In the first in a series of new features looking at the people who work for Durham Aged Mineworkers’ Homes Association, we start at the ‘top’ by speaking to our Chief Executive Paul Mullis.
It’s fair to say that overseeing an organisation which is 120 years old carries certain pressures.
And as DAMHA Chief Executive Paul Mullis readily admits he entered the role in 2012 conscious that he did not want to be, in his words, the first one to “drop the ball”.
But despite everything that has been thrown at housing associations over the last few years, e.g. Universal Credit, the Local Housing Allowance cap, Brexit and an economic downturn, Paul has managed to keep a good steer on the good ship DAMHA.
He says: “DAMHA is such an old, much-loved and respected organisation so I was very conscious when I became Chief Executive that my predecessors had left me with a hard act to follow.
“After all, when you already have high levels of customer satisfaction and are top of the league in many of key performance indicators, general the only way is down.
“Thankfully, that has not been the case and despite operating in difficult times, we remain a financially stable organisation offering a high-quality service that meets the needs of a range of people across the North East.”
Paul says there is no such thing as a regular day or week in his life as DAMHA’s Chief Executive.
He spends fair amount of time in meetings, particularly with other housing associations and organisations, such as The National Housing Federation, sharing information and best practice.
He says: “I find that you very rarely come across a problem that someone else hasn’t already had so by attending meetings with like-minded organisations, it makes you better prepared for future events.
“Given how long we have been around, we have a good reputation within the sector and it can certainly open doors when it comes to areas such as development or training.”
Paul is ultimately accountable to DAMHA’s Executive Committee, which meets six times a year and along with four sub-committees he needs to work closely with the members to look at areas such as governance, financial planning and future strategy.
He adds: “I am lucky to have the support of a great Committee and staff team and we are all working towards the same goal, which is for continuous improvement in all years.
“We have over 2,000 people on our waiting lists, so the challenge is not to become complacent.
“That means ensuring our existing homes are kept to the right standards, but also developing new homes for people.
“Hardly anyone else is building bungalows for older people, despite there being a great need for this kind of accommodation in the North East, so this is where our focus will be in 2018 and beyond that.
“We may be an old organisation, but we also can’t stand still either so one of the projects I am looking at now is about how we can offer more digital services as more of our residents become comfortable using smart-phones, computers and tablets.”
Paul has worked in social housing nearly all his life. A Chartered Accountant by trade, whilst qualifying at Ernst & Young in the early 1990’s, he assisted in auditing DAMHA’s accounts, so when he joined DAMHA in 2002 as Head of Finance, he was already familiar with the organisation.
He adds: “After so long in the sector, I think I would find it difficult working for anyone whose only goal is to make a profit.
“Housing is fundamental peoples’ lives and knowing I have played my own small part in making someone’s life better is what gets me out of bed on a morning.”
Outside of work, Paul enjoys spending time with his wife and three children at their home in High Spen.
He is very involved with the church he has attended for many years, and to relax he enjoys painstakingly painting miniature figures to be used in table top war games.
He concludes: “I see myself as merely being a steward at DAMHA. It has been here since 1898 and will be here long after I am gone, so my main role is to ensure it is in the same strong position for the next person that takes over.”