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Building Blocks

for Better Communities A selection of best practice projects from the NFA Awards 2013

Sponsored by


housing solutions

Innovation, new ideas and fresh thinking will help to meet the challenge. It gives me enormous pleasure to introduce the National Federation of ALMOs’ Best Practice Guide 2013. The projects and schemes highlighted within these pages are indeed a testament to the positive impact on communities that can come when people work together to tackle problems in creative and innovative ways. In the housing sector we certainly live in interesting times! The demand for homes at affordable rents is continually rising while the challenge to provide enough properties of the appropriate size and in the right location to meet that demand is beset by challenges, not the least of which is the reduction in public sector budgets. It is, however, times like these that drive innovation, new ideas and fresh thinking. Such attributes are no longer a luxury but an essential and the following pages are full of examples of how the ALMO movement, its staff members and residents, have created solutions to the problems and challenges affecting their communities right across England. But such times also demand fresh thinking from those on the supply side too. We are, after all, genuine partners to you who provide and manage affordable housing; we work in the communities in which you live; and members of our workforce frequently come from within those communities. Indeed Kier Services works with a number of ALMOs

providing maintenance, new build affordable housing, environmental and facilities management as well as renewable energy technologies. Now, more than ever, there is a need for long-term strategic thinking, innovative investment solutions and dependable development provision if we are all to deliver answers to the country’s housing need. There are fundamental questions facing all providers of affordable homes: • How can you optimise the value and performance of your existing stock?

approach to housing that addresses and answers all of these questions. Our strategic regeneration approach is designed to enable you to realise your visions for housing through a three-pronged approach – Invest. Develop. Renew. So whether it’s creating innovative funding routes, including self finance, public subsidy or private sector investment, identifying and progressing development opportunities or the effective whole-life maintenance and refurbishment of existing housing stock, while at the same time helping residents to reduce energy bills and minimise carbon emissions, we believe our approach can deliver solutions to the problems faced by the sector.

• How can you access public sector land to build new, high quality homes? • How can you control risk and ensure cost certainty? • How can you balance your needs of lowering whole-life costs and maximising returns with those of your customers? Ultimately, of course, our mutual aim should be to build, maintain and invest in homes and neighbourhoods that people want to live in, at a cost that both they and the investor can afford. That, surely, is the very bedrock of a decent society? At Kier we have developed a new, holistic

Claudio Veritiero executive director Kier Services

Future foundations Judging the NFA Awards and learning about all the ALMO projects taking place across the country, must be one of the most rewarding tasks as Chair of the NFA. Every year I am no less surprised, impressed and excited by these initiatives and the potential for them to be adopted elsewhere. The Awards are now in their seventh year and going strong. Awards programmes like this are even more important against a backdrop of public sector cuts and welfare reform. The

jobs of the people who make these projects a reality are made tougher in this environment, which makes their achievements even more impressive. This year’s Best Practice Guide has a few differences. It contains three new project categories for 2013: Best Green Initiative, Championing Digital Inclusion and Championing Financial Inclusion. We have also featured the Most Outstanding Resident, ALMO Team Member of the Year and Board Member of the Year. Unlike the projects, these winners and finalists cannot be directly replicated; however, even if we cannot ‘bottle’ their unique personalities and

dedication, they can certainly act as an inspiration for others. Well done to everyone who entered the NFA Awards. There were nearly 120 entries and I have said this before but picking the winners from so many great submissions is not easy. At the end of the day, your projects are not just about winning awards; they are about improving lives and communities. For that reason, you all deserve our congratulations.

Sue Roberts MBE chair of the NFA


WinnerBest Community Initiative

More than 365 days a year: CityWest Homes has a community plan

THE NEED As part of its corporate social responsibility strategy, CityWest Homes aims to fulfill 20 commitments to its tenants in five categories: • Supporting our communities • Looking after you • Saving energy • Better green spaces • Connecting our communities.

THE SOLUTION To deliver on these commitments, CityWest Homes created the 365plan, an initiative to provide the local community with a whole year’s worth of voluntary service, with staff committing to volunteer for at least one day each year. CityWest Homes created more than 200 opportunities for staff to help the local community, from mentoring unemployed residents to homework clubs. One of the cornerstones of the plan is Leap into action, which sees employees getting involved in local projects to spruce up an area, whether through cleaning, painting, gardening or anything else hands-on. In December 2012, a number of storage sheds at Queen’s Park were given a makeover as part of a Leap day. Gerry Henegan, who has lived in the area for 25 years, said: “I think it’s brilliant that the shed doors have been

renewed. A little touch up really makes a difference and I was glad to muck in.” To identify areas to benefit from the Leap days, staff can put forward suggestions based on what they see on a daily basis or following requests from resident groups. Alternatively, areas are identified during regular estate inspections. CityWest Homes also trialled a ‘wishing tree’ as a means of receiving suggestions. The tree was used at four local events where residents were invited to add their proposals to the tree. This generated more than 100 new suggestions that are currently under consideration.

THE RESULTS Across the city of Westminster, CityWest Homes has delivered more than 50 ‘Leaps’ since starting in 2011. An average of 15 staff participate in each event, meaning more than 750 volunteering days have been given to the community so far. In 2013 CityWest Homes is communicating externally with its partners and suppliers, to garner further support. It expects to smash its 365 volunteering days target for 2013, with at least 80 per cent coming from Leap days. Darren Levy, interim chief executive of CityWest Homes, said: “As well as our residents benefitting from our 365plan, it’s an

opportunity for staff to give back to the community and the impact it generates cannot be underestimated.”


“This scheme really shows the potential in volunteering. The people who give up their own time for this project really go above and beyond.” KEY LEARNINGS • CityWest Homes realised the huge potential of asking just a little from its staff. By leveraging its large staff base and asking them to sacrifice just one day, it was able to achieve a significant amount of good in the community. • By involving residents with the identification of areas in need of renewal, it has been able to target spaces that will have the greatest positive impact on the community at large. • One of the benefits identified was to take staff out of their day jobs to meet residents and other team members.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT David Scott, corporate communications team leader • T: 020 7245 2088 E:

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Finalist Best Community Initiative

Ban the Pan: Northwards Housing dishes up some practical fire safety solutions


where cooking using hot oils is prevalent.

In the 12 months to November 2012 there were more than 80 cooking-related fires across north Manchester, with 29 people injured.


Northwards Housing was having to pay a hefty excess to its insurer and money was being lost from rental income while properties were being fixed. In addition, while houses were under repair they were unavailable for rent, causing knock-on delays for tenants on the waiting list.

THE SOLUTION Northwards Housing partnered with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to help reduce dangerous cooking fires by offering residents a free and safe deep fat fryer in exchange for their chip pans. Northwards Housing specifically targeted residents who may not understand the issues around fire safety, such as elderly and vulnerable tenants, or those with cultures

As part of the Ban the Pan scheme, more than 130 chip pans were traded in. The ALMO was praised for the scheme by the chair of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor David Acton, who said: “We’re delighted Northwards Housing has been helping tenants replace old chip pans with brand new deep fat fryers. Chip pans are incredibly dangerous and we’re encouraging everyone to ban the pan and swap for safer alternatives.” Northwards Housing is now reviewing its fire safety data to determine the scheme’s effectiveness.


“This project offers the key to wider fire safety work…”

KEY LEARNINGS • This simple campaign was carried out at a relatively low cost, yet had multiple positive impacts: increasing safety in the home and saving potentially thousands of pounds through reduced insurance costs. • Northwards Housing identified certain cultures that may be at more risk than others due to the prevalence of using hot oils in cooking. It tackled this head on, as well as targeting other potentially vulnerable tenants. • There is scope to link a project like this with healthy eating work done by ALMOs in association with the NHS and other partner agencies.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Pamela Welsh, media and communications specialist • T: 0161 720 5889 E:

Finalist Best Community Initiative

A leap into training: Wolverhampton Homes tackles financial problems and unemployment

THE NEED Across Wolverhampton, 12,000 people were claiming job seeker’s allowance and as the recession continued to take hold, more and more tenants were faced with financial difficulties and trouble finding work.

THE SOLUTION To support tenants into work, Wolverhampton Homes created the Learning, Employment and Achievement Programme (LEAP). It helps to give tenants work-related skills and experience and in some cases, secure full-time employment. To ensure LEAP was fit for purpose, Wolverhampton Homes asked for tenants’ suggestions in advance. Suggestions put forward included keeping the programme open to all ages and providing support to those looking to gain qualifications.

LEAP was developed in conjunction with the National Apprentice Service and Trades Union Congress. There are three key stages to the programme: • Pre-employment skills ranging from gaining qualifications to preparing for work • An eight-week work experience placement in areas across the organisation • A 12-month paid apprenticeship.

THE RESULTS The pilot programme was a huge success that allowed Wolverhampton Homes to engage with tenants and boost community cohesion. It also saw six local residents employed on a painting programme to make their estate more attractive. Since its launch in 2012, the programme has taken on 80 tenants. Sixteen have secured year-long paid apprenticeships, while six have

secured full-time jobs.


“This project offers clear solutions to clear problems.” KEY LEARNINGS • From the beginning, residents were involved in the development of the programme, ensuring it was fit for purpose and its objectives were of interest and relevance to those it aimed to support. • The staged structure of the programme meant that there was the real opportunity for tenants to develop their skills and become skilled workers.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Dawn Aston-Adams, project manager • T: 01902 556412 E:


Winner Most Effective Partnership

A respected community group: OSCAR and Derby Homes regenerate Osmaston

THE NEED When the biggest traditional employer, Rolls Royce, moved out of Osmaston, Derby, the area faced a huge challenge. Rolls Royce had been a major employer and part of community life. Adding to this, Derby City Council had commissioned a master plan to look at regeneration of the area, which included proposals of concern to local residents.

THE SOLUTION While Derby City Council was dealing with the master planning, Derby Homes got to work on community development and ensured residents were involved in changes taking place. It supported the creation of the Osmaston Community Association of Residents (OSCAR), which works with the council as well as other organisations both locally and nationally, to push forward regeneration plans in Osmaston. OSCAR also sought to try and reverse some of the problems caused by the closure of Rolls Royce. Derby Homes provides key resources to the partnership in the form of support staff and a local base in its Addison Road housing office, which operates as a resource centre for meetings and events.

THE RESULTS Since its launch in June 2011, OSCAR has become a well organised and respected

group. In January 2012, OSCAR became a limited company, giving it added credibility with the council, as well as with potential new partners. It also provides the group with the discipline and governance structures to take on responsibility and risks on behalf of its community.


In response to residents’ feedback, OSCAR also launched a neighbourhood watch scheme that covers 1,900 properties and 5,200 residents, making it the largest such scheme in the country. This was made possible by working closely with the council’s Safer Neighbourhood Team, Derbyshire Constabulary and Derby Homes’ Junior Wardens and other local children.

“An interesting model, this community-led partnership approach has already had some notable successes.”

OSCAR was awarded the National Neighbourhood Watch Partnership Award in June 2013. Tony Neate from Get Safe Online who presented the award said that OSCAR’s scheme: “Truly demonstrated how partnership working really had achieved results for the local community.” Thanks to the close and effective working of all partners, OSCAR has secured £1 million in funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to develop 80 homes, 40 of which will be owned by the Association and managed by Derby Homes for rental. This too has become one of the largest community-led schemes in the country and one of the first to attract an external developer, Strata Homes, as a partner.

“This project shows great ambition and is a good example of an ALMO diversifying to provide more than just homes.”

KEY LEARNINGS • OSCAR has been recognised nationally as an excellent community initiative that tackles multiple issues including crime, housing and council planning. • Through taking the step to make OSCAR a limited company, Derby Homes has far increased the scope for positive contribution to the community that the Association can make, such as receiving funding from the HCA to develop its own homes.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Mary Holmes, customer services manager • T: 01332 888469 E:

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Finalist Most Effective Partnership

Signpost to Success: Stockport Homes supports communities to thrive and survive through funding

THE NEED The availability of funding and growing competition for resources at a national, regional and local level are having an impact on how community groups and other organisations provide support and services in their local communities.

THE SOLUTION It was identified that organisations needed to “co-operate to compete” by working in partnerships to identify and secure grants and to add value to existing resources, enabling them to thrive and be sustainable. Signpost to Success brings together 75 organisations across Stockport, comprising: • Community and youth groups • Local councils • Private registered providers of social housing • Social enterprises • Local businesses • Local elected representatives. The partnership is able to provide advice, support and new ideas, put groups in contact with one another to streamline similar projects and share funding knowledge. It can also

develop joint bids and supply a library of ‘bid ready documents’ making the process of bidding easier. On top of this, Signpost to Success also acts as a unique brand with a diverse range of groups, partners and Stockport Homes staff working together to find solutions and funding. They do this by identifying neighbourhood issues and priorities for funding and helping to deliver neighbourhood action plans across the borough.

THE RESULTS In its first year the partnership successfully achieved: • Grant awards of £174,520 • £172,884 of match funding and volunteer time • 52 partnership bids directly led by a community group • 19 community groups making their first funding bid • 26 individual funding training sessions completed on bid writing, project and financial management.


fledgling community groups to work together but this project seems to be pulling it off. There’s a big range of partners involved and effective working across a range of different areas.” KEY LEARNINGS • Stockport Homes identified that working in partnership, particularly when bidding for funding, gave groups and organisations increased value and influence and improved the chances of securing funding. • As well as promoting and facilitating group working, Stockport Homes created an invaluable resource of information and material to further support organisations seeking funding. Visit cfm?type=FUNDING&objectid=3287 for more details.Attached

“It’s challenging to get small,

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Tracy Sweeting, business support officer • T: 0161 474 2637 E:

Finalist Most Effective Partnership

High rise high hopes: College course in external wall insulation created by Salix Homes

THE NEED After the first programme of upgrades to external wall insulation to its estates in 2010, Salix Homes realised there was a skill shortage in the industry, with workers having to be brought in from elsewhere. There were no training courses available or qualifications offered in this particular trade, meaning a skills gap with no way for it to be filled.

THE SOLUTION Salix Homes opened dialogue with Salford College, Procure Plus, construction partners Emanuel Whittaker, Seddon Construction and Forrest and local charity, the Broughton Trust. Salford College agreed to put together a 12 week pre-recruitment course underpinning knowledge of external wall insulation that would make candidates ‘job ready’. Twelve candidates of varying backgrounds were identified. All were then provided with training to ensure they were ready for interview. Following this, Salford College set up a full framework for external wall insulation, the first

of its kind, including a technical certificate, functional skills and a level 2 NVQ. The contractors in the partnership provided materials, tools and products giving the students real working knowledge of the equipment Salix Homes was installing on its high rise buildings.

THE RESULTS Of the original 12 candidates, 11 completed the course and ten were offered further apprenticeships by the partner contractors. To date, nine have passed the NVQ level 2 and are proving to be real assets to their companies. Salford now has a genuine base of trained and professional external wall insulators and with Salix Homes investing £25 million in its high rise buildings over the next few years, everything is in place to ensure the apprentices’ futures are in their hands.


plugging a genuine skills gap and offering training and employment to local residents. Good engagement from a range of partners, including contractors, the local college and a charity.” KEY LEARNINGS • Salix Homes identified a skills shortage and approached the organisations that together could plug that gap. • Through creating the course, Salix Homes has provided the community with an effective source of training and employment, as well as provided itself with a local, skilled workforce to carry out improvements on its buildings.

“This is an effective project,

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Colin Goodall, investment and delivery manager • T: 0161 779 8994 E:


WinnerBest Green Initiative

Waltham Forest goes green with solar power: Ascham Homes powers ahead with PV




Twelve of Waltham Forest’s 20 wards are in the lowest quartile for fuel poverty, according to the Greater London Authority. With rising fuel costs and welfare reforms, residents were being squeezed at both ends, receiving less income but facing larger outgoings.

The rollout of the PV installation scheme has seen Ascham Homes residents save in the region of £145 a year per household on their energy bills. Tenants in homes with the solar panels receive an even greater saving, as they can use the electricity generated for free. The council has also benefitted from the scheme with an income of £8-10 million over 25 years.

“This project has demonstrated tangible outcomes and evidence of the direct impact on the local community, such as reduced energy bills. It’s also clear that tenants have been consulted and involved in the process throughout.”

THE SOLUTION Ascham Homes realised that improving its green credentials was important to support residents living in fuel poverty and to ensure future sustainability. It partnered with Waltham Forest Council, which had its own sustainability strategy, to deliver the largest solar scheme in London, installing PV panels to over 1,000 properties.

The scheme will reduce carbon dioxide emitted in producing electricity by approximately 1,200 tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking 500 cars off the road. Benefits to the wider community include future investment in regeneration and improvement projects to be funded by the surplus income.

On top of this, Ascham Homes teamed up with the Community Energy Saving Programme to provide solid wall and loft insulation to more than 600 tenants.

The insulation programme has resulted in reducing local carbon emissions by 35,363 tonnes, the equivalent of removing 200,000 double-decker buses of carbon. Moreover it has provided residents with warmer homes and fuel bills that are up to £600 cheaper each year.

Alongside these two energy saving schemes, Ascham Homes continues to deliver a planned maintenance service, focusing on insulation and an innovative recycled paint initiative, which helps to protect the environment and sees tenants benefitting from discounts on reclaimed paint to improve their homes.

Jo Murphy, deputy chief executive of Ascham Homes, said: “It is great to see projects like this moving forward in Waltham Forest – not only will it improve the carbon footprint in the borough but it saves our tenants money at a time when they need it most. We will continue to work hard to champion sustainability for our properties and tenants.”

KEY LEARNINGS • Ascham Homes managed to combine boosting its green credentials with saving residents money on their bills and at a time when fuel poverty is an ever increasing issue. • By partnering with the council, the scheme could be scaled up further than if it had been a solo project and has resulted in the largest PV installation programme of its kind. • Ascham Homes further enhanced the results of the solar panel scheme by running it alongside a solid wall and loft insulation programme.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Angela Howard, communications officer • T: 020 8496 4908 E:

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Finalist Best Green Initiative

Shining a light on energy performance: CityWest Homes project demonstrates the benefits of building upgrades

THE NEED Following major investment in its housing stock, in 2012 CityWest Homes set out to determine how these upgrades reduced energy consumption and benefitted residents.

THE SOLUTION Working with architecture and sustainability firm The Facility, CityWest Homes launched a radical project to energy benchmark its entire housing stock, quantifying in detail the annual energy consumption and CO2 production of each property. This would be no easy task; the properties ranged from detached houses to small apartments, with varying features, heating systems and orientation. The project included data collection, property surveys and detailed simulations and analysis.

THE RESULTS CityWest Homes now has a comprehensive

database of over 12,000 properties covering 1,200 building types, giving a detailed view of their individual and combined energy consumption. The ALMO can now demonstrate tangible results from the upgrades – a total annual decrease in emissions of 1,360,700kgCO2, which equates to a total annual financial saving to residents of £583,000. The ALMO can now: • Demonstrate the benefits of major investment in the housing stock • Use the data to quantify the impact of any future property upgrades on energy consumption and CO2 production

efficient in each case, helping to guide a longer-term building upgrade strategy.


“An excellent benchmarking project…” KEY LEARNINGS • This project demonstrates the importance of quality data. By taking the decision to evaluate the energy performance of its housing stock now, CityWest Homes will know precisely how it can help to reduce both energy usage and residents’ fuel bills in the future.

• Identify what type of upgrade is most

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT David Scott, corporate communications team leader • T: 020 7245 2088 E:

Finalist Best Green Initiative

Pioneering renewable energy: Stockport Homes takes proactive approach to green schemes

THE NEED At a time of hardship and rising energy prices, Stockport Homes has been proactively working to reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency and address fuel poverty through a range of schemes and renewable technologies.

THE SOLUTION Stockport Homes has a successful history of delivering low carbon solutions using external funding. Its CERT (Carbon Emissions Reduction Targets) programme saw over £3 million invested in cavity wall and loft insulation and its SHINE (Stockport Homes Investing in Natural Energy) project has led to solar PV panels being installed in 2,000 homes and 28 large commercial buildings to date. The ALMO has secured over £14 million of additional funding to implement five biomass district heating schemes and low carbon measures for 1,600 properties. Its Decent Homes Programme saw over £12 million of over-cladding and £7 million of new boilers installed across its housing stock. Stockport

Homes also employs two full-time energy advisers to raise awareness of energy efficiency.


“Impressive funding secured…”

THE RESULTS Thanks to this initiative, Stockport Homes now has one of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable district heating portfolios in the UK social housing market. Benefits of the programme include: • Positive customer feedback • An estimated reduction in CO2 emissions by over 300,000 tonnes over the lifetime of the biomass heating and low carbon schemes, with some customers already reporting a 75 per cent reduction in their heating bills

KEY LEARNINGS • Stockport Homes is a prime example of an organisation embracing external and government funding geared specifically to reducing carbon emissions and improving energy efficiency. This is precisely what these schemes exist for.

• Industry recognition, including a Renewable Energy Association ‘Pioneer’ award in June 2012.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Tracy Sweeting, business support officer • T: 0161 474 2637 E:


WinnerChampioning Digital Inclusion

Connecting the people who need it most: Berneslai Homes helps tenants to get online

THE NEED In 2012, Berneslai Homes ran a survey which showed only 42 per cent of its tenants were online, despite the impending welfare reforms and plans for a ‘digital first’ approach for access to services.

THE SOLUTION Recognising that this lack of digital access could have serious consequences, the ALMO set out to tackle the issue head on. By involving staff, community groups, local partner agencies and residents, the ALMO launched a range of initiatives, including the Connecting Communities scheme for rural areas and sheltered schemes and Change Your Life by Getting Online IT and internet classes. These were made possible through: • Employing a dedicated digital inclusion officer • A successful bid for free mobile broadband from 3 Mobile • Two BT ‘Community Connection’ awards to install wireless broadband in community centres, providing tenants with free local access points • Links with existing local projects such as Get IT Together Barnsley • Maximising use of existing information, such as Digital Unite’s IT user guides

• Equipping community centres and sheltered schemes with refurbished PCs • Promoting the Get Online @ Home scheme which offers tenants the chance to buy affordable computers. Berneslai Homes’ informal and fun Change Your Life by Getting Online taster sessions tackle the barriers of motivation, lack of skills, confidence and cost that tenants face in getting online. A means of getting tenants involved is to focus on interesting topics like hobbies, shopping and keeping in touch with friends and family. Participants can also take short courses to help them make the most of the internet focusing on price comparison and utility switching.

THE RESULTS Berneslai Homes has worked with over 250 tenants and residents to date. Matt Lowe, digital inclusion officer, said: “Participants in our sessions feel welcome and valued. People have said they have ‘enjoyed every minute’, even the ones who initially thought themselves ‘too thick’ to use a computer.” Results include: • 100 per cent tenant satisfaction with Change Your Life by Getting Online, with 91 per cent of participants wanting to learn more • Broadband connected to six sheltered schemes so far • 40 events held, including Age UK’s iTea and Biscuits Week, the Pan-European Get Online Week and Spring Online (formerly

Silver Surfers’ Week) • An ‘intergenerational’ learning event between students from Barnsley College and members of the Barnsley Federation of Tenants, which included how to use Facebook. Future plans for the scheme include a Skype-enabled bingo game between two tenant groups, employees volunteering as digital outreach workers and roadshows to help tenants affected by welfare reform to find information and support online.


“Berneslai Homes’ approach is highly replicable. A well run project and good use of a small budget.” KEY LEARNINGS • Here Berneslai Homes has proven that effective digital inclusion doesn’t have to cost the world. The very fact the Connecting Communities scheme began with only six laptops goes to show what can be achieved from small beginnings. • Berneslai Homes also made shrewd use of existing resources such as IT guides, national initiatives and partnership projects and financial support schemes such as Get Online @ Home.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Matt Lowe, digital inclusion officer • T: 01226 772724 E:

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Finalist Championing Digital Inclusion

Digital daring: East North East Homes Leeds improves residents’ access to modern technology THE NEED


With information and services increasingly ‘going online’, East North East Homes Leeds (ENEHL) set out to create more opportunities for its tenants to access the internet, many of whom would not have had much prior experience with computers.

By targeting this issue, particularly prominent in the older generation, ENEHL has succeeded in boosting residents’ digital opportunities and skills. Positive outcomes include:

THE SOLUTION ENEHL began to work alongside its partners, UK Online, which provided the key funding to set up digital inclusion courses. These were aimed at helping tenants to feel more confident and capable with computer use. Further action was taken in partnership with training provider Business Support and Development in starting up digital training programmes for tenants around the ENEHL area. A trainer and a suite of 14 laptops were supplied and Citizens Online provided teachers meaning each resident would get one-to-one support.

• The ALMO now offers a computer loan scheme, where residents may borrow a PC in the hope they may become more active in communication with partner agencies. • In partnership with Age UK, specially tailored courses are run for older people. Tenant Noel said: “I didn’t have a clue what Skype was a month ago but by using it, I got to see my granddaughter for the first time.” • Computers are now provided in ‘digital desert areas’, where access to a PC in a library was not previously possible.


“Easily replicable, with strong resident involvement…” KEY LEARNINGS • This project demonstrates the benefits that strong partnerships between businesses can bring, both financially and in the practical set-up of such schemes. • The Leeds ALMO identified a significant key skill missing from many members of the local community and took specific action to address this. By doing so, ENEHL has enhanced many tenants’ abilities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Helen Seddon, marketing and communications officer • T: 0113 3781216 E:

Finalist Championing Digital Inclusion Connecting the unconnected: The Gateshead Housing Company enhances internet use among residents



The Gateshead Housing Company has customers living in both rural and urban areas. Around 50 per cent of these do not have access to the internet, either due to financial hardship or a lack of availability.

A number of positive outcomes have been achieved. For example:

THE SOLUTION The Gateshead Housing Company has engaged in a wide variety of initiatives to address these issues. This includes reaching out to partners such as Age UK to roll out schemes for older people. With information increasingly being provided online, The Gateshead Housing Company also runs training courses to enhance online awareness and usage among residents.

• ICT equipment has been provided to local associations through a community fund. This supports training to help residents search and apply for jobs and to develop their CVs, improving their employment prospects. • Tenants have been advised on using the internet to access price comparison sites to ensure they are receiving the best energy tariff. One customer in particular has saved over £150 a year. • The partnership with Age UK has improved interaction for socially isolated residents by

enabling them to use email accounts and Skype.


“This project really got residents involved…” KEY LEARNINGS • This initiative has improved job prospects for residents, helped the ALMO to reach out to more isolated members of the community and achieve its primary purpose - to boost residents’ access to the internet.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Louise Taylor, involvement and diversity manager • T: 01914 335380 E:


WinnerChampioning Financial Inclusion

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Multiple money matters: Stockport Homes proves a varied approach is a successful approach

THE NEED Stockport Homes has established a range of successful financial inclusion projects to support people: • To access accommodation in the private rented sector • Who are homeless and have no means of securing a deposit for private rented housing • Who are taking on a tenancy for the first time • Who are at risk of losing their property due to eviction or of having their property re-possessed • To reduce their energy bills and their fuel debt • Who have multiple debt issues • To access benefits they are entitled to.

THE SOLUTION Stockport Homes’ financial inclusion projects, which are funded partly by the collection of water charges since 2009, have five main areas of focus: 1) Welfare reform To ensure customers are prepared for welfare reform, Stockport Homes aims to equip them with the information they need to know. As part of this, staff visited residents to discuss the personal impact of underoccupation and to set up individual action plans with options like budgeting and money advice, property downsizing or swapping and employment support.

2) Helping tenants to pay their rent Stockport Homes has worked with customers to help them decide whether using direct debits is a realistic option and has developed a partnership with the Co-operative Bank to help customers to access bank accounts where suitable. 3) Money advice and skills The ALMO has employed additional staff to provide money advice. This has led to a pilot of money support classes which have been extended into 2013 and specific work with young people to develop their money skills, including creating a film about young people and debt and delivering life skills training in schools. 4) Employment support Stockport Homes has developed a range of employment schemes to help customers get ‘job-ready’ and gain employment. 5) Digital inclusion A programme of digital inclusion projects covers partnerships with a local social enterprise to deliver IT training to customers and with the council to create local community access IT hubs.

THE RESULTS The five main strands of activity have led to many positive outcomes. For example: • Staff visited 1,404 tenants affected by under-occupation, 501 of which now have individual action plans • Customers paying their rent by direct debit has increased from 32 per cent in April 2012

to 41 per cent in June 2013 • An employment and volunteering project has supported 59 people into jobs and generated 2,000 hours of volunteering in 2012-13 • A repairs project has provided employment to 18 priority prolific offenders over three years and over 75 per cent of these have secured employment at the end of the scheme. A spokesperson said: “Our entrepreneurial approach...has meant we can lever in commercial funding and income from outside the housing sector to deliver projects to specifically support the most excluded and vulnerable.”


“Good over-arching approach to tackling financial inclusion, with partnership working and tangible evidence of success in a number of areas.” KEY LEARNINGS • Communities managed by ALMOs are complex, with tenants coming from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances. There is no quick fix and no single way of working. Stockport Homes’ initiative has multiple strands and multiple areas of focus, with enough funding and time dedicated to each one.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Tracy Sweeting, business support officer • T: 0161 474 2637 E:

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Finalist Championing Financial Inclusion Living without financial hardship: Lambeth Living aims to minimise impact of welfare reform

THE NEED Lambeth Living set out to identify and implement a package of measures to minimise the impact of the welfare reform changes on both its residents and the organisation’s income collection. The ALMO has the second largest group of tenants in the country to be affected by the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, many of whom had already been identified as having disadvantaged backgrounds and considered ‘financially excluded’ or ‘hard to reach’.

THE SOLUTION A welfare reform project team was set up by Lambeth Living, with financial support from Lambeth Council, offering options such as: • Downsizing through mutual exchanges and transfers • Taking in lodgers • Seeking welfare and debt advice • Enrolling on employment / apprenticeship programmes • Opening accounts with the local credit union.

To ensure accessibility, the team held 14 mutual exchange and welfare advice surgeries on local estates to which residents were invited. The surgeries helped residents identify home swap partners and to receive advice on housing and welfare options, while others enabled residents to meet with service partners such as Centre 70, Real Lettings Lodging Scheme, London Mutual Credit Union and a number of housing associations.

• 518 tenants have said they will take in dependants to make up the shortfall.


“A well-thought out and rapidly implemented package of measures to minimise the impact of welfare reform, with strong partnership working…”

THE RESULTS • 442 over crowded and under-occupying households attended the local surgeries • 332 residents are interested in downsizing through the Mutual Exchange Scheme, saving up to £1,000 per annum • 352 tenants have asked to be referred to debt management agencies • 106 tenants have been referred to the London Mutual Exchange Credit Union • 117 tenants have registered for a work or apprenticeship programme

KEY LEARNINGS • Direct communication is key in building confidence and allaying fears. Lambeth Living was keen to introduce home visits, phone interviews, surgeries and events in addition to printed material. • In terms of mutual exchange, there may still be barriers to transfers even when suitable swap partners are identified due to rent arrears or disrepair. One idea would be to introduce equal incentives or compensation and set up soft loans via a credit union, underwritten by the ALMO or council to help residents maintain their tenancies.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Marek Effendowicz, head of communications • T: 020 76260122 E:

Finalist Championing Financial Inclusion Small miracles in an economic storm: East Kent Housing focuses on rent payments

THE NEED East Kent Housing has implemented a new approach to help tenants pay their rent during tough economic times.

THE SOLUTION This personalised approach included: • Changing how tenants were contacted to focus less on letters and more on out of hours contact and the use of text messages • Running budgeting workshops with the Money Advice Service • Identifying the local areas and tenant groups facing financial difficulty through analysis of tenant arrears data • A new benefits and money advisory team to provide tenants with personalised advice • Boosting rent and money advice training for customer-facing staff • Adapting the rent team’s way of working with a focus on tenant relationship building

• A cost effective communications campaign combining film, social media, literature and press to engage with over 17,500 tenants.

THE RESULTS These measures have resulted in a decrease in tenant arrears for the second year running, a 64 per cent drop in evictions for rent arrears and over 80 per cent of tenants affected by the benefit changes being contacted. The money advisors have helped more than 500 people, with 150 supported to receive extra income to help towards their rent. East Kent Housing has also successfully engaged with younger tenants by using text messaging instead of letters.


“Here a wide-ranging approach has been taken, with a good focus on effective means

of reaching different target groups…” KEY LEARNINGS • East Kent Housing gave proper thought to the needs and circumstances of its tenants and took a sensible, proactive approach to ensuring its staff were properly trained to address and resolve quite challenging issues. • The communications campaign was both varied and inclusive with the use of engaging characters such as Monty the money dog and a mix of traditional and modern technology to cover tenants of all ages.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS PROJECT Lucy Tuson, communications manager • T: 01843 577214 E:


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Most Outstanding Resident With resident involvement and empowerment at the heart of ALMOs, this category recognises residents who go ‘above and beyond’ to help their community. They are strong ambassadors for the ALMO who actively campaign for positive change in their area and stand up for the rights and views of their fellow residents. This year there were two subcategories – over-25s and under-25s. Here’s a look at the winners and finalists in each category.


Bianca Dorsett, aged 19 - Hackney Homes

Bianca is a volunteer trainee project manager with the Hackney-wide youth engagement project (YEP), chair of the Fawcett Estate YEP committee and member of the Hackney Homes Youth Active Residents Group.

ACHIEVEMENTS Bianca’s work to date includes: • Recruiting new members to the YEP • Supporting the Hackney Homes Youth Active Residents Group and contributing to Hackney Homes’ youth strategy • Delivering projects on her estates, including a photography workshop for young people • Leading a Hackney Council service consultation about the 2011 riots linked with

Hackney Youth Parliament • Taking part in other estate-related consultations from anti-social behaviour to pets.


“She is an active resident who understands and attempts to meet the needs of the young people in her community. Her ability to communicate on such a diverse level makes her an asset to Hackney. She has helped to close the gap and improve the relationship between young tenants and the community.”

Joint Winners Over-25s

Adam Dewitt-Bukater and Daniel Steadman - Wolverhampton Homes WHO ARE ADAM AND DANIEL? Until early 2012, Adam and Dan were ‘ordinary’ tenants in Bilston, widely regarded as a ‘dead town’ without any community spirit. Wolverhampton Homes’ tenant engagement team spotted their enthusiasm and commitment and gave Adam and Dan the opportunity to get involved and make a difference as tenant ambassadors.

ACHIEVEMENTS Adam and Daniel engaged with residents faceto-face and through a fresh, effective use of social media, e.g. streamed videos, Facebook/


Yvonne Bagguley East North East Homes Leeds WHO IS YVONNE?




Twitter presences and posting ALMO reports on YouTube. The pair also revived community events with a number of well-attended fun days.


“Adam and Dan hit the ground running and their enthusiasm propelled them a long way very quickly. They have restored a feeling of community in Bilston, both building an online ‘neighbourhood’ and bringing people together.”

After becoming a victim of anti-social behaviour, Yvonne responded by getting involved in her community to give her a positive focus.

ACHIEVEMENTS Yvonne has contributed to a hugely impressive range of social projects. After first chairing a local school PTA, she then created Alston Lane Over-55s Club, and raised funds for CCTV cameras in the South Seacroft area which helped residents to feel much safer. She has also organised fun days and become a key volunteer with the Cross Gates Junior Wardens and a new scheme supporting tenants with learning disabilities.

WHAT DOES EAST NORTH EAST HOMES LEEDS SAY ABOUT YVONNE? “Yvonne is such a valuable asset to us. A direct link to residents, she helps out in any way she can.”


Thomas McMullen - Salix Homes WHO IS THOMAS? Thomas is the driving force behind Ordsall’s first ever allotment project. He has shown great persistence in getting the project off the ground and through fundraising initiatives.

ACHIEVEMENTS Thomas, aged 67, has a real passion for enhancing the area he lives in. After a five-year campaign to get the go-ahead for community allotments in Ordsall, he succeeded but was told that £175,000 was needed to create them. Organising bid after bid, Thomas raised the money through grants and funding schemes, including £5,000 provided by Salix Homes. The allotments will open this summer.

WHAT DOES SALIX HOMES SAY ABOUT THOMAS? “It’s been a difficult journey, with many obstacles, but Thomas has never been disheartened and the whole community will reap the rewards of his hard work.”

14 | B U I L D I N G B L O C K S F O R B E T T E R C O M M U N I T I E S

ALMO Team Member of the Year This category celebrates ALMO staff that have made an outstanding contribution to their employers, whether through their day-to-day work or as part of a new project. Such employees act as ambassadors for their ALMO, embodying the values of the organisation, enriching it and always putting residents first.


Mark Wheelwright – Aire Valley Homes Leeds ROLE: PROJECT MANAGER WITH THE REGENERATION TEAM Mark has been a real inspiration to many young social housing tenants, working tirelessly to provide training and apprenticeship opportunities and to secure funding for many projects that engage young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

MARK’S ACHIEVEMENTS INCLUDE: • Securing work experience for 15 young people at Aire Valley Homes Leeds • Creating 35 employment opportunities over an 18-month period • Working in partnership with Leeds Federated Housing on the successful Passion4Fashion project, which started in 2011 and continued into 2012 on a grander scale • Securing funding from area panels for a Leeds based media social enterprise, Future Arts, to document the Passion4Fashion project • Giving young recruits the chance to learn

about production, editing, blogging and gain an Arts Award accredited qualification • Creating a multimedia apprentice programme for young Leeds tenants aged 18-24 • Developing a housing sector apprenticeship programme for Leeds social housing tenants.


“His drive and enthusiasm to provide employment opportunities for young tenants surpasses Mark’s role, making him a great asset to the ALMO.”


Michelle Thomas – East Kent Housing ROLE: TENANT PARTICIPATION OFFICER

fully and she promotes residents’ involvement at every opportunity.

Tenant participation officer, Michelle, is known for fresh and innovative ideas that enthuse the community and this has seen tenant attendance at estate events increase by 75 per cent. A champion for engagement, she ensures that any changes to services, however big or small, or new ways of doing things are communicated and/or consulted on

MICHELLE HAS: • Set up a tenant inspectors group and ensured they have all received training • Set up cluster groups to oversee various contracts • Set up DIY workshops run by the repairs contractor • Fully supported the area board and encouraged them to challenge and scrutinise • Overseen the ALMO’s environmental grant scheme, which funds tenants’ improvement suggestions

• Helped the local housing team respond to issues on estates in a pro-active way • Become a key ambassador in internal communications, countering low staff morale and resistance to change. She set up workshops for the team and the result has been very positive.


“Her commitment and abilities have seen ideas suggested by tenants made a reality.”

Albert Frimpong – Ascham Homes ROLE: TENANT SUPPORT OFFICER Forgoing his Christmas celebrations, Albert organised and co-ordinated the search for a vulnerable tenant

who had gone missing. The tenant was known to have mental health problems and, it transpired, had not received treatment for six months. Once found, Albert made it his business to visit the man every day for three weeks, until he was well enough to return home, where he lives happily to this day.


“We all knew Albert was a kind, caring person. We did not know that he was an effective detective who would give up his Christmas holiday for somebody he didn’t know.”


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Board Member of the Year Here, those who have made an exceptional contribution to the running and management of their ALMO over the last year are recognised. Through their knowledge and experience, they will have played a key role in their organisation’s development while representing the views of residents at a senior level. They will be champions of tenant involvement and a voice for the interests of residents.


Alison Inman – Colchester Borough Homes over that time, as well as paying particular attention to its ongoing success.


Alison is the ALMO’s outgoing chair after five years. She has been commended for her many achievements in developing the organisation

• Influencing and supporting the board, enabling not only strong governance but providing future aspiration and strategic direction • Communicating and championing the ALMO to many audiences at a time when its future has been under review by the local authority • Establishing tenants’ needs and delivering these • Making herself known and approachable

to staff, board members and tenants equally • Introducing company rules and behaviours • Helping the ALMO make key partnerships that improve homes and services.


“She will retire having influenced and improved our services massively and will be much missed by all who worked with her.”


Karin Jaeger – Brent Housing Partnership Karin is a resident and vice-chair of the ALMO’s board of management. She has been a member since it was established in 2002, and has worked to build closer links between the organisation and the wider community. Passionate about young people and financial inclusion, the two most prominent schemes she is involved in are the Kickz Project, providing free football coaching for youngsters and the Credit Union Brent & Ealing (CUBE) which helps residents avoid financial hardship and loan sharks


“Tenants know she goes out of her way to ensure their views are heard – communicating these to board members very effectively.”

Sue Constable – Wolverhampton Homes Sue is a tenant board member, councillor and equality champion. She’s been the figurehead for lots of equality projects and campaigns, including the highly successful Stop Hate in Wolverhampton. A tenant for 42 years, Sue has spent her life campaigning to improve the lives of others. This has involved working with tenants as a volunteer; her career as a housing officer; supporting children and families as councillor and cabinet member; and her role as a Wolverhampton Homes board member.

Making Wolverhampton a fairer city is one of her lasting legacies.


“It’s her drive, determination and compassion that are an inspiration to everyone, and which, in turn, inspire our determination to promote equality and respect.”

The 2013 NFA Awards: Winners and Finalists Best Community Initiative WINNER CityWest Homes - Leap into action FINALISTS Northwards Housing - Ban the Pan Wolverhampton Homes - The Learning, Employment and Achievement Programme (LEAP)

Most Effective Partnership WINNER Derby Homes FINALISTS Salix Homes Stockport Homes

Best Green Initiative - new for 2013 WINNER Ascham Homes FINALISTS CityWest Homes Stockport Homes

Championing Digital Inclusion new for 2013

ALMO Team Member of the Year

WINNER Berneslai Homes

WINNER Aire Valley Homes Leeds - Mark Wheelwright

FINALISTS East North East Homes Leeds The Gateshead Housing Company

FINALISTS Ascham Homes - Albert Frimpong East Kent Housing - Michelle Thomas

Championing Financial Inclusion - new for 2013

Board Member of the Year

WINNER Stockport Homes

WINNER Colchester Borough Homes - Alison Inman

FINALISTS East Kent Housing - Monty the Money Dog Lambeth Living - Welfare Reform Project

FINALISTS Brent Housing Partnership - Karin Jaeger Wolverhampton Homes - Sue Constable

Most Outstanding Resident and Young Resident (two categories for over25s and under-25s)

JOINT WINNERS (over-25s) Wolverhampton Homes - Adam DewittBukater and Daniel Steadman FINALISTS (over-25s) East North East Homes Leeds - Yvonne Bagguley Salix Homes - Thomas McMullen WINNER (under-25s) Hackney Homes - Bianca Dorsett

For more information, please contact the National Federation of ALMOs at: Octavia House, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JP T: 024 7685 1729 E: W: This Best Practice Guide is produced by Acceleris Marketing Communications. T: 0845 4567251 E: W:

NFA Best Practice Guide 2013  

This is the NFA Best Practice Guide 2013, produced annually by Acceleris on behalf of the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA), the trade body...