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History of Southsea Self Help Housing Co-operative


Employment Of A Paid Worker For SSHH

The history of employing a worker for the housing co-op was one fraught with difficulties, where it seemed that if something could go wrong, it did. A lot of this, if not most of it, was beyond our control. There had been pressure on the co-op from very early on to pursue a worker, and once we had set in motion our quest for a permanent housing scheme, it was almost assumed (and inevitable) that we will need an employee.

The following extracts from ’84 / ’85 Newsletters describe some of the circumstances that led to us employing a worker, where it went wrong, and why we abandoned the prospect.

As previously mentioned, the co-op was given an ‘ultimatum’ by P.H.A in 1982, part of which instructed us to advertise for a part time Administrator/Book-keeper. There had been a general breakdown in communications between us and P.H.A. The Management Committee appeared to be inefficient and over worked. Possible solutions were seen as:

1) Having a permanent office (which we had never had) where various     problems could be dealt with.

2) Dependent on the above, employing a part time worker to undertake
    some of the secretarial & book keeping work.

In early ’83, P.H.A. and the Portsmouth Council for Community Services (P.C.C.S. who managed the local Community Programme schemes) put in an application for a worker on our behalf to the Manpower Services Commission (M.S.C). We called the job: a   ‘DEVELOPMENT & LIAISON OFFICER’ and we had a list of duties we thought could be undertaken.

16 Besant Road
16 Besant Road Meeting

There were set backs, when the Government put a temporary stop to all new M.S.C. schemes, and we heard that the M.S.C were not too keen on funding  workers for co-ops, or creating posts that replaced the work of volunteers. At this time, it was also suggested that we try to ‘plug in’ to other local groups, maybe creating a broader, community based scheme, in order to meet with success. We contacted Spithead Housing Co-op who were not very approving of the idea.
There was also talk of P.H.A maybe delegating one of their own M.S.C workers to work for us through the ‘Voluntary Projects Programme’

We were also aware of the 1980 Housing Act that stated that a co-op cannot employ one of its own Management Committee (or had been on it in the previous year).

In late ’84 we put in an application to the M.S.C (via the P.C.C.S) for a:

There were differences between the Job Description that came out of this, and the actual work we had said we required, that were later to cause problems. However, we accepted this ‘official’ Job Description on the grounds that we believed the worker would be OUR worker, and not part of a broader scheme.

Opening of Garnier Street
Decorating Opening of Garnier Street

The M.S.C approved the application, and the P.C.C.S (without informing us) had a Job Advertisement placed in the Job Centre. In the meantime we were offered a more permanent (actually ‘short life’) office, from P.I.M.C.O (291 Somers Rd. North) where we intended the worker to be based.
We formed an interview Panel, and on 2nd Jan, 1985 interviewed about 9 applicants. After considerable arguments about the ethics, advantages / disadvantages of employing one of our own members, or Spithead Housing Co-op members, working alongside volunteers, etc, we chose a man for the job.

After working for 2 weeks, he proved unsuitable for the job. We had made a mistake, were very confused about what we really did want the worker to do, and in those 2 weeks, actually CREATED more work for ourselves – not least because we had felt it necessary to have a ‘Workers Support Group’.

26 Garnier Street
Lucknow Street
26 Garnier Street 59 Lucknow Street

We interview applicants again, amidst a lot of inconvenience. We had not been given a chance to short list applicants, had a few extra tossed in at the last minute, and were not happy about the obligatory presence of the P.C.C.S manager at the interviews. We agree to appoint another person, who we soon learn turned the offer down.

We then heard about a complaint that had been made to the Job Centre over differences between the Job Description and the work required by us. The complaint  goes to the P.C.C.S (as managers of the scheme), and the M.S.C, who suspend the post until convinced that the work involved and the J. Description all correspond.

The Interview Panel meets again to decide what to do, whether to go any further, or even to pursue a worker at all. They were quite divided over the issue, as were other members. The Management Committee agrees that we do pursue it, and we meet John Baker of the P.C.C.S to discuss the problems, and draw up a new description, more in line with our own requirements.   
We did this, to reasonable satisfaction, and awaited a typed Draft to approve before it is sent to the M.S.C for their approval.
When we receive it, it again appears to be out of line with our suggested duties, and little changed from the previous one. It had also been submitted to the M.S.C before we approved it.  It was about this stage that it fizzles out, and we withdraw altogether – with the agreement that if we want to apply to the M.S.C again, we do it directly, and not through the P.C.C.S.

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