‘Chronic problem solver’ Samantha Eccles loves diverse role

Income officer Samantha Eccles loves that she gets to meet people and find out about their interesting lives.

Whether she’s completing a home visit with a teacup chihuahua puppy on her knee or helping relocate pet terrapins while discussing benefits and payments, she never tires of spending time with tenants.

Having joined ForHousing in 2012, Samantha relishes the fact that every day brings something new – though that’s not without its challenges.

“I like that the job is so diverse, so there’s always something different happening,” she says. “I like to help people, I’m a chronic problem solver, so this job is great for me.”

Joining the department “completely by accident”, Samantha began as an Income Assistant before becoming an Officer in April 2013.

At its core, her role is to collect rent but, in reality, she spends more time working with tenants to maintain their tenancies.

This can involve working out payment plans, taking payments and helping complete benefit forms all the way to total audits of accounts and working with other agencies to ensure tenants are financially stable.

Most of her job is office-based but she also deals with office interviews, home visits, agency meetings, evictions and the occasional warrant hearing.

Some of the people she comes into contact with can be going through some of the worst periods of their lives.

“No one likes to be in debt, and no one likes to say they can’t afford to pay” Samantha said. “Sometimes people leave it until the last minute to contact us. This often means trying to compress lots of work into a very short period of time. We can be dealing with multiple external agencies knowing that a family’s home is at stake.

“Sometimes I can do everything in my power to keep someone in their home, but it’s just not enough and that can be heart-breaking.

“I work with tenants who have serious and complex needs and harrowing stories. Luckily, I work on an amazing and supportive team that understands how hard this can be.”

There are also positive parts of the job that Samantha enjoys. “I love it when people come in and tell me what’s happening with their lives. I can pick apart the issues, establish what help is required and then empower people to make changes or refer them to the best agency to support them,” she says.

“There is no better feeling than picking up a case, establishing someone’s needs, giving them the right advice and leaving them in a position where they can manage to sustain their tenancy.”

There are other good points too, with the diverse communities ForHousing serves throwing up new and interesting challenges.

“As I do home visits, I get to see how people live, which can be really fun if they have interesting hobbies, décor or pets,” she says.

“I’ve seen a kitchen done up like an American diner, a wall of arachnids and reptiles, I’ve completed a visit with a teacup chihuahua on my knee and helped relocate some rather large terrapins while discussing benefits and payments. I get to hear some really interesting stories about people’s lives as well.”

Helping people through her day-to-day role spurred on Samantha to volunteer as a special constable in 2018. “I tend to work Friday and Saturday night, so I mostly deal with drink, drugs and fighting, but literally anything could happen while I’m on shift, which I like,” she says.

“This has helped my communication skills, so has had a positive impact on my regular work. Working in housing has been a massive eye opener for me, you really see the issues that are impacting the local community and I wanted to help out where I could.”