Wigan caretakers need to be more visible

People living in council housing are ‘unaware’ that caretakers exist, according to a report by tenant representatives who say they should be more ‘visible’.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 1:03 pm
Council flats in Scholes; many residents are unaware of the caretaker service which is available for them to utilise
Council flats in Scholes; many residents are unaware of the caretaker service which is available for them to utilise

Caretakers should be more contactable and council communication could improve, according to the report presented to the housing advisory panel.

Tenant representatives, who reported their findings to councillors this week, also said that some caretakers do not have the right tools to do their jobs.

It comes after three tenant representatives compiled a report on the council’s caretaking service, involving interviews with two caretakers about their jobs.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The council employees look after large buildings such as apartment blocks, manage estates and are responsible for dealing with small repairs – but the tenant representatives found that some residents do not know they exist.

All five of their recommendations in the report, which includes improving digital infrastructure and skills, were endorsed by the housing advisory panel at a virtual meeting held via video conference this week.

Tom Dalton, one of the tenant representatives, said the work caretakers do is not promoted enough and said it should be easier for tenants to contact them.

He also highlighted there seems to be a ‘slight breakdown’ in communication.

He said: “The estate caretaker we spoke to had actually been given a job and then go to it and find that it had actually been done by another colleague, but it hadn’t been reported back to him.

“We recognise that we’re living through difficult times. The Covid pandemic has obviously had a massive impact in terms of the delivery on the frontline, but actually, it’s one of the things that can be picked up quite quickly.

“By improving that digital infrastructure for the frontline staff, it makes their job easier and hopefully makes it a little bit better for them getting around and being able to respond to issue.”

Wigan council was in the middle of remodelling the caretaking service and modernising it before the pandemic which meant this work was paused.

Director of environment Paul Barton welcomed the report by tenant representatives and committed to developing some ideas further.

He said: “It’s a damn good service. It does a lot of good work which is under the radar a little bit. We should celebrate it. Because that motivates staff. They feel valued. We’ve got some real diamond who work in our caretaking service.

“They do go over and above – they feel passionate about the patches they work on and the tenants they’re serving. So we need to foster that and give them the recognition they deserve.”

Labour councillor Terry Halliwell, who chairs the housing advisory panel, praised the tenant representatives for their report and presentation.

He said: “Clearly, there are challenges for us in respect of what your scrutiny report revealed and I think you’ve got some commitment there.

“I think there is an opportunity to take this to the next level. There are some challenges there in respect of upgrading digital technology, making them more visible and contactable.

“Clearly from the report, you’ve identified that the staff on the ground are doing a good job, but for some reason or other it’s being missed out.”

Thank you for reading. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers. If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription. Thanks again.