Making a Difference
to people's lives

Paula Reynolds, Head of Retirement Housing

Paula Reynolds - Head of Retirement Housing, joined as a trainee in 1990 before transferring to The Wrekin Housing Group, when it was known as The Wrekin Housing Trust.

For Wrekin's 25 year anniversary in March, we caught up with staff who've been with us since the very beginning, asking about their Wrekin journey and highlights over the years.

“I remember being sat with Jane Kind and Rebeeca Opperman. We were all sat in the interview room waiting to be told which areas we’re going in to – I was heading for the Dawley shop. Aged 16, straight from school to Dawley.”

Even before the Trust was formed in 1999, Paula had worked in a range of housing roles. She became a Housing Benefit Assessor, Customer Service Assistant, Housing Needs Officer and even spent time walking the patch as a Rent Collector.

She worked at many other different shops too: Oakengates, Wellington, Stirchley, Donnington and Newport.

“Wrekin put me through education. When I started, I didn’t really know what social housing was but I did the qualifications, studied for a Housing degree, even went over to Chicago to do a housing study.”

Remembering her time as a Customer Service Assistant Paula says: “We would have to manage the front desk, take repairs, collect Poll Tax as it was back then and distribute bus tokens. The trades used to be on a bus to the estates. When you opened the door a plume of smoke came out because they could smoke indoors back then.”

“When we had a mass restructure in 2001, I applied for a team leader role, as did many people. I was told I would be going to supported housing, not really knowing much about what it was. We were handed two lever arch files – that was the service. There was 12 of us initially with our own finance team, our own trades, grounds maintenance and back-end staff. It was an end-to-end service.”

“Everyone thinks it’s all hanging baskets and cream teas but it’s far from it. If there was a disco in the afternoon my colleague Dean Lewis used to dread it because the ladies used to love a young man on the dance floor. The team have to be really good sports to do that role.”

Asked what her favourite role has been, Paula struggles to pick just one: “I’ve been really lucky that I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve been in. It was great being on the patch. You got to know customers, their children, families, knew that their aunties were three doors away. You would always end up with carrots, potatoes and runner beans because they knew you were coming. And you could get the cases where you knew they were hiding behind the settee. Now we don’t take cash, it’s very different.”

Asked what the other big changes have been Paula recalls how the working conditions and technology have massively improved: “I was up in the attic at the Dawley shop most of the time. At one stage there was a petrol shortage so we all had to use pool cars. We were using triplicate memo pads and Microfiche to search plans. It’s hard to believe now! We even had walkie talkies as there were no phones."

There were also many proud moments for Paula, such as Retirement Living being named team of the decade, building a strong reputation with the local council for supporting people and winning employee of the year: “Little things like that make you know you’re doing the right thing”.

Paula has since taken over the ShireLiving baton and the service continues to grow from strength to strength: “We have amazing locations, amazing schemes and happy customers. It’s what’s needed for an aging population, a consistent service. I never thought I’d be managing a catering service too but someone once told me to never turn down an opportunity!”

Reflecting back on how Wrekin has progressed over the years, Paula says: “When you were showing people around then compared to now, well there is no comparison. There has been an amazing transformation in the section and the work that we have done has been incredible.”

Paula added: “I’m like a stick of rock - cut me in half and I’m Wrekin all the way through!”