After six month stints looking at early years funding, Streetscene process improvement and the council website I hadn’t seen much of the people of Hull during the first 18 months of the graduate scheme.
My final six months put that right. I got to work in a team on the front line of service provision – the private housing team. They’re the people responsible for protecting the interests of private tenants and challenging unscrupulous landlords. It’s an important job.
Quite often tenants don’t know their rights and won’t realise that their landlord can be held to account. Equally they might not understand how their behaviour might be impacting their home (causing damp for example). And that’s particularly acute when English isn’t a tenant’s first language, or Britain their first home.
Until recently the council operated an entirely reactive system waiting for people to report a problem. But that could mean that issues facing a vulnerable tenant stuck with a dodgy landlord it may never come to the attention of the council.
To combat this the council launched the Proactive Housing and Environmental Action Locally project (referred to as the PEAL project for short). It’s not a good name but it’s a brilliant project with the council and our partners working with landlords and tenants to train both parties, reiterate their responsibilities and create an accreditation scheme.
That helps but it’s still an approach that’s done to people, often involving information that’s dense, specialist legalese dealing with nuance: there are different kinds of damp, and there are different responsibilities for it. Damp, and other housing problems are not necessarily straightforward.
We decided there needed to be a way of visualising themes and communicating issues without them getting lost in wordy, complicated documents (bad enough if English is your first language, let alone if it isn’t). We bid for, and won, some funding to create a virtual ‘Hazard House’ on the HCC website.
I had the pleasure of going out to the creative agencies in Hull to get things started and communicate the vision for the project. We prepared a simple brief for the 9 key areas (avoiding complexity and nuance as far as possible) and it was interesting to see how different people responded to it. I was really impressed by those who had done their homework to understand the wider issues and got what it was we were trying to do.
After one of the meetings we got a mocked up interpretation of the brief and with that Harry Hazard was born.
Because six months is an exceptionally short time in localgov I was firmly embedded within BSF by the time Eon Media got the nod to bring Harry Hazard to life. Maybe a year ago now it launched, very quietly. and I wanted to blog about it but held off in the expectation that it was going to appear on the HCC website. I’m not sure why but it still hasn’t.
So I’ve dusted off this long-drafted post to share Harry Hazard because looking at how many people have viewed them, he’s not been that successful. We had hoped that the materials would be used in schools and that they might be used by any, and every, local authority to communicate these same complexities (because the need is identical for everyone).