In our latest story, we celebrate Duncan, who worked for HARP for three years before taking his well-earned early retirement.
Before working at HARP, Duncan already had a background in helping people, working in a wide-range of organisations, from youth work to working with ex-offenders, in both paid and voluntary roles.
"I just wanted to give back. I don't do what I do for the money. I do it because I genuinely enjoy helping people. Life is unpredictable, and if I ever found myself down on my luck, I would appreciate it if someone lent me a helping hand."
Duncan's first day at HARP was in June 2019. He had originally applied for a role as an Eviction Prevention Officer. After being told he was unsuccessful for this role, he received a call to say that we believed he would be a perfect fit for another role in HARP's Supported Accommodation.
Duncan worked at our Supported Accommodation for around a year. During this time, he spent a lot of time working with clients to give them the skills and confidence to move on to independent living.
He developed a key relationship with Genesis Housing Association, a social housing association in Southend, and successfully housed a number of HARP clients aged 55 and over with Genesis.
In March 2020, Duncan moved over to HARP’s Acorn Supported Housing project, ready to help even more people turn their lives around, and then came the Covid-19 Pandemic.
"The whole of HARP had to make adjustments during the pandemic. We had to figure out the best way to complete the work needed, help our residents, and also keep everyone safe and adjust to the new way of working."
As Duncan was classed as clinically vulnerable, he was unable to do his casework in-person during the various lockdowns. He had only recently joined the Acorn team and had not yet been able to meet any of his 19 new clients face to face.
"Because I couldn't meet my clients face to face, I had to get creative with ways to help and support them through this time. It took a lot of work, but we discovered that there is a lot that you can do over the phone and remotely, and it all worked out well."
"Once Covid had calmed down, I was allowed back to work, and I went straight back to focussing getting people moved on to independent living again."
Upon his return, Duncan decided that although the pandemic was making it considerably harder to help people move on to live independently, he wasn’t going to let it stop him from helping people get the fresh start they deserved. Even during the chaos of the pandemic and lockdowns, Duncan managed to move nine people on to live independently in the community.
"The best thing about this job is when people you have helped move on come back to give you a little update on their lives. Just watching people develop is great. I love being there for residents to give them that little bit of help and support that is needed. Everyone is different, and I enjoy working with them all."
Reflecting on his time with HARP, Duncan is particularly fond of the ‘Trees for Life’ rewilding trip to Scotland that he went on with seven HARP clients and other HARP staff.
"That trip was fab! It was a real pleasure to be a part of this HARP initiative. On the trip, the residents got to do activities and be at one with nature."
"We went on walks to see Scottish wildlife, built and fixed broken fences and even dug out Norwegian spruce to replace them with Scottish pines. It's nice that at HARP, we can offer trips like this to our residents for free so that they have the opportunity to get out and experience different things."
When reflecting on his proudest moment at HARP, Duncan is particularly pleased with the work he did with Mediation Station to ensure his clients got the legal support they needed.
"In my time at HARP, I have conducted a lot of research to help my residents and learned plenty of different things, but my proudest find is Mediation Station. At Mediation Station, people receiving benefits from the state are able to get legal assistance for free. Finding this out helped me get my clients the assistance they needed to reunite with their children."
Duncan has helped hundreds of people during his time at HARP, and for that, we are eternally grateful. Thank you for all of the time and energy you have put into helping make HARP what it is! We wish you all the best in retirement.
Thank you from HARP and good luck for the future, Duncan!