Learner case study: Terri-Ann France
Supporting the homeless with the practical skills learned from my apprenticeship
“I’m sure my own experience of homelessness – and my desire then to help other children and families that find themselves in the same situation – gave me the hunger to learn for my apprenticeship. Not having enough food, living on the streets, dealing with the uncertainty – they’re all very real and immediate fears faced by the families I deal with, and ones with which I can fully empathise.”
What we learn over our lifetimes is often driven by our early experiences in life. Here Terri-Ann France explains how her childhood experience of homelessness led her to an apprenticeship in Housing and her role as Temporary Accommodation Officer at Nottingham City Homes (NCH).
“When I was aged five, my Mum and I were made temporarily homeless. Whilst I don’t remember the exact details, I do remember how unsettling and confusing I found it and watching my Mum struggle day to day.
I’m sure that experience – and my own desire then to help other children and families that find themselves in the same situation – gave me the hunger to learn. Not having enough food, living on the streets, dealing with the uncertainty – they’re all very real and immediate fears faced by the families I deal with, and ones with which I can fully empathise.
I’ve always been an avid learner. As well as an HND in Social Studies, I hold a BA in Health Care and Community, am trained in EYFS (early years foundation stage) and have an on Online Diploma in Child Behaviour. My education led to eight years working in social care with Nottingham City Council and then for one of the UK’s largest property management companies, Places for People.
When I joined the Temporary Accommodation Department of Nottingham City Homes and its fast-paced work in supporting 265 temporary properties across the city, I knew I wanted to boost my learning through a practical qualification.
I’m not a social worker, nor am I a therapist, but I am there to listen and to offer very practical support. So the Chartered Institute of Housing’s Property Management Apprenticeship Level 4, which I studied for with Access Training, was a perfect fit.
As part of my apprenticeship assignments, I’ve created 15 ‘how to’ guides, aimed at helping staff and guides for families to successfully manage the running of their home on topics such as how to register with Homelink and apply for private rented properties. It’s all about enabling our tenants to develop the life skills – how to budget and manage money, understand which benefits they’re entitled to, and tap into community support such as food parcels – which will allow them to live well in permanent accommodation.
My employer, NCH, have been brilliant throughout my course. They have given me flexible working time to enable me to finish assignments, offered support with reading and checking my assignments. They have provided me with the time during my working week to allow me to do my research. I can’t thank them enough.
Delivering our services through the pandemic has been challenging. Once the tenant eviction ban was lifted after the first lockdown, we saw an influx of referrals from Housing Aid, and therefore demand for our services. We’ve had to be very agile in the way we engage with tenants, particularly as we’re currently unable to conduct home visits and go through support plans face to face. We’ll use virtual technology such as WhatsApp instead and we’ve probably had more contact with our tenants as a result; largely because many are looking for that extra reassurance now we’re not able to offer regular face-to-face contact.
It’s fair to say, I haven’t found learning from home easy! As I am dyslexic, the face-to-face learning at Access’ centre in Nottingham really suited me. It was very visual and had lots of debate amongst the group. I’ve really counted upon my trainer assessor, Beth Peakall, for the additional support I’ve needed during lockdown, whether it simply be information or equipment like a Dictaphone.
My hard work studying remotely, alongside my full-time job and home schooling my 8-year-old paid off last year when I received a Commitment to Learning Award from Access Training.
My apprenticeship training will end in August 2021, and my next step is to become a Senior Temporary Accommodation Officer.
It’s quite ironic that, when my Mum and I were made homeless, we were housed in a building where I’ve since worked. A coincidence, perhaps, but a reminder that none of us is ever that far away from where we’ve come. It makes me even more determined to make a difference to the lives of those families in need, and to put my highly practical apprenticeship training to good use.”
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