A dad of three who recovered from the double setback of major surgery and losing his job to forge a new career in housing has landed a trainee of the year award.
Habinteg Housing Association and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) have handed Paul Blayney the Nicky Chapman Award under the Positive Action for Disability (PAfD) scheme.
The award, recognising disabled people who are doing excellent work in housing, was set up and sponsored by Habinteg in memory of former tenant and board chair Nicky Chapman, who fought for equality throughout her life.
Paul joined Rochdale Boroughwide Housing in 2010 as a trainee community support officer and was appointed as an income recovery officer in May.
The 33-year-old, of Hopwood, said: “Before joining RBH I was recovering from major surgery and I had also been made redundant as the company I worked for went into liquidation.
“Most of my previous jobs had been in sales and business development where I had been well paid but never really enjoyed the work. After what I had been through, I wanted to pursue a completely different career, working in a role where I had the chance to do something worthwhile and could enjoy my work.
“I am absolutely delighted to win this award and can’t quite believe it. I am very grateful for the recognition that I have received from both RBH and CIH/PAfD and would like to thank all involved in my traineeship for their support.”
RBH learning and development manager Alison Gregory said: “Paul had clearly had a challenging time before he applied for our trainee role but he is a very positive, proactive person. He has developed excellent relationships with both customers and colleagues and his commitment to the organisation, his team and customers are second to none.”
Habinteg chief executive Paul Gamble said: “The PAfD scheme is an excellent opportunity for housing associations to tap into and nurture the wealth of talent that disabled applicants have to offer. And the more disability confident we become as a sector the better for all our customers. The Nicky Chapman award is a fitting tribute to a very determined person who fought so hard in pursuit of equality for disabled people. Stories like Paul’s show just what can be achieved through the PAfD programme and we’re proud to congratulate him on winning this year’s award. It’s a great testament to his hard work and we hope it proves to be a milestone in a very successful housing career.”
CIH chief executive Grainia Long said: “We are delighted to recognise Paul for the commitment and enthusiasm he brings to improving people’s lives. It is a privilege for us to work in partnership with Habinteg Housing on an award which is testament to the pioneering work of Nicky Chapman.
“Both the award and the PAfD scheme are highly successful in championing equality and diversity across the housing sector, but there is still work to do. One of CIH’s key achievements in 2012 was developing an Equality and Diversity Charter and practice sharing networks in partnership with the housing industry. With 70 organisations signed up to date these new initiatives will support the housing industry to build more representative workplaces and deliver fairer and more customer-focused services.”
Paul will be presented with the Nicky Chapman award at the CIH Presidential Dinner, which takes place at the Natural History Museum in London on 6 February. He will be joined by more than 600 senior figures and decision-makers from across the housing industry, and the guest speaker will be the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
The CIH Positive Action for Disability (PAfD) programme commenced in January 2009. PAfD selects talented disabled people to join the scheme, then supports them throughout their placement via regular mentoring, coaching, training and group sessions. Eleven former trainees are now working in professional jobs in the housing industry thanks to the 15 housing organisations in England and Wales which have supported the programme by sponsoring placements for trainees. Find out more at www.cih.org/pafd
Habinteg is a leading national provider of affordable accessible homes and support services. We champion inclusion by providing sustainable neighbourhoods of Lifetime Homes and wheelchair standard properties for disabled and non-disabled people to share and enjoy. We use our expertise to challenge negative social attitudes, promote the rights of disabled people and improve accessibility standards within housing. Find out more at www.habinteg.org.uk