"On a cold December Thursday morning, two representatives from TASH, one from STV and the Tenant Scrutiny Panel, met in Civic Room 2 at the Civic Offices for what was promised to be a very serious, but nonetheless, invaluable training session; Housing Today.
The subject matter concerned Housing Policy, both now, and in the future. A dry subject, to be sure, but one that was entirely necessary.
Mal Harrison, the excellent trainer from Tpas, settled everyone, and with introductions out of the way, the session began. The first exercise involved all present splitting into small groups to map out everybody's lives, and where they had lived from birth to present. The results were fascinating' most had been born into either social housing or tied accommodation, with just one or two, being born into privately owned properties. It was interesting to see the paths that people's lives had taken, and what forms of accommodation they had lived in, with the common point being that now currently, all present were tenants of Swindon Borough Council.
Quite a number of the group had experienced homelessness, at some point in their lives, and had either "sofa-surfed", or lived in temporary accommodation. That exercise gave way to some really good discussion, and paved the way for the next part of the training; a PowerPoint presentation outlining the history of Social Housing, and it's decline via various successive Governments.
Time then, for lunch, with excellent cakes provided, baked by none other than our very own SBC training facilitator, Lynn Jarvie, who had kindly baked these seriously wonderful treats, as it was the birthday of one of those present.
Tummies full, and everyone in a post-lunch soporific haze, Mal decided that we weren't going to be allowed to sit in our chairs, and be talked at. Oh no, she assigned a task whereby we had to represent different particular political parties, (despite our own beliefs), and "talk up" that party's policy on Social Housing. This took the form of individuals standing up in a mock House of Commons style debate, and promoting to the "House" their party's take on Social Housing. This exercise was undertaken with great gusto, and amid much hilarity, the Conservatives, Labour Party, and Liberal Democrats took their places, and defending their thinking. Mal was the Speaker of the House, and many cries of "Madam Speaker, I must protest" could be heard! I imagine that the rest of the occupants within the Civic Offices must have thought that they had stumbled into Westminster by mistake!
The exercise completed, and everyone completely energised and fired-up, it was time for evaluations and the handing out of certificates for completed training.
It was an excellent day, and with Mal's practice of interactive training and role-playing, a very dry but worthy subject was transformed into something very enjoyable and totally memorable. I would urge any tenant who has an interest in Housing, to come along to one of these training days, if you get the opportunity - you won't be disappointed!"