As England closed down for another month of lockdown, we spoke to Nicola Isaac, a caseworker with WHA-run Warrington Home Information and Improvement Agency. She returned to WHiA earlier this year after maternity leave and found it a very different place to the one she had left 10 months before.
Nicola has been part of the Warrington Housing Association family for nine years, six of those helping to support older, disabled or vulnerable people and families on low incomes to repair, improve or adapt their home in her role as a caseworker at WHiA.
Before going off on maternity leave, she had a very busy life full of work, hobbies and family. She was working four days a week in the office and taking care of her four-year-old daughter.
Nicola said: “My team took such good care of me and helped me to slowly decrease my case list so when I finally started maternity leave I had no cases whatsoever and felt totally ready to relax and get myself ready for our second daughter to arrive.”
“On returning to work, I initially really struggled,” she said. “I had to work, look after a baby and home school a five-year-old. My husband is a key worker so wasn’t around to help and other family members weren’t allowed in my home at that time to help out with childcare.”
One thing that had not changed was the support of Nicola’s colleagues.
She said: “I was so lucky that work was understanding and so supportive of my situation. My team were amazing and I know I wouldn’t have got through that period of time without them all looking out for me. They took the pressure off me and showed just why WHiA are more like family than work colleagues.
“Without the support I was given (and still given) I wouldn’t have been able to juggle work with looking after the girls. Lucky for me I now have a much better routine at home and have help with childcare.”
Now the world is becoming used to the ‘new normal’, Nicola, like many people across the country, has adjusted to the changing way of working and it is suiting her.
“It is very different now. We are all fully agile, able to work in the office, the car, Costa, I love it! It makes so much sense being able to log on at home when the girls are in bed and the house is nice and peaceful. There is still the odd visit into the office to keep in touch with colleagues and to use the most important piece of equipment we have… the printer!”
And it is the people who make life at WHiA and in Warrington worth all the hard work 2020 has thrown at her.
Nicola added: “The residents of Warrington make it the BEST place to live. We are a friendly bunch who go out of way to look out for each other. Lockdown proved this when lots of our clients who lived alone with no family close by were supported by their neighbours. You don’t get that in every town!”