In the spotlight: Darren Collings
We caught up with Darren Collings, independent member on the South East Customer Service Committee, to find out how the committee is making a difference in the south east.
What does the Customer Service Committee do?
Essentially the committee is here to understand customer needs and issues as well as help improve services and the performance of the organisation.
What does your role involve?
I’m like a ‘critical friend’. Everyone on the committee (residents and independent members) brings their perspectives to constructively scrutinise and question what Catalyst is doing.
Why did you apply to be on the committee?
Well this is my first role on any board or committee. When I found out about the job I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to apply my housing skills and knowledge in another organisation.
What housing experience do you have?
I’ve worked in housing for over 15 years. I’m currently Head of Policy and Training at The Guinness Partnership, which is one of the largest housing associations in the country and is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary.
Are the needs of Catalyst different to that of The Guinness Partnership?
Guinness operates country wide, so on a different scale to Catalyst. As a result it has a different blend of housing types, markets and services. That said, both organisations are focused on building communities and delivering excellent services to customers.
What has the committee been doing recently?
It’s only been going for a few months and we’ve had two meetings. At the first meeting we went to residents’ homes on Blackbird Leys (Oxford) to see the planned maintenance that was carried out last
year. At our February meeting we went to see the regeneration of Dee Park in Reading – we walked around the new homes and went to the extra care scheme (Oak Tree House).
Did you like what you saw?
Yes, it was good to see everything first hand. The new committee is all about getting an understanding of what it’s like for customers to live in their community, rather than just reading board papers. We visit neighbourhoods to see what work has been done, which is always helpful before you make decisions.
Do you think the committee is working well?
I hope so! It’s early stages yet and Catalyst has recently started up a buddying system where an independent member buddies up with a resident member. Together we’ll discuss issues, exchange ideas and support one another. I think it’s great that Catalyst has residents on its committees and boards. Independent members like me can bring a different range of expertise and perspectives, and resident members can give a customer’s point of view.
Find out how you can get involved and make a difference in your community.