On Wednesday, I donned my overalls and became a handy person for the day.

I’ve been working closely with the team in a design capacity for the last few months and given that there is no better way to learn more about something than by physically doing it, that’s exactly what I did.

Some background for you - the Handy Person Service is something our Riverside colleagues have been doing since 2012 and is a paid for service which customers can access if they need any ‘odd jobs’ doing, which they can’t (for whatever reason) do themselves. It initially started off for customers within our Independent Living Schemes, however, it has recently started to be offered to all our customers within the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area, providing anything from putting up curtain rails, to assisting with gardening jobs! Andy and Rob (our two resident handy persons) can pretty much turn their hand to anything, although as the service is not traded, anything dealing with gas or electric (as well as larger plumbing jobs) are off limits.

The service will do any job, no matter how small - even fixing flamingo lights!

The service will do any job, no matter how small - even fixing flamingo lights!

The reason for my involvement is help them design ways we can develop this service to ensure it delivers a return on investment for both Bromford and the customers that use it. There are clear areas where this can support Bromford’s wider repairs service offer, however, given our spread geography, the work we are doing is trying to establish where this would be the most beneficial. I’m also keen to stress that this isn’t just a pounds and pence exercise - yes, it is currently heavily subsidised, so it would nice to get it to stand on it’s own without having to compromise on service standards, but we do know that it is extremely valued by our customers. We’re taking great care to ensure this is captured and demonstrated throughout our work, a our strategic focus to is to deliver services that enable customers to thrive, but also within an agreed financial framework.

Customer innovation at it’s best - bird feeders made out of household objects!

Customer innovation at it’s best - bird feeders made out of household objects!

Having spent time with Andy and Rob (as well as Rob Talbot, the brains behind it setup in 2012), it’s clear that they are all super friendly and the customer is at the heart of everything they do, which is how they have built up a base of hardcore super users! Speaking with the residents whilst we were there, they felt that without this service, the only option they would have is to call in expensive contractors.

Rob has helped me make this house a home.
— Vanessa, happy Handy Person customer!

This quote picked up from Vanessa, a lovely lady I met on our rounds. She explained that she has great family support, but as they live so far away, they are unable to visit and help out much - if you remember, this was a theme in our persona work we did back at the end of 2017 (Simon’s blog Moving Away From One Size Fits No-One Services recapped this!) and was something we flagged that needed attention as we develop our wider offer. Dawn, another customer, lives alone with no family or friends nearby and suffers with a variety of health issues now that have stopped her from spending as much time tending to her garden as she used to. With the help of the Handy Person, they have transformed her little patch of garden into an oasis of calm where she sits most afternoons, looking at the flowers planted in borders they created and watching the birds flock to the homemade bird feeders.

Their impact goes beyond the paid service - they are also an integral part of ensuring Independent Living schemes are safe and secure places for customers to be, carrying out regular site inspections and using these as an opportunity to talk to residents, getting a feel for what is going on in their area and taking opportunities to ‘show and tell’ how to carry out basic jobs in a safe simple manner.

Rob (AKA Handy Person) in action!

Rob (AKA Handy Person) in action!

In my day with Andy and Rob, I dived in head first and got stuck in, with my list of jobs being:

  • help dig out a new border

  • planted in some flowers

  • weed killing

  • topping up bird feeders

  • amongst many more!

Whilst it was nice to be out and about talking to residents, the real pleasure was seeing how Rob and Andy interact with customers and how much the small things they do which we would take for granted are hugely appreciated by Handy Person customers. As they have such a connection with the local communities they operate within, I feel as the Localities approach rolls out in Bristol and South Gloucestershire, there will be huge potential for Neighbourhood Coaches to to connect other community services that customers are excited by.

We’ll keep you posted, but I’m really excited to continue on this development journey with them! Plus, I did learn a thing or two….