among many key achievements, Joanne’s appointment as Stockport Homes’ Act Family Manager to head up a new team devoted to supporting what the Government calls ‘troubled families’ is testament to her leadership qualities. Recognised at a national level, the team’s work is pioneering a multi-agency approach to helping vulnerable families and successes include reductions in ASB referrals as well as huge cost savings. She believes housing should break out of its silo and the joined-up approach should be adopted by central government.
Nominated by: Sandra Coleing, Director of Corporate Services, Stockport Homes
“Joanne started her career with Stockport Homes as a housing advice officer, progressing to strategic development officer then manager within four years. In 2011 she was appointed as Act Family Manager, tasked with the creation of a brand new team to support families with complex needs. Joanne has played a pioneering role in supporting 36 families. Successes include: increased school attendance, a reduction in offending, improved health outcomes, housing stability, a reduction in ASB referrals and a reduction in external service costs.”
Key leadership quote: “Interventions with children can really help turn around the lives of whole families.”
What the judges said: “You’d be happy to have her in your team. She’s very impressive” David Orr, NHF
4. Hannah Boyd ('The legal eagle')
Trainee Housing Management Solicitor and Interim Tenancy Standards Manager
Hannah proved herself to be a formidable contender for this year’s Young Leaders prize, combining excellent leadership qualities with a passion for housing and a sharp legal mind. Not only has she helped to shape Midland Heart’s approach to the Localism Act and tenure reform, she has played a key role at a regional level in developing Birmingham’s anti-fraud initiative. Her idea for a housing court system – dedicated to dealing with anti-social behaviour possession and eviction cases - certainly caught the judges’ imagination with David Orr predicting that she’ll become one of the sector’s leading experts in housing law.
Nominated by: David Taylor, Head of Lettings and Tenancy Standards, Midland Heart
“Hannah has developed an influential role tackling anti-social behaviour and has become a member of Birmingham’s multi-agency gang unit. She has also been instrumental in designing Midland Heart’s approach to tenure reform and has influenced the development of a robust tenancy policy that will deliver best use of housing stock, whilst assisting customers to achieve their aspirations.”
Key leadership quote: “You need to practice what you preach and this needs to be clearly visible to those that you are leading.”
What the judges said: “She demonstrated quite a strong moral compass. She thought about the ethics of what she’s doing” Kathy Hanson, CIH
5. Aaron Peake (‘The self-confident one’)
Former Project Officer – Chief Executive’s Office
Homes for Haringey
Despite recently moving on from Homes for Haringey, Aaron did himself and his former organisation proud in this year’s Young Leaders competition by helping to showcase the work of Project 2020. This pioneering scheme operates across the borough – including estates in North Tottenahm, the epicentre of last year’s riots - to develop employment opportunities for hard to reach young people. As Aaron himself explained: “They’re not going to self-refer, there’s entrenched gang issues, anti-social behaviour, crime – we need to get in there and build relationships.” Aaron was up for the challenge.
Nominated by: David Sherrington, Head of Chief Executive’s Office, Homes for Haringey
“Aaron started as a graduate trainee in 2009 supporting the chief executive and leading on our first worklessness scheme. This involved recruiting and mentoring a long-term unemployed Haringey resident to help her towards a housing qualification and gain full-time employment. From the start, Aaron has shown calm, self-assured integrity, intelligence and tactful communication skills to drive through projects that make a difference. ”
Key leadership quote: “Effective collaboration is made possible by a shared social purpose.”
What the judges said: “Exuded confidence. Excellent delivery style” Jon Land, 24housing
6. Amy Hamilton
Age: 27 | former Project Co-ordinator | Dale & Valley Homes
Nominated by: Colin Stockwell, Board Chair, Dale & Valley Homes
“In 2009 Amy was newly promoted to project assistant. Almost immediately we had to relocate, with six weeks to remodel a vacant building and move into it. The director responsible was needed elsewhere. Amy had no experience of leading a major project, let alone a build project, but she knew it was vital and volunteered to lead. She delivered a high quality result on time! Amy also shone in leading two other projects: An £8m new-build and the development of the website.”
7. Chris Marshall
Age: 25 | Head of Operations | Gentoo
Nominated by: Michelle Meldrum, Deputy Director, Gentoo
“Chris started with Gentoo as a Neighbourhood Operations Manager Trainee in February 2009. This was his first post managing a team of staff in a busy area office. Chris’s ability to engage with a wide range of customers, partners and stakeholders enabled him to build effective relations which enhanced our service delivery. Chris developed into an effective role model and won a Rising Star award as part of Gentoo’s annual Grafta awards. He progressed to Head of Operations in November 2011.”
8. Crystal Fernandes
Age: 26 | Programme Manager – Sustainable Communities | Circle
Nominated by: Lydia Bolwell, Sustainable Communities Officer, Circle
“Crystal is full to the brim with new ideas. A creative thinker, her innovation steers the team into new directions and inspires others to take on a variety of boundary pushing work. She has initiated numerous employment projects unique in the housing sector, running several programmes simultaneously in order to offer variety and capture the hardest to reach. She set up and ran the Future Jobs Fund (145 candidates) at Circle Housing which ran for approximately 18 months.”
9. Emma Moody
Age: 25 | Income Manager | L&Q
Nominated by: Sally Kneller, Income Manager, L&Q
“Emma has worked for L&Q since 2007, starting out as an assistant in the Operational Support Team. She has since moved to the L&Q Direct Revenue team and has been promoted three times in the last few years – most recently to managerial level as income manager. Emma has consistently demonstrated commitment to her work and leads her four teams of 30 staff by example with an impressive innovative approach. Her values are an asset to L&Q.”
10. Edward Farnsworth
Age: 29 | Head of Business Planning and Development, Finance | L&Q
Nominated by: Waqar Ahmed, Group Director, Finance, L&Q
“Ed joined L&Q as a Graduate Trainee in 2005. He now heads up a team of managers and analysts responsible for preparing development finance accounts, new business and group financial plans. He was responsible for the development of the award-winning UpToYou product and represented L&Q on a panel of RPs that developed MyChoice Homebuy. He recently took up a position on L&Q’s internal development & sales board, responsible for monitoring performance of its development pipeline.”
11. Michelle Evans
Age: 28 | Strategy and Policy Manager | East Durham Homes
Nominated by: Paul Mains, Assistant Chief Executive, East Durham Homes
“Michelle ventured into housing after attaining her law degree. Seven years after coming into the sector she is part of the senior management team and is currently studying for an MSc in Housing Studies. Michelle has strong customer focus and is able to develop and execute clear strategies, and deliver results. She has led on successful projects, including a successful two-star inspection with excellent prospects and the attainment of the Customer Service Excellence standard.”
12. Anna Lambert
Age: 27 | Communications Manager | Halton Housing Trust
Nominated by: Noel Sharpe, Director of Customer Services, Halton Housing Trust
“Anna has improved the way we communicate with our staff and customers. Effective communication is vital to the running of the Trust. She has made huge strides in developing our Twitter and Facebook accounts. As a result she was invited to speak at a social media conference in Liverpool and our Twitter followers have increased from 300 to nearly 2,000. She is the only person working full-time on communications, setting the direction rather than following someone else’s lead.”
13. Hannah Spriggs
Age: 29 | HR Support Centre Manager | Orbit Group
Nominated by: Tony Williams, Director of Organisational Development, Orbit Group
“Hannah has dealt with a number of poor performing people in the team. This has been handled with tact, honesty and fairness, but has meant they have exited the organisation with support for their future. Hannah has also been undertaking a project to create a shared services centre for HR, finance and procurement. In addition, she has led on the systems work needed for the 'my Benefits' project, which she delivered to time, cost and quality targets.”
14. Abi Mistry
Age: 28 | Communications Manager | Eastlands Homes
Nominated by: Tom Bassford, Business Improvement Manager, Eastlands Homes
“Abi’s contributions have helped the business to save money and work more effectively. She’s re-launched the customer newsletter with a new, fresh brand at less cost, saving thousands of pounds. She’s also implemented a new online stationery ordering system for offices to replenish their stock independently, saving further time and money. Abi voluntarily leads the organisation’s health & wellbeing project and has implemented three of her own initiatives.”
15. Carly Hodgetts
Age: 28 | former Human Resources Adviser | Shepherds Bush Housing Group
Nominated by: David Blackburn, Director of Business Support, Shepherds Bush Housing Group
“Carly has transformed herself from admin assistant to fully qualified HR professional in six years. She’s been vital in SBHG achieving Investors in People Champion status. Carly used insight from her Master’s degree dissertation on employee engagement to inform the group’s benefits review. As a result we’ve invested in online benefits and total reward statements. In addition, Carly’s work with our new repairs team has been instrumental in resident repairs satisfaction reaching 98 percent.”
16. Rachel McGregor
Age: 27 | Sales Services Manager - Leasehold Services | L&Q
Nominated by: Nic Bealey, Group Director, Marketing & Sales, L&Q
“Rachel is dedicated to her career and really loves making a difference. Having started at L&Q as an administrator six years ago, she has a broad knowledge of housing and understands what is required to have a positive impact. Her role has changed drastically over the last 12 months and she manages a team of 14 staff. She has been innovative in implementing new procedures and processes that have positively impacted on staff satisfaction and improved the service to customers.”
17. Sian Lewis-Harding
Age: 27 | Surveyor - Technical | Sovereign Housing Association
Nominated by: John Dyson, Building Services Manager, Sovereign Housing Association
“Since joining as a temp in 2005 while still at university, Sian has risen to be a manager in the property services department. After graduating, she joined full-time and is now a technical surveyor. In this role, she is responsible for procuring and managing important supply chain contracts. She also led on the implementation of new property asset management software. Sian was a key member of the team that introduced Sovereign’s new ‘Home Safety Check’, which was shortlisted for a national award.”
18. Joanne Whittingham
Age: 24 | Contracts Manager | Knowsley Housing Trust
Nominated by: Russell Thompson, Executive Director Maintenance Services, Knowsley Housing Trust
“Joanne is able to motivate her team of six staff and operatives to meet the pressures of managing a £2m a year contract. She has excellent communication skills, helping to develop effective client relationships where there previously hadn’t been. Since taking over an important contract in a profession dominated by male workers she has impressed everyone with her skills, attitude and attention to detail. Joanne is a role model who is making impressive strides in a short space of time.”
19. James Back
Age: 25 | Business Analyst | Rosebery Housing Association
Nominated by: Gary Clark, Operations Director, Rosebery Housing Association
“I have used James as a critical friend when questioning processes, procedures, KPIs and new systems. He is bilingual in the sense that he has been able to speak both operational language to the operators and ‘teccy’ to the techies. He has single-handedly built, validated and published a new suite of benchmarkable KPIs which people at all levels use, has helped embed our VFM approach through detailed benchmarking activity and is confident enough to present to senior managers.”
20. Frances Herman-Squance
Age: 27 | Corporate Communications Manager | Orbit Group
Nominated by: Boris Worrall, Director of Strategy & External Affairs, Orbit Group
“Managing the reputation of the 10th largest housing association is a big job... but it’s one Frances has dived straight into with creativity, passion and a professionalism which leaves older and more experienced peers in the shade. Whether organising a roundtable discussion with a minister or using clever intranet adverts to engage staff, Frances is constantly striving to come up with new ways to inform, communicate and involve people. ‘Can’t do’ is not in her vocabulary.”
21. Charlie Teare
Age: 29 | Head of Business Support (Business Improvement) | Synergy Housing
Nominated by: Catherine Dixson, Director of Business Support, Synergy Housing
“Charlie’s vision and forward thinking has seen her develop a clear approach for Synergy’s future self-regulation based on a holistic view of services. Charlie is extremely passionate about excellent customer service and has developed the access and customer care standards. She is not afraid to challenge her peers if she does not think ‘excellence’ is being provided to customers. One of our rising stars with great potential – next step director!”
22. Joe Elwood
Age: 28 | Team Leader, Supported Housing | Leeds Federated Housing Association (LFA)
Nominated by: Caroline Griffiths, Supported Housing Operational Manager, LFA
“Joe has supported staff through major changes, including closures of services and staffing restructures. He has shown sensitivity when speaking with clients who were losing services, explained the reasons behind the closures and answered any queries they have. Joe also co-ordinates our customer choice mornings, when we stage events for customers. He is a credit to Leeds Federated and the values we incorporate into our business plan.”
23. Rebekah Parr
Age: 26 | Project Worker | Stonham Housing
Nominated by: Sara Crofts and Tom Bruce, Senior Project Workers, Stonham Housing
“Rebekah has the potential to become a senior leader in Stonham because she inspires and motivates others and challenges process and procedures to improve customer experience and outcomes. She has improved collective practice, client involvement and improved group morale. Rebekah has built relationships with other housing providers and this has reflected on current working practices, resulting in improved customer pathways through social housing and into independent living.”
24. Liam Smith
Age: 27 | Customer Service Team Leader | Trident Social Investment Group
Nominated by: Debbie Hanley, Customer Operations Manager, Trident Social Investment Group
“Liam leads from the front and is motivated and passionate about excellent customer service. He maintains a positive, professional and proactive approach to his work. Liam displays strong communication skills both face-to-face and over the telephone which ensures complaints rarely come to light. He is a housing practitioner who is continuously striving to improve his knowledge and skills in housing. He is consistently embarking on courses to enhance his leadership credentials.”
25. Aimee Cleveland
Age: 25 | Trainee Estates Surveyor - Leasehold | Sovereign Housing Association
Nominated by: Gary Morgan, Estates Manager, Sovereign Housing Association
“Aimee has come a long way since joining Sovereign as an 18-year-old trainee in the property services team. After being appointed as the estates team assistant, she undertook extra study, gaining NVQs in business administration and customer service. She has since been appointed to the position of Trainee Estates Surveyor for leasehold properties. Aimee is currently the lead on Sovereign’s cleaning contracts, covering more than 500 sites across four regions.”
26. Donna Male
Age: 28 | Company Secretariat Co-ordinator | whg
Nominated by: Gary Fulford, Chief Executive, whg
“Keeping the governance machinery running smoothly is no mean feat. Making sure the boards, sub-committees and local committees get the right information and advice at the right time is at the heart of Donna’s role. In the six years since she joined whg, Donna has established herself as someone for whom the pressures of meeting deadlines with outstanding accuracy are givens. She has a knowledge of the processes of governance that the entire group executive relies upon.”
27. Matthew Deprez
Age: 27 | Strategic Neighbourhood Co-ordinator | Home Group
Nominated by: Donna Shepherd, Head of Customer Services London, Home Group
“Matt has demonstrated leadership skills in many areas of the services that he delivers. Working directly with our customers has resulted in positive changes to the community but also, importantly, colleagues across the organisation. He has led on the delivery of the neighbourhood plan in his area. Matt has been very successful at organising community events in an area of low customer involvement and we now have a dedicated group of volunteers which includes young people.”
28. Cath O’Neill
Age: 29 | Enquiries, Complaints and Compliments (ECC) Co-ordinator | Halton Housing Trust
Nominated by: Vikki Mack, PA to Chief Executive & Board Chair, Halton Housing Trust
“Cath joined the Trust as ECC Coordinator which was a level one position, but she has brought the role on so much it was re-evaluated as a level three. She took on more ownership and responsibilities, seeing through enquiries and complaints from beginning to end. Customers and stakeholders have a lot of respect for Cath and she is highly respected by her colleagues. Her attention to detail was highlighted when she pulled together a complex case for the Housing Ombudsman Service.”
29. Stephen Samuel
Age: 25 | Team Administrator | Asset Management | L&Q
Nominated by: Yvette Clarke, Team Administrator, L&Q
“Steve is passionate about housing management and has a real flair for providing the best service possible to our residents. Following a recent stock transfer of 500 homes to L&Q, Steve organised a surgery to provide residents with clear information about the process and its implications. He has also assisted professional works inspections and has developed excellent relationships with our service contractors, arranging quotes, drawing specifications and writing negotiated tenders.”
30. Laura Masters
Age: 29 | Marketing and Communications Advisor | whg
Nominated by: Ian Hill, Head of Communications and Business Improvement, whg
“Laura’s role includes leading on digital communications work and delivering a host of projects in other marketing fields. She has progressed to Communications Advisor and, along with balancing family commitments, has completed professional qualifications in PR and marketing. Laura has taken the lead role in developing a completely revised whg website. Leading on design and content, she has been instrumental in working with colleagues at all levels – including directors.”
The 2012 Young Leaders Award judging panel
From left to right: David Orr, Chief Executive National Housing Federation; Steve Douglas, Partner Altair; Kathy Hanson, Head of Learning Chartered Institute of Housing; Sue Roberts, Chair National Federation of ALMOs; Jon Land, Editor 24housing