Bromford - Introducing the neighbourhood coaching model

At Bromford, our purpose is to “invest in homes and relationships so people can thrive.” Place-based neighbourhood coaches, who get to know all their customers and community assets, are at the heart of this approach.

We moved to a neighbourhood coaching model in 2016. It’s now a cornerstone of our strategic approach to place-based working. Neighbourhood coaches (NCs) work across all tenure types and have small patches of 175-200 homes (compared previously to 600-800), allowing them to get to know their customers and the place.

Why did we make a change?

Bromford’s change in approach evolved over several years, against a backdrop of austerity, welfare reform and reduced revenue funding for supported housing. We were also interested in organisations across the public and third sectors who were exploring a more strengths-based and relational approach.

At Bromford, we wanted to move away from a reactive relationship with our residents, towards one that acknowledged our residents as citizens with agency and aspirations.

Our aim was to create a system with a much stronger focus on:

  • Building a strengths-based relationships with all customers.
  • Encouraging connections between customers, neighbours, and communities.
  • Empowering individuals and not doing things for or to them. We use a ‘coaching approach’, so customers retain agency and remain in control.

How does our model work?

Neighbourhood coaches aim to get to know each resident – their strengths, aspirations, and interests as well as any challenges they may face. They also get to know the community hubs on their patch – the schools, places of worship, the PCSO, the corner shop, youth group, health centre, football club, toddler group, etc. Neighbourhood Coaches will offer support (either directly or by signposting to services) but will also act as a community connector.

Neighbourhood coaches are holistic in their function and are the main point of contact for most services, i.e. they perform most traditional housing management functions (as well as their wider coaching and connecting role). Strategically, they work to orient the whole organisation to enable the effectiveness of the neighbourhood coaches as the key relationship link with residents. For example, boosting proactive maintenance so that we cut down the number of different people a resident must deal with.

Neighbourhood coaches can draw on the following specialist teams as needed:

  • Customer services and online support – it is not part of the neighbourhood coach’s role to report repairs for tenants, although they will support them to do this themselves if needed. A central customer services team takes these calls and schedules repairs.
  • Income – specialist income advisors will support neighbourhood coaches with higher-level arrears cases. This might include providing advice, accompanying the neighbourhood coach on joint home visits.
  • Lettings – arrange for vacant homes to be advertised and carry out shortlisting before handing over to neighbourhood coach who will have a conversation to kick off their coaching relationship.
  • Community safety – focus on complex anti-social behaviour cases and works on a similar basis to the income team.

How has the model impacted our culture?

At Bromford, we’ve had to drive a culture shift, which has meant re-skilling some staff to reflect a different focus on building relationships. This has also meant bringing in new starters with diverse experience in the police, social work, education, and the private sector.

We are also committed to embedding a learning culture across all teams (not just the housing management function) and to adopting a continuous improvement approach, so we are always progressing and developing our services. Bromford ripped up traditional job descriptions and neighbourhood coaches work in an agile way that works for their location and their customers.

What impact has it had at Bromford?

We’ve developed a Customer Thrive Index to continually assess the impact of the coaching model. This draws on several resident indicators, including financial and mental wellbeing, plus satisfaction with their current housing options. Every customer is offered as a minimum once a year full review of their household circumstances and future aspirations. This is used to inform our future Bromford Strategy. Importantly, we have established a direct link between the customer relationship with the neighbourhood coach and overall advocacy for the organisation.