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Getting to know Neighbourhood Officer: Debbie White

From Egypt to Castle Vale, Debbie has had quite a journey to her role as a Neighbourhood Officer. She joined The Pioneer Group in 2008 as a Housing Assistant and celebrated her twelfth anniversary on 28 April 2020.

Before joining The Pioneer Group, Debbie worked as a holiday rep and that’s when she discovered that she loved helping people and the great customer relations skills she is still using today.

While in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, Debbie met and married her husband. She came home to deliver her daughter Kenzie; and then returned to Egypt after six months. While maternity leave was fantastic in the sun, the long hours expected of a rep were simply unsustainable with a baby, and the family decided to return home for good.

To find out more about Debbie, we had a video chat with her, and asked her a few things people may like to know:


What does a typical day at work look like for you and your team?

Every day is different for the Neighbourhood Team. Sometimes, we need to react quickly, so one day we are in the office, while on another we could be helping locked out tenants or dealing with anti-social behaviour. We also meet regularly with partnership agencies to ensure that we are working together to recognise and meet our tenants’ needs. We are all busy and enjoy solving problems. Getting to know the residents of Castle Vale is a highlight of most days through tenancy visits, welfare checks and residents’ meetings.


How does your team help the communities that we work in?

We help residents on the estate maintain their tenancies and live life to the full, encouraging them to join in the activities we offer and support them when they need that little bit of help. We signpost tenants to other teams both internal and external for additional support also.


What are some personal values that are important to you?

Taking personal responsibility for work is extremely important to me. I pride myself with being honest and admit to any mistakes I may make, and value others who do the same, as together, we always find a way to make things better. I also like openness and hope that my colleagues feel that they can ask me anything directly. Finally, I really believe in supporting my colleague’s achievements. We all work really hard as a team, but it’s also great for us to be recognised for individual efforts too.


What motivates you to be your best self?

Ensuring that the residents are happy, and I am helping them. I love it when a previously upset or angry tenant walks away happy and smiling after visiting us. I also love watching the older people (that’s my portfolio) having a good time and laughing.


When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As I grew up in pubs I met a lot of people, so I knew that I wanted to have a job which was people-facing. My dream job was becoming an air hostess, and although I didn’t become one, my travel rep experience saw me travel all over the world.


What is your favourite memory of being involved in your community?

Phoenix Court is one of the nicest places for elderly people in Castle Vale. Their activity afternoons really do leave everyone smiling, clapping and having a little dance. I love being part of a team that brings fun and a smile to everyone.


What approach do you take to look after your mental wellbeing?

Kenzie is a dancer, and I am a very proud mom. Watching her dance takes me away from all the stress in life. Her dancing brings me happiness, pride and I simply focus on her and forget everything else that’s going on. Oh and of course, if she’s not around, there’s always chocolate J


What is one item on your bucket list?

I have travelled quite a lot all over the world but I have never been to Hong Kong Disneyland, only to the ones in Paris and the USA so I would love to go there.


Who is an inspirational individual you look up to?

My mom was an amazingly strong woman and coped with all the pressures of day to day life with three of us while running a busy pub. The things she has endured whilst in that trade would make your hair curl! She had the attitude of the ‘Great British stiff upper lip’ and stood no nonsense – that’s probably where I get it from.


How do you relax outside of work?

I’d love to lounge about watching trashy TV, but that’s a rarity as being a dance mom I’m a “Mom Taxi” most weekends and evenings.


What do you enjoy about being part of The Pioneer Group?

The way we help the residents on the estate and make sure they are ok. For example, in the lockdown we are working together to ensure our most vulnerable residents have food and medicine. It makes you proud.