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NEWS

REPAIRS

get involved

money matters

community spirit

get online

garden time

competitions


welcome

Welcome to 24/Severn Can you believe it’s the New Year again? Maybe the new start has inspired you to take control of your money? Turn to page 21 to learn more about money comparison websites and how they can help you get the best deals. Or, if you feel you are spending too much on your energy bills there’s some advice on page 7 on how to switch providers and possibly save up to £72 a year. Our financial year starts in April, so I still have time until I need to start forecasting. This is when I look back Turn to the back cover over the year and make and check out our sure our accounts add competitions to win up. Did we spend what some fantastic prizes, we planned to? Where including a £20 High have we made savings? Street voucher. How can we improve efficiencies next year?

Win £20 shopping voucher

Did you know the British Pound is the world’s oldest currency still in use? It originated in the Kingdom of Mercia in the 8th century. The biggest change to the English currency was in 1971 when it became decimal. Instead of 240 pennies to a pound, 12 pennies to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound, it simply became 100 even pennies. Maybe you remember this change and have some old shillings or pennies lying around or remember a time when rent was £1 8s 6d a week? (This was 1958). Change continues. Out with the old cheque books and rent paying cards, and in with contactless debit cards and Direct

Get in touch

Opening times

Tel: 01684 272727 Email: info@svhs.org.uk Web: www.svhs.org.uk Shannon Way, Ashchurch, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, GL20 8ND

8.30am – 5.00pm Monday to Thursday 8.30am – 4.30pm Friday

Follow us:

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www.facebook.com/severnvalehousing

@SVHousing PAY YOUR RENT ONline www.svhs.org.uk

Out of hours Report an emergency repair on 0800 783 4348. Pay your rent on the AllPay automated payment line on 0844 557 8321.

Debits. The way you can pay for goods is so easy and convenient it leaves time for you to enjoy other things in life. If you haven’t yet set-up your rent payments by Direct Debit flick to page 7 and learn all about the benefits and how you could win £12,000. Direct Debit also makes things easier for us here behind the scenes, especially for Helen, our Senior Finance Assistant. Meet Helen on page 15, read how she loves to go to the races and how she recently donated bone marrow. Recently we secured a refinancing deal with Lloyds Bank and BAE Pension Fund. This money will be used to build 200 new homes in Gloucestershire over the next four years, ensuring more people on the housing waiting list find new homes. They say the best things in life are free! Throughout the year we host a number of free events from free Internet cafes, free advice workshops, to free community allotments, so come and get involved. We’ll be back in the bloom of spring, keep warm and enjoy your winter.

Tim Knight Finance Director/Acting Chief Executive Tel: 01684 272727 Email: editorial.panel@svhs.org.uk

Large print or audio version If you or anyone you know would like this publication translated into another language, in large type or audio format please contact us on 01684 272727.


news roundup

Home swap...not wife swap! Like the reality TV programme, Wife Swap, but instead of swapping your wife you swap your home, permanently! The partnership event was held in Gloucester, following feedback from residents living in Kingsway who wanted to know more about mutual exchange. Home swapping allows social housing residents to move to another property that matches their needs. Who came? Over 51 households attended, 37 from Gloucester, 3 Cheltenham, 2 Tewkesbury, 1 Cotswold and 1 Norwich. 9 of the attendees were looking for 1 Bed accommodation, 15 were looking for 2 Bed accommodation, 8 were looking for 3 Bed accommodation and 4 were looking for 4 Bed accommodation. Some people needed to move due to financial reasons, others have outgrown their current home and some older people said they’re starting to struggle to manage their larger properties. Events like these help to pair people who could be a perfect match. Interested in swapping your home? Contact us to find out more or visit www.homeswapper.co.uk

Appointment by txt We’re currently developing a service to confirm your repairs appointment by text message. A reminder text will also be sent the day before your appointment to ensure someone is home. “The text message service will be a great way of reminding customers that we’re on

our way to fix their repairs. It’s hoped the new service will also reduce the number of missed appointments,” said Natalie Baxter, Responsive Repairs Manager. We’re still working on this behind the scenes, but hope to trial the new system at the start of 2014. Watch this space! BUSINESS REPLY SERVIC Licence No. E SWC 2056

Win £25 shopping voucherS!

Severn Vale Housing Shannon Way Tewkesbury Gloucesters hire GL20 8ND

Clean, clean, clean

Thanks for your feedback regarding our new cleaning mHoeawsudo we re up? contractors for communal areas. Your views, good, bad or indifferent are important, as they lets us know how we’re doing. Knowing what you are not happy about helps us improve. Communal

Estate walkabout brings positive change to Kingsway

Cleaning feed

back

www.svhs.o

rg.uk

Satisfaction with the frequency of the communal cleaning has improved by 6% from the 2011 survey, with 95% of you saying you were either very satisfied or satisfied with how often the cleaning service is carried out.

Due to problems reported with parking in Kingsway, Gloucester we have allocated a number of bays for residents living in Valley Gardens. The bays have been numbered according to the flats to help prevent other residents and neighbours blocking the spaces. This was done following feedback from the last Estate Walkabout in Kingsway.

99% of those that see the cleaners (165 respondents) reported that they are polite and courteous. Just one respondent reported that this was not the case.

If you are interested in attending an Estate Walkabout in your area, visit our website for the Estate Walkabout timetable.

Congratulations to Lauren Fletcher who won £25 High Street vouchers for completing the survey. Next time it could be you.

Since the 2011 survey, satisfaction with the standard of communal cleaning has increased by 3% to 92%.

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news roundup

“Communicating confidently in English really helps you get along, without being reliant on a translator.” Polish master classes - improving English language skills SVHS leaseholder, Anna, from Northway, came to the UK to become more independent, moving away from her family in Poland for the first time. Six years on she has now set-up an English class for fellow Polish residents who would like to improve their language skills. “Working with Kate from the Community Involvement Team I’ve managed to set-up two classes for Polish residents – Monday for beginners and Wednesday for improvers. We work through exercises and also practice talking, listening and reading the language together,” explains Anna.

Anna started learning English 19 years ago, and even taught the language part-time at a private school whilst at university in Poland. “I used to write to a pen friend from America for a number of years and used to practice my language skills on various Internet chat rooms. When I came to the UK I wanted to blend into the community as much as possible and try to help change the perception that some people have of international visitors. I think it’s important to be independent, and communicating confidently in English really helps you get along, without being reliant on a translator.”

We are always keen to support new community ideas, especially when they come from customers. Not only will Anna’s classes help to integrate communities but will also improve communication between us and our Polish speaking customers and reduce the use of translation services. Interested? Contact the Community Involvement Team on 01684 272726 or email community.involvement@svhs.org.uk The article is in Polish below…

Angielski dla Polakow Przyjechala do Anglii szesc lat temu po raz pierwszy opuszczajac swoja rodzine po to by moc stac sie samodzielna i niezalezna. Stajac sie nasza lokatorka, Anna postanowila pomoc swoim rodakom w nauce jezyka angielskiego gdyz wraz z mezem wykupili mieszkanie w bloku nalezacym do Severn Vale w Northway, Tewkesbury. “Wspolpracujac z Kate Calladene, ktora kieruje dzialem spoleczno-kulturalnym w SVHS, stworzylysmy dwie grupy, poniedzialkowa dla poczatkujacych i w srody dla zaawansowanych. Podczas zajec skupiamy sie przede wszystkim na mowieniu i rozumieniu ze sluchu.” wyjasnia Anna. 4

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Anna zaczela uczyc sie jezyka angielskiego 19 lat temu i bedac na studiach podjela prace wieczorowa jako nauczyciel jezyka angielskiego w jednej z Krakowskich prywatnych szkol jezykowych. “Byly to czasy kiedy duzo korespondowalam po angielsku z kolezanka z Ameryki oraz czesto rozmawialam z ludzmi z calego swiata przez internet” mowi Anna. “Kiedy przyjechalam do Anglii chcialam jak najbardziej zasymilowac sie z angielskim spoleczenstwm by w ten sposob zmienic podjescie niektorych Anglikow do imigrantow z Europy. Uwazam, ze jest to bardzo wazne by moc porozumiewac sie plynnie po angielsku i byc niezaleznym zamiast polegac na pomocy tlumaczy.”

Jeslesmy zawsze chetni wspierac nowe pomysly i inicjatywy, szczegolnie jesli pochodza one od naszych mieszkancow. Zajecia Anny zarowno pomoga w intergacji Polonii z lokalna spolecznoscia jak i poprwaia nasza zdolnosc komunikacji z Polakami oraz zmniejsza potrzebe kozystania z pomocy tlumaczy. Wszystkich zainteresowanych nauka lub doskonaleniem jezyka angielskiego prosimy o kontakt z Community Involvement Team (Dzial Spoleczno-Kulturalny) pod numer 01684 272726 lub mailowo na community.involvement@svhs.org.uk


And we won! Wildlife Trust Nature Works Awards We were delighted to receive an award from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Inspiring and Educating about the Natural Environment’ category (bit of a mouthful!). We were awarded the category for our projects that have helped to improve the environment in and around our communities. “The award highlights our efforts to work with customers to improve the

environment” Kate, Community Manager. Projects included, our gardening mentor scheme, the Edible Garden at Priors Park, our annual gardening competition, the re-opening of Horsbere Brook; as well as the regular gardening features in 24/Severn which encourages customers to take pride in their gardens and attract local wildlife. Our Grounds Maintenance Team also allocated some grassed areas as ‘no cut’ to allow wildflowers and insects to flourish.

Residents improve complaints handling We’ve been working with the Customer Consultative Group (CCG) to look at ways to increase the satisfaction rate of our complaints handling. Members of CCG agreed to call 20% of complainants to discuss the process, finding out first-hand what worked well and where we can make improvements. A report with recommendations, such as, monitoring follow-up actions, improving understanding and listening to the situation has been presented. If you have any suggestions on how we could improve further, please get in touch with Darren Knight, Customer Services Manager on 01684 272727 or email darren.knight@svhs.org.uk We’d love to hear your ideas and comments.

PHOTO: BBC reporter, Steve Knibbs presents award to Claire Newman and Judith Tector from SVHS.

How are we doing? Repairs

1046 jobs

100% 84% 91%

98%

November 2013

of you were satisfied with us overall

Lettings were completed, 985 of these by the in-house repairs team and 61 by contractors.

of emergency jobs were completed on time (Target = 99%) of urgent jobs were completed on time (Target = 85%) of routine jobs were completed on time (Target = 90%)

* Small sample size - 1 respondent was fairly dissatisified out of 15 completed surveys. ** 4 respondents were dissatisified out of 15 completed surveys.

15 days

to re-let a home (Target = 20 days)

Anti-social behaviour

73%

of you were satisfied with the way anti-social behaviour complaints were dealt with (Target = 80%)

67%

behaviour case (Target = 80%)

*

you were satisfied with the ** ofoutcome of the antisocial

report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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FEATURE

“I enjoy talking to the people here as much as the art.”

More than just mosaic “I soon realised there was life after a stroke. Before it happened to me, I thought that’s it. In the early days after my stroke I would try to read things but nothing was going in. I even noticed people close to me getting impatient, as I can be a little wobbly some days and it can take me some time to communicate,” explains Anne. “My doctor recommended art therapy and referred me to Artlift. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and I started to feel a bit more like me. However, after 8 or 10 weeks I had used all my sessions offered by the NHS and was left wanting more. I then heard of a mosaic art club held at the Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury, the rest is history.” Tewkesbury’s mosaic art club is run by people who have or are recovering from an illness or disability. The group decided to 6

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form the club to offer a place for likeminded people to go once they had used their Artlift sessions. They meet every Thursday at 10.30am and it’s free to those who actively fundraise otherwise it costs £2.50. “My first creation was of an orchard, then a narrow boat. Both are strong memories for me as I used to live on a narrow boat, it was fantastic. Now and again my right hand will play up so I use tweezers to steady myself whilst doing my tiling. I’m no Picasso. I use to paint the side of the boats, you know the roses and castle canal art that is very popular, but you don’t have to be an artist to do mosaic. I like to mix with people who are sympathetic to what has happened and can understand what a stroke is. Before my stroke I wasn’t aware what people went

through, I thought it was like the living dead. Now I know there are things on offer such as this art club. I enjoy talking to the people here, many of them are SVHS residents like me. Listening to their troubles, can centralise my own and puts it all into perspective. I’m 76! I still can’t accept my age; there is so much I want to do.” Many thanks to Anne, a customer from Spring Gardens, and the rest of mosaic club members for their time. Their art creations look fantastic and can been seen on our Facebook page. If you would like to join the art club, or would like more information contact Roses Theatre on 01684 295074 or get in touch with us.


money matters

Be direct, pay by Direct Debit Take the worry out of paying your rent and set-up a Direct Debit today. You choose which day your payments come out, making it even easier to manage your accounts. Head to our website to download a Direct Debit form www.svhs.org.uk/directdebit or call 01684 272727. If you sign up to Direct Debit before 30 June 2014 you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win £12,000. Like the lady in the photo below, the lucky Linda Howard, from Dereham Norfolk, who won £12,000 in last year’s national campaign, just by signing up to pay by Direct Debit. It could be you this year, good luck!

Get £30 fuel cash back by switching energy suppliers You could benefit from lower bills and save yourself, in some cases, up to £200* by switching your gas and electricity provider by joining the Cheap Energy Club. Plus if the Cheap Energy Club can switch you, you get £30 dual fuel cashback or £15 for a single fuel switch. Many people believe switching suppliers is difficult, but let us show you how easy it can be. Come along to one of our Energy Switching Sessions, with an energy bill that shows your yearly usage and switch that day. We can show you tools that do all the leg work, like the Cheap Energy Club who contact suppliers for you, scan the market for the best price and monitor the deal you choose, letting you know if a better deal comes along. Plus every person that switches will be entered into a draw to win a £50 Love

A warmer home this winter The UK has some of the worst levels of home energy efficiency in Europe. Heating our homes is expensive and many people, especially the older, fear the winter due to the costs. You may be able to get £135 towards your electricity bill through the Warm Home Discount. Visit www.gov.uk/the-warmhome-discount-scheme to see if you qualify. Or if you were born after 5 January 1952 you could get £100-£300 tax free help for heating costs, part of the Winter Fuel Payment. And, subject to eligibility, for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March you may qualify for a payment of £25. Enjoy a warmer home this winter. Contact us to learn more about these schemes. t: 01684 272726 e: communityinvolvement@svhs.org.uk

to shop voucher. Even, if you don’t come along to the sessions but switch, let us know and you too will be entered into the draw.** Get £30 fuel cash back and switch today. Call 01684 272726 to book your place at one of the Energy Switching sessions.

18th February Brockworth Community Library 20th February Priors Park Computer Café Can’t attend? No worries, the Cheap Energy Club is free to join, simply visit, www.moneysavingexpert.com/cheapenergyclub * based on figures from moneysavingexpert December 2013 ** prize draw closes 21 February 2014

My 49p lunch Let’s face it, we all love food! A group of customers have been working with Isobel, our Community Development Officer, to develop a food blog. The group will share their favourite low budget cooking recipes, filling their bellies for longer whilst hitting the bank balance less. To browse their recipes, or add your favourite dish visit www.thriftyfoodies.weebly.com Also, be sure to follow the inspiring story of Jack, a single mother whose weekly shopping budget is just £10. Jack lost her job after giving birth to her son and shares her low costs recipes and money saving ideas online. Jack’s popular dishes include sausage casserole, banana custard, barley risotto and creamy courgette pasta. Her website is worth a visit, where you can

see photos, read her story and get copies of her low cost recipes. www.agirlcalledjack.com In February her book, “A Girl Called Jack: 100 budgetbusting recipes”, will be published. You can pre-order the book from Amazon for under £10. A good investment if you’re stuck for cooking ideas. report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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older people’s day

Pr 1st

Full of life To celebrate Older People’s Day, a national campaign to celebrate the achievements and contributions that older people make to our society, we gave each of our 13 retirement schemes a disposable camera and asked them to capture life in and around their home and neighbourhood. The photos were too good to keep to ourselves so enjoy the winning snaps below. Many thanks to all those who took part in the competition.

the WINNERS 1st prize went to our celebrity residents at Crowfield

2nd prize

went to the giant mug at Tynings Court

ie The celebr it y residents of C rowf

3rd prize went to the musicians of Victoria Court

ix! Formula (Eight y) O ne - Gran Pr

Two heads (or ma ybe t hree) are better t han one! PAY YOUR RENT ONline www.svhs.org.uk

ld

2nd Pr ize

The char it y giant mu

g at Tynings!

P 3r d

8

ize

rize

The Vict oria C ourt band (for one night on ly!)


repairs

Report your repairs online As soon as you notice something is broken, or needs repairing, get in touch. If your repair is not an emergency you can report it yourself online, go to www.svhs.org.uk You don’t need to be a computer whiz – just follow the simple instructions on the screen.

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STEP 1: Go to www.svhs.org.uk and click report a repair on the left hand side of the screen.

STEP 2: Choose your area of repair, e.g. plumbing, doors and windows, damp, roofs and chimneys etc...

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3 STEP 3: Answer the questions on the screen to give more details of your repair. You can even add a photo to help our Repairs Team understand the problem.

STEP 4: Complete your contact details.

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STEP 5: Done! We will contact you within 48 hours to let you know when our Repairs Team will be out to fix it.

Don’t gamble with your life, make sure your gas is safe Every year 15 to 20 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning in the UK and 234 suffered major injuries last year. We have a duty to keep you safe in your homes and annually send Gas Safe Registered engineers to service your gas appliances and issue Gas Safety Certificates. Gas Safety Certificates expire and are only valid for a year. Missed appointments or owner’s negligence makes it very difficult for our Gas Engineers to renew all gas

certificates and failure to have an up-todate certificate is a breach of tenancy. Is your gas safe? When your property is due a statutory safety check we will contact you by letter asking you to make a convenient appointment. Our gas engineers will then visit your home and look at your central heating, boilers and gas fires to carry out the tests, it doesn’t take long. They will give you a copy of the gas safety certificate for your peace of mind.

Don’t gamble with your life, make sure your gas is safe and call today if you have received an appointment request. If you think there’s a gas leak in your home, shut off the gas supply immediately at the meter. Open all windows, extinguish all flames and do not use electrical switches or appliances. Call the emergency gas number on 0800 111 999 and then give us a call on 01684 272727 to report the problem.

report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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community spirit

Back 2 school Residents from our retirement scheme, Barton Court, got to hear the playground bells ring again as they took a trip down memory lane and went back to school. But this time there wasn’t a cane or free milk in sight! The residents enjoyed a tour of the facilities, witnessed the electricity of lemons, smelt the baking of cakes and received a tasty hamper of treats from the pupils of Tewkesbury School.

It’s an ART life If you’re over 60 and enjoy art, the EAC invite you to enter their Art Awards. All entries are welcome, from beginners to more experienced, in any medium. Enter online www.eacartawards.org.uk Or by post: EAC Art Awards, 3rd Floor, 89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TP Each entry is £5 and you can enter up to five pieces. If you need help with your submission or don’t have access to the Internet, give us a call 01684 272727. 10

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PHOTO: Freda Rhodes, left hand side of front row with check dress a resident from Lanescourt

Barton Court would like to thank Tewkesbury School for inviting them over for coffee, cake and an opportunity to see school life is like today. The pupils were friendly, confident and proud to be part of their school.

The hand sharers A volunteering scheme has been set up in Tewkesbury, called Time Banking. It’s designed for people who can offer some free time to help others in their community with a skill or job. Why not help someone with their homework or the elderly with their shopping? The hours you spend helping others will accumulate and be turned into credits. You can then use your credits for something you need help with, though be warned they can’t sit your exams! If like me, you are currently looking for work, volunteering will look fantastic on your CV. It will demonstrate your motivation to help others and manage your time.

To find out more contact SVHS’s Community Involvement on 01684 272726 or Tewkesbury Fair Shares Time Bank Team on 01684 850548.

This article was written by Brendon, an involved customer on our Editorial Panel. If you would like to write an article for the next issue of 24/Severn, or help put the magazine together, get in touch with us.


“opening a computer café in the hub of Priors Park will make it easier for local people to access the Internet.”

Central Park Computer Café Working with local residents we’ve recently transformed an old rent office into a community hub. The new Central Park Computer Café is on Queens Road in Priors Park, Tewkesbury (literally opposite the shops, you can’t miss it!) It provides a space for people to meet and surf the net for free. It is open to everyone to come and use, not just SVHS customers. “Opening a computer café in the hub of Priors Park will make it easier for local people to access the Internet. The Internet can bring lots of new opportunities from searching for work to shopping for deals, as well as increasing the feeling of connection within a community. We hope local groups will take over some of the ownership of the building and run regular sessions for the community,” explains Isobel, Community Development Officer.

Computer café dates for your diary: BROCKWORTH COMMUNITY LIBRARY Every other Tuesday 10am-1pm starting 7 January 2014 CENTRAL PARK COMPUTER CAFÉ, QUEENS ROAD, PRIORS PARK Every other Thursday 10am – 1pm starting 9 January 2014

Either drop in or call 01684 272726 for more information and opening times. You’ll find Central Park Computer Café at 11a Queens Road, Priors Park, Tewkesbury. Where did the name come from? The new computer café was named Central Park Internet Café by Bill Hughes, a SVHS customer, who entered our naming competition and won £50 shopping vouchers. Thank you to everyone who entered.

These boots are made for walking Some pensioners struggle to walk. Not Andy Peddle. The happy go lucky 71 year old trekked over 7,900 miles last year across Britain and Ireland for the Salvation Army to raise awareness of homelessness and human trafficking. He passed through Tewkesbury around mid-October last year, did you see him? You couldn’t have missed him and his beaming smile, he even donned a dinner jacket and top hat! His walked ended in London and he raised over £25,000. Even though he’s finished, it’s not too late to donate visit www.justgiving.com/andy-peddle

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community spirit

“The scheme is a very hands-on way of encouraging young people to get involved in caring for their local environment”

Young wardens keeping Priors Park streets in check Pupils are doing their bit for their community by putting on high visibility jackets and tackling crime. Nine pupils from Queen Margaret Primary School in Priors Park, Tewkesbury have become junior wardens.

Isobel Edwards, our Community Development Officer said: “The scheme is a very hands-on and interactive way of encouraging young people to get involved in caring for their local environment, and a great way to engage in the community.”

The scheme, run in partnership with Gloucestershire Police, has seen youngsters tackling graffiti, fly-tipping and reporting anti-social behaviour in their streets.

The junior wardens follow a schedule of planned activity which includes first aid training, estate walkabouts and a visit to

Get online week Last year we accepted UK Online’s challenge to get 100 different customers involved in Get Online Week. And...we did it! Get Online Week is UK Online Centres’ biggest campaign of the year. The campaign aims to help and educate people on how to make the most of getting online. As we are one of the 4,000 community based UK online centres across England, we thought we’d better celebrate, and big. We ran 14 different sessions. Popular sessions included ‘Let’s Get Digital’, run by customer and former IT Technician, David Fryer. ‘Discover Your Family Tree’ 12

which was run by involved customer Daphne Hiest, who volunteers as a Data Transcriber for a genealogy website. ‘Thrifty Food Fanatics’ took place with the help of local customer Julie who shared her own ‘cooking on a budget’ recipes. Other sessions included ‘One Stop Shop’ where customers could find out how to save money using a variety of websites and ‘You’re Hired’ run by a member of our HR team - giving tips and hints on how to improve your CV. “We have to tell you we have so much enjoyed this last week - it’s been really great and are looking forward to enjoying more such activities,” said Pippa, Involved Customer, from Winchcombe.

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the Gloucestershire Skills Zone - a safety education centre. Diane Kelly, Special Educational Needs Coordinator at the school said “The scheme is a great way to help children become more aware of their surroundings and develop a sense of pride for where they live. The school wants them to feel a responsibility for their neighbourhood and hopefully pass on the message to family and friends.”

102

customers took part, an increase of 52 than last year

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different customers led sessions

customers assisted with the organisation and content of the weeklong event

customers’ acted as photographers taking photos at events & sharing them on our Facebook page

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get involved

Get involved One of our most important assets is you, our customers. We rely on customer involvement to ensure we do things correctly, that we keep our promises and put things right when we go wrong. There are lots of ways you can get involved and make a difference to the service you receive. From being interviewed on Cotswold Radio, to inspecting empty properties, to writing articles for our website. You can even help from the comfort of your sofa at home!

YOUR Scrutiny panel needS you! The Scrutiny Panel are currently looking for new members. The group help to independently monitor our performance by reviewing service areas and putting forward recommendations.

Central Park Computer café Every other Thursday we open the Central Park Computer Café on Queens Road from 10-1pm. But you and SVHS want to open it more. We would love to open the doors to the café every day, all day and offer you more chances to search the Internet for free, but we need your help.

Recently they reviewed the Grounds Maintenance Team cleaning services. This involved shadowing staff, looking at documentation and researching other housing organisations. If this sounds like something you would be interested in doing, get in touch.

We’re looking for people, or groups, who would like to run their own computer sessions or activities from the building. Like Julie, a local customer, who ran a children’s Halloween mask making session (check out the snaps on our Facebook page). Or you may want to arrange your own mothers coffee morning from the café. Interested? Call 01684 272726 or email info@svhs.org.uk

The group meet once a month at SVHS offices from 6pm-8pm. There are lots of training opportunities and individual support is available too. If you are interested, call 01684 272747 or email info@svhs.org.uk

Calling keen gardeners

Congratulations – you passed! Congratulations to Michele and Pippa, involved customers, and Debs, our Governance Assistant (pictured right) for completing the TPAS Understanding Tenant Scrutiny course. Well done! “The training is valuable in helping participants understand what scrutiny is all about and how to undertake effective and impartial research on behalf of customers. We report our findings and recommendations to the board so it’s important our members are well trained.” Carol Parnell, Chair of Scrutiny Panel.

“By doing this course I have a bigger picture of what the Scrutiny Panel do and how important it is to the way the business is run.” Michele, Scrutiny Panel member.

average cost to repair empty properties for re-letting

Are you a keen gardener who would love to help others? We are looking to recruit new gardening mentors to help make gardening easier for those who are struggling. We’re looking for people who are available during the week, have an interest in gardening and can improve the gardens for those who can no longer maintain them. In return we offer, equipment, travel expenses and provide wildlife training from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Interested? Call 01684 272726 or email info@svhs.org.uk report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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HEALTH

Healthwatch

your voice counts In these days, when changes are taking place due to lack of funding, we have to wonder where we can turn to for help or advice on our health? Healthwatch Gloucestershire is the new consumer champion for health and social care in England. It gives children, young people, and adults a powerful voice, making sure the views of the public and patients are heard. If you want to improve or challenge how services are provided in your area, then why not join. That’s what SVHS customer Bill did. “I started becoming interested in health services when a member of my family became sick and couldn’t find answers to questions they had. I felt people weren’t always given all the information available to them when first diagnosed, or directed to other places, which could have prevented them from getting worse. So I joined Healthwatch.

I now have access to information that helps me take responsibility for my own health. I feel we are all in this together and I hope to see you at one of the meetings.” Bill, involved customer at SVHS.

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Call 0800 652 5193 to find out more or to join today. Or log onto www.healthwatchgloucestershire.co.uk This article was written by Bill Hughes, a member of the Editorial Panel and a personal member of Healthwatch Gloucestershire. If you would like to contribute to the next issue of the magazine get in touch. t: 01684 272727 e: info@svhs.org.uk

Influence your community – for good! An opportunity has risen for you to influence your community and its future development. Almost 700 communities across England are preparing Neighbourhood Plans. “What’s that?” Neighbourhood Plans are part of the Government’s vision for towns and villages to take control of their own destinies, to generate legally binding plans that set down community preferences for the scale of housing development, service provision and job creation, for the next twenty years. Winchcombe Town Council is leading the preparation of their Neighbourhood Plan, 14

PAY YOUR RENT ONline www.svhs.org.uk

which is an opportunity to improve the environment for you and those around you. For more on Winchcombe’s Neighbourhood Plan take a look at their Facebook page where you can leave ideas and suggestions: www.facebook.com/pages/ Winchcombe-Town-CouncilNeighbourhood-Plan or contact the Town Councillors info@winchcombetc.plus.com If you want to read more on ‘localism’ Google ‘A plain English guide to the Localism Act – update’.


meet the team

“A major part of my job is to complete bank reconciliations, making sure our bank accounts are balanced and to investigate any discrepancies and resolve them quickly.”

Meet the team Helen Lovell Senior Finance Assistant Tell us which member of the team you’d like to meet in the next issue.

It’s double trouble here at SVHS as Helen Lovell, our Senior Finance Assistant, is a twin! And her twin Sally also works at SVHS in our Planned Maintenance Team. “When I first joined people use to say ‘how did you get upstairs so quickly’ not knowing that it was Sally they’d seen on the ground floor. I should have played on it for a bit longer!” Helen, a loyal Gloucester Rugby supporter, joined SVHS in 2002 having previously worked at Severn Print as an Office Manager. “I can still remember the exact date, it was 11 February 2002.” Part of a busy team of six, which is headed up by Tim (who is on page 2), Helen is part of the Finance Team who are responsible for producing SVHS financial accounts. “A major part of my job is to complete bank reconciliations, making sure our bank accounts are balanced and to investigate any discrepancies and resolve them quickly.”

Through SVHS Helen completed her AAT, Association of Account Technicians qualifications. “In the early days I would go into Gloucester College one day a week. It was also a time when we managed Oxbode Housing’s finances; so I worked in two different locations and knew two lots of staff, it was all very exciting! “ In 2006 Helen went from full-time to parttime as she gave birth to her son, Ethan. Every year Helen attends Cheltenham Festival, as having grown up around horses she loves the atmosphere. “I enjoy the thrill of placing a little bet. We make it a family event, either watching it on the TV or taking a picnic to Point-to-Point events.” “I finish at 2pm so my day goes very quickly. In the morning I download the bank statements and import them into Open Accounts, our accounting software, and reconcile the bank. I am also the Liaison Officer for Community, HR, and Finance. I organise meetings with the departments to discuss their accounts,

checking they come in on budget and figures are accurate. I challenge what is being spent and whether they will use the budget forecasted and look where savings can be made. I am also responsible for sending out invoices for income other than general rent. For example, payment from our private let garages, Helpline alarms and student services. Recently, I‘ve been talking to lots of you about the benefits of paying by Direct Debit and many of you are now choosing to pay this way. Last year I set up 140 new Direct Debits, which is great. I have significantly noticed a reduction in the amount of paper work I send and the payments I need to chase. This year we are moving all private let garage payments over to Direct Debit, if you rent a garage and haven’t yet set-up a Direct Debit, get in touch or download the Direct Debit form from our website: www.svhs.org.uk/directdebit”

report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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Helpline

help when you need it

If you, or somebody you know,

are a little unstable on your “I feel anxious or suffering with a about leaving hospital. feet long-term condition, i’m still a little wobbly the Helpline alarm on my feet!” can support you to live independently at home.

By turning your telephone line into

a lifeline, the Helpline alarm brings reassurance to you and your family at the touch of a button; providing help when you need it, 24 hours a day.

how the helpline works In an emergency, you can call for help by pressing the button on the base unit, or on the pendant worn around your neck or wrist. Pressing the button alerts the dedicated Control Centre who, depending on the nature of the call, will send a nominated friend or family member, a doctor or the emergency services, to your home. You choose who you would like your nominated contacts to be. If you do not want anyone to have a key, or you are relying on the emergency services, you will need to install a key safe.

what if i cannot speak to the contact centre? Don’t worry. As soon as you are connected your details appear on the Control Centre’s screen, staff will know exactly who you are and where you live. If they get no response from you they will alert a contact to check on you.

Peace of mind If you live alone, are elderly, have a disability or have recently come out of hospital, the Helpline alarm can bring big benefits. It can be installed for short-term use to provide reassurance whilst you get back to full health.

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susan’s story (aged 42) “There seems to be a bit of a stigma attached to the Helpline. I think people assume it is generally just for old people, I’m not sure why. I got mine installed about eight months ago and a friend of mine, who has a similar illness, is considering getting a Helpline too, she’s only 50. It’s really just another fail safe that brings peace of mind. I got the Helpline installed after I fell in the garage. I didn’t hurt myself but landed in an awkward position and I couldn’t get back up. I shouted for help but it was over an hour before a neighbour heard me. I carried my phone around with me but as I fell it came out of my pocket and was too far away for me to reach it. My grandmother had a Helpline, so I knew there was something out there. However, no one could recommend anywhere that did one. In the end it was the fire service that put me in contact with SVHS after they completed a risk assessment in my home. I told them about my fall in the garage and they suggested considering getting a Helpline.

“i can install a helpline system into your home today for peace of mind.”

SVHS came out to my home, it was really simple, they just plugged the Helpline into my phone socket, completed a test call and it was done. It’s a little box and it just sits next to my main phone. I have the wrist strap but I choose to wear the pendant. I leave it on the bathroom cabinet at night and as soon as I get up I put it straight on; it’s become second nature now. It doesn’t get in the way of anything, it’s very light and easy to press, should you need to, and it’s a lot cheaper than I thought it would be. Before I had the Helpline installed I would think twice about going into the garage or garden as it felt too risky. The Helpline gives me the courage to get on with my day-to-day activities as I know if something does go wrong I would be able to get help. It also brings reassurance to my family. My son recently asked in school what would happen if I fell and was unable to get hold of my husband; it would be very worrying for him if we didn’t have the peace of mind of the Helpline in our home.”

For more information or to arrange an installation, call 01684 272745, email info@svhs.org.uk or visit www.severnvalehousing.org.uk/helpline report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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a focus on...

Stepping onto the property ladder with shared ownership Here are Sandra’s tips for anyone thinking about shared ownership

If you’re unable to buy a property on the open market and thought you would never be able to own your own home, think again. Shared ownership is an affordable part buy, part rent scheme aimed at helping people onto the property ladder. You’ll need a smaller mortgage and deposit, and in many cases it can be cheaper than renting a home privately. Most properties will also allow you to buy additional shares at a later date until you own 100%, if you wish to. This is called staircasing and the cost of the additional shares is based on the market value of the property at the time that you purchase the shares. If your shares increase in the property your rent will be re-calculated and reduced proportionality. We currently have a range of homes available from as little as 30% share. To find out more, contact the Shared Ownership Team on 01684 272772 or email sales@svhs.org.uk “We’ve a number of shared ownership properties coming up in the future and we’re planning on new projects across Gloucestershire, so I would encourage anyone interested in the scheme to contact us to find out more information and also South West Homes to check whether you’re eligible,” explains Lorraine Freeman, Lettings Manager. We caught up with Sandra and Ken Weir who have recently moved into a SVHS shared ownership property in Gloucester. “We were familiar with the process as we’d previously lived in a shared ownership property in Bedfordshire,” explains Sandra. “Due to a change in our work situation we needed to re-locate, so registered with South West Homes and started to look out for suitable properties in Gloucestershire.”

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Sandra and Ken attended the SVHS Shared Ownership event in June 2013 at Manor Farm in Gloucester and were taken by a two-bed property on the estate. “It took us about three months from visiting the property, completing the paperwork, arranging a mortgage, packing-up our previous home and moving in. The shared ownership scheme has been a life saver, allowing us to get back onto the property ladder again. We’ve been here four months now and we love it, especially the garden and beautiful Gloucestershire countryside being on our doorstep! There’s even a community orchard nearby, so we’re looking forward to enjoying more fruit dishes over the summer!”

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Save up as much money as you can for the deposit.

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It is important to get financial advice from a good Financial Advisor.

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Don’t forget to budget for carpets in the property.

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Hiring a van yourself can help to reduce the cost of using a removal company.

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Be proactive with chasing your solicitor/SVHS to ensure the process runs as smoothly as possible.

2-3 bed shared ownership properties available - 5 new build homes in Kingsway - 15 resales over Gloucestershire For more information, visit www.svhs.org.uk or www.southwesthomes.org.uk


housing

Taking in a lodger? If you’re considering taking in a lodger, (someone who rents a room in your home and shares your facilities) you should first come and discuss your situation with us. Only secure tenants can take in lodgers, but it must not create overcrowding in your property.

What will I need to provide for my lodger? You must provide a furnished room, and use of communal areas such as the kitchen and bathroom. It’s up to you to decide whether you wish to provide meals and do their laundry/cleaning.

How much should I charge?

Will I have to pay income tax on the income I receive from my lodger? If the income from letting a room exceeds a certain amount known as a threshold, then you may also be liable to pay income tax. You are advised to obtain independent advice about tax implications.

Useful websites:

www.england.shelter.org.uk www.lodgers.com

Taking in a lodger may What you charge will affect your benefits, council depend on what facilities www.dwp.gov.uk tax and other payments you are providing for so here’s a check list of them. You may wish to organisations you should inform refer to websites such as about your change in circumstances: www.spareroom.co.uk and look up what other people in your area charge for • Severn Vale Housing (you must gain similar accommodation. permission before the lodger

Will my council tax increase? If you claim single occupants discount for council tax you may no longer be eligible for this. You are advised to obtain independent advice about council tax implications.

Should I do a background check on my lodger? It’s a good idea to do a background check for your own safety. You may wish to get a reference from their previous landlord.

What next? Contact SVHS for an informal discussion, application form and lodger information pack which contains examples of agreements, inventories and interview forms. Call on 01684 272727 or email contact.centre@svhs.org.uk

moves in) • Department of Work and Pensions • Local council • Your contents insurance company.

How will having a lodger affect my benefits? You will need to inform your local benefits agency immediately. It may affect the amount of benefit that you are entitled to. If you don’t tell them, you may end up having to repay an overpayment or be prosecuted for fraud.

How clean is your home? We’ve seen a rise in the number of cleanliness issues being reported and would like to remind you that you’re responsible for keeping the interior of your home in a clean and good decorative condition. If you fail to comply with this you may be in breach of your tenancy agreement.

Poor living conditions may: • affect the health and wellbeing of you and your family • result in our Repairs Team refusing to carry out the repair due to health and safety issues

• create a fire risk, risking the safety of your family. If you’re struggling to manage your home, speak to your Housing Officer for help and guidance on 01684 272727. report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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gloucestershire

A day out to the Wilson Art Gallery, Cheltenham On 5 October, Cheltenham Art Gallery opened the doors to their new extension. A sizeable information stand manned by helpful staff occupies the centre of an airy reception area, and to the left, a coffee shop offers refreshments. There are two main exhibitions. The Times Newseum 1785 -2013, portraying pictures and stories of significant events spanning more than 228 years. On display were tools of the trade from early typewriters and fax machines, to the specially adapted computer keyboard which is still used at The Times newspaper today. An imaginative hanging mobile had been constructed and dangled from above aptly decorated with mobile phones relaying snippets of news. War and ice Additional topics of interest and concern ranged from the amazing discovery of King Tut’s tomb and wars in Afghanistan and Syria, to celebratory highlights of William and Kate’s wedding. Dramatic coverage of Scott’s Antarctic explorations was supplemented on the day we visited by two actors role-playing some of the physical challenges met when coping with the harsh conditions. They involved youngsters hauling themselves on imaginary ropes up sheer ice faces. A touch of light relief!

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Sculptures Casting Brilliance, by Colin Reid, is a magical presentation of glass sculptures reflecting stages of the artist’s career over the past 30 years. Here we are able to learn something of the processes used to create beautiful lighting effects. The Wolfston Study Area provides computer access to all that is on show and in storage; there are over 5,000 items stored on memory. The secondary stage of development will be to re-carpet and repaint the “old” galleries. The Wilson is located in the centre of Cheltenham town on Clarence Street, five minutes’ walk from the main bus station. It’s open daily from 9:30am to 5:15pm. Forthcoming events appealing to all age groups can be found on the website www.cheltenhammuseum.org.uk or by direct enquiry.

This article was written by Jean and Laura, customers who are actively involved in our Editorial Panel. If you would like to write an article for 24/Severn, get in touch. Call us on 01684 272727 or email editorial.panel@svhs.org.uk

Other art galleries and museums in Gloucestershire: Corinium Museum, Cirencester Brush up on Roman history. Adults - £4.95, children 5 to 16 £2.45 Cotswold Motoring Museum Bourton-on-the-Water Adults £4.75, children 4 to 16 - £3.40, under 4’s free Gloucester Folk Museum Adults: £3.00, concession - £2.00, entry to shop and café free, under 5’s free National Waterways Museum, Gloucester Adults £4.95, children £3.50, under 4’s free Tailor of Gloucester, Beatrix Potter Museum, Gloucester Free to all Ashmolean Museum Broadway On 7 September 2013 the Ashmolean opened a branch in Broadway, Worcestershire. The objects on display are on loan from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford including paints and furniture. Open 10am – 5pm Tuesday to Sunday £6 entry £4.50 concessions


get online

Get online and save money Don’t know where to start when it comes to saving yourself some cash? Check out these top money saving websites below. Using websites, like Money Supermarket, can bring big savings, such as £300 on your car insurance renewal.

Shopping

Home and bills

www.freecycle.org offer items that you no longer want, or ask for things you need. It’s hit and miss whether you can get rid of your old stuff, or can find someone getting rid of what you want, but worth a try. No money changes hands.

www.uswitch.com helps you switch your utility, broadband, phone or insurance providers to get a better deal.

www.gumtree.com has loads of furniture and electrical items from people who just want rid of them cheaply - bargains galore! www.mysupermarket.co.uk compares the country’s top supermarkets so you can get the best deal on your shopping.

www.savewatersavemoney.co.uk offers advice and water saving products for your kitchen and bathroom. www.cheapest-utility-suppliers.co.uk saves you cash by showing the best prices for utilities, land lines and mobile phones. www.energysavingtrust.org.uk is packed with ways to help you save energy and money in your home.

Money and banking www.moneysavingexpert.com is the king of economy websites, it’ll tell you how to do almost everything to save money. This site could save you thousands! www.adviceguide.org.uk is the place to turn to if you’re in debt or having trouble making ends meet. It explains how to work out a budget, negotiate with creditors and consolidate debt. www.childtrustfund.gov.uk children born on or after 1 September 2002 receive a £250 voucher to start an account when they’re 18. This website gives details of how to choose the right account.

Self-service checkout Have you noticed those self-service tills at your local supermarket? We now offer a similar service, online. It is quick and easy and allows you to pay your rent, report repairs, view your rent history and update your details. You can also contact us through a simple messaging tool on the portal. To register visit www.svhs.org.uk and click ‘log in: self-service’ on the home page. We’ll send you a username and password and then you’re ready to go. Once you’re logged in the system will remember who you are, so you won’t have to enter all your contact details each time.

report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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garden time

Five winter gardening tips The short dark days and wet, damp weather can both make the idea of gardening in winter unattractive. However, a little bit of winter planning can get your garden ready for a great year ahead.

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Protect your garden from frost January and February are usually the coldest months so make sure you protect tender plants.

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Provide for birds Birds need a range of food to help them survive the winter months. Water is also important so ensure birdbaths stay ice-free.

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Make a home for mini beasts Create a leaf pile in a quiet corner of the garden which will offer mini-beasts a place to spend the winter and provide ground feeding birds somewhere to forage.

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Check structures Check your fences, sheds, gates and other structures for signs of weakness or rot. Get them repaired before snow and high winds arrive.

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Shake off the white stuff In the event of snow, be sure to shake off the white stuff from the branches of your shrubs. If it should become wet and frozen, the weight dramatically increases and the weight of the snow may snap them off.

Picture courtesy of RSPB

Be proud - show Gloucestershire your garden Gardening is as good as going to the gym and could save your life. According to a Swedish study, regular gardening can cut your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke by 30%. Yet gardening is no walk in the park. And if after all that hard work your beautiful garden goes unnoticed, it can all seem a bit like a waste of time. So show Gloucestershire your garden! Enter our annual gardening competition to celebrate your green fingers and display your blooming Begonia’s. It doesn’t matter if your garden is an old shoe boot or a cricket pitch perfect lawn; there are many 22

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categories for you to compete in. Plus all garden entries will be invited to an award ceremony with winners receiving garden centre vouchers. You’ll also have the opportunity to star in our next magazine and be crowned top gardener. Don’t let your gardening skills go unnoticed, share them with Gloucestershire! So put down that spade, put the kettle on and complete your application form today. If you haven’t got your entry form yet give us a call on 01684 272726 or drop us an email info@svhs.org.uk and we’ll send one to you.

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Wildlife friendly l Communal areas l Small spaces l Your garden l Young growers

Check out our Facebook page to see photos from last years’ entries. www.facebook.com/severnvalehousing


Kath didn’t hear anything more until one morning she was faced with a barrage of cameras, and then Alan Titchmarsh appeared, who is a ‘genuine, nice man’

Tackle your trees Photo taken by SVHS customer, Harry Bowyer

Titchmarsh makeover During the summer, Alan Titchmarsh brought his big horticultural heart to Winchombe to transform Kath’s, a SVHS customer’s garden, for his TV programme, Love your Garden. Kath was nominated as a deserving candidate by her friends and colleagues, at Headway Charity, for her lifetime commitment caring for people, including her brother who sustained a brain injury in 1986. Kath didn’t have a clue, until one morning she was faced with a barrage of cameras and Alan Titchmarsh and his crew sipping tea from her china! The windows overlooking her garden were blacked out and the team had a tough time as the skies opened and persistent rain puddled her garden.

Now Kath shares her new garden and summer house with her family, and her brother can freely access the garden in his wheelchair. Kath, being the caring lady she is, is happy for people to visit her garden; all she asks is that they offer a small donation towards Headway Charity.

Pippa This article was written by Pippa, an involved customer on our Editorial Panel. Share your gardening stories with Gloucestershire. We are always looking for new writers.

We all love trees. There’s nothing better than a hearty walk through the woods after a big meal to make us feel better. That’s because trees release oxygen. However, our love starts to dwindle when they block our view or grow so big that they cause damage to our home. Tackling your trees isn’t always simple. Some of them are protected by Tree Preservation Orders and permission is needed before they can be cut down. And if you’re thinking of planting more trees, be sure to ask yourself, how much space do I need, how big will it grow, how often will I need to cut it back, will I be able to maintain it? As all trees in your garden belong to you and you will need to look after them. We will nurture those trees in communal areas and inspect homes if you think a tree may cause damage to your property. Don’t let a tree blow your views away, keep them trim, tidy and happy. If you are tackling a tree, get in touch by giving us a call on 01684 272727 or email info@svhs.org.uk

Do you have any good gardening tips? Share them with us on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/severnvalehousing

report a repair ONline www.svhs.org.uk

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competition time Win a shopping v £20 ouche

The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named. What promises have you made to yourself this year? Find 10 hidden things that people usually give up for the New Year. Words may read up, down, diagonal or even backwards. Good luck!

New year, new you!

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Complete the word search and return your entry to New Year Competition, Severn Vale Housing, Shannon Way, Ashchurch, Tewkesbury, GL20 8ND by 1 March 2014 for the chance to win £20 Love to Shop vouchers.

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SPOT THE DIFFERENCE Study the two pictures shown left of the new Internet Café opening in Priors Park. There are 10 differences between the top one and the bottom one. Can you spot them all? Circle the changes on the bottom image and send to 24/Severn competition, Severn Vale Housing, Shannon Way, Ashchurch, Tewkesbury, GL20 8ND by 1 March 2014 for the chance to win a delicious Easter hamper. Name: Address:

Postcode: Telephone number:

Name: Address:

Postcode: Telephone number:

Or email your answers to competitions@svhs.org.uk and you will be entered into the prize draw.

AUTUMN edition

WINNERs

Well done to Mrs Jill Fitz, from Northway who correctly found the 10 hidden spoooooky words in the Halloween special word search winning a £20 Love to Shop voucher.

And Catriona Price, from Bishop Cleeve, for correctly answering the spot the difference puzzle. Not even some of the staff in the office could spot all 10. It was those pesky fingers. Catriona was overjoyed with her Christmas hamper.


24 severn issue 6