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Sheffield helping hands

Yorkshire Housing’s South Home Improvement Agencies (HIA) provide a wide range of services to help some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in society maintain their independence and security.

 A packed schedule of work for the Sheffield-based team includes efforts in the fields of domestic violence, gas safety, electrical safety, hospital discharge, core local authority contracts and YH’s internal adaptations.

 South HIA and internal adaptations manager Layla Walton explained she and the team are constantly searching for new projects – such as a recent successful bid for £5,000 from the South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner.

 This will see Yorkshire Housing handypersons fitting crime prevention measures, such as safety locks and security lights, at the homes of elderly and vulnerable people.

 The South HIA also gained funding from the Campaign for a Smarter Britain to promote smart meter use among the over-65s in South and North Yorkshire.

 Handypersons and needs, advice and support officers will work in partnership with the National Energy Awareness charity spreading awareness of the rollout of smart meters.

 Judith Preston (pictured), South HIA needs, advice and support officer, is coordinating the smart meter project.

She said: “Smart meters allow people to monitor the money they spend.


“People often think their appliances cost more to run than they do. But with a smart meter, they realise they can afford to put the heating on or use the washing machine.


“It also reduces the risk of an elderly person with limited mobility attempting to get a meter reading from somewhere inaccessible.”

 Yorkshire Housing’s South and North HIAs recently teamed up to work with the Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) in Sheffield, Barnsley and North Yorkshire after successfully winning a bid of approximately £30k.

 The Rotherham HIA has also been working in partnership with Rotherham Council to deliver this service for more than 10 years.

 The calibre of help and support offered means the HIA is on course to achieve the Advice Quality Standard benchmark, which will make them the first HIA in the country to do so.

 It fits in with the HIA’s overall mission promoting the idea that everybody deserves to have a safe place fit to call home.

Layla said: “We’re here to help. It’s not a cold, commercial service. We’re certainly not in it for the money.


“We’re proud to have a very warm, friendly and caring team who have a real passion for the delivery of the social value aspect of the social housing sector.


“They all go the extra mile every day and will and do drop everything at a moment’s notice to help a vulnerable person.”

 One example was going on a Friday night with equipment sourced by staff themselves for the home of someone in crisis who did not have anything.

Layla said: “It takes a specific kind of caring individual to do that and I feel very proud of the team we have here.”

 The South HIA also manages the YH internal home adaptions for tenants, coordinating the installation of anything from through floor lifts to g​rab rails and key safes.

 The technical officer within the South HIA also supports major works at the Swarcliffe Estate in Leeds, including the installation of stair lifts and wash-dry toilets.

 And there is a private handyperson service for small DIY jobs that older or disabled people might not be able to do or those who may not be eligible for the core council-funded service.

 Overall, Yorkshire Housing’s HIAs assisted more than 18,000 customers in the 2017/18 year with a 100 per cent satisfaction rate.

Layla added: “We’re devoted to helping people live independently and comfortably in their own homes and in a way that keeps their dignity.”​