From the frontline – Trlok Janagal
Trlok Janagal from Midland Heart explains the elements of his role as a case officer, and about one of his most rewarding cases
Tell us about your job
It is equally very challenging and rewarding, and has elements of being a police officer, social worker and mental health worker – as well as a housing officer!
My patch is wide-ranging: taking in Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Milton Keynes, and all the inner-city challenges of large, multi-ethnic, deprived conurbations.
My job mainly involves supporting tenants with more complex behavioural issues such as anti-social behaviour and safeguarding concerns to sustain their tenancies.
Where there is a risk of harm or when our stock is used inappropriately, I take action to enforce tenancy conditions. I also detect and act on tenancy fraud.
How did you get into housing?
I fell into housing after doing work experience at a small housing association as part of a BTEC at college. I successfully applied to be a housing assistant and when a housing officer role became available shortly after, I went for it.
That was 19 years ago and I’ve never looked back. I have had various roles from housing officer, path supervisor (mentoring people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds into housing) and senior housing officer to my current and more specialist role as a people case officer.
What does a good day look like for you?
No rain, no traffic jams, tenants being in for their appointments and, of course, being able to support tenants experiencing issues that may have an impact on their tenancy or put it at risk.
Earlier this year, I was able to help a vulnerable 68-year-old ex-serviceman who was no longer coping.
It was the worst case of hoarding I have seen. His flat was strewn with dog faeces and he slept on the sofa because there was so much rubbish and couldn’t access the bedroom.
I visited every month to encourage him to tidy up his home but there was no real progress, so we had an honest discussion that he could lose his home and he accepted he needed help.
I liaised with his GP, social services, our repairs and floating support teams, a charity and his sister, who lived a three-hours drive away.
His family were shocked to discover how he was living and helped him clear 20 sacks of rubbish from the flat, as well as find a new home for the dog that he was struggling to care for. I referred him to SSAFA, a charity for ex-service personnel, who helped him decorate his home and provided a new carpet. As gestures of goodwill, our own contractor, Fortem, replaced two doors badly damaged by his dog and Midland Heart replaced another two.
It took me a year to resolve this case and it’s one of the biggest achievements of my career. The tenant told me he “couldn’t thank me enough for the support and encouragement” I’d given him and was sad I wouldn’t be visiting again. So, I arranged a follow-up visit in six months. I’ve just made that visit and am delighted to report that he is a different man. I’m so proud of him.
And a bad day?
The most trying part of the job is when a home appointment is pre-arranged and the tenant is out when I go round, and of course traffic jams. Tenants with complex needs can be fearful of the consequences of their behaviour and may try to avoid us, but we do all that we can to reassure them and to work together to resolve issues.