GEM is an accelerated development programme for
people already working in the housing sector. The
scheme provides the opportunity to connect with
social housing organisations across the country and
understand the links between your work on the ground
and the big picture challenges facing housing today.
Claire Vincent, STARS manager, talks about her
experience on the GEM programme.
Why did you apply for the programme?
I was attracted to the programme because it offers a
CIH (Chartered Institute of Housing) level 4 Certificate
in Housing qualification. The programme lasts a year
and covers housing law, policy, finance and professional
practice skills for housing. I thought it might help me as
I didn’t have any qualifications in housing.
How did you get into housing and why?
I used to be a heroin addict for 17 years. I went to rehab in Wales and lived and worked there as a
detox manager for a longtime. I got homesick and wanted to come back to Bradford. I moved back three
years ago and joined Horton Housing as a housing support worker at STAY in Grattan. My passion is for
helping people in addiction. I have been 12 years sober now. It’s made me who I am today and led me
to do the job I do.
Was the course what you were expecting?
I don’t really know what I was expecting, but it far exceeded my expectations. I thought it would be two
days every month doing some studying and assignments, but it wasn’t anything like that. I got to go
away to Belfast, Scotland, York, London, Leeds. I had to do presentations and assignments and looked
at a wide variety of housing issues in a short space of time.
You were mentored by Sue Atkinson. What was that like?
At first it was very scary. Sue’s a director. But she was brilliant. She’s been so helpful and sent me
lots of information. She met with me on a regular basis to see how I was doing and if I needed any
support. She always made time for me, even attending the celebrations in her own time.
Sue said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Claire and get to know her. She has demonstrated true
commitment, tackled any challenge put before her and remained positive throughout. All of this while
continuing to work as a full time manager in a particularly challenging service.”
What were the highlights?
I got to travel all over the country, and I met some amazing people. Getting the David Tovey
achievement award out of 50 people was one of my proudest moments. I gave a presentation on
homelessness. Outside work, I meet with homeless people, sit and have a chat with them. It’s my
passion. In the past year three of those people have died. That’s the reality of homelessness.
What were the challenges?
The challenges have been the assignments. This is a level four qualification so there was a lot of
studying. Working a full-time job in supported accommodation as well as doing the assignments was
quite hard. I haven’t been in education for many, many years, so getting back into a routine was
You’ve just been appointed manager of STARS. Do you think the GEM programme helped your career
The GEM programme built my confidence and gave me an understanding of housing at different
levels. Encouraged by Lesley [Preston], Denise [Barnard] and Sue, I took a secondment to be Interim
Manager at Millhaven and then applied for the STARS manager role. For someone with my
background to become a manager just blows me away and I love that I have been encouraged and
supported at Horton.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of applying for GEM?
Just go for it. Go with an open mind because you will learn all
sorts of things. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
You get to go all over the country, meet some amazing people
and come out with a relevant qualification. It is time consuming,
but it’s only for a year and the year has gone so quickly.
Next year, Horton will be offering TWO places on the GEM
programme. Applications will open in June and the programme will
commence in October 2020. If you are interested in finding out more,
please contact Tracey O’Connell or Sue Atkinson for an informal chat.