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Summer 2014

Safe and sound Our newly named Community Safety team is helping to keep your streets safe

Universal credit

The magazine for Great Places Housing Group residents

Showing you the money! How our Great Places Residents’ and Shared Spaces Funds are improving your communities

Everything you need to know!

Credit union

The advantages of joining a credit union

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Repairs

Numbers you need to know

Phone our Customer Access Team from 8am to 6pm Monday to Friday. It’s local rate. Call us on:

0300 123 1966

07797 870 734 or email us at cat@greatplaces.org.uk

or simply text us on

For all Great Places residents you can call us between 8am and 6pm weekdays on:

0300 123 1966

& press 1 for repairs

You can also use this number for out-of-hours emergencies. Or you can email us about a repair at

repairs@greatplaces.org.uk

Office addresses

Oldham office

Blackburn office

Salford office

Barnfield House (Suite 4 and 5) Groundfloor, Accrington Road Blackburn BB1 3NY Open Monday, 9.30am-5pm & Thursday 9:30am-12:30pm Appointment only at all other times.

Cheshire office

106 Longridge, Knutsford, WA16 8PD Opening hours: Monday only, 9.30am to 4.30pm

Fylde office

336 Talbot Road, Blackpool, FY1 3QU Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Great Places head office

Southern Gate, 729 Princess Road, Manchester M20 2LT Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Write to My Great Place at:

4th Floor, St James’s House, Pendleton Way, Salford M6 5FW Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Sheffield office

The Quadrant, 99 Parkway Avenue, Sheffield SS9 4WG Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/GreatPlacesHousing

Communications Great Places Southern Gate 729 Princess Road Manchester M20 2LT

Email:

119 Union Street, Oldham OL1 1TE Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm

Tweet us @MyGreatPlace

Access for all

communications@greatplaces.org.uk

We’ve already sent a magnifying sheet to our visually impaired residents. Let us know if you need one. An audio version of My Great Place is also available.

Summer 2014

FSC AND WORLD LAND TRUST LOGOS

Safe and sound Our newly named Community Safety team is helping to keep your streets safe

Universal credit

The magazine for Great Places Housing Group residents

Showing you the money! How our Great Places Residents’ and Shared Spaces Funds are improving your communities

Everything you need to know!

Credit union

The advantages of joining a credit union

1

2

www.greatplaces.org.uk

Cover stars: Residents Mr and Mrs Rahi, who have benefited from Great Places Residents’ and Shared Spaces Fund.


Welcome to

Welcome to the summer, sunshine issue of My Great Place! We’re calling this the advice annual because it’s packed full of tips and information on everything from Universal Credit, managing your money and getting online, to being greener. We also look closely at our performance so you can

YOUR MAGAZINE!

see how we’re doing in terms of the services we offer you. Our Community Safety team introduces itself and we get up close and personal with the staff who are working hard to keep you safe and happy in your neighbourhoods.

Rachel Machin, Editor

What’s inside? 4 My voice 8–9 News 10–11 Grapevine 16–17 Neighbourhood news (Elderly services news)

22 in:team: how you can get involved 23

My green place: residents Clive and Naomi Walker tell us how they’re trying to be green

Money to make a difference

How are we doing? page

6-7

13

How we’re doing: some stats on our general performance and complaints

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Universal Credit: the changes: we give you the lowdown on what you need to know

24 Competitions

pages

15 Get online with Len: more help from our digital trainer

18-19 My money: why credit unions are great

Features

13

Keeping you safe page

Regulars

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myvoice!

We had some great emails, letters and Facebook messages from you – thanks so much for taking the time to contact us! Here’s a selection of some of your thoughts.

Write to us at:

My Great Place Communications Great Places Housing Group Southern Gate 729 Princess Road Manchester M20 2LT

We want to give you every opportunity to tell us your thoughts, ideas and comments. Email us: As you know there are new ways you can contact us via Facebook and Twitter as well communications@greatplaces.org.uk as by letter. Whatever way you choose to contact us, we want to hear from you. Tell us about your neighbourhood or give us your thoughts on anything Great Places-related! @mygreatplace Every week one of your letters/emails/social media messages will be made Star Letter and you’ll receive a £10 voucher.

Tweet us:

Facebook us at:

Dear My Great Place I was hoping you could tell me more about Universal Credit which I know is replacing some other benefits soon. I don’t really understand what it means for me and am getting a bit worried about it.

facebook.com/GreatPlacesHousing

Yours sincerely Mrs M McArthur, Bury Editor: Your luck is in! We have a special feature on Universal Credit and other benefit changes on page 14. You should find all you need to know there. If you’re still confused, please call 0300 123 1966 and someone will talk you through it

Star Letter

Every issue, one of your letters/emails/ social media messages will be made star letter and you’ll receive a £10 voucher.

Kids’ Competition Want a fancy new iPod?

We had NO responses to last issue’s ‘find Margaret Plaice’ competition! Where were you all! We didn’t feature Margaret Plaice but no-one wrote in or emailed to tell us. If you don’t already know. Margaret Plaice, our little fishy friend whose name is inspired by this very magazine, is hiding again somewhere. Can you find her? If you can, just email or write and let us know exactly where she is (make sure you put the page number) at the above addresses, making sure you put your address and phone number of the entry. The winning entry will get their hands on a cute little iPod, so get searching! 4

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COMPETITION RULES To enter you

must be 16 or under and a Great Places resident Entries must be in by 1st August 2014


Getting up close!

Feature

In the winter 2013 issue of My Great Place we asked residents if they’d like to join a new group which looks closely at the services we deliver to you. Interest has been amazing and we have now recruited a team of residents who are about to start their training programme. One of their first jobs will be to choose a name and identity for the group, so watch this space!

Industry expert joins Great Places Great Places recently recruited a leading expert in customer scrutiny, Yvonne Davies, to help train, support and mentor our new group. Yvonne has worked for inspectors and regulators of housing for the last 32 years with housing associations including Trafford Housing Trust and Southway.

The role of scrutiny Scrutiny is a detailed review of how Great Places is performing and delivering a particular service. The group acts as a critical friend challenging our performance, policies and procedures. Scrutiny offers residents the opportunity to have a voice and identify areas which aren’t delivering customer satisfaction and require improvement. This will ultimately help to improve our services to you.

What will the group do?

The group chooses a service area to examine, such as complaints, then uses different methods to collect information to help them understand how Great Places are performing in this area. They may choose to look at different documents, interview staff and residents, review performance information or compare us with other landlords. They then present to Board with recomnendations on how to improve.

How will it benefit you? Resident scrutiny will: • help us give you the services you want and tailor them to reflect your local community • help us target resources to the areas where they are needed most • help us give you better value for money

It’s not to late too join the group! If you’re interested please contact Maria Morris on 0161 925 7928 or email maria.morris@greatplaces.org.uk

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Shared Spaces Fund

Money to make a difference It’s that time again! We’ve got a pot of money we can give to you and your communities through our Great Places Residents’ and Shared Spaces Funds. My Great Place went on a road trip to find out what fantastic projects we awarded funding to last year.

We’ve helped cooking clubs to communal gardens to work clubs – you name it, we’ve given money to it! Our funding panel went on a tour of Manchester and Salford to visit some of the fantastic projects we’ve funded. We’ve also funded numerous projects accross the North West and Yorkshire.

The whistle-stop tour... Residents’ fund • Believe and Achieve Work Club – enabling unemployed and economically inactive people and those without IT facilities at home to access computers for free £3,680

Great Places

RESIDENTS’ FUND We’ve got £25,000 to give out! How to apply To apply, you need to complete a Great Places Residents’ Fund application form. You can get these from the following places: • Collect from your local housing office • By calling 0161 925 7928 • By emailing maria.morris@greatplaces.org.uk • At www.greatplaces.org.uk by searching for Great Places Residents’ Fund


Great Places Residents’ Fund

Mr and Mrs Rahi, residents at Forum Grove, Higher Broughton. • Northmoor Cooking Club, Manchester – Volunteer led group requiring funds to enable the group to continue cooking weekly healthy recipes, bringing people together from different backgrounds to learn together £2,784. Shared Spaces Fund • Burlin Court, Manchester – Communal Garden/Car Park £19,066 • Aldersgate Court, Salford – Communal Garden, seating area £984 • Forum Grove, Salford – Communal Garden/Fencing to derelict piece of ground only just found out to be Great Places £4,447 • George Thomas Court, Manchester – Window grills, fencing and in-fills to communal doors £15,849

Funding facts • 45 Residents’ Fund applications were assessed by the panel this year with 24 being approved and 22 receiving funding. In total we gave out £25,000 • 22 Shared Spaces Fund applications with 17 approved. In total we gave out £112,000

Great Places

SHARED SPACES FUND We’ve got £125,000 to give out! Got an idea?

If you have an idea for a project that either improves the appearance or increases the safety and security of a communal area, all you need to do is contact our customer access team on 0300 123 1966 or email cat@greatplaces.org.uk


News Matt’s message Repairs seem to dominate every time I write this message and I’m mentioning them again because of their importance to you. There are some major changes planned for how we deliver the service which I believe will see improved satisfaction levels within this crucial part of the business. There’s a full update on p12 but I can tell you one change is that we will have more staff on the front line going into your homes to complete repairs. We also plan to make sure our vans have improved materials supplies on board as we aim to finish more jobs on the spot rather than having to come back a second or third time to complete a job. The changes will take a few months to happen so please bear with us. I told you last year that our regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency, had downgraded its rating of our governance

What is Homehunt? Homehunt is the place where residents who are looking for a new home can view different types of affordable housing options, including Great Places’ homes. Also, you can register with other partner landlords and view and apply for properties available throughout England if you meet their eligibility criteria.

What is Homehunt for?

Great Places are using Homehunt for internal general transfers. To be eligible for a general transfer you must have been a Great Places resident for a minimum of 12 months.

What is a general transfer?

A general transfer is when a Great Places resident moves from their existing home into one of our empty properties for non emergency reasons.

How to apply?

To be eligible for a general transfer you will need to register through the Homehunt website www.homehunt.co.uk. See if you fit the criteria.

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arrangements, that is, the way the board oversees Great Places. We made several changes to how we are governed including recruiting new board members, and I’m pleased to let you know that we have regained our G1 status, which is the highest rating available. Finally, even though summer is here, football will still be playing a big role in my spare time and like many of you I will be following England’s efforts in the World Cup closely. Fingers crossed they will do well. Summer is also a time when there will be lots of events being organised by Great Places so check out our website and Facebook page for more details.

Opening doors to volunteering with Great Places At Great Places we strive to offer all of you the opportunity to access a range of quality volunteering opportunities. This also involves offering unemployed people, young people and students work experience within our business. Look out for 50 volunteering opportunities over the next year! You could gain practical experience which will help you get into paid employment. We’ll also provide you with the relevant training and qualifications to help you in your future career. Visit our website on www.greatplaces.org.uk and search for ‘Jobs and training in the community’ to find out more.


News Residents £1m better off thanks to Great Places We’ve helped 1,978 residents collectively save £1m in 2013, thanks to a dedicated team of money advisors with expert knowledge on accessing benefits, getting cheaper deals on electricity and gas, and avoiding debt. It’s getting tougher for everyone as prices soar and cuts are made to benefits and jobs. This has been evident in the rise of foodbanks, but Great Places’ financial inclusion team has been targeting residents affected by last year’s benefit changes to help them find ways of making their money go further. Ciara Davies, Great Places’ financial inclusion manager, said: “There are so many ways our team can help residents get on top of managing of their money. We understand how difficult it is for residents to make ends meet and want to try and reinforce the message that

we’re here to help. Whether it’s reducing their heating bills or getting them cheap contents insurance, we’ve got a group of people committed to keeping their pockets fuller, for longer. We’ve also prevented 441 arrears actions and 44 evictions so the work we do with residents is providing real benefit.” Check out our My money section on page 18 for more ways we can help.

Make the most of our website Register in 3 easy steps... Step 1. Click ‘register’ in the box on our homepage, this will take you to the registration page. Step 2. Fill out the form. There’s not much to fill in, just some basic info, your email address and your tenancy reference number. When you’ve filled in all the information, click the register button. Step 3. Then just wait for your account to be activated. Once it has you can log in to the website. Click the log in link at the top of the page and enter the email address and password you used when registering.

Hundreds of you have now registered your accounts online. But if you haven’t done it already, here’s a guide through the registration process. You can access lots of benefits by managing your account online

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GRAPEVINE

Elderly services news

Strictly brilliant for Byron’s Blackpool trip! Residents of the Byron’s went on a day trip to the wonderful Blackpool Tower ballroom. Some residents got up dancing! The atmosphere was amazing. After the ballroom they went to Harry Ramsden’s for a fish and chip supper and then lots of singing and laughter on the coach journey home. A great day was had by all. Doreen, a resident at the Byron’s, said: “I had a great day. I could’ve sat in the ballroom watching the dancing forever!”

A coffee morning fundraiser with various stalls was held at The Willows, Preesall on 2nd April. The money raised was to provide funds for the local community to buy plants for the local area so they can continue to enter in Wyre in Bloom in association with the RHS gardening competition. Altogether they raised £336.90, with good old fashioned help from residents, our community room and community spirit. A special thank you goes out to Kath Samuels who always works hard for community events baking cakes.

An Elk of a trip! A bus full of residents from our elderly and Extra Care schemes at Elk View, Windmill House and Tulloch Court in Blackpool, and St George’s in Manchester, enjoyed a ferry across the Mersey when they went to Liverpool in April.

Wyre not have a coffee for charity?

Organised by the Elk View Residents’ Committee, 54 residents enjoyed the delights of the city and poignantly observed the two minutes silence that took place at 3.06pm in memory of the 96 who were tragically killed at Hillsborough.

A fond farewell Great Places said a special farewell to Ann Birkett, scheme manager at Openshaw Court. Ann worked at Openshaw court for 28 years and is now retiring. She was there before they had even finished building the project and has worked long hours at the scheme – covering nights and weekends making sure all the residents are safe and well. Ann has been an integral part of the community at Openshaw Court. She is well known with neighbours and agencies. We would like to say a huge thank you to Ann and wish her all the best for the future.

You’ve got a friend Need help? Call ANYTIME on: 0800 4 70 80 90 The Silver Line is the only free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 10

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Feature

VOICE OVER

Great Places is keen to listen to residents and aims to provide a service they are happy with. The Senior Tenants Voice group gives them a direct line of communication so that working together we can improve our services. My Great Place went to meet them. “What Great Places has to realise is that this country has an ageing population and we have to be looked after. You’ve got to offer decent social housing. You have to make sure that care is provided, perhaps not by Great Places but they need to influence other service providers,” asserts Raymond from our Extra Care scheme, the Byrons, in Manchester. Raymond is part of the new Senior Tenants Voice group, representing elderly sheltered and Extra Care schemes, where residents meet to discuss the issues that matter to them. “I’m looking at raising issues for the wider community in these meetings – it’s not just about our schemes and where we live. “We need to think about the wider ageing population. Great Places have to start listening to us, so I think these meetings are positive. “If you plough a field and you only put one row of seeds in, you’re only going to get one row – so let’s seed it all.”

The group was formed last November where they decided on terms of reference and their priorities. From here, the minutes will be dished out to the residents’ meetings at all the schemes so everyone is kept in the loop. This information is then fed up to the senior supported housing team so the group influence services and provide feedback for improvements.

“I’m looking at raising issues for the wider community in these meetings – it’s not just about our schemes and where we live.” This second meeting finds them discussing anti-social behaviour and their comments will be fed into a new customer charter on the subject. For June Meaney from Elk View, an Extra Care scheme in Blackpool, antisocial behaviour was one of the main reasons she joined the group.

“We used to attend the forums before they stopped happening so I was keen to get involved in this. I saw there was a discussion about anti-social behaviour on the agenda and that was the reason I came. “Ever since I’ve been in Elk View it has been the bane of my life really. I’ve been to many of these meetings but never had any feedback so I’m hoping this will be different.” Jean Bailey, from Openshaw Court has different reasons for attending. “I’m lucky that I live at Openshaw Court because we don’t have trouble here – everybody gets on. It’s a good place to live. I’m just interested – I like listening to people and mixing with them. We need to stick to what we’re supposed to be discussing. There is a time and a place to discuss everything.”

Membership is made up of two people from each elderly and Extra Care scheme. 11


Feature

Repairs update

In the last issue of My Great Place we reported on the tough questions our Customer Service Voice (CSV) group was asking about the performance of our property services team. We know how important having a good repairs service is for you and we recognise that customer satisfaction has dropped in this area. The CSV grilled our new director of property services David Wood about his plans to improve things and we can update you on the progress he has been making. Missed calls to our repairs desk have fallen dramatically and customers are now getting through with their issues. If we do miss a call then we do call the customer back if we have the number. We are in the process of recruiting some new managers who will help make sure we are delivering a better service and we hope to have them in place in the next few months. There will also be more repairs staff employed on the front line to fix problems in your homes.

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W  hen one of our repairs team comes to your house we know you want the work carried out there and then. There have been some issues about the equipment stored in our vans and David is carrying out a review of the materials on board to make sure staff have the right tools to do the job straight away. T he computer system we use to record jobs is being updated and that will mean repairs staff will be able to get to jobs much quicker.

“The CSV rightly raised concerns about the repairs service and the frustrations felt by some of our customers. I share those concerns and that’s why I have put in place an improvement plan. We have already started to make progress, but I know there is a long way to go. Due to the problems we have been experiencing, we also have a back-log of non-emergency work like fencing repairs to attend to. We hope to get on top of these as we put the improvement plan into action. “We are also changing the way we deliver our investment work which includes things like fitting new kitchens and bathrooms. We recognise that we need to communicate to you better what work we will be carrying out to your home, and more importantly when! Again we ask for your patience in the coming months.”

David Wood Director of property services


How are we doing?

Feature

We want to regularly keep you up to date on how well we’re serving you in a number of areas. See below for the latest facts and figures on our performance

you are satisfied with our overall 84% ofservice across general housing you are satisfied with our overall 83% ofservice in supported housing are satisfied with our repairs 83% ofandyoumaintenance services

are completed at the 71% offirstrepairs visit number of unsuccessful 1.8 Average offers before re-letting a property

repair appointments were made at of you are satisfied that your views 83% 91% ofa time convenient for you are taken into account

Complaints Number of NIP Complaints

Key: Number of RFT Complaints

Compliments

NIP enables complaints to be resolved quickly by frontline staff, ideally within 5 working days. RFT is when a complaint has not been resolved as a NIP and is dealt with by a manager of the appropriate service. We aim to offer a full and fair resolution within 20 working days.

RFT complaints received by service Repairs Housing Services Plumlife Development Supported PFI Other

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Universal credit: the changes

Feature

You may have heard in the news about the government’s new flagship benefit reform called ‘Universal Credit’. The roll out of this new benefit is taking place across the North West this summer. How can Great Places help? Great Places has a specialist team that can help you create a budget and save money. Our new digital trainer Len can help you get online, provide training on how to use the internet and point you in the direction of low cost laptops (see page 15 for more details). Also turn to page 19 for more information about credit unions and how they can help. What do I need to do?

What if I don’t pay my rent?

What benefits will be replaced by Universal Credit? • Income support • Job seeker allowance • Employment Support Allowance • Child Tax Credits • Working Tax Credits • Housing benefit • All other benefits will be paid in the same way they are now

• Get the right bank account • Set up direct debits – this is the best way to manage your payments • Draw up a budget – you’ll need to prioritise your rent and other essential bills • Get online What is different about • Tell Great Places when Universal Credit (UC)? you start to claim UC

You will go through the Great Places rent arrears procedure which could end up in eviction – this is always a last resort. We also have the right to request arrears plus ongoing rent payments from your Universal Credit claim. We are here to help. Have you had your benefits sanctioned? If so, you do have the right to appeal, and nearly half of people who appeal, win and get their money back. You can ask the job centre for a hardship payment claim form or for more information go to www.adviceguide.org.uk

• UC will be paid into your bank account • You’ll get one monthly payment for your whole household • Any help you get with your rent will be included in your payment • You’ll have to pay your rent, we won’t get paid automatically • Most people will have to claim UC online

Call 0300 123 1966 for more help or email fit@greatplaces.org.uk

More benefits info! Lone parents Lone parents on Income Support whose youngest child is at least one year old will be given flexible work-focused interviews. The time and length of these will be determined by Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) advisors.

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Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) Some claims are taking between 21 and 26 weeks to process. Successful applications will be backdated to the date of the claim and not the date the decision is made.

Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) Claimants will be required to show that they are taking positive steps to find work from day one of their claim. Online claimants will be asked to set

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up an email address, prepare a CV and register on Universal Jobmatch. Those who don’t claim online will be asked to complete this by their work coach. Claimants with English reading and writing skills below Entry level 2 will undergo an assessment and may be required to attend training to improve their English language skills. They’ll also be required to attend a 20-minute interview every 13 weeks to review the previous three month’s activities, their skills, and to widen the scope of their job search.


Feature

Are you one of the many residents who have never used the internet before? Maybe you’ve never used a computer before – Great Places can help you! Do you think a laptop is some kind of new fashion accessory? When you think of a mouse, are you just thinking of the furry variety? If the answer is yes, don’t despair! We now have a digital trainer and our own digital champions who can talk you through the jargon and help get you started.

So if you think you would like to have a try at using the internet or even just a computer, we can help. It doesn’t matter how little experience you have, help is at hand. We can also advise you on what devices to buy and how to get connected.

From using a mouse or keyboard to sending emails or using Skype to talk to distant relatives or friends, we can get you on the road to becoming internet savvy. If you want to know what Facebook is all about, then we can show you.

Tip 1: You can pay your rent online using your All Pay card by visiting the ‘residents’ section of www.greatplaces.org.uk

Meet Maureen, one of our residents who’s getting help from our digital trainer Len. “I hadn’t used the internet before and so I wasn’t too sure how this would work out,” she explains. “ It’s hasn’t been as hard as I imagined. I started out by just learning how to switch it on and then searching for things that interest me on the internet.

Tip 2: You can report a repair to your property by visiting the ‘residents’ section of www.greatplaces.org.uk

“I’ve been taking small steps with Len’s help. Now I’ve got an email account and can get emails from my daughter. It’s not as difficult as I thought. The help I’ve had from Great Places has made a big difference. Now that I have more confidence I’m thinking about getting my own computer and internet connection.”

Tip 3: You can find out about events happening in your community by visiting the ‘where you live’ section of www.greatplaces.org.uk

Call 0300 123 1966 and ask for help to get online

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News neighbourhood

What’s going on where you live...

A taste of success OLDHAM: Coppice Ladies Group successfully applied for a Respect Our Community Award (ROCA), which funds local projects to develop community activity. Great Places worked in partnership to help women from Oldham establish the Coppice Ladies Gardening Club. Running every Thursday between 11.30am and 12.30pm at the Coppice Community Centre, the women get together to tend to the communal garden and grow a variety of herbs and vegetables.

Cooking up conversation BLACKBURN: Great Places staff went out to chat to residents in Brierfield, Nelson and Audley, Blackburn about the sort activities they would like to take part in. Exercise and cookery came top of the list so during March and April residents learned to cook tasty meals on a budget as well as attending exercise sessions, some for the first time. The women only exercise classes proved so popular that Lancashire Sports Partnership agreed to fund the sessions at Brierfield Methodist church hall until at least the end of Summer 2014. If anyone is interested in the free sessions you can just turn up at 1:30-2:30pm every Tuesday. All abilities welcome. For further info emaiI: louise.ramsay@greatplaces.org.uk or call 01254 588758

Kurling for another year!

A Great Place for football OLDHAM: The newly formed Under 12s five-a-side football team from Spinner Mews, Chadderton are running around with pride thanks to brand new kits bought with money from the Great Places Residents’ Fund (see our cover story for how you can apply for funding). Spinners FC was formed after the community rep, Shima Das, consulted local youths on what activities they would like to take part in. Shima transports the team to Werneth kick pitch and the parents are helping to coach the children, alongside Coppice Rangers who will enter them in a league once they’ve reached a good standard.

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SALFORD: Fantastic news – the weekly kurling club held at the Emmanuel Centre in Salford has received funding allowing it to continue for another year. Kurling is similar to indoor bowls and this successful and popular group encourages older people to get out, get mobile and socialise while having fun taking part in the sport. Melody Barber, community warden for our elderly residents in Salford, runs the Kurling club. She said: “This is fantastic news and I am thrilled that the vital funding has been secured. Part of the application process was to spend a day showcasing the activity and talking through its benefits, and the fact that the group received so many votes to keep going shows just how valuable it is to some of our residents!”


Green team shows it’s keen MANCHESTER: A communal garden in Harpurhey has been given a new lease of life thanks to YET – Your Environmental Team. The group, who help ex-offenders get back on their feet, tackle the areas environmental problems by restoring neglected green spaces and cleaning up ‘grot spots’. Their latest projects was at George Thomas Court, where the team carried out a litter pick, cut down overgrown bushes, removed graffiti, jetwashed paving stones and installed new rotary driers.

Making Wybourn safer SHEFFIELD: Residents of Wybourn are benefiting from a number of new improvements to improve safety, parking and reduce congestion on bus routes across Wybourn. The projects have been funded by the Great Places VAT shelter. In some areas the ugly concrete banking has been replaced with gabion yorkstone walls and grass verges and the double kerbs have been lowered, new laybys and parking created. Ginnels at Boundary Road have been widened to improve safety and new gateway entrances have been created on the three entrances to Wybourn from Manor Lane.

A taste of success

Allotment love OLDHAM: A successful Shared Spaces Fund helped transform areas around Woodpark Court, Limeside, Oldham into a community allotment after consultation with tenants (check out our cover story to find more communal areas we transformed).

KNUTSFORD: Dads, Grandads and big brothers joined forces with their families to build a personalised toy box as part of the Open Doors 2 Dedicated Dads programme, hosted at St John’s Community Centre, Longridge. Thanks to funding from Knutsford Town Council, the 10 teams met weekly to design and create their toy chests – with some problem solving exercises thrown in along the way! If you would like to take part in this course, contact Alex Barker on 07917 527280 for more details.

The team planted a variety of vegetables and we enlisted the support of Manchester College who came and erected beds, filling them with top soil. They will also be running gardening workshops monthly so the volunteers can run the allotment themselves.

Bulbs kept alight BLACKBURN: Our landscapers Greenfingers recently gave a donated sack of daffodil bulbs that would have otherwise gone on their skip as they were beginning to sprout. These bulbs we gratefully received from our local supported scheme, In Partnership at Blackburn.

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my money

We’re here to help you have more money in your pockets at the end of each month!

Quids in!

Christine Moore discusses the Credit Union with our chief executive Matthew Harrison

Why credit unions? Christine Moore from Manchester Credit Union tells My Great Place. What are the advantages of joining a credit union? It’s a really easy way to save. If you join and save regularly you’ve got instant access to affordable loans. If you need emergency cash on a short-term basis or if you need a loan for a car or home improvements it’s ideal. We’ve estimated that we save people like your residents about £3m a year in interest compared with a doorstep lender. If you compared the interest rates with payday loans, there’s even more of a difference. That’s how money stays in people’s pockets. Do you need to pay anything to join? No. There’s a £2 admin fee which comes out of your savings every year. The interest you can save makes it well worth while.

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www.greatplaces.org.uk

Are there any criteria that you have to meet? Credit unions are governed by a common bond and ours is that you have to live or work in Manchester, Salford, Rochdale, Bury, Tameside, Trafford, Stockport or High Peak. There are numerous other credit unions so if you live or work in a different area you won’t miss out. With Universal Credit (UC) being introduced, what can you do to help residents? We’ve got a new budgeting account so when UC comes in residents wil be able to have their money paid into this account. We can then pay all their bills by direct debit, including rent. We can split up the residual amount and put it onto a prepaid card weekly so that they’re not spending it all at once. We’ve also got a rent direct account and a new revolving credit account – this can be used instead of a payday lender where you can draw down cash quickly if you ever need it. www.manchestercreditunion.co.uk www.sheffieldcreditunion.com www.oldhamcreditunion.co.uk www.bfwcu.org.uk (Blackpool) www.bgdcreditunion.co.uk (Blackburn)

You may remember in previous issues we joined up with Quids in magazine, which gives advice and tips on managing your money. Thanks to everyone who took part in the ‘financial attitudes’ survey in the magazine.

Survey results Profile Quids in received 128 responses from you, the majority of which (27%) are aged between 47 and 56, 31% are unfit to work, and 58% have income of less than £200 per week.

Money worries 62% of you have felt frightened, anxious or depressed about coping, 59% have gone without heating while it was cold and 45% have skipped meals, all due to money worries (though only 7% had used food banks).

Borrowing The following % had used the below in the last 12 months: Credit cards 22% Credit Union 7% Home credit 7% Store card or catalogue 14% Payday loans 5%


Pay your rent by Direct Debit and you could win

£12,000! The Big Break initiative encourages people to switch to the ease and convenience of Direct Debit, with one lucky person set to scoop £12,000 in a prize draw – enough to cover regular bills for an entire year! To be in with a chance of winning the cash windfall, you simply have to be a new or existing Direct Debit payer – it really is that easy! To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic prize, switch to paying by Direct Debit by 30th June 2014. Simply call 0300 123 1966 and ask to pay your rent by Direct Debit. For further information go to www.thebigbreak.co.uk

Case study

We took 123 tenants to court between February and April for non-payment of rent.

Miss A was in arrears of £980 with a court order awarded in 2012. She was a part-time working parent. Our neighbourhood co-ordinator worked closely with her and Housing Benefits to address an ongoing issue. Repayments were set up by direct debit and in less than two years the rent arrears and court costs have been cleared in full. Her account is now in credit and eviction prevented!

We evicted 60 tenants from their properties last year 2013/14 – this is more than the year before when we evicted 54 tenants. Eviction is a last resort but if rent is not paid we have no choice but to seek legal action to recover the money and the property. Each time we go to court it costs us £250 per case, we must add these costs to the rent account which only adds to the existing debt owed. Don’t bury your head in the sand if you are struggling – please contact us to discuss the matter immediately.

Do you have home contents insurance? Fire, flooding or burglary could happen to anyone. Could you afford to replace your stuff if it happened to you? Home contents insurance through the Great Places scheme could cost you as little as £1.64 per week. To find out more, visit www.greatplaces.org.uk and search for ‘contents insurance’.

Other ways to pay your rent! You can pay by logging in to our website at www.greatplaces.org.uk or through Allpay website (www.allpay.net) Making an online payment with Allpay is very simple – all you need to do is visit www.allpay.net (or even download the app if you have an Android or Apple device).

19


Keeping you safe! Feature

How we work • We’re a central team re-focused on early intervention and prevention • In response to customer feedback and agreed by our Customer Services Voice group, we’ve had a name change, which underlines our service – to protect and support our communities • We’ve made customer focused changes with the introduction of two new roles (duty officer) and (intervention officer) • We’ve taken on an ASB apprentice which is an excellent example of our commitment to training and introducing people to the important work done in community safety

As a landlord we want you to feel safe and secure in our neighbourhoods and live in harmony with your neighbours. Community safety co-ordinator Tania Cooper gives us a flavour of how Great Places is doing just that.

I work as part of the newly re-launched Community Safety team, which used to be the anti-social behaviour team. Since New Labour brought antisocial behaviour to the headlines in the late 90s it’s had negative connotations attached to it – we away from that. That’s 20want to get www.greatplaces.org.uk

not what we’re about – we want to try and resolve issues to keep people in their tenancy. Eviction is always a last resort. There are so many avenues we go down to avoid eviction. There is a perception out there that we try to evict people on a regular basis – it’s not true. In serious cases or where the behaviour is persistent, we still try and work with people but eviction along with other legal action has to be considered, or where we need to protect someone from harm.

We’ve got so many support networks we can refer to and we build up close links with lots of agencies in North West and Yorkshire, for example child and youth teams, so we can try and stop youth nuisance in the area. We work with our community development team to put on diversion activities. When we work with people we try to be really flexible – every situation is different. We’ll do a thorough investigation into what’s happened – we won’t jump straight in. We always gather the evidence and make a very informed decision.


Feature

We want communities to build. In the past everyone knew their neighbour and looked out for them. The perception is that we’ve got really bad anti-social behaviour everywhere – we haven’t! There are a very small minority that we have to target. I’ve got a group that are causing nuisance at the moment but their

parents are fully engaged. They don’t want their kids reported to the Community Safety team, they want them to be playing, but they’ve brought up a valid point – there’s not much for them to do – so I’m working with South Yorkshire Police and our community development team to try and look for some funding. It’s a carrot and stick approach – we can get some funding if they start behaving. I love to be out and about, seeing people face-to-face. I think they like the honesty of our approach. Everything anyone says to me is in the strictest confidence – I will do

what I say I’m going to do. It’s very challenging at times. You’re dealing with people who are angry about a situation – but we’re problem-solvers, we just want to help.

Mediation is fantastic and we’re using it on a regular basis, trying to resolve issues without the need for enforcement. If you can get in early before a situation gets out of hand it can be so positive.

If you need help with an antisocial behaviour issue, please call us on 0300 123 1966 or email us at cat@greatplaces. org.uk The out of hours ASB reporting line 0845 250 4624 is open 24 hours including bank holidays and weekends. 21


The in:team want to find out what you think of our services and how you would like to get to know us better. If you want to know how you can give us your feedback, please contact Maria on 0161 925 7928 or email maria.morris@greatplaces.org.uk

Resident June Kushner has been involved with Great Places for the last nine years. My Great Place went to meet her

I live in sheltered accommodation in Foster Court, Bury and wanted to have a voice to speak on behalf of the tenants. I’m a member of the Customer Services Voice (CSV) group. It’s a really interesting group and we’re able to voice our opinions and really say what we think. It gives you an insight into the way Great Places works and we always get feedback on the points we raise. I became aware of the funding panel at one of the meetings I attend. I was really interested to see where the Great

Pop-up ! r u o T p e t s r Doo You may have seen them out and about in your area. Our in:team hit the streets last month piloting our first ever Pop-up Doorstep Tour. We visited your doorsteps to ask your opinions on our services, and find out how you want to be involved with Great Places and the work we do. In all, the in:team visited 200 homes and went all over the North West and Yorkshire. In the next issue of My Great Place we’ll give you a full picture of what you, our residents, were telling us!

22

www.greatplaces.org.uk

Places Residents’ and Shared Spaces Fund money was going so I decided to be a part of it. Our job is to look at all the applications that come in from residents to see whether they’re worthy. We then mark them accordingly. There were some really interesting applications last year. Recently we got to go on a tour and look at where the money is being spent. See our cover story to find out!


my

green place

Advice, tips and ideas on staying green and saving money!

My Great Place spent a sunny morning with residents Clive and Naomi Walker, who moved from South Africa in November 2012 to their current home in Foster Court, Bury, to chat about how they’re doing their best to live a greener life.

When Naomi and Clive Walker stepped off the plane from South Africa in a freezing November over a year and a half ago, they touched down for a new life in Bury, the place they’d started out as a couple 40 years earlier. “I thought I was going to die, it was so cold,” remembers Naomi. Leaving behind a big house and their children and grandchildren was a big sacrifice, but Clive wanted to return to his homeland and his South African wife thought it was only fair. They’ve made their home at Foster Court immaculate, and Clive has been as meticulous about the things they’re doing to help the environment. Starting with the heating. “Everybody in these flats moved from Economy 7 to gas central heating and

it has made a difference,” explains Clive. “Electric storage heaters can waste a lot of money because if you switch them off, then it takes ages for them to warm up. But when you’re using gas the hot water is instantaneous and within five minutes your heat is there. “I’ve been able to control the temperature much better. I’ve been keeping a record of what we use which doesn’t compare at all to what you would use in a three bedroom house. I have seen a saving to our bills.” When the environmental team put a Be Green event on at Foster Court, which gave out information on how to get the best of their home in terms of energy, Clive and Naomi gladly went along.

“They put radflek on our radiators and gave us energy efficient bulbs to use, which do make a difference. To me, a lot of it is about common sense. “We make sure we open the windows because it’s so important to get fresh air circulating around the flat,” says Naomi. “We do our best to make sure we’re running our home the most efficient way.” If you want help to be greener, please call 0300 123 1966 or email environmentalteam@ greatplaces.org.uk You can also visit www.greatplaces.org.uk search for ‘corporate social responsibility’ and look for the section ‘environmental matters’

23


Competition time You could win £25 in vouchers!

Wordsearch Words to find are: Fund Money Shared Opportunity

Community Residents Project Employment

Health Sustainable

Congratulations to last issue’s winners: Wordsearch: Maniza Begum – Rochdale, Mrs J. Ditchburn – Salford, Mrs S. Selway – Morecambe Spot the difference: Mr K. Weeks – Blackburn, Dorothy Higgins – Sale, Mr E. Hopkinson – Bury

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE Just circle the FIVE differences on picture number two, cut it out, pop in an envelope and send it in! You could be one of three lucky people to win £10 worth of vouchers.

Don’t forget to include your name, telephone number and address. The three winners will be drawn out of a hat so get your entries in by 1st August 2014.

Send your entries by post to: FREEPOST, RLSC-HLLJ-EZRZ, My Great Place, Maria Morris, Great Places Housing Group, 4th Floor St James’ House, Pendleton Way, Salford M6 5FW. All entries must be in by 1st August 2014

On pages 20 and 21 you’ll have read about our new community safety team and learned about how Tania Cooper, community safety co-ordinator in Sheffield, spends her day. But how important is community safety to you? Have you ever experienced anti-social behaviour where you live? Yes/No How important is community safety to you? Very important/Quite important/Not important Can we contact you to discuss our community safety service and how we can improve it? Yes/No Name:................................................................................................................................................................................... Address:............................................................................................................................................................................... Telephone/Mobile:.............................................................................................................................................................. Email:................................................................................................................................................................................... Please cut out and return this slip to the My Great Place FREEPOST address above.

My Great Place Summer 2014  
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