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Autumn 2017


Contents & Contact

Tenant Matters

Inside this issue...

3 Sian & Kath’s Welcome 4 Get Involved 5 Oakley Way Fun Day 6 Thanks for the Shed 7 De-pooling Service Charges 8 Meet MHA’s New Board Members 9 Good as Gold Winners 9 Universal Credit: Be Prepared 10 Escaping Debt 12 Dads Can Summer Fun 14 Repairs to Your Home 16 The Papillon Art Group 17 Fostering 17 Smart Meters 18 Kyle’s Story 20 Summer of Fun

20 Making A Difference Awards 2017 21 Passport to Catering 22 Dads Can go Fishing 23 Pitch For Your Project 23 Network75 24 Your Heating 25 Goodbye to Right to Buy 26 Collecting Your Information 28 Gemini Living 30 Put Rent First 31 HomeSwapper 32 Performance Indicators 30 Working for You 31 Coffee & Computers 32 Puzzles

If you would like this Newsletter in a different format (e.g. large print or electronically) or in Welsh please contact Louise Davies on 01495 761104 or email 0345 677 2277


Scan the QR code to access the MHA website.


Autumn 2017

Siân & Kath’s Welcome Welcome to the 2017 Autumn edition of Tenant Matters. We hope that you had a super Summer and that as the nights draw in this edition of the newsletter provides you with a some lovely reminders of sunny days and summer activities as well as giving you some useful information. This edition will tell you about some recent changes at MHA as we say “hello” to new Board members and “goodbye” to summer. We will take the opportunity to tell you about our review of tenant engagement and introduce you to new ways that you can work with us to help us improve services, in person, digitally or as part of your community group. Whether you have ten minutes or ten hours to give we would be happy to hear your views. We have been delighted to invest in eight fantastic community groups as part of our Pitch for Your Project grants in September as well as planning the annual Making a Difference Awards which will take place in November celebrating the amazing work of volunteers throughout Monmouthshire who have been recognised for their passion and commitment. Just turn to pages 4 & 5 to read more about how you can get more involved with MHA.

As well as sharing good news stories this edition brings you some really important information about changes to your rent notices, as we work to make your charges easier to understand. This is so you can see exactly what you pay for and the services we provide. We will be out and about over the Autumn and Winter to talk to you about this in person. As we prepare for Universal Credit in Monmouthshire this edition launches our traffic light campaign. This is about how you can make sure that you are as prepared as you can be for the changes. If you are going to be affected then please talk to us about how we can support you to prepare from saving schemes to budgeting support. Finally, we hope this newsletter provides you with an interesting read and all the information you need from us. We welcome your feedback about Tenant Matters so if you have any ideas for future editions or there is something you think we could do better please do let us know as your views matter to us. Siân Nicholas & Kath Deakin

Heads of Sustainable Communities


MHA News

Get Involved Tenant Matters

Working together to realise aspirations, strengthen communities and improve services which deliver value for money

Placing tenants at the heart of decision making has always been an important part of MHAs values. This will continue to do so – but now in a different way! Over the last 12 months MHA has listened to what tenants had to say about the way we gather your views on our services and asked what tenants would like to see in the future.

What you told us:

More local opportunities: We want to influence things about our home and local community in our community.

More informal: Create relaxed, informal, fun ways to hear our views.

More digital: We have busy lives, I want to be able to tell you my views from my home or on the go!

More incentives: We would like access to local activities, clubs, vouchers etc. as a thank you for giving our time.

Provide Training OpPortunities: October and November 2016: 4 Workshops completed with various MHA staff and tenants from across



November and December 2016: Tenants who are already involved with improving services at MHA complete a questionnaire

I am interested in gaining new skills that will help me at home or skills that will help me find employment.

December 2016: Online and telephone survey completed with tenants.

December 2016 Text survey sent to tenants

December 2016: Board Members and the Senior Management Team complete a questionnaire

November 2016 Informal telephone calls to tenants involved with the Inclusion Team

MHA News

Autumn 2017

What Next? So over the next twelve months the Engagement Team will: • Provide intensive support to tenants whose communities are receiving large upgrading/ redeveloping works, so that tenants can influence the works, e.g. help redesign communal gardens. This is part of MHA’s new Neighbourhood Planning Approach. • Create a Virtual Voice: A new online community which offers you the chance to give your views on our services digitally and help us make better decisions • Continue to run The Service Testing Team, MHA’s mystery shoppers who provide an invaluable service by helping us to monitor and improve the services we provide to our customers. • Run a Tenant Network: hosted by MHA twice a year in various locations across Monmouthshire. The Tenant Network will provide a social network for tenants to share stories and interests, discuss hot topics and hear key messages from MHA. • Develop a training academy called the Engagement Academy (E-Academy for short). • Continue to run the Scrutiny Panel: A group of recruited tenants who meet monthly to scrutinise all aspects of services offered to tenants and make recommendations to the Board of MHA, to improve efficiencies within the organisation.

November 2016: A workshop at the Tenants Forum

December 2016 Interviews with Senior management team at MHA

December 2016: Three focus groups with MHA staff.

• Replace groups with Themed Focus Groups: These will investigate specific pieces of work in a particular part of the business, for example Repairs or Allocations. The group is made up of equal numbers of staff and tenant experts (tenants and staff who have experience of that particular service) who work together to achieve a specific outcome. • Maximise the benefits that our large scale redevelopment or improvement programme brings by using ‘Community Benefits’ ensuring what is offered by the contractors is received by the community. • Create stronger links with local groups, organisations and charities. • Explore the Timebanking concept, a way of ‘giving back’ to tenants who become involved in improving their community or give feedback MHA services. For example free tickets to local activities or events. The team have already started to work more ‘locally’ and are working with the tenants in Oakley Way, Caldicot. Read all about this on page 6.

January 2017: Two Focus groups held with families in the Flying Start centres (Caldicot and Abergavenny).

January 2017: Assessment on the service to ensure does not discriminate against any disadvantaged or vulnerable people.

February 2017: The findings to date presented to the Operations Sub Committee of the MHA Board

May 2017: Full report of the findings presented to the Board of MHA and approved.


Feature ???

Tenant Matters

Oakley Way Have Their Say on Garden Makeover This summer we held a fun day in the back gardens of Oakley Way to celebrate the redevelopment works that have been completed and to start the planning for the development of the gardens. There was a range of fun activities to entertain people including bouncy soft play, archery and sports, competitions, face painting, cakes baked by tenants who did the Passport to Catering and FREE DOMINOS PIZZA! Surprisingly the rain held off and we were blessed with beautiful weather which enabled us to enjoy being outside and explore what the space could be used for. It’s an exciting opportunity when you can have a say on what you would want your back garden to look like and discuss options of what is possible. There was a great turn out and we received some really great ideas about what would make the gardens more suitable for use. We are always keen to hear your views during


redevelopments as to what you want, and how that would make a difference for you. I would encourage all tenants to come along and talk to us, especially at events like this. We had an amazing number of tenants interested in being part of a ‘design group’. This is a group that MHA sets up to do a specific task. Those interested will come together to have a more detailed discussion with MHA staff about the redevelopments. If you are interested in opportunities to be part of a future focus group, and would like more information you can sign up to ‘Virtual Voice’ by calling 01495 767179 or emailing

Sponsorship News

Autumn 2017

Thanks for the Shed! Two Monmouthshire community groups are celebrating after Welsh based companies, Affresol and AP Waters, provided two secure storage sheds and concrete bases to the communities of the Bryn Village Hall and Abergavenny Community Centre. The sheds were donated under Monmouthshire Housing Association’s Community Benefit Scheme, which delivers valuable resources to local communities. Both venues host a number of local events, bringing people together and allowing the community to socialise. The venues play host to activities such as; keep fit classes, knitting club, cards nights, pool events, Summer BBQs, Bingo, Quiz Nights and Murder Mystery Weekends. Space has often been an issue, with the Bryn Village Hall seeing 50-60 people attend their weekend events. Thanks to the donation by Affresol and AP Waters, the new sheds will now be able to store bulky equipment, which would otherwise have cluttered up the village hall. Because of the MHA community benefit scheme, both the Abergavenny Community Centre and Bryn Village Hall can now offer more opportunities for their communities to come together.

The extra space provided by the sheds was welcomed by Bryn Village Hall Chairman Ken Gunter, who said: “We were getting drastically short of storage space, so our new shed is a real godsend. It’s a real boost for our community. Ken Gunter added: “we are now able to make better use of the space here and get more people in and hopefully run some new activities.” “We are very grateful to MHA, Affresol and AP Waters for their generous donation.” Affresol Marketing Manager Tim Cowell, said: “We work closely with Monmouthshire Housing Association and are pleased to donate the sheds as part of their Community Benefit Scheme”. “We are committed to supporting the communities that we serve and are delighted to be involved in these projects.”


Your Homes

Tenant Matters

Changes to Your (De-pooling service charges) Up until now your rent has included charges that cover the cost of maintaining your home and the surrounding areas. We recently sent you a leaflet about changes to your rent notice, and from April 2018 your rent will show you a breakdown of the services you receive. We are in the process of mapping all these services and apportioning the costs to tenants receiving these services. In future service charges will be shown separately from your net rent in your annual rent notice.

An Example of charges (Please note these will vary depending on the services you receive)

Current Rent (weekly) including service charges = £87.00

Total Gross Rent = £87.00

Please continue to pay your rent as usual.


Net Rent (weekly) = £83.85 Fire Safety & Security = £0.75 Grounds Maintenance = £1.50

Don’t worry...

We’re just letting you know that your rent notice will look a little different in future.


Communal lighting = £0.90

Window cleaning

Total Gross Rent = £87.00

Grass cutting & landscaping

Rent Notice... If you live in a house you will not be affected by this change, only properties that receive communal services will see a breakdown of service charges, this mainly affects tenants living in flats and at sheltered schemes. Service charges are currently included in your rent but it’s important we are open with you about the cost of these services. The majority of service charges are eligible for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit and we will be providing you with more information about this when we write to you.

Your Homes

Autumn 2017

What happens next? If you are going to be affected we will write to you in November/December to let you know what services you receive with an estimation of how much they cost. We will also be arranging information events at our sheltered schemes and in the community which you will be invited to attend. In the meantime if you have any questions about these changes, please contact Lauren Lewis (pictured) on 0345 677 2277 or visit our website click on the Rent tab and then click on ‘changes to my rent’. Lauren is also available via Live Chat every Tuesday between 10am-12pm which is available through the MHA website click on the Live Chat button and select ‘changes to my rent’.

Fire safety & security

Communal lighting

Lift maintenance


MHA News

Tenant Matters

Meet MHA’s New Board Members At our Annual General Meeting held on 27th September 2017, the following board members were appointed.

Tony Crowhurst

Tony Deakin

Colin Lewis

Tony and his wife have lived in Cwmbran for over 35 years. Following his degree in mathematics, Tony became a Chartered Surveyor only resigning from the RICS recently after 41 years. During this time he practiced initially as a quantity surveyor before developing his career by taking on roles as a software developer for building surveyors, a quality assurance officer, the office manager of an architects department, an asset manager and, most recently, an access auditor. He has worked in local authorities in London, Coventry and Gwent. For the last 10 years he has worked primarily in a volunteering capacity with the Disability Advice Project as their access auditor and finance officer and has been on the Board of housing associations for the last 16 years, initially with Eastern Valley and latterly with Melin Homes.

Tony has over 20 years’ experience of working in social housing, both as an Executive Director and Board Member with a number of different organisations. Since September 2008 he has been an executive director at Cartrefi Conwy – a stock transfer Housing Association based in North Wales. As Group Director of Resources for Cartrefi Conwy his main areas of responsibility include Business Planning, Financial Management, Governance, Human Resources, Insurance and Information Computer Technology. He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and is a member of the Institute’s Housing Panel. He is also a Member of the Gwynedd Pension Board.

Colin was born in Trethomas, and went to Bedwas Comprehensive. He studied sciences at university, obtaining a Joint Honours Degree in Chemistry and Biology, and a Masters in Chemistry. He is a Member of the Association of Project Management. Colin was Head of Business Change at Principality Building Society for 8 years. He left to set up the not for profit Tirion Group, created to deliver affordable homes. The companies first site (The Mill in Cardiff ) has started advertising its affordable rented properties, and more recently obtaining planning permission for its site at the former steel mill (Whiteheads) in Newport.


Colin lives in Monmouth with his wife, and sometimes one or both of his grown up children. He is an active member of Monmouth Rowing Club, regularly taking part in races both in the UK and further afield.

Tenant Saying Elections Goodbye We held elections for a Tenant Board Member. Unfortunately, we only had a 16% response. The results were:

Board members leaving this year have been with us for the last 9 years. We’d like to thank them for their contribution.

Tenant News

Autumn 2017

MHA’s Good as Gold draw is a quarterly free prize draw giving five MHA tenants the chance to win £50. The draw is open to ALL tenants who keep up to date with their rent payments and are not in arrears. Congratulations to our latest good as gold winners:

Gary Witcombe

Susan White

Zena Bierne

Alan Wintle

Re-elected 246 votes

233 votes

Peter Daniel 189 votes

Mr & Mrs Abbott (pictured) from Raglan were delighted with their win and are looking forward to spending their winnings on new flowers and plants.

Barry Gallagher

Peter was unsuccessful in the elections but has become a member of our Tenants Scrutiny Panel and is looking forward to working with MHA and members of the panel.

To find out more visit our website:

• Mrs Kear from Monmouth • Mrs Williams from Goytre • Mrs Walker from Wyesham You too could be in with a chance of winning; ensure your rent account is up to date. The next draw will take place on:

11th December 2017 Full details, terms and conditions are available on our website:



Tenant Matters



1. Stop & think 2. Understand what Universal Credit (UC) is 3. Know when it’s going to hit you


1. Six weeks = no cash 2. Manage your debts & start budgeting 3. Get online


1. Open a bank account 2. Start saving 3. Tell us as soon as you are asked to apply for UC


Escaping Debt


Autumn 2017

One Tenant's Story

“I never thought things would escalate as far as they did. I can’t believe I let things get that bad.” Just eight months ago, MHA tenant Jane* was facing eviction from her home in Abergavenny. Having racked up various debts totalling well over £4,000 and with bailiffs on her doorstep most days, Jane had taken to hiding away and not answering her door. With spiralling rent arrears, MHA Income Officer Alison Bromham was determined to get to the bottom of Jane’s debt problems in an effort to help her. Luckily, Ali’s persistence finally paid off and she finally got to speak to Jane – just in the nick of time. Jane was due in court in a matter of weeks. Ali helped Jane apply for a stay hearing and encouraged her to be as open and honest about how she’d let her debts escalate to the extent they had. The judge gave Jane one last chance to turn things around. Jane admits the court appearance and discussions over her children’s living situation were the wake-up call she needed to start turning things around.

plans in place to help me do that. I stay in touch with Ali and keep to my appointments. I’m well on my way to clearing my debts and the next step is to get back into work and provide for my family. “I realise now MHA are here to help and Ali is not someone to be scared of! She’s helped me stay in my home with my kids. I really want to get my story out there and to let other tenants know that MHA are there to help. Without Ali’s persistence I don’t know where I’d be now.” Ali said: “With Jane’s situation, it shows how important it is to keep dialogue lines open. All along, our aim has been to keep Jane and her family in her home. I’ve been persistent with Jane and it has eventually paid off – she’s in a really good place now and I know she’ll always get in touch if she needs any help, advice or support with her finances.”

She explains: “I’d hide from Ali for weeks on end. I was scared and burying my head in the sand by this stage, I’d become overwhelmed by my financial issues. I was lucky to get that final chance. I could have lost my kids. “I now have agreements in place to pay back my arrears with MHA and I always prioritise my rent first. I’m getting through paying back my other debts and I have manageable payment

*Name has been changed



Tenant Matters

Summer Fun

During the summer, Dads Can organised trips to Barry Island, Techniquest and Noah’s Arc. Below are the results about what the dads thought about the trips...

Dads Can Set Evaluation Questions - What you thought of our summer trips

Has Dads Can made a positive differernce to you and your family?

Did you and your family enjoy the Dads Can trip?

As a result Has the trip of being part of Dads enabled you Can do you feel to spend more more confident & quality time as Is this the supported? a family? only family trips/activities planned this summer?

Positive Themes Identified in Participant Answers

Improved Social and Emotional Skills

Benefits from a Health and wellbeing perspective



Positive development of relationship and communication skills


All families answered ‘yes’ to the above questions.

3 T R I P S / 1 4 3 P E O P L E / 3 0 FA M I L I E S 14


Autumn 2017

What the dads say: “Fun trip to see the animals” “Loved spending time as a family” “I am where I am because of Dads Can” “Love having days out together” “We got to meet other parents too” “My first time to the beach with my son” “We are more connected as a family since Dads Can been in our life” “We love having days out together as a family and Dads Can makes that possible.” “Dads Can has been the best kind of support a father could ask for 100%.” “We feel part of one big happy family on the Dads Can trips.”


Your Homes

Tenant Matters

Repairs Carried Out


onmouthshire Housing Association has a property stock of approximately 3,600 homes. Last year the Building Services department carried out approximately 10,000 repairs, and a further 600 repairs were carried out by contractors.

Examples of Repairs

Our aim is to provide an efficient, prompt and cost effective responsive repairs service, and one which is easily understood. We want to provide well maintained homes for you to live in. Our repairs are categorised by priorities. These include emergency repairs, urgent, routine repairs, and miniplanned. The priority of a repair is dictated by the National Housing Federation via the Schedule of Rates.

Emergency – Respond within 2 hours for Health & Safety emergencies, completed within 24 hours (working days apply)

• Total or partial loss of electricity, heating or hot water (depending on season) • Insecure external doors or windows

Urgent – Complete within 5 working days

• Faulty extractor fan • Vent radiators • Renew water heaters • Renew toilet seat

Routine – Complete within 20 working days

• Re-glaze double glazed unit • Renew guttering • Renew toilet cistern • Renew a radiator

Mini-Planned – Complete within 40 working days

• Renew damaged fence • Lay concrete path • Renew a brick wall

We have a sliding scale we refer to should we need to attend a repair with more urgency. The nature of the repair is considered and the circumstances accepted for an acceleration include (but not exclusive) having a baby under 6 months old in the property; having someone living in the household who is registered disabled; and the frailty of the tenant.


Appointments When you report a repair you will be offered a morning or afternoon appointment. Our morning appointments cover 8am to 12pm, and our afternoon appointments cover 12pm to 4pm (Mon to Thurs) and 3:30pm (Friday).

Your Homes

Autumn 2017

An operative can call to your home any time between these appointment slots.

in Your Home Responsibilities Repairs MHA are responsible for...

Repairs you are responsible for...

Walls, doors, window frames and floors

Anything that belongs to you

Gutters, down pipes and drains

Light bulb replacement

Baths, toilets, sinks and wash basins

Replacement of lost keys

Electrical wiring, gas pipes, fitted heaters, radiators and water heaters

Glazing (MHA will only replace broken glass where it can be shown that the damaged was caused by circumstances outside the tenant’s control, e.g. by providing a crime reference number from the police)

Communal areas such as stairways and entrances

Damage caused by you, other household members or guests visiting your home

Where the fencing belongs to MHA we will be responsible for maintenance and repairs

We offer a flexible appointment service therefore if you would like a morning appointment but due to your circumstances you need us to attend after 9am please ask at the point of reporting the repair and we will do our best to accommodate. Likewise, if you prefer a late afternoon appointment please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate this. If you need us to avoid school run times please mention this at the time you report the repair.

How to Report a Repair If you like to report a repair please contact us: • Repairs Hotline: 0800 980 7751 • In writing to Head Office • Via the website • Live Chat on our webpage • E-mail us: customerservices@ monmouthshirehousing.



Tenant Matters

The Papillon Art Group Tucked away in a quiet residential area of Abergavenny, a local art group is quietly making a big difference to the lives of a number of local people with mental health issues. The Papillon Art Group has been running for four years and gives people the time and space to get creative in a peaceful, relaxed and informal setting. The group meet twice a week on a Monday and Wednesday at the Christchurch Community Hall in town. Members have a spacious room in which to work and access to art materials that may be too expensive otherwise. There is also a small library of art books, posters and prints by other artists to offer information and inspiration. One of the most remarkable things is that the group is run on a volunteer basis and is completely free of charge to members.


Papillon, which is French for butterfly, is the brainchild of Pam Fontaine and Clarissa Fonseca – two local women with a passion for art and a strong belief in the transformative effects that art can have on people struggling with mental health issues. Their aim for Papillon was for it to act as more than just an art group; they wanted to provide a quiet, relaxed and informal setting in which people can work on their art projects, but also talk, meet with friends, have a cup of tea and socialise. Pam explains: “We are really happy with how things are going with Papillon. There are many people here who’ve been with us since we started and we can see the difference it’s made to them. The art they are producing is amazing! Running the group is not without its challenges, particularly around paying for

the space and materials, but we love doing it. We hold an annual exhibition every year in the autumn and it’s always a good event.”


Autumn 2017

“Some members feel more formal art courses can be quite overwhelming, as students are often expected to stand up and talk about their work, take exams or work to tight deadlines. And formal courses are often quite expensive too. Here they don’t have those pressures.” “We find people will open up while they work and have natural conversations about the issues they are facing. The group also provides a gentle structure for people and motivation to get out and do something positive.” Nadine Fletcher is a Social Inclusion Officer with Monmouthshire Housing Association (MHA). She explains how the group is helping MHA tenant, Natasha: “Papillon has been great for Natasha. She finds it a relaxing and stressfree environment in which to work. It’s become a real haven for her. Although it’s run as an art group, the social element is just as important for many people, and peer support happens naturally.” Natasha said: “I’d only really drawn a bit when I was young, but since I’ve been coming along to Papillon I’ve become a prolific artist! I really like drawing pictures of my dogs and other animals, but I also do tattoo designs and landscapes, stuff like that. Everyone has a portfolio of work and I like taking my art home to put on the walls.” Usk resident, Christine Vincent is also a longterm member of the group. She says Papillon offers a therapeutic experience: “I found about about the group through my support worker. I’ve been priced out of art classes, so Papillon has been fantastic. I’m comfortable here. I feel settled when I’m doing my art, I know it’s helping me.”

For more information please email or




Your Homes

Autumn 2017

Get smart & save money on your energy bills To help the nation reduce their energy bills, the government are making the energy companies replace, for free, 53m traditional meters in 30m properties with new smart meters by the end of 2020. Smart meters electronically record your energy usage and then: • Automatically send it to your energy supplier at an agreed interval (the more frequent the better for the customer going forward) • Constantly send it to your in-home portable display - electricity is updated every 10 seconds and gas every 30 minutes

The Benefits of Smart Meters Smart meters and in-home displays deliver important benefits to individuals: • Via the in-home portable display, they put you in visual control of your energy use • No more estimated meter readings. You pay for what you use • No more digging around in the cupboard to take readings • Smart Meters and Installation are FREE

Whilst all in home displays may look different, by law they must all display the same basic information: • Energy used in the last hour, week, month and its cost • If electricity usage is low, medium or high • Updates in near real time for electricity and every half hour for gas In addition smart meters for prepay customers must also show: • How much credit you have left • Balance of emergency credit • Debt balance • An alert if your credit is low Are you already benefiting from a Smart Meter? Why not tell your family, friends and neighbours now and help others to get a smart meter. For more information you can speak to your current energy supplier or go online to


Tenant News

Tenant Matters

My Story By Kyle Eldridge

As temperatures dipped towards freezing early in 2015, Kyle Eldridge was facing the very real prospect of having to find somewhere to sleep on the cold and lonely streets of Abergavenny. Kyle who is now 20 and registered disabled with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) didn’t know what to do. Two years on, Kyle’s life has dramatically turned around. He now has a flat, is studying at Coleg Gwent and has won several awards as a result. “I was in a very bad place,” said Kyle. “I had lived in eight different houses during my childhood and left school with just three GCSEs.Things were very difficult at home and I lost all sense of hope. I use to stay in the house for months. I felt paralysed like I was in a prison.” Kyle suffered a general breakdown and was hospitalised and decided to

Kyle only had a bed, table and washing up bowl when he moved in and along with his new found faith gave him a sense of purpose. “I vividly remember seeing the sparsely furnished flat and it was a wake-up call for me. I knew if I wanted to survive I had to make a go of things.”

move to Abergavenny when he was discharged.

“Everyone from Monmouthshire Housing, the Council, the church and Shoe Zone, where I was doing work experience, were really supportive and really helped to keep me on track.”

“I had family links to the area and had heard about Gateway Church through those connections,” he said. “When I was ill the members had been told about me and were praying for me. When I first came to Abergavenny I was still recovering and was very difficult to live with.”

Following the advice and support of those close to him, Kyle decided to go to college and enrolled in Coleg Gwent’s skills for further study, winning a student excellence award. He also received a Monmouthshire Housing Award for making a difference in the community.

“Things came to a head and I had nowhere to go. I was advised to get in touch with Monmouthshire County Council to help me get accommodation and luckily they managed to find me a flat and saved me from having to live on the streets.”

He has spent the last academic year on a professional cookery course and begins a business study course in September at Coleg Gwent’s Ebbw Vale campus. In the last few weeks he has received a third award and a mini iPad from the college for 100% attendance.


MHA News

Autumn 2017

What a Summer of Fun! What a summer of fun MHA’s Engagement Team had this year, as they hit the road and attended a number of local events throughout the County from Thornwell’s Summer Fun Day to the Usk Show. We attended 12 events and offered children sports taster sessions in archery, golf, football, tennis and cricket to name just a few. It was a real pleasure to meet so many tenants and residents and hopefully we helped you connect better with MHA’s services and you gave us feedback about how we are doing. I am pleased to say that the vast majority of feedback was very positive and it was fantastic to see so many families enjoying the summer sun and activities provided.

To keep updated with what’s going on in your area please take a look at our Community Buzz Facebook page MHACommunityBuzz and don’t forget to like us!


Tenant News

Tenant Matters

Passport to Catering The Making a Difference awards is an event which MHA hold every year to celebrate the achievement of our tenants in both their personal lives and wider community. At MHA we are always overwhelmed with the amount that you do in the community and feel that you should be recognised. We love hearing about passionate and committed people that really make a difference in our communities. This year we have seen a record number of nominations with almost 60 nominations received across the categories. The winner will be announced in a glamorous awards evening which will be held at the Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel in Usk in early November. We will also announce them on our Facebook Page and Website, so make sure you keep a look out to see if it is any one you know!! Nominations for 2018 will open in the summer and we want YOU to nominate someone who has made a difference to you! Facebook: MHACommunityBuzz Website: www. making-a-difference-awards


Would you be able to make curry from scratch? Make a range of breads? Would you put beetroot or butternut squash in cake? These are just some of the amazing recipes that the participants of Passport to Catering have been exploring. Over the 12 week course they learnt a range of recipes and skills, helping them to budget, prepare and cook healthier meals. This was part of working towards the Jamie Oliver’s Level 2 Home Cooking Skills and gaining a Level 2 Food Hygiene certificate. The participants found it a rewarding and positive experience. One participant lost three stone, three participants found employment whilst doing the course and they all felt that they were able to budget and prepare healthy, tasty meals from scratch. The participants all really enjoyed the course as they met new people and were able to discuss and advise each other on recipes and ingredients. They only wished that it could have gone on for longer! The course was run by the Engagement Team and Work & Skills Wise Team, with an aim to give people confidence in the kitchen and to gain skills which can be used in the work place. The Cooking tutor was Natasha Bragg of Flying Pigs Cooking School, who also specialises in half term family cooking activities. If you are interested in coming along to a similar course, contact the Engagement Team on 01495 767 179 or email engagement.


Autumn 2017

Dads Can Go Fishing This summer Dads Can embarked on their first ever fishing trip, spending the evening at the stunning Grange Springs fishery near Trellech. A warm, sunny evening greeted the intrepid fishermen and hopes were high that a few fish would make an appearance. The Grange Springs team had kindly donated use of the lakes free of charge for the evening and a few fishing freebies were donated to the attendees.

certainly don’t disappoint in that respect, it’s such a scenic spot and so peaceful. I really enjoyed it and will definitely go again.” Dad Daniel Eason said: “Although my brother has always fished, I’d never really given it a go. But I’ve been really keen to get into fishing for a while now. It’s been great learning about how to set up and cast out, and catching a few fish was amazing. I was lucky enough to get a big tench, what a fish!”

After learning how to set up a simple float fishing rig and getting the hang of casting out (with only a couple of tangles along the way) all the Dads ended up catching some fish, including perch, rudd, bream and tench. All the fish were handled carefully and returned gently to their lake by the new anglers. Dads Can service user James Kirkwood said: “It was the peace and quiet of fishing that appealed to me, the chance to escape into the countryside. The lakes at Grange Springs


MHA News

Tenant Matters

Pitch for Your Project event awards £12,000 to community groups across Monmouthshire


n the 14th September 2017 eight passionate groups met the Monmouthshire ‘Dragons’ to pitch their projects to a group of judges with the aim of gaining grant funding. The Pitch for your Project grant scheme had £12,000 up for grabs and the Judges Den was where the money would be won or lost. The judges for the day were Kath Deakin, Head of Sustainable Communities at MHA, Kerry Thorn, former applicant and previous winner of the Pitch for your Project grant scheme, Owen Wilce, Programme Lead at Monmouthshire County Council and Sue Jones, a previous winner of Pitch for your Project and member of Abergavenny Crafty Women. All groups involved showed their dedication to improving the lives of people and making a difference within their local communities through their pitches. The judges then had the massive task of allocating the money.


The judges took time to deliberate and... • Monmouthshire Homestart was awarded £5,000 and will invest the money in an employee to support local MHA families. • £1,500 was granted to Raglan Coffee & Computers to ensure the groups continuation and to provide a better service to the members of the group by gaining qualified volunteers. • Caldicot Music Theatre Society was awarded £1,260 that will be invested in further equipment to enhance the learning of the musical arts to the students that attend. • £1,040 was given to Blue Phoenix Marching Band to ensure the young group of students can practice in a secure environment. • Lifeboat, a group that supports people with mental health problems, received £1,000. The money will be used to provide further resources for the people to access.

Imagine Graduating From University Debt-Free?

MHA News

Autumn 2017

MHA are working in partnership with the University of South Wales (USW) to offer fully sponsored degree qualifications, coupled with practical work experience within the association. USWs’ programme called Network75 enables trainees to become industryready graduates. During term-time, the Network75 students will work for MHA three days per week and attend university two days per week, and full-time throughout holiday periods. • £900 was awarded to Bridge to Cross Charitable Trust who aim to use the money to engage youths in graffiti, beat-boxing and theatre arts sessions in Abergavenny. • £800 was granted to Jigsaw Community Centre where they will hold Trampoline sessions to support youngsters with additional needs. • Savoy Youth Theatre was given £500 which will go towards a production and a community event for the local area. All groups were delighted with their winnings and returned home eager to make the most of this money gained to benefit the local communities. MHA recognises the value these groups bring to the community and will continue to support and work with groups who have such drive and ambition. Applications for the winter round of Pitch for your Project will be open from the 10th November 2017. Applications will be closing on the 19th January 2018. The event will be taking place on the 13th February 2018. For more information regarding Pitch for your Project or any of the groups that gained funding then please contact Jacob Richards, Engagement Officer on 01495 767 179 or email jacob.richards@

We will be working closely with the Network75 team to develop high-quality individual student training plans and ensure that the learning experiences and achievements of the students are of the highest quality. The Network75 scheme has a 100% employability rate post degree completion, and is one of the main reasons that it has such a strong reputation within industry and higher education. In 2018, MHA is hoping to offer a number of Network75 appointments, in departments such as Asset Management and Building Services. The appropriate degrees for those positions could be BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management or BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering. Applications for the 2018-19 Academic Year will open on Monday 02 October 2017. There is no definitive closing date but we like to receive applications by March. Further information will be available at: or


Your Homes

Tenant Matters

Your Heating Goodbye to It’s that time of year again and as the temperature drops, heating systems are raised from their slumbers. Most homes turn the heating back on in the autumn and this is when we get a high level of callouts for boiler failure. You can help to prevent this by making sure that we have access for the annual service of your boiler. This is both a legal and safety requirement and we have a duty to service all gas-fired boilers within each 12 month period. Over 99% of MHA properties with a gasfired heating system have the service completed within this target but a small number of tenants make it difficult for the engineers to gain access. We have never had a major incident affecting health and safety and you can help us maintain this important record by allowing access for our engineers to carry out the annual service. This ensures the safety of yourself, your family and your neighbours. Please help us to protect you and keep you warm. If your boiler is not working, before calling us please check the following: 1. The heating system and hot water is switched on. 2. The heating programmer is timed to be on. 3. The room thermostat is set correctly. 4. You have Gas and Electric supply (credit on your token meter where fitted). 5. The pilot light is lit. If you have checked the above and the heating or hot water system still does not work, please telephone the Repairs Line. We will endeavour to correct faults promptly.

Repairs Hotline: 0800 980 7751 28

Right to Buy Ending the Right to Buy & Right to Acquire in Wales

The Welsh Government is progressing a Bill through the Assembly that seeks to remove the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire. This would mean that our tenants would no longer be able to buy the property they live in (subject to eligibility) under these schemes. The Welsh Government has taken the stance that social housing is valued and will continue to have an important part to play in housing future generations and families in Wales. The number of social housing properties sold since the Right to Buy was introduced is now equal to Wales having lost 45% of the social housing stock it had in 1981 - that’s around 138,000 fewer social housing homes in Wales. At this stage, we do not know exactly when the Bill could become law. If it does, MHA will notify all tenants affected and explain the timeframe.

In reality, what is this likely to mean? • For tenants living in social housing properties (who qualify), their rights are expected to end no less than one year after the Bill receives Royal Assent. • For new homes built (that haven’t yet been let as social housing) the rights should end two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. Tenants who are affected will continue to be kept up to date as more information becomes available. If you have further questions, please contact our New Homes Team on 0345 677 2277 or

Collecting Your Information

MHA News

Autumn 2017

We hold a lot of information on how tenants access the internet. We know that at around 70% of you have access to the internet. We use this information to help us improve our services and to see which tenants may need help with improving their access to the web or developing their skills. If you need to claim Universal Credit, this is all managed online so it is important that you have the access and skills to do this. We also need the information to develop our online services so that we can provide flexible options for you to contact us and access our services.

How confident are you when using the internet?

We collect a lot of information through surveys but also through asking questions when we come into contact with you.

What do you access on the internet?

Here are some examples of the information we collect from our tenants. What device do you use to access the internet?

If you don’t access the internet, why is this?

We always keep the information you provide secure and do not pass it on to other organisations.

How do you connect to the internet?

You can tell us about your internet access and use now through the Change of Circumstances form online or by contacting Nathan Cook in Corporate Services on 01495 767191 or emailing insight@monmouthshirehousing.


MHA News

Tenant Matters

Gemini Living Under 35? Join the new MHA house-share pilot

Are you looking for an affordable place to live in Monmouthshire? Our new house-share pilot is now open to applications from the following Monmouthshire residents: • Single, with no dependent children • Under 35 years of age • On low income or unemployed and actively looking for work

Why is MHA starting a house-share pilot? From April 2019 most housing association or council tenants under 35 years of age will have the amount of Housing Benefit (or the housing element of Universal Credit) capped to the ‘Shared Accommodation Rate’ . In Monmouthshire this is currently £54.60 per week. The average rent for a 1 bed flat with a housing association in Monmouthshire is currently around £90 per week. This means that many younger tenants will not be able to afford to rent a one bed flat unless they are in employment. To support people affected by this welfare reform change MHA is setting up our first shared-house pilot.


What is a shared-house? A number of 2-bed apartments in Caldicot and Abergavenny will be used for the pilot. We expect people to live in the shared-house for up to 18 months.

Two people will share the apartment and be responsible for the bills. You will each have your own bedroom. You will share other rooms, including the kitchen and bathroom with your flat-mate. The apartment will be newly decorated, carpeted and part-furnished. Who will I share with? You will share with another person who meets the criteria. You can apply to house-share with someone you already know, or we will carefully match you to someone to share with. What support will I receive? You will receive an enhanced housing management service, with regular visits from your housing officer, including support to write your own ‘house rules’ at the start of your tenancy.

MHA News

Autumn 2017

Don’t bury your head in the snow

You will be fast-tracked to our Work & Skills Wise Team to help you access paid employment. MHA will also help you to moveon from the pilot into a home you can afford long-term, once you have secured paid work. When will the pilot begin? We expect our first apartment-share to be ready to let in early autumn 2017. I might be interested how can I find out more about the project? Contact Caroline Richards-Bourne on 07973 900 627 if you have any questions or want to know more. I’m definitely interested - how can I apply? If you would like to register your interest in the house-share pilot, please ring Homesearch on 0345 900 2956 or email us at Homesearch@


Your Homes

Tenant Matters

The easy way to mutually exchange! There are 500,000 homes already registered across the UK, check out some of the current MHA tenants looking to swap, and register your interest now at

St Marys Place, Portskewett

Llwynu Close, Abergavenny

Property: 1 Bed Bungalow Tenancy type: Assured Rent per wk: £94.77 Swap: Caldicot

Property: 1 Bed Flat / Studio Tenancy type: Assured Rent per wk: £97.00 Swap: Abergavenny, Gilwern, Clydach

Ysguborwen, Y Fenni

The Avenue, Govilon

Property: 1 Bed Flat / Studio Tenancy type: Assured Rent per wk: £79.00 Swap: Newport, Cwmbran

Property: 2 bed 1st Floor Flat / Studio Tenancy type: Assured Rent per wk: £88.00 Swap: Abergavenny

Woodland View, Wyesham

Green Lane, Caldicot

Property: 2 bed apartment Tenancy type: Starter Rent per wk: £96.95 Swap: Monmouth

Property: 3 Bed Semi Detached Tenancy type: Secure Rent per wk: £103.77 Swap: Chepstow

Grove Avenue, Llanfoist

New Road, Caldicot

Property: 2 Bed Flat/ Studio Tenancy type: Assured Rent per wk: £93.00 Swap: Abergavenny

Property: 3 bed semidetached Tenancy type: Assured Rent per wk: £99.39 Swap: Downsize in Caldicot.

The above property details were correct at time of print.


MHA News

Performance Indicator - Quarter 1 - 2017/18 (01 April - 30 June 2017)

On or Above Target

No Change

Below Target

MHA use a traffic light system to easily identify whether we are performing well or not in certain areas (above). We recently asked our tenants to tell us what performance indicators were most important to them. The Continuous Improvement Team really enjoyed meeting and discussing tenants chosen performance indicators at the last Tenants Forum and were equally impressed with the many more responses received by email and via MHA’s website. We’ve tallied up all your responses and have identified the new ‘Tenant Top Ten PI’s 2017/18’. Please find them below, along with the most recent performance data: 0.95% of rent is owed by current tenants to MHA. Target - 1.3%

89.26% of tenants were satisfied with the repair work done in their property. Target - 98%

94.59% of repairs were completed right first time. Target - 95%

97.1% of repairs appointments were kept. Target - 97%

There were 12.51 of new ASB cases per 1,000 tenancies. Target - 14 cases

42.86% Customers satisfied with the outcome of their complaint Target - 70%

98.57% of emergency repairs were completed within target. Target - 98%

88.31% of urgent repairs were completed within target. Target - 98%

71.43% customers satisfied with the handling of their complaint Target - 80%

Overall tenant satisfaction (only available once a year after the tenants’ satisfaction survey has been completed) Coming soon!



Tenant Matters

Working For You For the vast majority of the time our staff are always treated with respect. On occasion though, they can sometimes experience unacceptable behaviour. This can be described as someone acting aggressively and involve physical, verbal or written abuse; it could also involve threats, harassment or unreasonable demands. Some examples of where it could take place include: over the telephone, in person, via email or through social media. MHA has recently updated its Unacceptable Behaviour Policy, which is in place to help guide staff when they are carrying out their work activities. MHA deals with unacceptable behaviour in a variety of ways depending on the individual circumstances. In some cases it may be necessary to temporarily end a conversation with someone, until a situation is calmer. For others who persistently cause an issue, we may restrict future contact. We’ll only restrict contact after careful consideration and this does not affect our duty to deliver statutory services. We will also review all cases where we’ve limited contact at least once per year. In the most serious cases of unacceptable behaviour, we would also contact the Police. MHA continuously works to improve the standard of the services we provide. Please help us to do this by treating our staff and representatives with the same respect that is expected of them at all times. If you would like more information on our Unacceptable Behaviour Policy, please contact our Corporate Services Team, available on 0345 677 2277.


Award Winning Coffee & Computers The Coffee & Computers group in Raglan are winners of the TPAS Cymru, Digital Inclusion Award 2017. They faced tough competition from other digital projects run by social landlords across Wales, TPAS Cymru described the way the group works as ‘best practice’. The social group comes together to explore how to best use their tablets and Laptops and to have a chat over a cuppa. They help people to feel comfortable using their own device in a relaxed environment, which helps take the pressure off learning. The group now runs completely independently of MHA and is led by members of the group and volunteers. There is also a social side to the group and the members have gained a support network of friends who they can call on for advice in all aspects of life, not just computers. An example of this is giving lifts to the hospital and watching out for each other if they notice someone is missing. The group not only helps them access online communities but has helped to strengthen their own community. If you and your neighbours are interested in setting up your own Coffee and Computers group, and would like support please contact Emily on 01495 767179 or by emailing Well done to all involved, the award was very well deserved!

PuzzleS HARD



Bits & Bobs

Autumn 2017























































































































Address: Please return completed colouring to Jacob Richards, Monmouthshire Housing Association, Nant Y Pia House, Mamhilad Technology Park, Mamhilad, Monmouthshire, NP4 0JJ Congratulations to Chloe Shaw (aged 9) from Monmouth who won our Spring edition colouring competition. Chloe wins a £20 highstreet voucher.


Tenant Matters - Autumn 2017