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News s iew V & INSIDE LAST CHANCE TO BOOK NOAH’S ARK ZOO FARM TRIP!

Cynon Taf

Community Housing Group

The official newslette r

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A TENANT'S STORY: MR AND MRS PHILLIPS How the Independent Living Service changed our lives READ MORE INSIDE

INSIDE MONEY MATTERS – LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!

INSIDE FIND OUT WHO HAS BEEN VOTED CHARITY OF THE YEAR...

INSIDE TENANTS’ FORUM; WHAT HAVE WE BEEN UP TO...

Well done Helena who won the ‘Let’s Get Creative’ competition to rename our tenant newsletter ‘News & Views’

www.twitter.com/CynonTafHousing www.facebook.com/CTCHG

ISSUE 1: MAY 2015

Is there something happening in your community that you would like to see featured in the next issue of News & Views? Please get in touch with Beki Lee on blee@cynon-taf.org.uk or call 01443 743226


HELLO EVERYONE, AND WELCOME TO THE SPRING ISSUE OF OUR 'NEW LOOK' NEWSLETTER. We hope you like the new design, and look forward to developing the newsletter further with tenants over the coming months. In this issue you can read about our tenants Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, who recently used our Independent Living Service. In these very difficult times it’s easy for people to develop money problems quickly. Mr. and Mrs. Phillips have been kind enough to share their story with everyone so that people in similar situations can see that by seeking help, we can often come up with some great solutions together. In addition we’re also announcing our chosen charity for 2015. Last year we raised £6,000 for Rhondda Breast Friends, and we’re hoping to raise even more this year for the “Get Garin Walking” campaign. Read all about Garin on page 4.

ip family tr K R NOAH'S A ZOO TRIP

rm at fun this half te ily m fa r fo s trip is u Join in Bristol. The rm Fa o o Z 2 rk Noah’s A d only costs £ n a y a M th 8 2 743226 on Thursday Lee on 01443 i k e B ll a C . n per perso space! to book your limited spaces left!

The Tenants’ Forum members have been busy as usual, and they recently approved our new Business Plan, amongst other activities. If you’d like more information on joining the Forum then see the article on page 5. Max the Money, everyone’s favourite giant pig, gives his top tips for budgeting this summer on page 7 amid a range of other news items. As always, we’re really interested to hear your feedback on the newsletter, and do let us know if you’d like to contribute to future issues. Best wishes

Michelle Reid, Chief Executive

Dates for the Diary Monday 25th May Office Closed Tuesday 26th May Office Closed Wednesday 13th May Tenants Forum Meeting Thursday 20th August FREE Family Fun Summer Event and Annual General Meeting at Pontypridd Rugby Club

What’s on in RCT Saturday 23rd May Aberdare Festival Free family fun at Aberdare Park Saturday 6th June Festivol – Celebrating volunteers of RCT at Ponty Park Saturday 11th July Parti Ponty – Free Family fun day at Ponty Park


A TENANT'S STORY: MR AND MRS PHILLIPS

How the Independent Living Service changed our lives… Mr Phillips has been a tenant of Cynon Taf for 17 years and loves the home he shares with his wife and their beloved dogs. When he and Mrs Phillips got married and they moved into the property as a couple, they quickly fell into a large amount of unexpected debt. In only a short amount of time, their outgoings rocketed and they couldn’t afford to pay their bills. Kerri Hunt visited Mr and Mrs Phillips as part of the Independent Living Service at Cynon Taf. The Independent Living Service is in place to provide housing related support in a range of areas such as maximising income, improving health & wellbeing and accessing social activities, for all tenants over 55. We met with the couple and asked how the service had helped them;

“Our journey started with Kerri visiting and referring us to Age Concern and Social Services. From there, we were able to access financial and benefit advice we didn’t know was available. We then got the help we needed and started to claim the correct benefits for us. An added bonus was the adaptions around our home – which we couldn’t believe were no cost for us. We now have grab rails in many of the rooms, an extra banister on the stairs and even chair raisers and stools to help us manage comfortably around the home. The Service has made a huge difference to us; our worries and stress have now gone. Kerri was the acorn and now we are the Oak tree. We can not thank her enough”

For more information on how the Independent Living Service can help you contact Kerri Hunt on 01443 743238 today.

DID YOU KNOW?

28%

of tenants maximised their income thanks to the Independent Living Service

28%

80%

said their social isolation was reduced thanks to the Independent Living Service said the service improved their health and wellbeing thanks to the Independent Living Service


GOODBYE PAULINE

HELLO EMILY!

This month we sadly wave goodbye to our Resources Assistant, Pauline Morgan, who will be retiring. A well loved and respected member of staff, Pauline has worked at Cynon Taf since December 2004.

Our new Rent Support Officer, Emily Nicholls joins the Tenant Services Team this month.

Pauline has been involved with everything from managing the reception service to facilitating board meetings, ordering stationery supplies and generally looking after all our needs in the office.

Prior to starting with Cynon Taf, Emily worked at Cardiff Council for 18 months as a Finance Officer, helping and supporting tenants with their rent arrears. Emily’s new role means she will be working alongside Rent Support Officer Rachel Dent. We welcome Emily to her new role with us and wish her the best as a new employee of Cynon Taf.

We wish Pauline all the best for the future.

"Get Garin Walking" voted Charity of the Year! The votes are in for “Charity of the Year” 2015-2016 and we are delighted to announce that the winning charity is “Get Garin Walking.” The charity has been set up by Garin’s father to be able to pay for his son’s life changing operation.

For more information on Get Garin Walking visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/GetGarinWalking

Garin is a 9 year old boy from Cwmbach who has a form of Cerebral Palsy called Spastic Diplegia. This means Garin is unable to stand unaided and he uses a walking frame to walk short distances. Surgery can change all this for Garin, but unfortunately NHS Wales will not fund his operation.

Have you got any fundraising ideas you would like to see us get stuck into? Send us your suggestions today by emailing charitygroup@cynon-taf.org.uk or call 01443 743200.


TENANTS' FORUM: WHAT HAVE WE BEEN UP TO? As the Tenants’ Forum we met most recently in March 2015 and introduced a Tenant Approved stamp. This stamp will be featured on all published documents and policies that the Tenants’ Forum approve. Look out for the stamp on our Business Plan and Annual Report! We met and discussed the Hot Topic of Service Charges in the last meeting. Collette Williams, Senior Housing Officer was on hand to answer any burning questions raised by the members. The Hot Topic for May’s meeting will be Tenant Events. The Forum members were delighted to learn that during 2014-15, between April and February, tenant volunteers have given 579 hours of their own time. This is a fantastic achievement – well done all!

SUMMER MAGIC: A POEM BY CHRIS Pansies smile with their sweet faces Lilac and lavender have their spaces Freesia’s fragrance the morning air Honeysuckle clambers without a care

We recently asked all members why they come along to Tenant Forum Meetings, the responses were varied and really positive. Here’s what the members had to say…

Dyfrig Roberts, Chair of the Tenants’ Forum

• Gaining knowledge and learning about the community • Looking after tenants best interests • Bringing existing knowledge to the group • Helping others • Meeting people and socialising • Opening new doors to new ideas • Giving something back

Would you like to join the Tenants’ Forum? Our next meeting will be held at Gower Davies Court on Wednesday 13th May at 10.30am. We provide free transport and free buffet lunch for all attendees. Want to get involved? Call Beki Lee on 01443 743226 or email blee@cynon-taf.org.uk.

Peace reigns in this garden Butterflies dance and sway Birds sing their morning chorus At the start of this beautiful day How can we but wonder That a greater hand than ours Created this wonderful vista And the majesty of the flowers

If you have a poem you’re really proud of and would like us to publish please get in touch! You can email Beki Lee on blee@cynon-taf.org.uk or call 01443 743226.


HOW DID WE DO BETWEEN 2014 AND 2015? Mystery Customers We spoke to 79 Mystery Customers between April 2014 – March 2015. This is what they had to say…

95% 60% 87%

called our office and 96% of those rated the customer services as very good

contacted us about repairs over the phone

of Mystery Customers rated the service received as good (11%) or very good (76%)

85% 100%

of repairs were completed on the 1st visit

Customer Satisfaction Visits We spoke to 76 new tenants who had been living in their homes for 6 months between April 2014 and March 2015. This is what they had to say…

100% 95% 57% 83%STAGE04 95%

of new tenants rated our publications as good (28%) or very good (72%)

feel the rent they pay is good value for money of new tenants have reported a repair - 69% over the phone / 29% in person / 2% in writing of new tenants rated this service as good (16%) or very good (67%) of tenants who phoned us said their query was dealt with straight away

of Mystery Customers who contacted us about rent or debt issues said they were treated fairly and with respect

CONCERNS AND COMPLAINTS Between April 2014 and March 2015 we received 71 expressions of concern, or Stage 1 complaints, on the services we provide. The majority of concerns (26) were about contractors. The main issue has been around attendance and appointments (12) and attitude (7). More complaints have been about our gas contractor than any other (10) but reduced compared to previous years. We have also had a number of general complaints about maintenance (19), recharges (8) and service charges (5). We have worked to resolve issues for those tenants affected. We also dealt with ten Stage 2 complaints during the year. 7 were related to maintenance or dampness issues. These were resolved for tenants by a small repair in one case, some additional repairs were agreed and carried out for the other 4 tenants . The 2 dampness complaints were found to have already been properly dealt with by staff at Stage 1, as remedial work had been carried out, with further work planned in one case. 1 complaint was regarding an allocation which was not upheld as the complainant had not been top of the waiting list.

2 complaints were about the way we had dealt with neighbour issues, one of which was quickly resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction, the other was not upheld Please don’t forget that if you are still unhappy with the outcome of your complaint at Stage 2 you have the right to refer to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. We are aware of 3 tenants who have done this during the last year. One neighbour case was resolved so the Ombudsman did not investigate. In two other cases the Ombudsman made suggestions to us to resolve matters for tenants, which we agreed to. Further details are in our leaflets and on our website.

Improvements We told you last year that we would review our recharge procedures as a result of your comments and, although there were still some problems, all were resolved at Stage 1. We are also reviewing our service charges and we will be re-tendering the contract next year.


MAX THE MONEY'S TOP TIPS ON BUDGETING THIS SUMMER! Check out Max the Money’s top tips and advice on how to save the cash this summer. Making small simple changes now could have a big impact in the long run. Check these out…

1. Always make a shopping list When we do our weekly food shop it’s easy to go off track and put extras in the trolley. Take the time to write a list before you visit the shops so you don’t over spend on things you want but don’t need. Have you considered joining Project 43?

2. Shop around for FREE family fun The school holidays are coming up and you want to take the little ones to a fun day out, but this can very quickly amount to a lot of cash. Find out what free events are being put on by your local council first, or visit places with no entry fees - like museums.

3. Set up monthly direct debits

them. Solution: Pay your bills on payday via direct debit. This means all the important bills get paid first, less worry and stress for you.

4. Join Dragonsavers Credit Union Dragonsavers Credit Union offers a safe place to save your money and borrow small loans. Did you know if you saved just £5 a week, you would have £260 in just one year? Phone 01443 777043 for more information. Happy Saving!

5. Make sure you are claiming the benefits and tax credits you are entitled to Are you struggling to make ends meet? Do you have a child under 16 living with you? Are you working part time? You may not be claiming all the benefits, such as child tax and working tax, that you are entitled to. Phone 01443 743207 to make an appointment with our Money Matters Team who can do a free benefit entitlement check.

Problem: Your bills are due throughout the month and you worry about having enough in the bank to cover

HAVE YOU JOINED PROJECT 43? Project 43 is a community food network available to all Cynon Taf Tenants. We are now taking bookings for Project 43. This means you come along on your allocated day and pay just £10 for a food box. £5 is used to pay off any rent arrears you may have, or if not it will saved in your own Dragonsavers Credit Union savings account.

Dragonsavers offers an opportunity to save your money and access to affordable loans to those living or working in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Project 43 means you get access to low cost, good quality food plus a safe place to save your money too! For more information or to join Project 43 today, please call Celestina John on 01443 743207.


LET'S COOK! A SIMPLE GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL CREDIT

The UK Government has announced changes to the benefits system that may effect you. Universal Credit is the name of a new monthly payment that will replace a number of current benefits, including housing benefit. This means you will directly receive all of your benefits in one lump sum once a month and you will have pay your rent to us. There are 3 steps you can take to get prepared for Universal Credit; 1. Open a bank account to receive the payment 2. Get online to apply for Universal Credit 3. Start budgeting and get ready for managing your once a month payment.

Chicken Salsa Wraps Serves 2 Ingredients • • • • • • • • •

4 tortilla wraps 2 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks ½ red onion ¼ red pepper, cut into strips ¼ green pepper, cut into strips 100ml mild salsa ½ clove of garlic, crushed ½ tbsp. olive oil 4 tbsp light sour cream

Method 1. Prepare the vegetables and cut chicken into chunks. 2. Heat the oil in a pan on low heat. Add the chicken. Cook until light brown on all sides. 3. Add the vegetables, garlic, pepper and salsa. Heat until chicken is cooked right through – no pink meat. 4. Spread 1 tbsp salsa and 1 tbsp of sour cream over the centre of each wrap. Spoon some of the chicken mixture on top. 5. Fold one side of the wrap over the filling, and then fold the other side over to meet. 6. Finally, fold up the bottom to form a straight edge. ENJOY!

Don’t worry - there is free support and advice available. For more information please contact your Housing Officer today.

Published by Cynon Taf Community Housing Group, Unit 4 Navigation Park, Abercynon, Mountain Ash, CF45 4SN. Tel: 0345 2602633 Email: info@cynon-taf.org.uk Web: www.cynon-taf.org.uk A registered society under the Co-operative & Community Benefit Societies Act 2014.


Cynon Taf's News & Views May Issue 2015