24hr Support Line 0800 6300 443

Sarah Ashley, Housing Support Officer

Funded by Dr Johnny Hon and Global Group Racing, Macdonald Buchanan House, a modern accommodation located in Newmarket, is where eighteen young people aged 16-24, call home. These young people dedicate their life to racing, working in local yards, riding out six days a week and providing unrivalled care to racehorses. They are the future of the racing industry.

Sarah Ashley, a housing support officer, manages the eighteen flats and supports these young tenants in all areas of their lives. Paying bills, cooking, cleaning, setting up bank accounts, avoiding anti-social behaviour and keeping a roof over your head are practical life skills we need to ensure we thrive. Sarah plays a key part in mentoring these young people to ensure they are well-equipped to achieve their potential.

Sarah says “I go into the accommodation weekly and do room checks. This is a good way to see how people are living and if they are managing. You go through stages where people do look after their accommodation really well, on the other hand you see when maybe someone’s room has changed, and they have become increasingly untidy. We can then meet up and check on their welfare and ask if anything has changed.

One example was a young man who split up with his girlfriend and it caused him live in a bit more chaos; he wasn’t managing very well but it meant we looked at steps to see what was needed. There was another young man who struggled to manage his clothes and hang them up, so we invested in a chest of drawers to help him manage.

A lot of stable staff are tired after morning stables, they sleep in the afternoon and they’re not in a routine so we look at what could they do daily to keep on top of tasks – cleaning, tidying and getting their washing done.”

As well as providing this invaluable support, Sarah manages the building and provides pre-tenant support to those joining from the British Racing School:

“All eighteen flats are full; since I started, we have had two become available and within 24 hours they have been cleaned, turned around and ready for someone else to come in. For those graduating from the racing school this year, I start to meet up with them now and we look at the support going forward.”

A move-on plan is implemented to ensure they leave with confidence once they move into their own accommodation. Sarah adds:

“A good example is two young men who work together. They are going move on soon and are looking to rent a flat together. My plan is to help them with understanding their tenancy and ensure their deposit amount isn’t too high and that it is saved in a DPS scheme etc. I will support them with paperwork and from a welfare side I’m looking at helping with some of their basic living needs. They have had really affordable rent and have saved money, but part of their move-on plan will be to equip them with essential white goods needed to set up a first home.”

Sarah utilises the young person’s star chart to monitor how they are coping in all areas of life such as money management, aspirations for the future, self-esteem, health and practical life skills:

“The young person’s star chart helps them to see and chart the progress, and skills they have developed over a period of time. It is a good visual aid for them to see personal growth and see when they are ready to move on and live independently and confidently and to become a responsible young person in the community. We talk about support and the people they associate with, practical life skills, health and wellbeing and also how we can support them with future career aspirations using services such as the Careers Advice and Training Service through Racing Welfare.”

“If they develop those core skills now they are more likely to maintain successful tenancies in the future and live well. Sometimes it’s just informal chats with tenants that can help with small issues or worries – learning respect and building trust with them is important so they feel they can come to me if there is an issue. My job isn’t to solve all their problems but to support and guide them in the right direction, some require more support than others.”

Kayleigh Greensmith rides out for trainer Charlie McBride and has lived at McDonald Buchanan House for two years. She talked to us about her experience of living in the flats:

“I found out about the accommodation from a friend who lived here and through the British Racing School. It’s been really good, I moved to Newmarket while I was still at the racing school so I’m lucky to have a home here otherwise I wouldn’t really have had anywhere to live.”

“We all started at the same time and we all know what it’s like working in racing. We’re all tired so it’s good because there’s not too much noise, it’s quiet, you can have a sleep without being disturbed.

“I’ve also made quite a lot of friends in here. The star chart has been really helpful and it’s good that there are people checking up on you, you know you’re not on your own. Knowing that Sarah is always there for support is good for your confidence. Sarah is very approachable and there have been quite few times I’ve thought of Sarah and how she could help us. She sorts out any problems for us pretty much straight away.”

“The money side of things has been helpful, I was speaking to Sarah just the other day about my council tax; she sat down with me and helped me with what to say to them and to organise it all because I’ve just turned 18 so I’ve not had to pay council tax before.

“I’ll be moving out of the accommodation in June 2022, and I feel like I’ve been well equipped to look after myself. I’m much more confident than I was before going to rent elsewhere with new friends who I have met here.”

Sarah is delighted to see Kayleigh thriving and maturing and finds that part of her role most rewarding:

“Kayleigh is a lovely young lady, she works for a small trainer in Newmarket, Charlie McBride, he’s very supportive of her. I’ve seen her maturity grow and how she deals with situations, it’s really good to see them taking responsibility.

“For me the simple things are the most rewarding, when you go and do room checks and you see them living well. They are our next generation of racing staff. If they are living well here, they will continue to do so.”

For some young people they don’t have family support so I’m the only person they have to check they are doing okay. It allows people to become more confident and thrive in all aspect of their lives. I’ve taken the same journey myself through the racing school, working and riding in yards, it’s not easy and I understand that. I can empathise and they feel comfortable talking to me.

Find out more about Racing Homes and our housing services here.

Thanks to Dr Johnny Hon and Global Group Racing for funding this post for three years.