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Housing

Autumn 2013

News and Views

28 September:

It’s your day Don’t miss your chance to have a say on how your housing service is run at the Tenant and Leaseholder Day on Saturday 28 September 2013 from 10am to 2pm at the South Hill Centre, just two minutes’ walk from Marlowes in Hemel Hempstead.

What’s happening? Take the opportunity to talk face-to-face to housing staff and managers about any housing issue, from how we allocate homes to repairs and leaseholder services. Join in our live question time discussion with the housing team and find out what we’re doing with the service. We know that many of you may be affected by the Government’s welfare reform changes, so this year we will be offering everyone who attends support and advice, including: • budgeting advice • energy saving tips • a free bite size computer course

If you are interested in the computer course, call tenant involvement on 01442 228000. Please just turn up for the others. We are also running a ‘speed swapping’ house exchange session (see page 6). There’s plenty of fun stuff too, so bring the kids. We will have arts and crafts, face painting and a children’s entertainer. Plus there’ll be useful giveaways and a prize draw. Refreshments will be available throughout the day and lunch is at 1pm. We’ll also be announcing the winners of our Housing Heroes Awards. Thanks to those of you who nominated fellow residents in the last issue.

Like us on Facebook Find us at www.facebook.com/ dacorumhousing, ‘like’ us and we’ll keep you posted with up-to-date news and information about the day itself and future events. (We’re an organisation not a ‘friend’ page, so we won’t see your personal posts.)

Queen’s Square celebrates 60th in style Over a hundred residents celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Queen's coronation at Our Big Coronation Lunch in June, organised with Adeyfield Neighbourhood Action Group. Friends and neighbours picnicked in Queen’s Square and enjoyed rides, stalls,

face painting and entertainment – including the results of the 'decorate a wheelie bin competition' (pictured right). 23 year old Luke Mallord, son of one of our tenants in Bennetts End, filmed it all for posterity. Read his view from behind the camera on page 2.

Getting there The event is at the South Hill Centre on Cemetery Hill in Hemel Hempstead, HP1 1JF. It is very close to the town centre and you can park for free at Heath Lane Nursery School just behind the venue. If you need help getting there, please get in touch and we can arrange transport.

Get in touch You don’t have to book your place and you can drop in at any time, but if you can let us know you are coming that would be really helpful. We look forward to seeing you. For more information or to book, call tenant involvement on 01442 228000 or email tenantinvolvement@dacorum. gov.uk


02 | News and views

News and Views

Autumn 2013

Contents News

pages 2-3

Help and advice

page 4

Tenant and Leaseholder Committee

page 5

Your tenancy

page 6

Supported housing

page 7

News in brief

page 8

Do you have an idea for a story? Call Luisa on 01442 228241.

‘Lightbulb moment’ cuts energy use Lights in the communal areas of our flats and supported housing schemes are being fitted with longer lasting, low energy replacements. Our property and place team has planned the work out over five years, removing the fluorescent lamps and installing modern LED (light emitting diode) ones that won’t need changing for several years. Plus as the LED lights are brighter than the fluorescent ones, we won’t need as many. It’s early days, but the improvements are already helping to drive down our electricity use and maintenance costs further than we first thought. At the same time, we’ll be upgrading the emergency lighting system, fitting microwave sensors which detect people moving and switch the lights fully on for a set time before returning to a lower level of lighting. If you have a question or problem about lighting in your communal area, please call Jim Barker on 01442 228000.

www.dacorum.gov.uk

Film student ‘captures community bond’ When budding film director Luke Mallord, who grew up in Bennetts End, said he was interested in filming our Queen’s Square coronation party, it was a chance to nurture young home-grown talent and preserve the moment for posterity. Remember, you saw him here first... “From a very young age I have been fascinated with film. I used my family video camera to capture my ideas, then watched them back on my television screen to bring those ideas to life. “My wonder of film led me to university where I studied film production. After four years and a lot of hard work I graduated with a high class degree, ready to embark on my adventure into the film industry and put my stamp on it. “I approached Dacorum Borough Council as I thought the Queen’s Square Lunch celebration would be a great opportunity to gain some experience filming a

community event. “I wanted to capture different ages enjoying the day, to show the bond the community have with each other and how the event brings people together. I hope my film allows people to look back on the event and smile, as I certainly enjoyed the day even from behind the camera. “I look forward to working with the council again in the near future and hopefully capture some more magic moments this borough has to offer.” You can see Luke’s film on our YouTube channnel youtube/dacorumBC

Animal action keeps dogs safe 84 dogs were microchipped by our dog warden Sarah Lewis during Animal Action Week this summer. We worked with animal welfare groups to offer free dog health checks, microchipping and poop scoops. Sarah was even filmed in action for the new series of channel Five’s ‘It’s a dog’s life’. We recently prosecuted a tenant under the Animal Welfare Act for mistreating her dog. You can see our Pet Policy online at www.dacorum.gov.uk/pets If you’re a tenant or leaseholder, you can get your dog microchipped for free. Sessions are held every Tuesday morning. Email Sarah to make an appointment on sarah.lewis@dacorum.gov.uk or call 01442 228000.


01442 228000 tenantinvolvement@dacorum.gov.uk

News and views | 03

STAR Survey 2014 Nearly 5,000 of you responded to our January 2012 Survey of Tenants and Leaseholders (STAR) to give us your feedback on improving the housing service. We’ve included STAR updates in Housing News and Views since then to show you what we’ve been doing about the points you raised. So that we can keep up-to-date with

what your priorities are, we are now starting to plan next year’s survey. If you can spare a few hours in September and October to help develop the survey and make sure we ask you the right questions, please contact Sue Prowse on 01442 228000 or email sue.prowse@dacorum.gov.uk We’ll hold three short evening meetings and can provide transport if you need it.

First new parking area opens

STAR survey update

We launched the first of a series of 20 new resident parking schemes at Ritcroft Steet in the Bennetts End/Leverstock Green area in July.

We’ve been giving you regular updates about improvements to this service and we’re pleased to tell you that complaints about poor cleaning in some of our blocks of flats have dramatically reduced.

Those living in the road told Deputy Mayor of Dacorum Allan Lawson (pictured) what they thought over tea and cake as he officially opened the 26 new spaces. The spaces are being created by hardening grass verges. Gill Barber from

After Resident Services says: “We know from the STAR survey that parking is a priority for tenants and leaseholders. We’ll finish the work to provide additional parking spaces in all areas of the scheme by December this year.”

Before

You can call Gill for more information on 01442 228000.

Your newsletter: your views Nine out of 10 of you think that reading News and Views makes you feel better informed about our housing service. We’d like to thank the nearly 600 of you who completed the survey we sent out with the last issue. Nine out of 10 also thought that at 15p a copy it is fair or good value for money. We were overwhelmed at how positive you are. Many of you described it as interesting, useful and attractive, while others went on to say it’s “very balanced and enjoyable” and “varied and informative”. You also gave us some excellent ideas

Cleaning service starts to shine

for future articles, some of which we’ve already taken on board: look out for parking on page 3, house swaps on page 6 and supported housing on page 7. Over the coming months we’ll be covering what’s on for families and young people, local history, community news and housing maintenance and improvements. We will be working with our new tenant and leaseholder editorial panel to carry your ideas forward. Congratulations to Mr Bojang from Hemel Hempstead who won the prize draw.

Another two extra members staff will be out and about from October targeting problem hot spots. We’d now like to recruit a tenant or leaseholder Cleaning Champion from each block who would be willing to complete a short survey no more than once a week after the cleaner has visited. If you are interested, please call 01442 228000 and ask for Sue Prowse.

“I feel better informed about housing”

Disagree

1%

Neither agree nor disagree

11%

Agree

88%

9/10 people say News and Views is good or fair value for money

You think it’s...

useful

interesting attractive to look at


04 | Help and advice

www.dacorum.gov.uk

Drop in for money advice sessions Have you been affected by the underoccupation rule (also known as the ‘bedroom tax’ or social size criteria)? Are you worried about the welfare reforms? Are you thinking of claiming housing benefit or just generally struggling to pay your rent? If the answer is yes to any of these, drop in to see one of our trained housing officers at one of the new monthly money advice sessions we’re running in

local communities starting from November from 10am to midday: • Adeyfield Community Centre: first Tuesday of the month • Bennetts End Community Centre: second Tuesday of the month • Highfield Community Centre: third Tuesday of the month • Grovehill Community Centre: fourth Tuesday of the month

Useful contacts Dacorum Borough Council For advice if you are struggling to pay your rent: Call 01442 228000 and ask for Mandy Peters or Paula Bowman, or call your own housing income officer (see your rent statement for contact details).

Citizens’ Advice Bureau For independent, free, impartial, and confidential service of information, advice and guidance.

www.adviceguide.org.uk Advice line: 08444 111 444 Hemel Hempstead Bureau, Dacre House, 19 Hillfield Road, HP2 4AA Berkhamsted Bureau, Berkhamsted Civic Centre, 161 High Street, HP4 3HD

Managing your money: Dealing with debt Don’t ignore the problem: the longer you leave it the worse your debt will get. Don’t borrow more money to pay off your old debts: get advice first. Borrowing more could lead you into getting further into debt. Do get in touch with your creditors straight away: contact everyone you owe money to and tell them you are having difficulties making your repayments. They are more likely to be helpful if you contact them at an early stage. Do tackle your urgent or ‘priority’ debts first. These are not necessarily the biggest debts, but are those where serious action can be taken against you if you don’t pay them. These include: • rent • gas and electricity

National Debtline

• council tax

For free, confidential and independent advice on dealing with debt problems.

• court fines

Advice line: 0808 808 4000

• income tax or VAT arrears

www.nationaldebtline.co.uk

• TV licence

Catch up at Christmas Christmas. Don’t groan, we can’t be the first ones to mention it! But it’s not too early to start planning. Remembering to pay your rent isn’t the most exciting part – but it is one of the most important. If you’re behind with your rent, now’s a good time to use the two non-payment weeks beginning 23 and 30 December to catch up. As an added incentive, we’re running our prize draw again. So if you’ve got a clear rent account from 1 November 2013 to 31 January 2014, you’re in with a chance to win a Kindle Fire, an iPod Nano or an iPad. For terms and conditions speak to your housing income officer or visit www.dacorum.gov.uk/catchup Despite the difficult financial times, over the past year we’ve helped many tenants to stay debt-free. If you are struggling, we’re here to help. Call 01442 228000 and ask for housing rent. You can also arrange to see a member of the team at the Civic Centre in Hemel Hempstead or they can call to see you at home.

• child maintenance


01442 228000

Tenant and Leaseholder Committee

| 05

TLC update by Rose Kosmalski, Chair Dear Residents In March the Council ran the ‘You are the key’ campaign, and as a result, I’m happy to say we now have new members on the Tenant and Leaseholder Committee (TLC), two of whom – Debbie Barnes and Alan Chalkley – you will have seen in the last News and Views. We also have two leaseholders who have joined us and you will see them in a future issue. On behalf of the existing members, we welcome the new members to the TLC. If anyone is interested in getting involved, we have a Housing Maintenance Environmental Committee (HMEC) that looks at repairs, maintenance and other related issues. However, we do not have enough members so if you are interested in observing or joining, please email tenantinvolvement@dacorum.gov.uk or call 01442 228000 and ask for tenant involvement.

Don’t forget to put 28 September in your diary for the Tenant and Leaseholder Day this year, held at the South Hill Centre (Cemetery Hill, Hemel Hempstead).

tips on budgeting and computing. The photo is of me talking last year – look forward to seeing you there this year.

Do come along as it will give you a chance to meet some of the Housing staff and this year you can also pick up

Rose

Best wishes

On behalf of the TLC

Meet the TLC: Bill Worboys “Hello my name is Bill Worboys and I have been a resident of Hemel Hempstead all my life having been born in Apsley. “My wife and I have been tenants of the borough for many years. At first we had a one bedroom flat and later moved to our current address which is a three bedroom house. “It was difficult to get answers from the Civic Centre and we found it all rather frustrating. When the opportunity to apply for membership of the TLC and later the HMEC arose, I did and was interviewed and accepted. “Now I can ask questions of staff and the two Councillors and get information on all aspects of the housing service. “We members of the TLC have examined the various policies, such as the Pet Policy and the Tenancy Agreement, and have had some changes made. The HMEC have meetings with various

contractors who are employed by the Council and discuss where they could, in our opinion, do better. “In September both committees are being represented at the Tenant and Leaseholder Day. So why not come along, have a chat to let us know how you feel about things and maybe we can help with any problems you may have. Looking forward to seeing you there.”

Contacting the TLC Please remember the TLC represents you, the tenants and resident leaseholders from all over Dacorum. To get in touch, email us tlc@dacorum.gov.uk We promise to respond to all emails. You can also write to us, in confidence, c/o Tenant and Leaseholder Committee, Hemel Hempstead Civic Centre, Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead, HP1 1HH.


06 | Your tenancy

www.dacorum.gov.uk

Money at your fingertips How would you and your neighbours improve where you live if we gave you some money?

Summer swap shop a success

If you have an idea for a small project under £1000 in cost then why not apply for a Local Improvement Grant (or ‘LIG’ – we used to call it the estate improvement budget).

Over 150 tenants came to talk to us about swapping their homes when we opened our pop-up swap shop in the Marlowes on 17 July.

At Surrey Place flats in Tring, residents sent in an application to benefit the whole block. Tenant Marj Swain (pictured right) said: “To our delight we were given a shed to store items for the upkeep of the gardens, security doors were fitted to the flats and gates are due to be fitted to the garden, making it a safe environment for the young residents to play in”

Tenants of Oak Drive flats in Berkhamsted wanted us to help their communal garden. Supported by her neighbours, Mrs Irene Dell applied for a LIG to fit some raised flower beds and a

water butt. She told us: “The garden has been transformed and what was an unused space is now a place of beauty. It is a joy to open the curtains in the morning to see the garden and the patio area in all its glory.” So far we’ve granted requests for garden furniture, benches, extra rotary washing lines, a bird feeding station and plant troughs. Send us your ideas now: call 01442 228000 and ask for tenant involvement.

Who’s your housing officer?

We joined forced with Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association to chat to tenants who weren’t sure about how to go about the move. 56 more swappers registered on the day using the online exchange sites House Exchange and Home Swapper. We had so much positive feedback that we’re going to hold a speed swapping session to get people matched up at the Tenant and Leaseholder Day on 28 September. Come along if you want to find out more or go to our website www.dacorum.gov.uk/swapping

If you’re unsure who your housing officers are for rent or tenancy issues, you can always call customer services on 01442 228000 and ask to be put through. But we’re also working on providing this information online. Watch this space.

Tenants’ tales of the riverbank More than fifty residents aged from six to 90 enjoyed one of two specially organised boat trips along the Grand Union Canal this summer. Tenants and leaseholders shared experiences with residents from other local social landlords including Watford Community Housing Trust, Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association and Thrive Homes, away from their usual formal meetings.

Focus on homes

If you are interested in helping to improve your homes, please call tenant involvement on 01442 228000.

In July we recruited (pictured above, left to right) Gordon Glenn, Karina Kehoe and Barry Newton to our new Tenant and Leaseholder Scrutiny Panel. We’ll report back next time on how they’re doing. There are still vacancies, so if you are interested in checking on how the service is doing, call Jules Goodridge on 01442 228000.


01442 228000 tenantinvolvement@dacorum.gov.uk

Dacorum’s in bloom once more Supported housing tenants across the borough took part in this summer’s annual gardening competition. Congratulations to Holly Tree Court, Hemel Hempstead, for the whole scheme award, and Mrs Whelen and Colin Gurney from Loxley Road, Berkhamsted (garden pictured) for the award for individual tenants under the care of our supported housing service. Rose Kosmalski, chair of the TLC, said

Behind the scenes the judging panel had a hard task: “Every year it just seems to get more difficult to judge the gardens. It’s a real privilege to get to tour them all.” Our contractors Cirrus, MITIE, Keepmoat and G&E Automatic Equipment Ltd donated gardening vouchers as prizes which Andy Vincent, Group Manager for Tenants and Leaseholders, presented together with the sought after trophy to the winning scheme.

Clear landings over coffee We’ve been holding coffee mornings with supported housing residents to discuss just why it’s so important to keep communal areas clear. Jean Reid, one of our residents at Betty Patterson House, was apprehensive because she did not really know what clear landings was all about. However, the short film we showed her and her friends helped her understand why and she’s pleased we are putting the safety of our residents first.

Allowing communal areas to become cluttered or obstructed is not only a trip hazard: it could also slow down the fire service getting to you in an emergency. As your landlord, it’s our responsibility to keep these areas clear. If you have any questions and you didn’t manage to catch us over coffee, please talk to your supported housing officer or call 01442 228000 and ask for supported housing.

Anyone for tea? Lagley House and their neighbour Douglas Gardens turned themselves into an Olde English Tea Shoppe over the summer, inviting tenants to an afternoon tea of fresh scones, cream and jam followed by strawberries and cream. Residents Vivienne Silk and Renee Denton really worked hard to make the day special. Joan Eustace said, “It was a very lovely afternoon, everything was

Supported Housing | 07

presented perfectly”, while Phyllis Dyer and Julie O'Dwyer (pictured) certainly looked as though they enjoyed themselves.

Who are the people who make up Dacorum’s housing service? In this issue we meet Liz Starling, Supported Housing Officer at Holly Tree Court in Adeyfield. “Before working for Dacorum I worked as a gymnastics coach and a teaching assistant in London. I love children and I now pour it all into my three gorgeous grandchildren. “I joined supported housing in 2001 as an assistant warden at Two Beeches but soon after went to Evelyn Sharp House for around nine years. This is Dacorum’s only flexicare scheme and I’m very proud to say I played a large part in making it the success it is. It’s a very busy scheme; you hit the floor running when you arrive each morning! “I’m now at Holly Tree Court, but have a good working relationship with the other Adeyfield schemes. We all support each other. “I am part of the staff working group which was put together to improve communication, allowing us to have our say about how the service is run and make improvements. “Our service is working towards gaining accreditation with the Centre for Housing and Support for excellent service standards. This is very exciting as we will be one of the first councils in the country to gain this. How good is that!” You can call Liz on 01442 228000 or ask for supported housing if you’ve got a more general question.


08 | News in brief

www.dacorum.gov.uk

Out and about this summer Free learning Staff in the tenant involvement team spread the word this summer about how you can make a difference to your homes. You might have spotted them at the Forum Fayre in Kings Langley, at Tring Carnival, at the Highfield Day or at Woodhall Farm’s Love Your Neighbourhood Day. Stephanie Bailey (pictured on the Mayor’s right) says, “If you’re having an event and want us to listen to your ideas about housing in Dacorum, we’ll come to you.”

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Requesting a repair To report a fault during normal working hours between 8am and 6.30pm Monday to Friday, contact Dacorum Borough Council: 앫 By phone: use the freephone number 0800 0186050 or call 01442 228000 and ask for repairs 앫 Online: www.dacorum.gov.uk/repairs 앫 In person: visit your nearest Customer Service Centre To ask for an emergency repair between 6.30pm and 8am Monday to Friday, at the weekend or on a Bank Holiday, call the freephone number 0800 0186050. Do not report emergency repairs online. See your Tenants’ Handbook to find out more about what is considered to be an emergency repair.

Contact us... If you would like more information, want to give us some feedback or would like this issue in another format such as large print, CD or in another language, please call 01442 228000 and say the name of the person you want to speak to or simply ask for housing or tenant involvement. You can also email us on tenantinvolvement@dacorum.gov.uk, visit www.dacorum.gov.uk or like us on www.facebook.com/dacorumhousing

opportunities Do you have a couple of hours spare to learn about something new? Or could your CV do with a boost? We want to support our tenants and leaseholders by helping you develop your skills. Free courses will be available which include: making public presentations confidently, using financial information and understanding local government. Spaces are limited. If you’re interested, call Jules Goodridge on 01442 228000 or email jules.goodridge@dacorum.gov.uk

Your thoughts on homelessness We’d like to hear your views on how to tackle homelessness over the next five years. Council Leader Andrew Williams says: “Homelessness has been increasing locally, as it is nationally, which is why your views are so important.” Please go to our website www.dacorum.gov.uk/consultation or call 01442 228000 and ask customer services to send you a copy of the Homelessness Strategy consultation. The deadline to have your say is Friday 18 October 2013.

How did we do? We’ve sent you the latest copy of the Housing Annual Report with this newsletter so that you can see how we’ve done over the last year. We’d love to hear if you have any feedback so please call Jules Goodridge on 01442 228000


Housing News and Views Autumn 2013