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In the last few months, we have been inviting our members and wider network to share examples of great and inspiring customer service against the odds. Your Homes Newcastle(YHN) has submitted a collection of inspiring stories showcasing these examples of really going above and beyond or of service being delivered differently.

Should you wish to submit your inspiring story, please fill in this form here.

YHN staff take to the road to support local GP service

“Painters, plasterers and gas engineers from Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) are doing their bit to support the NHS by helping to drive GPs to appointments across the city.

Trade staff from YHN’s repairs and construction team jumped at the chance to help out when the housing provider was approached for help with taking GPs to vital home visits for people who are shielding or self-isolating during lockdown.

With Government guidance limiting property repairs to emergencies only, staff from across the department who would usually carry out non-emergency repairs were keen to lend a hand.

David Langhorne, Assets and Development Director at Your Homes Newcastle, said: “When we were asked for support with driving GPs to local appointments our trade staff who would usually carry out non-emergency repairs were really keen to help and volunteered their services.

“As an organisation we’ve quickly adapted our services since the outbreak of coronavirus to respond to our customers’ changing needs, including establishing a team dedicated to daily welfare calls for our older and vulnerable customers and another delivering food parcels and prescriptions. It’s fantastic to now be able to further expand our services and offer this support our city’s GPs who are not only caring for our customers but also some of the most vulnerable people in the city.” “


FareShare North East food charity doubles amount of food delivered to those in need since lockdown began

“Food charity FareShare North East, operated in partnership with Changing Lives, has doubled the amount of food delivered to frontline charities supporting vulnerable people since lockdown measures began – praising the ‘extraordinary’ efforts of its supporters and volunteers during the crisis.

In the nine weeks following the lockdown (23 March), demand for its service soared and the charity distributed 211 tonnes of food. To help meet this additional demand, housing association Your Homes Newcastle – which has been a partner of FareShare North East for six years – has doubled the amount of storage space it provides to FareShare North East for the duration of the crisis.

One resident who has benefitted from YHN’s partnership with FareShare North East is Nora Henderson. As a resident in one of YHN’s supported living schemes for six years, Nora has received regular welfare calls from YHN since lockdown began in March. During one of these calls, Nora mentioned that she was running low on food.

Nora said: “My son in law is my carer but he has a young child and he can’t do my shopping at the same time as his. After I told YHN, they arranged a food parcel for me. It was a God send really, just to know that someone out there cared about me.

Jen Vinton, Customer Services Director at YHN, said: “Stories such as Nora’s are an important reminder of how our partnership with FareShare is making a difference for our vulnerable customers. We have long supported the charity, helping with food storage and distribution, but in this time of crisis the partnership is more important than ever.

“I’m so pleased that we are able to help Nora and many others like her through a difficult time. If any other customers need our support then we encourage them to get in touch and we will do all we can to help.” “


From the front line to the phone line

“Meet Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) Customer Service Assistant, Enriette Kalema, who is one of many employees who were redeployed to help out in other areas of the business. Enriette swapped her face-to-face role helping customers, to helping them out in a different way by answering calls in the Contact Centre.

“I am so encouraged to be part of a team that has shown such resilience. Even when dealing with personal worries, we have kept going with a positive attitude and have adapted to a new way of working to keep providing services to our customers, advising and reassuring people in what is a difficult time for everyone.

“I have had moments of panic but have also encouraged myself to keep on smiling and not allow what’s happening to break my spirit and take one day at a time. Even just walking to YHN House today, I noticed how beautiful some of the houses are around this area and that shifted my focus from thinking about the pandemic, and I’m hoping we all stay encouraged and have little moments that will help us keep hope.

“I would like to give a special mention to my managers for being super funny and encouraging which goes a long way to keep morale up.” “


24-hour alarm care and response service delivers front-line support to customers during the Coronavirus outbreak

“Ostara is Your Homes Newcastle’s alarm care and response service. Ostara’s 24-hour response officers are on hand to visit customers who fall, feel unsafe or become unwell at any time of the day or night and they have been busier than ever over recent months.

Our responders are very much on the frontline, with the number of response visits the team has made almost doubling since lockdown measures were enforced.

The team help people to continue living independently, enabling them to live safely in their own homes and away from hospitals and residential care settings. They help with all aspects of life, from cleaning, dressing and making customers comfortable to responding to emergencies, performing CPR and first aid.

Ostara staff work closely with the North East Ambulance Service and NHS and are often the first people on the scene to help customers who are unwell and this has been the case throughout the coronavirus crisis.

Like everyone at YHN, they are making a huge contribution towards keeping Newcastle safe. As a team, their attitude has been outstanding and admirable. Every day, they are committed to putting customers first and helping them remain safely in their homes, which at this time is more important than ever.

Staff across YHN made welfare calls to over 2,000 of our Ostara customers during lockdown, checking on their general wellbeing, whether they had enough food and medication, making referrals to other support services, organising home visits, and carrying out checks on their Ostara alarm system.”


Support for young people struggling with loneliness

“Through carrying out customer welfare calls, we know that many people have struggled to deal with social isolation during the pandemic.

In July 2019, YHN received funding through the Co-op Foundation to develop a project to tackle loneliness amongst young people aged 16-25.

Inclusion Mentor, Carla Askwith, talks about how the service has adapted since the COVID-19:

“I’ve really enjoyed working with my customers and getting to know them. You soon discover that all it takes is having someone to talk to and instilling confidence in them to get out of their comfort zone and try new things. One of my clients with learning difficulties began volunteering once a week at the woodyard before lockdown, which is something he never would’ve considered doing without our support.

“Another girl I’ve been supporting was struggling with isolation and having the confidence to engage with others. Over time she has built up her confidence to become more sociable, which has resulted in her being offered an apprenticeship at YHN, which she hopes to start soon.

“With the current COVID-19 situation, we have had to adapt and be flexible to find new ways of engaging young people and are currently working with our customers to find out what online activities they would engage in to combat loneliness during these difficult times.

“We are also launching a new residency project to work alongside an artist to creatively engage young people across the city and share their experiences of how loneliness has affected them during lockdown.” “


YHN staff lend a hand to local pharmacies to help shielding people across Newcastle

“Alongside carrying out vital emergency repairs work to customers’ homes throughout lockdown, staff from Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) and Newcastle City Council provided hands-on support to local pharmacies in the city.

Staff redeployed from the Operations team have been supporting eight pharmacies to help with deliveries, stock management and door and phone management.

Managers at local pharmacies spoke very highly of our team. Here is some of the feedback that we received:

“Martin learned so quickly and was amazing at his job. He just took it all on board and was really switched on.”

“Colin, Gary, Lee and Tony have all been superb. They each have an amazing attitude and could not be better with the patients. It has taken a lot of pressure off the pharmacy teams at this time and it is much appreciated. Thank you!”

“Lee has been absolutely brilliant. He was super enthusiastic, and we are so pleased with the help he’s given.”

“Richie, Michael and Alan are really nice guys and they knew the local area very well and they’ve been a big help. We had a lot of trust in them with the patients. They deserve recognition for what they have done – they’ve gone out of their way to be helpful and couldn’t do enough. It’s been brilliant.” “


Keeping customer spirits up during lockdown

“Lockdown proved to be a challenging time for many residents living in learning disability schemes, with some struggling to adjust to the change of being unable to meet with others and having to follow new safety measures.

The Housing Plus team at Your Homes Newcastle, who help to support residents living in supported living schemes, responded to this new challenge by looking for new and innovative ways to engage resident and deliver a string of engagement activities to help create an environment in which positive new routines can be developed that will naturally support people to follow the government guidance.

Supported Living Officer Rachel Rees, worked with residents to deliver one-to-one sessions to create their own Covid-19 rainbow while also using the session to discuss the impact of Covid-19, the importance of social distancing, why we need to make changes during the lockdown, and what the rainbows represented.

She also organised to have free takeaway meals delivered from local restaurant My Delhi, who offered free meals to vulnerable groups of people who are particularly affected by social distancing.

In a joint effort, Supported Living Officers, Lisa Anderson and John Field put together a special transport-themed quiz for a resident who has a keen interest in buses and public transport.”

– Joanne Rossiter, Your Homes Newcastle

Should you wish to submit your inspiring story, please fill in this form here.

The Institute of Customer Service

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