I’m a Neighbourhood Officer. One of my main jobs is to manage residents moving in and out of our homes. You may see me out and about doing home visits and estate inspections. I check our estates are safe and go to local meetings with the police, council and other partners. Another part of my role is to check gardens are tidy. I also work with our Anti-social Behaviour Team to tackle reports of anti-social behaviour. My job can be stressful, especially when we’re concerned about the wellbeing of a resident or we think there’s a risk they might come to harm.
While out on my last estate inspection, I came across a property with two sofas and several black bags with household waste in a garden. The resident didn’t come to the door, so I left a card giving her 14 days to remove it. I tried phoning her and sending letters and emails. Nothing worked. I visited her home four times over the next two weeks before opening a case and sending out our first garden advice letter.
Over the next four weeks, I tried more letters, warnings, and visits. Eventually I got lucky and spotted her walking down the street and spoke to her. She told me as a single parent she was struggling for money with Christmas coming, but would look to get rid of the rubbish in January. I agreed not to send any further letters until the new year.
Unfortunately, after new year, the rubbish was still there. We were now at the final warning stage. I did a joint visit with our Anti-social Behaviour Team. After shouting through the letterbox, eventually the resident came to the door and we spoke about her situation and that she was facing an injunction which could lead to eviction.
The resident said she had a support worker at the local children’s centre. We left with promises that she would deal with the rubbish urgently. I spoke to the support worker and they said they would also try to stress how urgent the problem was now.
Two weeks later, after phone calls to the support worker and more failed calls to the resident, I issued a final warning. At a joint visit with the support worker, I explained we wouldn’t take legal action if she removed some of the rubbish. I was still prepared to work with her to solve the problem, but she needed to show some willing in return.
Back to present day, the sofas and the black bags of household waste have gone. When I visit, the resident answers the door and we have a nice chat. She proudly showed me an email receipt from the council who are collecting a small pile of broken wood and five neat black bags containing old toys and bits of broken furniture. I thank her for her hard work. Finally, I’ll be able to close this case soon.
There was another case where a resident’s front and rear gardens were full of broken furniture and old doors. We had received complaints and at first it appeared to be a straightforward garden case. When I visited, it was clear all was not well in the household. It turned out the resident was suffering from domestic violence and any concerns about the garden went out of the window at that point.
My main concern was making sure the resident was safe. I worked with the police, social services and other agencies to take action so the resident could be safe in their home. Then we looked at the garden. We managed to get some funding to have it cleared for her and I could close the case.
These are just a few examples that shows the amount of work we often have to do to solve what might look like a simple problem of garden rubbish. Most residents do what we ask and eventually work with us. But for the neighbour who first made the complaint, it can seem like it’s taking a long time to get the problem solved and we’re not doing anything. We are but they don’t see all the work we’re doing. We try to keep the person who told us about the issue up to date, but often we can’t say too much about the case for data protection reasons.
Sometimes, the problem is more complicated than just rubbish in the garden.