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Spring 2014

The magazine for Great Places Housing Group residents

Down with the duke How we’re helping to inspire young people

Residents shinE at

Community stars Awards The Customer Services Voice group asks some difficult questions

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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

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

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:

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

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

Tweet us @MyGreatPlace

Access for all


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.

Spring 2014

The magazine for Great Places Housing Group residents

Down with the duke How we’re helping to inspire young people


Buy a refurbished laptop for £149!

Residents shinE at

Community stars Awards

Cover star: Saquib Hussain

The Customer Services Voice group asks some difficult questions



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In our spring issue we’re honouring those residents who go the extra mile in their communities. We go backstage at the Community Stars Awards to find out who grabbed the gongs! If that’s not a lovely way to start spring we also meet a family who’ve been able to buy the home they rented from us through shared ownership. You can read all about how you might be eligible to do the same on page 10! Then we’re introduced to the residents on the Customer Services Voice group who represent you and your views. They’re

asking difficult questions of our directors on page 20. We also meet Len Rice on page 15 who’ll be helping you get online. Enjoy!

Welcome to


Rachel Machin, Editor

What’s inside? 4

My voice



16 Neighbourhood news 18 Grapevine (Elderly services new)

19 My money 22 Get involved 23 My green place

Features 14 A rise in rents: we explain why there’ll be an increase 15 I don’t use the internet: we meet new digital trainer Len Rice who is here to help you learn how to get online

24 Competitions

Community Stars Awards

Access all areas page


Difficult questions, answered page





Down with the duke



Buy your own home!



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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.

Wordsearch woes!

Editor: We’d like to apologise for the mistakes in the wordsearch in the winter 2013 issue of My Great Place. It was an oversight on our part. There are still winners. Check the back page to see who won. Thanks to everyone who sent in lots of letters, Facebook messages and tweets to let us know.

Write to us at: My Great Place Communications Great Places Housing Group Southern Gate 729 Princess Road Manchester M20 2LT

Email us:

Tweet us: @mygreatplace

Facebook us at: Dear My Great Place I would like to complain regarding your magazine’s wordsearch competition. One word being SNOWFLAKE, but on the page the word is SNOWFLAK. Also three other words are not even on the page. If you can find them I will give you £25 – in cash! I am sorry if I sound a bit catty but I cannot see how this can be. Please could you give me some chance, this way I have no chance. Yours faithfully

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

Mrs L Jackson, Rochdale

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition to win £200 worth of Ikea vouchers. We had some fantastic ideas from you for events in your area. The winner was Kimberley Crossland forum Sheffield who asked for more “fun days, information days run by Great Places, with people there to help, deal with issues or provide advice. Also maybe some sort of community form, neighbourhood watch or residents’ association”. Well done Kimberley!

Kids’ Competition Want a fancy new i-pod? We had a great response to last issue’s ‘find Margaret Plaice’ competition! You found our fishy friend on page 25. Thanks for all your entries. Congratulations to Holly Andrew from Oldham who was picked out as our winner! Hope you’re enjoying your new i-pod. 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 i-pod, so get searching!



must be 16 or under and a Great Places resident Entries must be in by 6th May 2014

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Great Places’ My Great Place went to hang out on the red carpet at an ‘Oscar-style’ ceremony for the amazing residents who were nominated by you!

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Over 150 Great Places residents attended a glittering award ceremony at Gorton Monastery to celebrate their inspirational achievements in local communities across the north west and Yorkshire. The inaugural Community Stars Awards were a chance for Great


Places to thank the residents who show compassion, selflessness and courage on a daily basis.

we have in our communities. I am proud to be part of an organisation that serves these people.”

Matthew Harrison, chief executive of Great Places, said: “We had over 100 nominations for these awards which speaks volumes about the number of dedicated and inspirational residents

Pat McAndrew, who won the resident award, said: “It’s pretty cool, I’m buzzing and shocked. It’s such a beautiful venue.” Check out our event photo gallery on

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Community Stars Awards winners


Green award Nadia Miah – Winner Bev Norris – Special recognition Rowena Acton – Special recognition

Young Resident award Pat McAndrew – Winner Samantha Pownall – Special recognition

Older Resident award Raymond Rushton – Winner

Supported housing resident award Peter Matthews – Winner Christopher English – Special recognition

Supported housing scheme award The Byrons – Winner

Good neighbour award Colin Brown – Winner Frank Whittle – Special recogntion Peggy Cooke – Special recogntion

Community Resident group award Community Spirit – Winner Richmond Park Activity Club – Special recognition

Community Project award The Broughton Junior Wardens – Winner Emmanuel Centre Kurling Group – Special recognition

Community Champion award Liz Sprenger – Winner Dawn Turnbull – Special recognition

Great Places Staff award Jan Wade – Winner

David Nuttall award Angela Lindsay – Winner

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Matt’s message I know how important providing a good repairs service is for you, so the drop in customer satisfaction with the service in recent months has been a concern for me. As part of efforts to improve things we have appointed David Woods to run the service. David has a lot of experience in the housing sector and I know he will do a good job. One of the first issues he has tackled is the difficulties some of you have been facing while trying to speak to a member of staff to report a repair. I am glad to say there have been improvements to this part of the service in recent weeks, and hopefully you have noticed. David has also met residents in the Customer Service Voice (CSV) group. You can read the interview in full on p20 and needless to say he faced some tough questions about repairs. CSV represent your interests

and they will be making sure we deliver improvements to repairs. We are also looking for more of you to join the group and also the Tenant Scrutiny group, so if you have time to spare please contact Maria Morris on 0161 925 7928 or email maria.morris@

Shut that door! If you live in a flat that has a front door that opens on to corridor, or other communal area, fire regulations say that your front door must be fitted with a self closing device. These devices come in various forms, but all have the same purpose, which is to close your front door behind you, even if you forget. The reason your front door must be fitted with a self closing device is that, in the event of a fire occurring in your flat, which results in you and your family evacuating, the fire will be trapped in your flat and not spread throughout the building. Great Places has a duty to ensure all self closing devices work properly. If you know the self closer on your flat door doesn’t make your door close automatically please report it as a repair in the normal way, so we can get it fixed. Great Places is aware that a very small minority of residents find the automatic door closers an inconvenience and that in some cases have taken steps to stop them working or have even removed them altogether. These residents should be aware that tampering with a self closing device is considered a serious matter and could ultimately affect your tenancy and even lead to prosecution by the fire authorities. Please contact the CAT team on 0300 123 1966 if you have any questions about the above.


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News Complaints


In July 2013 we introduced a new complaints procedure within Great Places. We told you in the last issue that the new procedure involved an informal step called ‘Nip it in the Bud’ (NIP) and a formal step called ‘Right First Time’ (RFT).


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. As shown to the right, NIPs have proved to be an efficient way of resolving complaints to your satisfaction quickly and without the need for lots of correspondence.

Compliments October: 17 November: 64 December: 25

NIP enables complaints to be resolved quickly by frontline staff, ideally within 5 working days.

October: 20 November: 38 December: 25


October: 325 November: 451 December: 342


The Complaints Learning Forum meet bi-monthly to look at complaints performance and learning from complaints. The forum consists of frontline staff or managers from most departments along with tenant representatives and members of the Customer Services Voice (CSV). Recent outcomes from the forum include:

• • • •

Adjust the focus of the meeting to 50% complaints performance and 50% learning from complaints. Improved complaints section on the My Great Place website. Presentation to the forum of a recently resolved complaint to help understand current issues. Regular staff training on complaints to capture new starters and to give existing staff the opportunity for a refresher course.

We’re taking ASB seriously! As part of our efforts to improve anti-social behaviour in your neighbourhoods we’ve taken on Reece Barton, a dedicated ASB manager, who will be co-ordinating the Group’s strategy across our regions.

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Pictured: Mr Bharuchis and his daughters and Fahima

Buy your own home! With property prices soaring, coupled with the massive deposits required by mortgage lenders, many people who want to buy can never afford to do so. This new scheme gives you a chance of owning your own home.

which now includes the government’s recent mortgage guarantee scheme (The Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme means residents could get mortgages with only a 5% deposit). Shared Ownership, the popular scheme which allows residents to buy a share of their home and pay a small rent to Great Places, and Shared Equity, which gives residents the chance to borrow a percentage of the total value or “equity” of their home.

The scheme offers three buying options including outright sale, where traditionally the buyer would purchase a high street mortgage

Great Places has assessed all of our homes and where it no longer makes sense for us to manage these they will be available for purchase by the

We’ve launched an exciting new home ownership scheme that will allow some existing residents to buy the home they currently rent. My Great Place finds out more

current residents. However, they’ll need to meet a number of criteria including a clear rent account. Free impartial advice is available to anyone who has their application accepted.

Buying your home could be easier (and che aper)

than you


The voluntary home-b

uyers scheme

To find out more, visit and search for Voluntary Home–buyers scheme.

The Bharuchis buy shares in their home Blackburn Great Places residents, Mr and Mrs Bharuchi, bought their home through the Shared Ownership scheme in March 2013. The couple, along with their two daughters and son, had been renting their three bedroom home for 8 years, and were delighted to take up the opportunity to own it. As Mrs Bharuchu explains: “The house was perfect for our needs, most specifically because it featured a downstairs bedroom and toilet, which we needed to accommodate our middle daughter, Fahima, 18, who is physically disabled.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to buy our home through Shared Ownership, as other suitable properties in the area were too expensive to buy on the open market.  “The house was valued independently at £148,000 and we were able to buy a 50% share. We now pay a small rent on the remainder that we don’t own – £167 per month. The most important thing for us is that due to the low outgoings, we are now able to put money aside every month – which we will save to buy more shares in the future.  We’re pleased that we now have a solid investment to leave behind for our children, something which will help them out financially in the future.”


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Access all areas Resident Wayne McKenzie was struggling to live in his apartment block because he is unable to use his hands. My Great Place went to find out how Great Places is helping him Communal doors were a particular problem for Wayne McKenzie. Living in an apartment block, he was unable to enter or leave his home without his support assistant, because he simply couldn’t open the manual doors. “It’s not adapted for my needs – I can’t use the taps and open doors because I’ve got no grip in my hands, I have atrial fibrillation which is a heart condition….I was desperate to get some independence back,” he says. Great Places looked into adapting his home but his requirement for a specialist door entry system on a communal door servicing other residents was just not going to work. Mainly because the number of residents using the door would impact on the ongoing maintenance costs. Instead, Great Places looked into finding a new home for Wayne and came up with the perfect scheme at Petrewood in Blackburn. “We needed to support Wayne to find a solution,” says neighbourhood manager, Gemma McGiffen. “The scheme was at the planning stage so we could work closely with partners to factor in the bespoke aids and adaptations needed, but also it was in near to Wayne’s current home.” Although Wayne will not move into his new home until October 2014, he’s been fully involved in its design, even choosing his kitchen. “At the moment I’m socially excluded but in December I was told about my new house and it made my Christmas. I’ve got a home for life now.”

Are you not getting round as easily in your home? Why not get in touch with us? Phone 0300 123 1966 or email 11 MGP Spring 2014e.indd 11

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Down with the duke

Great Places has signed up to become the first housing association in Greater Manchester to be a licensed provider of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. My Great Place finds out how we’re giving more young people the chance to learn and develop important skills. It’s a fact that young people are finding it harder than ever to get into employment. A recent survey of major employers in the UK showed that the following attributes and characteristics are the most important when choosing a candidate: leadership, teamwork, self-motivation, communication, confidence and the ability to learn. From the sample, 76% emphasised how important it is for young people to be encouraged to develop their life skills, therefore it’s no surprise that when asked to rank the most important activities young people could undertake to gain these skills, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was top of the list. Great Places is now giving young residents the chance to go for the Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. Some of our first ever groups met


in Northmoor, Manchester recently. Here’s what they had to say about being involved: Saqib, 16: “I am a student studying at college. I want to do the DofE to gain confidence and for the great experience. I had heard about the DofE and it had attracted me as I liked the sound of the challenge and the adventure.” Matthew, 15, resident: “I’m a pupil at St. Peters and previously did the bronze award for DofE but did not complete it. I want to do DofE because it gives a chance to prove myself to others. It will give me amazing life skills that I could bring into any future jobs that I might have.”

Busenur, 18: “In 2013 all of my friends took part in gold DofE at my sixth form however I couldn’t because it cost too much. I felt like I was missing out on a lot and this upset me. I’m really grateful that Great Places has offered me this opportunity and I am very excited to get going.” The Northmoor group have all agreed to complete a joint volunteering environmental project in their local community. Look out for more updates.

Memona, 19, resident: “It’s a great opportunity for me as I am on a gap year and was looking for something where I would gain skills and be able to contribute to my local community. I have already completed the silver award. I didn’t complete the gold award with my school due to the financial commitment required therefore I am grateful for the opportunity given to me by Great Places.”

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h What is the Duke of Edinburgh Award? A DofE programme is a real adventure from beginning to end. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. You just need to be aged between 14 and 24 and realise there’s more to life than sitting on a sofa watching life pass you by.

Levels You can do programmes at three levels, which when completed, lead to a bronze, silver or gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The bronze takes about nine months to complete and Great Places still have places!

Sections You achieve your award by completing a personal programme of activities in four sections (five if you’re going for gold) – volunteering, physical, skills, expedition and for gold, a residential. The best bit is – you get to choose what you do! Your programme can be full of activities and projects that get you buzzing, and along the way you’ll pick up experiences, friends and talents that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

es ac Pl


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If you need any further information visit or would like to attend an introduction session then please contact your local Great Places regional office or the CAT team on 0300 123 1966 or via email We will be recruiting our next batch of young residents in August!



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We have more opportunities for young people to get involved! Contact Cathy McCormick by emailing cathy.mccormick@ about our outward bound weekend.

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A rise in your rent Each year we use government guidelines to set increases to your rent. My Great Place explains what this means. How your rent increase is set

Great Places uses government guidelines to set increases to your rent each year. These are based on the rate of inflation every September. In September 2013, inflation (RPI) was 3.2%, which forms the basis for the rent increase this year. The guidelines mean all rents will go up by inflation plus 0.5%, and then, where required, be adjusted up or down by a further amount of up to £2 a week, to make sure they reach their “target rent”. The government requires that the majority of housing associations’ properties are within 5% of nationally set “target rents”. Target rents are set so that all tenants living in properties of a similar type pay a similar amount of rent, regardless of who they rent their home from. For example, if you live in a three-bedroom house in Salford, the idea is that everyone in your street who lives in a similar-sized home will be paying a similar amount of rent.

It per a

Affordable rent

If the rent for your home is set under the government’s ‘Affordable Rent’ regime, it will have been set at 80% of the local market rent when your home was let to you. Increases to your rent are based on the rate of inflation (RPI) every September plus 0.5%. In September RPI was 3.2% which results in an overall rent increase of 3.7%. If you are subject to a fair rent, your rent is registered separately by a rent officer.

What your rent pays for

The money you give us in rent is used to pay for the management of your home and to provide you with essential services such as improvements and repairs. Across Great Places we will be spending over £24m on repairing, maintaining and improving homes during 2014/15. This includes carrying out routine repairs, getting empty properties ready for new tenants, servicing gas heating systems, major repairs such as new roofs and improvements like new kitchens and bathrooms.

How your service charge is set

Depending on the type of property you live in, you may also pay a service charge. This covers services such as window cleaning, communal gardening and door-entry systems.

What if I think I am paying too much?

You can challenge the amount you are being charged for rent and service charges by using our complaints procedure.

Important benefit news! If you’re affected by the changes to benefits, have been in the same property since 1996, and have been receiving housing benefit since 1996, you may be able to get an exemption from the bedroom tax and have the full amount of the housing benefit shortfall for the year paid. The government will close this loophole this month but claimants can continue to appeal after that date if they think they have been affected. If you need help appealing to your local authority, please contact us!


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I don’t use the internet...


If you’re reading this and you don’t use the internet then you’re not on your own. We estimate that 40% of you, our residents, don’t use the internet. There are lots of reasons for not being online but here are some of the most common.

I can’t afford it! Computers cost money! The internet costs money! It’s estimated that households that are online save £560 per year. How? The cheapest deals on gas, electric, insurance and everyday household items are usually found on the internet. Not only that, you can compare prices on the internet, and so service providers are all competing to offer the best online deals.

Computers? Internet? I wouldn’t know where to start..? We now have a digital trainer, Len, who can help get you started with training, advice on buying a computer, internet connections and even financial support. Just call 0300 123 1966 and tell us you want help to get online.

What’s in it for you? Nearly 90% of jobs require some basic IT skills and having these skills also makes it easier to apply for jobs advertised on the internet. Benefits: The government plans for 80% of applications for the Universal Credit to be made online by 2017. Children who have internet access at home perform better at school, get better results and have higher earning potential.

Exclusive Offer

Refurbished 14” Laptop with Windows 7 and 12 Months Warranty – £149 You may also qualify for an 80% discount on Microsoft Office. For more advice or financial assistance call Great Places on 0300 123 1966 and ask for help to get online. 15 MGP Spring 2014e.indd 15

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News neighbourhood

What’s going on where you live...

Bye Bye Bowland

BLACKBURN: Bowland House in Blackburn is saying a sad goodbye to one of its longest standing residents, Marie Gorton. “I’ve been here for 13 years. I’m loathed to leave this place but I’ve got to because of health reasons. To me, it has everything. My flat has become my home. It’s so handy for the town, three minutes walk to the market and Primark’s not far away! A lot of people have left here not because they want to, but because they’ve had to. The bedroom tax has forced them out. Bowland House is unique in some ways…if you’re lonely you’ve got instant friends and a community.” If you want to live at Bowland House please call Amina on 01254 588 755 or email

Richmond activities club SHEFFIELD: Richmond Activities Club, for children up to 12 (under 8s to be accompanied by an appropriate adult or parent) every Tuesday 4.30pm to 6.30pm. Arts, craft, games and environmental activities on offer (weather dependant). Stay ‘n’ Play group for 0 to 3 year olds every Tuesday morning 9.30 to 11.30am starting on Tuesday 4th March at Richmond Community Centre, Richmond Park Drive. Good luck to the Richmond Activities Club volunteers who’ll be completing their level two youth work certificate in the next few weeks!

The Breightmet Carers BOLTON: Great Places Housing Group is leading on a project that aims to provide much needed respite to the carers of Breightmet in Bolton. The project hopes to deliver activities around health, wellbeing and relaxation therapy, but also addresses social isolation, mental wellbeing and financial exclusion. It will offer carers a nearby hub to meet each other regularly, to share experiences and form friendships, to enable them to continue the fantastic work they do. Carers will get to meet providers like Healthwatch Bolton, The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Get Active Bolton, Think Positive, Citizens Advice Bureau and Beauty on Wheels. For more information, please contact Nick Shea on 0161 925 7990 or email: nicola.shea@

Fylde: New residents were thrilled to get the keys to their new homes at The Heathers in Staining. The development is in the village of Staining surrounded by countryside. The new family homes are a mix of two and three bedroom close to the local school, shops and bus routes. MANCHESTER: Our fundraising co-ordinator Daniel Mountford is supporting Bridging the Gap for foodbanks which will open at the end of March in Hulme, Moss Side, Whalley Range. They’ve had a grant of £3,000 approved towards essential toiletries!

Art’s a start OLDHAM: Youngsters from Spinners Mews in Chadderton are taking part in an arts project delivered by Mahdlo Youth Zone which offered young people from the ages of 8 to 21 years old the opportunity to be involved. The project hopes to help young people understand themselves a little more and respect other people’s identities and culture. If you want to get involved visit


SHEFFIELD: Great Places paid for new bikes for the local bobbies on Wybourn.

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Great British cook off

BURY: Leader of the Council Mike Connelly,Cllr Pat JonesGreenhalgh (Executive Director Adult Care Services), Cllr Rishi Shori (Chair, Bury’s Health & Wellbeing Board and Cabinet Member for Adult Care, Health & Housing),Peter Bojar (director of development) and residents at the new St Mary’s Court older people bungalows.

The Corner House SHEFFIELD: The Corner House is conveniently situated in the heart of Wybourn, on 333 Manor Oaks Road. It offers:   • A meeting place for social and interest groups • Children’s party venue • Drop in point • Services & office space   If you are interested in using the house, room booking can be made by contacting Dawn Dale development worker, Manor & Castle Development Trust. or call 0114 252 1037.

OLDHAM: Great Places Residents’ Fund, which gives you the money for projects that make a difference to your lives and the areas in which you live, has helped women from Oldham set up the Spinners Mews Women’s Cooking Group which is supervised by community rep Shima Das. Every Thursday between 5.30pm and 7.30pm 12 women meet at South Chadderton Methodist Church to cook their favourite recipes. For more information contact naseem.ahmad@

Clean, mean streets of Audley

BLACKBURN: Residents came out in force for a community clean-up in the Audley/Queens Park Ward of Blackburn. They were joined by the local community officer from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, the neighbourhood police team and also the mayor’s office. 

Garstang great Say no to fly tipping! BLACKBURN: Neighbourhood co-ordinator Naim Patel swapped his Great Places fleece for a high visibility jacket and spent the day with the Blackburn caretakers and neighbourhood officer Mary Brown cleaning up some land on Oak Street. Local ‘bobbies’ from the neighbourhood police team were impressed with their dedication. The land is now clean and looks so much better. Naim said: “It was good to be out with the caretakers. We showed local people that we do take pride in our communities. The caretaker service in Blackburn is a very valuable resource and it’s at times like this we see the benefits of an ‘in-house’ service.”

GARSTANG: In early February 2014, 12 new households moved into six 3-bed properties and six 2-bed properties in the leafy rural area of Garstang. All residents had a connection to Garstang or the immediate area and were thrilled to be moving into such lovely new build properties. They are ideally situated to the local amenities and all families have settled in well.

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Elderly services news

Line dancing, lunch and laughs Over 150 Great Places’ residents, including home owners and other residents, attended the third annual Older Person’s Information Day held at the Masonic Hall in Swinton, sponsored by Age UK and Great Places.

Still going strong 60 year’s on! Arthur and Agnes Owen, who live at Ramsden Fold, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on 24th January, before they went on holiday for three weeks to Lanzarote. With their actual anniversary falling on 13th Feb, a card from the Queen was delivered to their hotel!

Agencies like Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Salford Health improvement team and Great Places’ environmental team were all on hand to give advice to residents who also enjoyed a spot of line dancing and some lunch.

Putting the ‘fun’ into fundraising Residents at Windmill House in Blackpool were treated to bingo, a raffle and a turn by vocalist Jonny Rox at a special event organised by the social event committee. The Alzheimer’s Society was presented with a cheque for £200 and residents also raised a whopping £200 to go towards future events and coach trips in the summer.

Computer love Windmill House residents in Blackpool are feeling digitally dotty after securing a grant of £750 from the Co-operative Community Investment Foundation to buy computer equipment. The scheme is already looking into training for residents which will include how to use the internet and sending emails. If you want to know more about how you can access training, turn to page 15 and meet Len, our new digital trainer!


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my money

We talk through the different ways you can pay your rent, and give you the results of our You Can Glow visits in November

Pay your rent by text! Did you know there are several ways you can pay your rent? One easy way is by text. All you need is your PRN number (which you receive when you get your rent payment card). Don’t worry if you don’t know it, we can check on the system. If you haven’t got one you can order a card on Allpay. Just call 0300 123 1966 for help. Other ways to pay include: Direct Debit, over the phone, online, pay via automated telephone service 24 hours a day. Call Allpay on 0844 557 8321. For more information visit and go to My Homepage, Pay my rent.

How did you glow? We held our annual You Can Glow campaign in November which aimed to save you money and improve the heating requirements of residents affected by welfare reform. Here are some key results from our visits! Number of staff volunteers 168 Number of tenants targeted 1552 Number of visits completed 301 Carbon savings 545 Radflek fitted (or left with resident to fit) = 545 Radiators Each sheet for radiator = £5 saving per year x 545 Radflek sheets = £2,725 saved per year. 240 socket timer switches were given out. 484 light bulbs give out with a saving of £3 each per year = £1,452 Internal door draught excluder: 168 fitted 78 properties identified as needing internal letter box draught proofing Court applications From October to December 2013 we were forced to make 97 court applications and 43 evictions from April to December 2013 due to non-payment of rent. This is a last resort for us. We don’t take these measures lightly and make sure all residents are offered a financial support co-ordinator interview throughout the arrears recovery process to help them manage their money. Our financial support co-ordinators helped prevent a further 40 court applications and 23 evictions. If you find yourself in financial difficulty, we are here to help. We have financial support co-ordinators in each region that will help you to manage your money. Last year we saved over £1m for our residents. Email: Reminder: Local authorities are now publishing their council tax rates for 2014/15 (check on your local authorities website for details). ALL residents of working age now have to make a contribution towards council tax, regardless of income, so don’t forget to look at your bill to see how much you need to pay this year. 19

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Difficult questions, answered!

Great Places

Customer Services Voice

Customer Services Voice (CSV) is a group made up of residents who represent you and your interests, and grill directors on the subjects that matter most to you like repairs, support services and service improvements. My Great Place sat in one of their regular meetings. CSV member: What are you doing to turn Great Places’ repairs service around? David Wood (interim property services director) who’s been in post since 6th Jan: Great Places has reacted to the fact that customer satisfaction is not where it should be regarding the repairs service. I’ve looked at call handling, listening to calls from customers, hearing and feeling their frustrations at times, us not turning up or not being able to fix it once we’re there. I’ve seen how our staff are inputting jobs, I’ve looked at the productivity of our operatives and I’m looking at van stock and how we can get it replenished. I’ve looked at IT systems and I’ve looked at voids, and there is some poor performance there. I’m drafting an immediate action plan, medium plan and a long-term plan to improve things. We’ve got to improve call handling, got to make it accessible to customers. In the last two to three weeks we’ve seen some improvements - the average was 30% missed calls, and in the last three weeks we’ve been running at 6%. Any missed calls we do have we get back to the customers. Performance is heading in the right direction. There is a realisation that we cannot just turn the switch and improve overnight but we are doing everything we can to get there.


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Salford Bramhall (independent) Bury

David Wood: There is a role in doing that. What I’m finding is that systems are driving this role at the minute and there is a lot of administration in the office. What I want to see is supervisors going out into the field and doing much more proactive stuff with the operatives to help understand the issues they’ve got.

Robin Gardner

CSV member: Does anyone ever go and check up on the operatives doing these voids to ask why they’re in there so long?

June Kushner

Sonja Costello

David Wood: With voids I’ve already started to look at the systems. It shouldn’t take too long to turn it around. We will however be a lot more proactive in managing performance.


CSV member: Could I ask you about void properties? I’ve seen some of the operatives spend two or three days sorting them out. In that time I could build a new house myself.


David Wood: Yes we are. It would be a debate as to whether they’re getting the jobs done more quickly and if the quality is good enough. The aim and objective would be to do much more work in-house.


CSV member: Are we still using sub contractors to get the jobs done more quickly?

Christine Goulden

David Wood: There are some specific issues. I’m trying to understand, is it because Sheffield came in-house later on? Besides all that, the service isn’t anywhere near what it needs to be. I’m hoping to make some changes and you’ll see the difference in the coming months.

Brian Sedgwick

CSV member: Group-wide repairs aren’t great but Sheffield in particular seems to be lagging behind the rest of the group. Whether that is because it is the latest to be brought in-house? Or as residents think, it’s because it’s under staffed. For the area that’s covered, there doesn’t seem to be the man power.

Angela Lindsay

NB: Members Robin Ogle and Selvie Selvaretnam were not present

CSV member: Surely the void properties should be ready and clean for people to view? Are they too expensive? Guy Cresswell (director of housing): There are some issues around how we present properties to make them attractive to tenants. There are some areas where our rents are the same as the private market. People are very mobile and move around. We have to respond to that. If you would like to find out more about the CSV, contact Maria Morris on 0161 925 7928 or email

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Get involved

Resident Bev Norris has lived at The Bridge in Timperley since 2009. She tells us how being involved with Great Places has saved her.

I had a brain haemorrhage six and a half year’s ago. It was caused by stress as I was going through a painful divorce. It was a contributory factor in me wanting to move here. They told me my vision would go back to normal but it never has. Now I’ve got no depth perception so I knock things over quite often. Every day I discover something I can’t do, but then I find new and different ways of doing things. I can honestly say that the customer involvement team have changed my life. I’ve felt like I’m a bit surplus to requirement in society. Getting involved has made me feel like I have a purpose – it’s given me confidence, I feel like I’ve got something relevant to say. Since being involved with Great Places I’ve gone on to join other committees and political groups. Because I know I’m here for the long haul as this is my last move, I wanted to help better the services we, as residents, receive. If Great Places want to give a good service they can only imagine what customers want unless they ask us. I currently do ‘call auditing’ where you listen to conversations between residents and the customer access team and mark from 1 to 5 how the customer services person deals with the call. Before I did the first lot I was bit concerned that I might be biased towards the customer. To be perfectly honest I’d want to throw tomatoes at some of the residents who phone but could also see that there is an awful lot of poor communication from staff. I provide feedback on real time customer experiences, which provides insight into how services are delivered to customers by Great Places staff. I’ve not quantified how much time I spend in terms of hours…I’m so glad to be doing something useful. I don’t see it as giving – I see it as receiving something good.

Don’t be reticent or nervous about getting involved. If you’re worried about anything, all of those fears are allayed by the customer involvement team – they will accommodate you, nothing is too much trouble for them. You don’t need lots of experience. In fact you don’t need any!

If you would like to get involved in any of our different involvement activities, please contact Maria Morris on 0161 925 7928 or email


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green place

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

Spring into action in the garden! Spring usually arrives by mid-March and the frequent sunny days provide the opportunity for an increasing range of gardening tasks. It’s time to get busy preparing seed beds, sowing seed, cutting back winter shrubs and generally tidying up around the garden. Top 10 jobs this month 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Plant shallots, onion sets and early potatoes Protect new spring shoots from slugs Plant summer – flowering bulbs Lift and divide overgrown clumps of perennials Top dress containers with fresh compost Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed) Cut back Cornus (dogwood) and Salix (willow) grown for colourful winter stems 8. Weeds come back in to growth – deal with them before they get out of hand 9. Start feeding fish and using the pond fountain – remove pond heaters 10. Open the greenhouse or conservatory doors and vents on warm days

Green spring clean! Throwing open the windows on the first warm day of the year is one of life’s great pleasures until, of course, all that sunlight and breeze makes you realize how dusty, dirty, and cluttered your house has become during the winter hibernation. Even the messiest among us get the urge for spring cleaning – and though we don’t all act on it, those of us who do should keep the annual scrub-down as green as possible. It’s a good time to reduce, reuse, and recycle the clutter that’s getting in your way.

REDUCE Your Food waste :

The average family wastes £50 a month of food that could have been eaten. Here are 5 tips to help you save money and reduce your food waste.

11. Check your portions – cooking too much causes a lot of unnecessary waste, so don’t guess – measure! 2. Plan your meals – before you go shopping, make a list! Buy ingredients you 2 can use for more than one meal. 33. Leftovers – cooked too much for dinner? Have it for lunch or use it to make another tasty meal. 4. Buy what you need – don’t be tempted by BOGOF deals. Calculate whether 4 you are actually saving money or whether you are ending up spending more and wasting more. 5. 5 Storage – storing food properly can help your food stay fresher for longer.

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Competition time You could win £25 in vouchers!

Wordsearch Words to find are: Duke












Congratulations to last issue’s winners: Wordsearch Mr D Stocker, Blackpool, Ali Javanmardi, Salford, Louise Field, Sheffield

Spot the difference Mr Brendan Ping, Sheffield, Lynne Middleton, Chorlton, Khadijah Begum, Oldham

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.

Send your entries by post to: FREEPOST, RLSC-HLLJ-EZRZ, My Great Place, Great Places Housing Group, Southern Gate, 729 Princess Road, Manchester M20 2LT.


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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 6th May 2014.

All entries must be in by 6th May 2014

Remember you don’t need a stamp!

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My Great Place Spring 2014  
My Great Place Spring 2014