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Tenant Matters | Autumn Edition | 2010

Find out who’s just got engaged at Plas Mawr...

See inside for more pictures from MHA’s county-wide Fun Day...

Could they be heading for the London 2012 Olympic Table Tennis Team? - Find out about the Cae Pen-Y-Dre ladies aiming to do so...


Welcome Hello and welcome to the 8th edition of Tenant matters. I have been involved with this magazine since its conception, which seems a long time ago now. I decided to become a member of the editorial team because I wanted it to be by the tenants for the tenants. Of course there has to be informative articles outlining the progress within MHA so corporate items are also necessary. We have tried to balance this with articles of interest from tenants and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage others to take part. Maybe there is a member of your family, a neighbour or friend, who has achieved something to be proud of. Perhaps you have an interesting job or hobby you could tell us about. Are you a poet who would like to see your poems in print? I am sure there are many interesting people or activities that would make good reading or amuse the rest of us. If you have an idea for an article please let us know. A member of the editorial team is always on hand if you need help or to take photos. In conclusion I would like to thank all of you that voted for me to become the latest tenant board member.

In this edition... Welcome

Better Living

1. Welcome... 2. A message from Pip...

5. Ping Pong... 7. Your Neighbourhood...



4. Changes Ahead... 8. A new way to find a home... 13. What do you like to do?... 18. Beware of the scam!...

6. Neil Binnell... 14. Udus ‘The Python’

Feature 3. Romance at Plas Mawr... 10. Congratulations Pip... 10. Longfellow Road... 11. MHA Fun Day 2010...

Your Homes 3. Cheaper, Warmer, Greener... 5. That’s the way to do it... 17. Helping us, Helping you... 18. New Support: Update...

Bits & Bobs 7. Colouring Comp: Winners... 20. Xmas Biscuit Recipe... 21. Staffing Update... 22. Your Feedback...

Corporate 9. MHA’s 3rd AGM... 16. Keeping in Touch... 19. First Qtr Performance...

Tenants’ Forum 19. Have your say...

Got an idea for the Newsletter?

Contact the Newsletter Editorial Team by calling 01495761115 or email

If you would like this Newsletter in a different format (e.g. large print , electronically, etc.) or in Welsh please contact Kate Bradbrook on 01495 761102 or email

Ian Pearce Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 1

Pip’s Page

A message from Pip...

Welcome to the eighth edition of ‘Tenant Matters’ Once again, welcome to the Autumn issue of “Tenant Matters”. It’s been another busy period since the last issue because along with the normal cycle of Forum & Steering Committee meetings, the Better Build Group met at Llandogo to hear the exciting news that MHA are now building new homes along with completing the work to bring all of our homes up to the ‘Welsh Quality Homes Standard’ by 2012. The following day, I attended the County Council’s Older Persons’ Strategy meeting at County Hall which was quite a positive event and it was enjoyable to meet up with old friends from the days when we were living in Council Houses. Early in August MHA held a ‘Fun Day’ in Caldicot, which was really successful. Rob Carey and myself, were very busy surveying tenant’s views and collecting lots of information which will help MHA to develop better services for us all in future. In September Kathy Smith and I attended the SE Wales Tenant Participation Advisory Service Wales (TPAS Cymru) Regional Network meeting. Kathy was able to make a big contribution to the meeting which examined anti social behaviour and the way landlords deal with it. Also in September, the Welsh Tenants Federation held its Annual General Meeting and Conference which I attended and I took part in the workshop explaining the work of the new Tenant’s Advisory Panel (TAP) and TAP’s relationship with the new Regulatory Board for Social Housing. At the end of September, TAP itself met where we covered a lot work which I shall report back on in a future edition. Of course, the big news has been the move to the new Head Office and what a fabulous building it is. This year MHA’s AGM was held there recently and there was a good turnout of shareholding tenants but there is always room for more. So pay your £1 and become a shareholder limited by guarantee and you too next year will be invited to MHA’s AGM, just ask Rob Carey 01495 761115 for more information. Welcome to Ian as the new tenant member of the Board and thanks to John, the outgoing tenant member.

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 2

Your Homes

Cheaper, Warmer, Greener Communities... One of Monmouthshire Housing’s business objectives is to “Sustain greener, healthier and cleaner communities”. This can only be accomplished by MHA, its tenants and other organisations working together.

Changes to the recycling system which will help us meet our target:

• MHA will ensure that estates look smart through our cyclical maintenance programmes. • MCC are changing their recycling scheme to maximise recycling within the county • You can help by recycling as much of your waste as possible

• To encourage recycling the council are introducing a fortnightly collection scheme for non-recyclable waste - Recyclable items will be collected weekly. • The black box scheme is being phased out and replaced with red and purple bags. These need to be put out on the correct days. • The council, and ultimately you, will be fined if too much of your waste is going to the land filled sites. So it is important we embrace the new changes!

Currently 41% of waste is recycled in Monmouthshire and we want this to rise to 70% in 2024-25! This target is achievable as proven by other European countries and we can achieve this percentage if we all play our part!

Before these changes start, there will be local meetings to explain the new system. Contact your One Stop Shop for details on this. Here at MHA we want to do our bit for the environment and for our estates and with your help it will be a great success!

We all need to play our part:

Romance at Plas Mawr... I was invited, along with friends and family, to attend the engagement party for Brian Abbott and Margaret Ormond in the communal room at Plas Mawr. Margaret is originally from Airdrie, a few miles from Glasgow. When her daughter and family moved from Gosport to Usk she followed and moved into a flat opposite to Brian’s.

After a glass or two everyone got in the party mood. It does not take much for the residents to let their hair down and dance the night away.

“Was it love at first sight” I asked Margaret. “Not exactly” she replied, “Our first date was to go to bingo, but it did happen kind of fast. I suppose you could say he swept me off my feet.”

written by Ian Pearce

The happy couple plan to get married in June and hopefully move to a bungalow. I am sure you will all join me in wishing them a long and happy future together.

As is the tradition Brian went down on one knee and formally asked for her hand in marriage. Brave, I thought, as it took a moment or two for him to get up again, but a faint heart never won a fair maiden! Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 3


Changes Ahead...

As agreed at the Tenants’ ‘Your Homes Workgroup’ from 4th October 2010 MHA will grant all new tenants Starter Tenancies so please read your new Starter Tenancy Agreement carefully if you are a new tenant. MHA can now also use demoted tenancies for existing tenants if necessary and this is explained in more detail below. Monmouthshire Housing Association have acted on your responses to the tenants’ survey and introduced Starter and Demoted tenancies to tackle any breaches of tenancy, especially anti-social behaviour. Some of you might have suffered distress, fear and nuisance caused by neighbours and their visitors. We aim to increase your quality of life by taking balanced steps to address this if it’s happening to you.

What are starter tenancies? Starter tenancies last for twelve months from the date of signing. They enable MHA to assess how new tenants comply with the Conditions of Tenancy. If a tenancy is conducted satisfactorily, it will revert to an assured tenancy at the end of the twelve month period. Should new tenants choose to disregard and break these conditions by causing anti-social behaviour, not paying

their rent or damaging their home, MHA can take action in the County Court to recover possession of the home. The Court will have to give us possession in these cases. How do they differ from existing tenancies? Starter tenants do not have the same rights as tenants who signed for their homes before 4 October 2010. You would not be able to undertake the following until you become an assured tenancy:• • • •

A mutual exchange The right to acquire The right to sub-let your home The right to take in lodgers

Demoted Tenancies Monmouthshire Housing Association can seek an Order for Demotion at the County Court. These last for twelve months from the date of the Order. This means that you can stay at your home but your tenancy will be downgraded to an assured shorthold tenancy. If you persist with certain types of behaviour such as anti-social behaviour or use the premises for unlawful purposes, Monmouthshire Housing Association will ask the court to award an Order for Possession. If you have any questions please contact Andrew Nash on 01495 761000. Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 4

Your Homes

That’s the way to do it!... Under the conditions of their tenancy agreement, certain Monmouthshire Housing tenants have the right to apply for a so-called ‘mutual exchange’. A mutual exchange allows a Monmouthshire Housing household to exchange properties with any other other social housing household in the UK, providing both households and landlords agree to this. Tenants can register on the national ‘Homeswapper’ website ( to look for available properties to exchange with.

Tenants should be aware that registering on the Homeswapper website alone does not give them the permission they need to exchange properties with another household. There are a number of steps that tenants need to follow and checks that need to be completed before an exchange can legally take place. Failure to follow the proper procedures will mean that tenants have to return to their home, and could lead to legal action. written by Scott Bryant

Who’s for a game of Ping Pong?...

I attended a coffee morning at Cae Pen Y Dre Close, Abergaveny in June this year. During my chat with the residents, they expressed an interest in having some sort of activity in the communal room. Several residents requested the provision of a Table Tennis Table. I thought this was an excellent idea, being not only fun but a way of promoting health and well being whilst meeting friends.

I helped the residents apply for a grant via the Tenants Initiative Fund, which was approved after consultation with the Steering Committee and Tenants’ Forum. Finally, in September the table arrived and is now in the communal room at Cae Pen Y Dre Close. The tenants are thrilled with it and I’m now hoping to organise a tournament! written by Tina James

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 5


Spotlight on Neil Binnell...

With major changes happening in the accommodation and support of our older population “Tenant Matters” spotlights Neil Binnell who joined Monmouthshire Housing Association in July this year. Having worked for Seren Housing Group for 20 years, Neil joined MHA in July this year as the new Housing Support Manager. Neil was born in the East End of London but his parents were originally from Garndiffiath and Varteg near Pontypool. He has worked in a variety of support roles including supporting the gypsy and travelling community, family care for people moving into the community from institutions and with older people providing 24 hour support. Having joined MHA, Neil feels that it’s an organisation that listens to its tenants and responds to their needs. He is very aware that people living in the more remote areas of the County can feel isolated and therefore can sometimes need more support. At the same time he recognises the need to make services more personal and tailored to the individual. Neil understands the importance of building closer relationships with

external as well as internal partners and his aspiration is to “provide good quality services and to get all the help and support people need in a way that’s right for them.” Neil is a big fan of “Plain English” and believes that information should be clear and understandable. Neil also has a very adventurous side to him. He is off to Nepal’s Everest Base Camp in November, where he will be hill climbing and mountain walking. He’s a keen golfer and enjoys cycling. Neil is now a keen Newport County fan having previously been a Leyton Orient supporter, never missing a home game as a child. Neil lives in Newport where he enjoys cooking and entertaining. He has a son who lives in France and a daughter who is a teacher in Bethnal Green, London.

So welcome aboard Neil!!! written by Pip Williams Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 6

Better Living

Your Neighbourhood, Your Home... Let’s make our neighbourhoods the best places to live.

0845 6772277 or 01495 761100 if your ringing from a mobile.

Together we can all play our part by taking our litter home, assisting in organised litter picks and urging friends and family to share the pride we have living where we do.

Remember, littering is a crime!

If you identify a need for recycling facilities on your estate please tell us and we will liaise with the County Council to assist with the provision of such facilities.

Should you have any further ideas to improve cleanliness where you live we would love to hear from you please call North or South Area teams on

written by Andrew Nash

Colouring Competition Winners... Over 5yrs Winner

*Winner* Ffion Jenkins - Ffion is 8yrs old from Abergavenny. She loves drawing and has recently learnt how to play the cornet. All the best with your new hobby Ffion!!!

Under 5yrs Winner

*Winner* Bethany Thomas - Bethany is from Govilon. After buying herself a new colouring set with her winnings, she also bought her brother the present of a new football!!! Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 7


A NEW way to find a home...

You may be aware that MHA has been undertaking a review of the allocations policy and looking at the way empty homes are re-let. At the moment when people register onto the waiting list for accommodation with us, their application is assessed and they are awarded points dependant on their level of housing need. Under the new allocations policy, people will be placed into one of five housing need bands and then prioritised in date order within that band. The review has been carried out in partnership with the County Council, Melin Homes and Charter Housing and we have agreed a Common Allocations Policy for the whole of Monmouthshire. Now the three main housing providers in the County will be allocating their homes using the same policy and assessment criteria. This will make it much easier for prospective tenants to make informed and realistic choices about where they want to live. At the same time as implementing the housing need bands, we are also going to be introducing a choice based lettings service. The new service will be called

“Monmouthshire Homesearch” and anyone wishing to be considered for one of the properties will have to apply (known as ‘bidding’). Vacant properties will be advertised fortnightly using a variety of methods such as the internet, local newspapers and widely available free sheets. Properties will be listed with a photograph, the location, a brief description and the size of the household that the home is suitable for. The above changes will apply to both new applicants and existing MHA tenants who would like to apply for a transfer. However, if you are already registered on the Common Housing Register for a transfer you will be written to in November and invited to reapply under the new policy.

If you have any questions about the new allocations policy or the choice based lettings service, please contact Michele Morgan, Area Housing Manager on 01495 767180. written by Michele Morgan

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 8


MHA’s 3rd Annual General Meeting...

MHA’s 3rd Annual General Meeting was held at the New Headquarters in Mamhilad Technology Park on the 29th of September and we were delighted to see a good turn-out of shareholders and partnering organisations from around the county. Before the meeting started visitors were given a tour of the new Headquarters which seemed to impress as our staff were overwhelmed with positive feedback!

Important things that happened in the meeting: 1. John Keegan (Chief Executive) opened the afternoon by welcoming everyone to the meeting. 2. All of our ‘corporate bits’ such as the annual accounts were then discussed, agreed and accepted by the share members. 3. Following a vote Haines Watts Wales LLP was re-elected by the members as the Auditor for the association. 4. The afternoon ended with a summary from John Keegan of the year’s activities and objectives for the next five years.

Exciting News: We would like to welcome three new members to the board following the retirement of Julian Fonseca, Helen Edwards and John Rowland-Jones. The new board members bring with them a wealth of experience so will be valuable members of the team! Ian Pearce - Following the recent ballot conducted by the electorial reform society, Ian has been elected as your new Tenant Board Member (for more info on Ian see page1). Tim Hughes - Tim is the Customer Services Manager for Welsh Water and has also been employed as Head of External Affairs, Head of Group Customer Experience and Head of Intermediary Markets at Nationwide Building Society. Alan Davies - Alan is an Associate Director of Capita Symonds. His background is engineering and also comes with a varied and impressive experience.

Board Member Election Results: Ian Pearce - 353 votes (Winner)

Janie McCarthy - 333 votes (Runner-up) written by Ceri Morgan

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 9


Congratulations Pip on Passing... Congratulations must go to Pip Williams Chair of the Tenants Forum who has successfully completed the Chartered Institute of Housing Level 3 Certificate in Housing. I asked Pip about his experience on the course. He said, “on a personal front I found it very enjoyable and useful but very hard work. I must say special thanks to MHA for agreeing to fund this training for me, Kath Deakin and Rob Carey for all the help and support they gave and Pete Sutton who helped me with one assignment that, frankly, I would never have completed without his help! So BIG thanks Pete. I’ve certainly learned a lot and I feel that other tenants can really benefit from these sorts of courses. It has given me so much more confidence when working with the Tenant Advisory

Panel or attending CIH conferences or my normal work dealing with the Forum and other Tenant Groups”

If you are interested in developing your skills through training courses like Pip, contact Jenny McCarty, Community Investment Officer of 01495 761120.

written by Andrew Nash

Longfellow Road Window Box Comp... After a successful flower box competition at Masefield Road in July 2009, it was decided that another area of Caldicot , should be showcased for having green fingers. Longfellow Road Flats (2 – 24 inclusive) have an open space in front with a communal grassed area to the rear. On 29th July, a shot of colour was the order of the day when we invited Mrs Jillian Ray, keen gardener and a tenant from, Abergavenny, to help tenants plant their very own window boxes. With the help of Nicole Porter, Community Project Assistant and Jane Philpott from the Area Housing Team they set off to Chepstow Garden Centre to get all of the goodies to help with the day of digging. Tenants soon let us know that they thought making

a window box was great fun. Special thanks goes to Jill who, for the second year, very kindly helped in the search for a new Alan Titchmarsh. The judging of the competition has been delayed since the move to the new MHA headquarters. Happy Growing!

written by Jane Philpott Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 10


MHA held their 1st County Wide fun day event on August 14th in Caldicot. The weather appeared to be against us during the morning, with many of us trying to set the fun day up in the pouring rain, certainly not the weather

we had hope for! However luck was on our side, the fun day started at 12 noon and right on cue the sun came out and the weather held off right until the end of the day! Phew!!

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 11


There was so much going on at the fun day, police, fire engines, dance academy, bouncy castles, face painting, kick boxing , giant snakes( if you want to know more about the snake check out Pip’s article on P14) and so much more!

Feedback from tenants was very positive and free buses enabled tenants from Abergavenny, Monmouth and Usk to attend the event. We hope next year’s fun day will even bigger and better!

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 12


What do you like to do?...

Thank you to everyone who completed the survey, and big congratulations to Laura who is the proud owner of a new laptop from the prize draw. On winning the laptop, Laura said “I’m always wary of competitions but really didn’t realise I would be so lucky, I’ve never won anything before”. Laura encourages everyone to enter survey competitions to try and win.

Fitness Classes How to use a computer Coffee Mornings Gardening Tips Art Classes Nature Walks Cooking Shopping Trips Tai Chi and Pilates Historic Walks

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Football Horse Riding Nature Walks Dance – Street / Modern Cooking Trampoline Acrobatics / gym Athletics Play Sessions Cycling

Children’s Top 10 Activities...

We are now going to be looking at all the top suggestions and will work towards offering these activities in your communities. Most people said they would be happy to pay a small fee for attending activities that is under £5 or £2 depending on what the activity is so where appropriate we will make a small charge for these activities.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Adults Top 10 Activities...

At the start of the summer we sent you a survey to find out what activities you would like us to organise in your areas. You are a very active bunch with fitness classes coming out top for adults, and children most interested in football (great news for the annual footie fever event). Below you can find the list of the top 10 activities that you have chosen.

Our first dance project will shortly be starting up for the young people of Caldicot working in partnership with Monmouthshire Youth Service and Muir Housing Association. If you’re a young person who would like to join in please phone the Zone Youth Centre on 01291 425427 to find out more! Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 13


Tenant Spotlight on Udus ‘The Python’...

It’s not everyday that you get to meet a twelve foot long python, but in October I did! Not in the jungles of Burma, not in an animal park or zoo but in a tenant’s home in Monmouth! Udus is an 18 year old male Burmese python who lives with Maria Kaminska in her home in Monmouth. He has lived with Maria for most of his eighteen years. Maria came to Britain from Poland, in 2004. She originally lived in Slough, Berkshire, then moved to Wales and has been living in Monmouth for just over two years. Udus travelled all the way from Poland in Maria’s car, where the only documentation needed to bring him into this country was a registration certificate and a vet’s health check. So I asked Maria what’s it like living with a 3.8 metre, 18 kilo snake? Maria then told me that she was a little apprehensive when he first came into her life but now she thinks that Udus perceives the human world as his world. She said in the wild, pythons are solitary animals, so he doesn’t miss the company of other snakes, indeed, Maria

pointed out that he often seeks her company and clearly recognises her. Asking what does he eat? Maria told me that Udus, lives on a diet of two rabbits every six to eight weeks, he also enjoys rats and chicks. She said that he was about to shed his skin, which he does around four times a year and therefore he will need a bit of quiet time whilst the shedding takes place. Having been born in a zoo in Poland, Udus has now become quite a celebrity here in Monmouthshire turning up at fun day events in Monmouth and Caldicot and with a life expectency of 30 to 35 years, it is hoped that he will continue to do so for many years to come.

written by Pip Williams

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 14

Tenants’ Forum

You Pay...So Have Your Say!....

Do you want to be involved in making decisions about your home? If yes, why not join Monmouthshire Housing’s Tenants’ Forum. The Forum gives you the opportunity to raise issues about your home or the housing services you receive.

What is a Tenants’ Forum? We are a group of people who are currently tenants of Monmouthshire Housing and we work together with staff from the housing service to make decisions, review policies and improve services for all Monmouthshire Housing tenants. We decide what is to be discussed at our meetings. We agree as a group an action plan for the year ahead, based on the issues that we feel are important to us. This allows us (the tenants) to set agendas for forthcoming meetings.

When do we meet? We decide where to meet and how often. We normally meet approximately six times per year depending on the amount of business generated from our annual action plan. We usually meet in the mornings but this is constantly reviewed to suit the needs of the group and perspective new members. We meet in different parts of the County and

therefore try to alternate the venue so that tenants from all of Monmouthshire have the opportunity to attend.

Can I get help to go to meetings? Yes. MHA will pay your travelling costs to and from the meetings or provide transport to get you there. We will also pay for any child care or respite care if you are a carer. We will give you a form to complete at the meeting which you send to us in a pre-paid envelope with any receipts. You will receive a cheque in the post reimbursing your costs. We also provide refreshments at meetings.

Want to know more? If you are interested in finding out more about the Tenants’ Forum just phone Rob Carey or Kayleigh Down 01495 761093 01495 761115. Once your details have been forwarded to us we will ensure that you are added to the Forum mailing list and you will then be informed when and where the next meeting is being held. You can also contact us by email: written by Pip Williams & Rob Carey

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 15


Keeping in Touch with MHA...

Monmouthshire Housing’s recent move to our new headquarters is giving us the opportunity to pool our resources better. But it is important for us to make sure you know how to reach us when you need to. For the past 2 years, you have been telling us in our tenants’ survey that your preferred method of contacting us is by telephone or letter, but we are also aware that you appreciate a personal visit when the need arises. We have been organising our teams to enable us to respond to these preferences better. We have introduced the Repairs Hotline and a single local rate number to enable you to contact our Headquarters and as a result we have seen your satisfaction with the way we respond increase.

instead of just in the nearest town; hold more neighbourhood walkabouts to talk to you about your environment, and have more time to spend responding to your queries on your doorstep. As always, we would be interested in your views on how to manage this successfully and feel free to raise this with any member of staff you speak to or contact me, Kath Deakin, your Community Services Manager on 01495 761128. Just to make absolutely sure you know how to reach us, listed below are the important telephone numbers you need to remember: General Enquiries: Local rate from a landline: 0845 677 2277 From a mobile: 01495 761100 Repairs Hotline: FREE from a landline: 0800 980 7751 From a mobile: 01495 761143

Now that we have all moved under one roof you are now able to use these numbers to reach all our teams of staff, and moving together has given our teams more opportunity to get out and about our communities without having to worry about who’s looking after the office!

Rent Payment Line: 01495 761107 (available from 9.00am to 4.30pm Monday to Thursday and 9.00am to 4.00pm on Fridays)

In the future, as we identify appropriate venues and locations, we would like to hold more surgeries in your communities

Note: MHA’s Office Hours are from 8.30am to 5.00pm Monday to Thursday and 8.30am to 4.30pm on Fridays. Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 16

Your Homes

Helping us, Helping you!... 85%

82% 79%

80% 75%

75% 70%

The overall satisfaction of MHA services is continually increasing each year. We are also performing on target with other Housing Associations. As you know MHA carry out an annual tenant’s survey to find out what YOU think of the services YOU are receiving. What do we do with these results? I hear you ask. The Continuous Improvement Team looks at all your responses and uses the results to continually improve the service for YOU. At the tenants forum steering committee we asked tenants to set our targets against key

90% 88% 86% 84%




There has also been an increase in the over quality of your homes, we are currently performing well above the agreed target of 80% in this area and are also performing better than other Housing Associations.

measures within the organisation. Board members agreed to these targets and set a 1% increase each year. This is what we now compare our performance too.

If you wish to get the full results of the tenants survey please contact the Continuous Improvement Team on 01495 761142 written by Naomi Mitcheson

There hasn’t been much change with your overall satisfaction of your neighbourhood. MHA is also performing below target in this area as tenants would like us to have 90% satisfaction rate in this area.


90% 80%

82% 77%


80% 70%




MHA’s repairs service is doing very well; in 2010 we performed above the agreed target of 73% and are on track with other Housing Associations.

60% Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 17


Beware of the Electric Meter Top Up SCAM!... Tenants and Residents are being warned by South Wales Police and Energy Companies not to buy electricity top-ups on the doorstep. Organised criminals have been found to be selling illegal meter credit in the South Wales area as well as other parts of the United Kingdom.

In a recent press release, Christine McGourty, director of energy UK, which represents all the leading energy companies said, “this is a serious and widespread scam, just like when you buy something fake online – like concert or sports ticket – you are the one who will end up losing out in the end.”

Many Housing Association tenants are likely to have prepayment meters and it is believed that they are being specifically targeted by doorstep sellers offering £50 of credit for just £20 or £25 for example. The problem for the customer is that the purchased key might advance the meter by £50 but when the meter is read by the energy company usually every 6 months, it will show that the pre-paid credit was not legal and the customer will be liable for the payment.

So the message is clear do not buy electricity top-ups on the doorstep as energy companies never, sell credit to their meters in this way and those saying they can are thieves taking your cash in exchange for NOTHING. Anyone offered electricity top ups on their doorstep can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111. written by Rob Carey

New Support Service Update... The new Tenant Support Service started at the beginning of August 2010 and the new team has not looked back since, it’s been a pretty hectic time for the team especially the new members who are trying to get round to meet you all. Obviously with many of the old scheme coordinators leaving or retiring it’s been quite hard for some tenants getting to know new people and establish new relationships and the team is working hard to enable this to happen. Myself and Justine Drew the new, part-time, activities coordinator have been meeting many tenants by attending your coffee mornings to find out what currently goes on at your scheme and what you might like to see happening in future. Justine will be writing to you all in the next few weeks with

a questionnaire about community activities. It would really help us if you could return this to us so we can start to plan how we provide what it is you need and want. It’s been terrific meeting you all and I have committed to attending your coffee mornings as often as I can. You all have so many great ideas!

written by Neil Binnell

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 18


Performance Indicators - Quarter 2...

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). 1.6% of lost rent due to empty properties - This in part is due to 38 Bedsits in 3 MHA Sheltered Housing Schemes being difficult to let.

93.83% of the repair calls were answered by a Community Services Advisortandard. This is above MHAs target of 38.50%

35.25 days average to let empty properties - This was due to 11 properties being hard to let and 9 properties requiring work done.

1.44% of working hours have been lost within MHA due to staff being on long term sick.

44.36 of Anti-Social Behaviour cases resolved - This area has shown a steady performance increase ever since the ASB review was started.

94.39% of rent that is owed to MHA is being collected. steady performance increase ever since the ASB review was started.

1.95% of rent is owed by current tenants to being hard to let and 9 properties

95% of tenants were satisfied with the standard of their last repair. perties being hard to let and 9 properties

0.09% of MHA tenants were evicted due to rent arrears. Evictions are always used as a last resort after all other avenues have been explored.

46.22% of MHA properties now meet the Welsh Housing Quality Standard.

(a) Rent Loss - Target: 1.4% (b) Voids & Lets - Target: 26 days (c) Anti-Social Behaviour - Target: 15% (d) Rent Owed - Target: 1.95% (e) Evictions - Target: 4%

(f) Repair Hotline - Target: 80% (g) Sick Leave - Target 2% (h) Collected Rent - Target 98% (i) Repairs Satisfaction - Target 92% (j) Welsh Housing Quality Standard - Target 47% Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 19

Bits & Bobs

Father Christmas Biscuit Recipe...

Ingredients to make eighteen biscuits: • • • • • • • • •

115 g (4 oz) butter, softened 50 g (2 oz) caster sugar 170 g (6 1/2 oz) plain flour Yellow glace icing Silver balls and ribbons to decorate stars Red glace icing White glace icing Marzipan Currants and ribbon to decorate the Father Christmas faces

Method: 1. Whisk the butter thoroughly in a bowl until really soft, then beat in the sugar a little at a time and finally fold in the flour. Knead lightly until smooth. 2. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to the thickness of a 10p piece.

3. For the star: using star cutters, cut eight 6.5 cm (2 1/2 inch) stars and eight 2.5 cm (1 inch) stars. Place a small star on top of a large one and, using a skewer, make a hole in the centre of one of the outer points of each biscuit. Bake in the oven at 1 50°C (300f) mark 2 for about 25 minutes; cool. Coat the small stars with yellow glace icing and place silver balls at smaller star points. Leave to dry before threading ribbon through the holes. 4. For Santa faces: knead and re-roll the dough and stamp out ten 5.5 cm (2 1/4 inch) rounds. Make a hole with a skewer about 0.5 cm (1/4 inch) from the edge; bake and cool. Use thick red glace icing to make the hat and white to make the beard. Use marzipan for the nose and mouth and currants for the eyes. Attach these with a blob of white icing. When dry, hang up with ribbon.

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 20

Bits & Bobs

New Staffing Update...

MHA would like to welcome a few new starters to the organisation:

• Ceri Morgan started with us at the beginning of October as a Corporate Services Assistant.

• Darren Alm started with the Direct Labour Organisation as a multi skilled operative in August to assist with the planned maintenance work.

• Linda Daly has started with us this week as a Temporary Payroll Assistant to cover Barbara Morris-Brown who will soon be leaving us to go on maternity leave.

• Eva Attfield started with us this week as a cleaner in our new Head Office to help keep it looking new. • Cheryl Heslop has started in the Human Resources team as the training administrator; however she will be working with all aspects of HR. • Owain Israel started with us in August as an Assistant Surveyor within property services. • Hayni John started with us in September as a modern apprentice who will be working for MHA alongside studying for her National Vocational Qualification level 2. • Greg Jones started with us in August as the Development Manager within the property services team.

MHA would like to say goodbye and thank the following people for their contribution to the organisation during their time at MHA: • All the playleaders who assisted the very successful Play in the Park project over the summer. • Gareth Elliott who retired from his post of Housing Officer North in August this year. • Chloe Fairchild who left her post of Corporate Services Assistant at the beginning of August to return to University. • Francesco Marino who left his post of Facilities Manager in September.

Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 21

Bits & Bobs

Your Feedback: Letters & Emails... A Circus! - But in a GOOD WAY! Dear Tenant Matters, On a Monday in September I thought the circus had arrived in town, but it was MHA’s contractors in their smart white vans. The area was soon buzzing with activity as they rid the flats of the old kitchens and bathrooms. Over the next few weeks the cheerful and friendly staff from AP Waters fitted our new fixtures and fittings. MHA Surveyors also called to sort any problems out that may have arisen - with work of this scale there will always be some problems. As you can’t fry an egg without breaking the shell, it is true that a degree of mess and disruption is inevitable, but the workmen went to great pains to minimise this and cheerfully cleaned up after each day’s work refusing any offers of help. At one point if you threw a grenade it couldn’t be much worse, but it was worth the mess and my kitchen is fabulous now. Fellow residents have made comments such as: ‘I am very happy’, and they seem very proud of their new facilities. My own kitchen and bathroom are completed now and very good they look too. Life will seem very quiet when the workmen and work-woman, finally move to pastures new. They have been courteous and helpful, Thank you to AP Waters and MHA for making this happen. Ken Bucknall (Caldicot)

Feeling Ignored! :( Dear Tenant Matters, I’m fed up of chasing staff I need to speak to. I’ve left messages with the people who answer the phones who promise me they are passing it on, but still I haven’t been able to speak to the person I need to. In the meantime the problem I was calling about has got much worse. Can you please ask all your staff to remember that if someone is ringing it’s because they need something? Feeling Ignored (Abergavenny)

MHA has received a few comments similar to Feeling Ignored’s above and is concerned about the frustration this causes. We want our staff to be able to be out and about in your areas as much as possible but you also need to be confident that you can get hold of the right person when you need to. We are going to work very hard at getting better at this. One of the things we are doing is monitoring all phone calls into the organisation and identifying when, calls aren’t being returned. Autumn 2010 Tenant Matters | 22

Name:........................................Age:......................... Address:..................................................................... ..................................................................................... Closing Date: 21/01/11 (Prize: ÂŁ15 Gift Voucher)

Return Address: Editorial Team, MHA, Nant Y Pia House, Mamhilad Technology Park, Monmouthshire, NP4 0JJ

Tenant Matters <Issue8> Winter 2010  

Tenant Matters <Issue8> Winter 2010

Tenant Matters <Issue8> Winter 2010  

Tenant Matters <Issue8> Winter 2010