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Magazine of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations

perspective on social housing

Issue 4 - Spring/Summer Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations


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Contents Rural Issues ....P3

that spring to mind are the following: Given the many other demands on public expenditure in Northern Ireland, would a devolved administration invest more in social housing than Direct Rule Ministers? Or would they be able to make better use of the available resources? Would a new Northern Ireland Executive change the controversial plans the Direct Rule team is implementing to reform rates, introduce water charges, demand greater efficiency from the public services and restrict housebuilding in the countryside?

What will be the outcome of recalling the Northern Ireland Assembly between May and November 2006? Will the result make any difference to the tens of thousands of people already served by the region’s housing associations and those hoping to be accommodated by them? Since the full title of this magazine is “Perspective on Social Housing” I consider it reasonable to address these questions. In my opinion, more progress will be made if our politicians keep “bread and butter issues” (such as housing) at the forefront of their minds when engaged in debates and negotiations. Do you agree? There are plenty of major questions on which this hypothesis can be tested. Some

What about the decisions flowing from the Review of Public Administration? Would a devolved administration defer the plan to divide the new “Supporting People” system between the seven “super Councils”? I would encourage you to ask your elected representatives such questions. And don’t forget to let them know what you think about the issues! If you would like to contact Chris Williamson to discuss any of the points raised then please do so by contacting NIFHA on ( 028 9023 0446 or by email:





OMNILEDGER LIMITED – A Company Profile........P14


Front cover: Emmaus House, Glencraig Craigowen Housing Association (028) 9070 2020

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AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROVISION IN RURAL AREAS Rural Housing Association was established in 1992 specifically to provide quality affordable accommodation for rental in disadvantaged rural areas throughout Northern Ireland. The strategic target at the outset was to provide twenty dwellings per year through: • purchase and improvement or replacement of single derelict rural dwellings; • provision of “crossroads” new build projects; • the removal of the blight of dereliction in small towns / villages by providing centrally located housing where need existed. The Association to date has provided 340 dwellings in rural areas of Northern Ireland and will continue to direct its resources towards addressing rural housing stress in the years ahead. The task of providing small scale housing developments in dispersed rural areas is not easy as my colleagues in other Housing Associations involved in the rural cottages replacement programme will testify. Geographical isolation, lack of economy of scale, lack of infrastructural services and restrictive planning policies are but a few of the challenges that we encounter on a day to day basis. Rural Housing Association works closely with community based Associations / Development Groups in the belief that rural housing problems are best identified, understood and then solved at a local level. We find that response to housing need surveys is more positive and that rural communities are generally more receptive to the concept of affordable housing provision where they are actively engaged in the entire development process from the outset. Whilst small scale housing provision in rural areas may appear insignificant in the overall scale of affordable housing provision it has a

significant impact upon the areas in which it is provided. A number of our rural projects in County Fermanagh have arrested the decline in primary school roll numbers thus safeguarding their viability for future generations. The availability of affordable housing is also critical in maintaining other services such as the shop, post office and public transport service that are taken for granted in more urban locations.

communities. Scarce housing funds have to be used for this purpose and I feel that the Water Service policy of not adopting small sewage treatment plants serving less than fifteen dwellings is in fact discriminating against small rural communities.

It was particularly alarming for all of us involved in rural development to learn that Planning Service had decided to apply the directives contained in Draft Planning Policy Statement 14 with effect from 16 March 2006. The Planning Service decision was Owner occupation is the dominant and taken without any public consultation preferred tenure type in rural areas. In whatsoever and has denied those most recognition of this fact our association is a likely to be significantly keen advocate of the affected their democratic The availability of mixed tenure concept. right to comment on The provision of affordable rural housing proposals. Whilst rural dwellings for sale as is critical in maintaining development has to be part of small rural controlled the draconian local services projects enables us to proposals contained in derive the advantages Planning Policy of economy of scale in addition to meeting Statement 14 must be robustly opposed the housing for rental requirements of small and even legally challenged by key rural communities. We also work closely stakeholders throughout rural Northern with our colleagues in Co-Ownership Ireland. The current consultation period is of Housing Association to enable rural people little significance given the fact the Planning on low incomes to access an owner Service has already decided to proceed with occupation option of their choice. application of the proposals contained in the Policy Statement. If the hitherto intractable sectors of rural housing stress are to be adequately Provision of affordable housing alone will addressed in the future a more sympathetic not guarantee the sustainability of small approach will be required from other key rural communities and the efforts of the agencies. Planning policy will have to be statutory and voluntary organisations are to more flexible and location specific, provision be commended. I can recall attending of proper sewage treatment facilities will public meetings in the early / mid 1990’s in require additional funding and priority. rural areas throughout Northern Ireland in Roads Service infrastructure provision damp cold community halls, virtually all of requirements should not insist upon urban these have now been replaced by modern standards of design being applied at remote facilities that provide a focal point in their rural locations, as such inappropriate communities for a wide and varied range of specifications increase costs significantly. activities / night classes. Undoubtedly, our rural communities are a vital part of our society, so these issues merit There can be no doubt that the lack of proper care and consideration. infrastructural services especially the availability of proper sewage treatment If you are interested in any of the issues facilitates is an obstacle for our association. raised in this article please contact Mr. Water Service, in my opinion, does not Paddy McGurk, Director, Rural Housing Association on ☎ 028 8224 6118. direct sufficient funds towards provision of services in hamlets and dispersed rural



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INNOVATION IN ACTION PREMIER LEAGUE In November 2005 one of Northern Ireland’s most proactive and innovative housing associations launched a new tenant service which actively seeks to reward tenants for meeting the requirements of their tenancy agreements. The Premier Service is a new tenant loyalty initiative which is the first of its kind to be launched in Northern Ireland with the express aim of encouraging tenants to meet the terms and conditions of their tenancy agreements. However, the programme goes much further than its core objective. The Premier Service allows Ulidia to promote the association’s core belief that tenants are valuable and should be acknowledged as individual customers. The service operates as a doubled edged sword: tenants that demonstrate good tenancy conduct are rewarded, while others are encouraged to adhere to their tenancy conditions by the incentives offered. By changing tenancy culture and acknowledging tenants as valued customers Ulidia’s Premier Service will actively help to enhance the profile of social housing as the tenure of Quality and Choice.

Commenting at the launch of Ulidia’s Premier Service, the associations Chairperson, Liz Millen stated: “The main objective in introducing the tenant reward scheme is to attempt to rebalance the delivery of our service to those tenants who adhere to the terms of their tenancy conditions. The Association’s experience has shown that the time and resources spent dealing with a small number of matters that constitute a breach of tenancy is significantly disproportionate to the service provided to the majority of our tenants who pay their rent, look after their homes and adhere to their tenancy agreements. The proposed benefits to Ulidia’s Premier Service members include a bonus bond with a value of £1 for every week of qualifying membership. These bonus bonds can be exchanged in over 40 retail outlets in Northern Ireland. Other benefits include Heating Discount Vouchers, a faster repairs

service and competitions and prizes for tenants and their children. However, those tenants that are not members continue to receive a high quality of customer service from the Association as recognised by its Charter Mark status. For further information on the ‘Premier Service’ please contact Ulidia Housing Association, 20 Derryvolgie Avenue, Belfast, ☎ (028) 90 382288.

WORKLIFE BALANCE – CHALLENGING THE 9 TO 5! For the past two years, Clanmil has been looking at ideas and ways to maintain the right balance between the personal and professional lives of staff. In a project led by the Head of Corporate Services, Karen Stilges, Clanmil has been looking at new and innovative types of working pattern, benefits and improving on the flexible working arrangements already in place.

A survey was launched in February 2004 and during the months of July and August 2004, both the Chief Executive, Clare McCarty and the Head of Corporate Services went back to the staff groups involved, looked at the survey results, and in more detail at the critical issues which would make a difference to the lives of staff. In April 2005, after consultation and with the support of the Board of Clanmil, the worklife balance package was launched for staff. The package includes measures such as increased flexi working, healthcare for all staff and career breaks, with more innovative ideas such as a day off for your birthday, the option to buy and sell annual leave and recognition for professional qualifications. Almost a year down the line, what’s the feedback? To sum it up, in a quote from their recent Investors in People accreditation report, the auditor comments

“The Worklife Balance Strategy has had a huge impact on people across the organisation. Staff see this as a commitment by management to recognise their needs and balance these with the needs of the Association… there is a loyal and committed workforce, which has a very strong pride in their work and the work of the association”. Clanmil acknowledges that individuals at all stages of their lives work best when they are able to achieve an appropriate balance between work and other aspects of their lives, and hope that’s what the worklife balance package has started to deliver.

SUPPORTING PEOPLE: A HELPING HAND as possible. The idea of extra support for vulnerable people is not in itself new; these services have been provided for many years, however, until recently there was no strategic process driving these services forward. As a result services were patchy both in terms of numbers and in relation to quality and performance.

Supporting People (SP) is a relatively new funding regime which helps by contributing towards essential support that enables people to achieve and/or maintain their independence for as long

Legislative changes underpinned the creation of a new multi-agency commissioning body to manage support provision overall. In 2003 the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) took over as the lead agency responsible for commissioning and regulating the sector. The

NIHE’s Supporting People Team oversees the process and recently published an SP Strategy which gives a broad overview of the priorities for the next 5 years. The key strategic objectives are as follows: • To commission strategically relevant services – it is likely that there will a realignment of resources by region and client group. • To develop services in line with service users needs and aspirations – services will be ‘needs led’.

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• To ensure value for money services – expensive services may have their funding cut. It is to be hoped that the money saved will be channelled to other SP priorities. • To continuously improve the quality of services – there will be mandatory standards of quality and performance to which every provider must conform and seek to exceed.

SP FOR OLDER PEOPLE One of the key SP groups for housing association providers is older people and the majority of such support services are delivered in sheltered housing. This type of accommodation generally includes features such as alarm systems and/or warden support with the housing, independent living skills, security or assistance with wider support needs. (It is important to note that more intensive care needs fall under the remit of Social Services.)

All these underpinning themes apply to support services for each and every SP client group. Services provided through Supporting People are available to a variety of client groups such as individuals with a learning disability, mental health issues, physical disability, ex-offenders, women fleeing domestic violence etc. A dedicated support worker is assigned to work in partnership with the resident in order to identify housing or possibly wider support needs and agree a plan to help the resident towards greater independence. Services may be tied to the accommodation, in which case the support will be a condition of the tenancy or alternatively provided separately - this is known as floating support. Service provision can occasionally be accessed by direct self-referral, however, in most cases the service can only be accessed via a formal referral process i.e. the applicant will have to meet the set criteria for any given project and go through an assessment process in order to establish a support need.

Clearly, the preventative agenda is a key aspect of supporting people for this group of clients. Helping people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible is a fundamental driver under the SP agenda, as this reduces the pressure on more expensive care services.

A Stitch in Time…

complex needs. It also provides support to individuals placed within temporary accommodation in Ballymoney. A small team of two soon to be three work in Belfast, supporting people with predominantly drug and alcohol issues. This second team is based at Shaftesbury Square Hospital.

A third team of four workers is presently being established to cover the Northern Health and Social Services Board region The basic principle underlying supporting young vulnerable Floating Support is that help homeless and those leaving care. goes to individuals in their own This project which is in permanent accommodation, Floating Support staff in training partnership with Barnardo’s is rather than in a unit designated based in Ballymena. All the as supported housing and can therefore ‘float’ schemes are funded by ‘Supporting People’ off when no longer required. In other words administered by the Northern Ireland Housing the support is linked to the Executive. These services are person, not the dwelling. Need to expand the usually temporary and shortSuch support is intended to term, although Floating service – need more people provide vital assistance that Support, by its very nature, like this to support us prevents vulnerable people can be fluctuating depending from losing their home or on the needs of the individual. having to move to obtain more intensive services based in a scheme setting. As All the association’s clients must have a housing suggested by the title ‘a stitch in time’, Floating issue at the time of referral. Most, however, Support can be a cost effective way of present with many other complex needs such delivering services since early intervention and as mental health issues, debt and addiction practical help may prevent more expensive problems, intimidation, learning/physical alternative outcomes. disabilities and self harm issues. As a Triangle currently has three teams providing this valuable service. The first is based in Market Street, Ballymoney and consists of eight workers supporting people with a range of

Wesley Court, is a sheltered housing scheme for the elderly, owned and managed by Wesley Housing Association. It was completed in 1996 and consists of 28 flats, 9 bungalows with communal facilities as well as accommodation for the Scheme Supervisor, Mrs Jackie Dow. The scheme’s oldest resident Mrs Elizabeth Robinson, affectionately known to all as ‘Granny’ has lived at the scheme since its completion. Mrs Robinson, who will be 99 years old later this year moved to the scheme as her previous accommodation was no longer suitable for her needs. She is delighted that the services of the Scheme Supervisor together with 24 hour emergency support from Fold Telecare, enable her to live independently in her own flat. Lawrence McAdams, Chief Executive of the Association also agrees that the funding provided by the Housing Executive’s Supporting People team for services such as the Scheme Supervisor and Fold Telecare at this type of scheme, enable many elderly, vulnerable tenants to remain independent in their own homes.

An excellent example of the supporting people

Triangle Housing Association is a relatively small association but one with big ideas and an innovative approach to service provision. The Floating Support Service which they introduced in 1999 is one of those ideas. These services were introduced to help people with complex needs to access suitable accommodation and help them maintain their tenancies in the community.

process in action in a sheltered housing environment is Wesley Court, Carrickfergus.

consequence the type of assistance provided can vary greatly. For example help could be as simple as explaining the terms and conditions of the tenancy agreement and giving

He adds that it is vital such funding is maintained and expanded as support needs change in the future. Supporting People services are delivered to a number of client groups. There is a wide spectrum of service models; however, all have the same core theme of supporting independent living as far as possible in a normal community environment.

Without the Support Worker I would have to cope with everything on my own information on accessing relevant benefits or as complex as offering advice on bills and debts, putting the client in touch with appropriate care services, dealing with tenant disputes, providing specialist housing advice and giving emergency support at a time of particular crisis. Clearly Triangle’s staff has to be and is a multiskilled group. Each full-time staff member has a caseload of approximately 15 service users. The average contact time is two hours per week and support lasts on average 10 months. Clients can be re-referred to the service at any time. At the moment the Ballymoney team is involved with approximately 90 clients, Belfast has 30 clients and the team for young vulnerable homeless and care leavers is expected to support approximately 28 clients. The development of this service over the last six years is indicative of the benefit it brings. However, the real value of a service is often best determined by its users. Feedback from clients of the Triangle service has been positive with comments like “I have no family support. Without the Support Worker I would have to cope with everything on my own and possibly wouldn’t” while another user said “I wouldn’t change anything. I just hope everyone gets the same care and attention as I do” and one even summed it up very succinctly as “brilliant”. Existing users also seem to be in favour of developing such services, commenting “Need to expand the service – need more people like this to support us”.



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SUCCESS, CHALLE HOMES TARGET EXCEEDED AGAIN! Once again, Northern Ireland’s housing associations have exceeded the output target set by the Department for Social Development. In the financial year that ended on 31st March 2006 associations purchased or started building 1,519 units of accommodation for letting to those in greatest housing need. The result is all the more impressive because the target had been substantially increased from 1,300 in 2004/05 to 1,500 in 2005/06. The Northern Ireland Co-ownership Housing Association added to the good news by enabling 504 households to gain a foothold in owner-occupation through its equitysharing scheme. Those eligible for the scheme cannot afford the full cost of purchase but have enough income to buy half and pay a modest rent on the other half. They are entitled to increase their equity share to 100% (in several stages or in one go) and 686 Co-ownership households took advantage of this to become full owner-occupiers in 2005/06. Achievement of these successes in housing association development is not easy, as the following three points illustrate. A serious problem for Co-ownership and the associations developing rented homes is the continuing steep

rise in the market value of existing properties and sites suitable for residential development. Competition from the private sector is intense, associations are not allowed to pay more than the District Valuer’s assessment and they must comply with many other rules laid down by the Department for Social Development (DSD). No housing association rented homes may be developed unless the Housing Executive has confirmed that additional accommodation of the proposed type is needed in the locality. The Executive will only certify this if it is satisfied that insufficient re-letting opportunities are likely to arise in existing NIHE and housing association stock to cater for the number of applicants in housing stress. If there are many vacant houses in the area the Housing Executive may take the view that no new social rented accommodation is required, even if significant numbers of high-pointed households are on the local waiting list. The process of consulting the community and obtaining planning consent is often time-consuming and sometimes problematic. Associations frequently face the dilemma that community groups and elected representatives prefer low-density developments but planning policy and the Department for Social Development’s capital grant system expect higher densities. Sadly, the development of housing for people needing supportive services has sometimes been hindered by illinformed comment or rumours. In such situations local Councillors can play a vital role by giving civic leadership and minimising the potential for misunderstanding.

Effic In 2004 the government asked Sir Peter Gershon to recommend how public authorities could become more efficient while maintaining the quality of their services. His report indicated that more benefit could be obtained for taxpayers’ money, mainly by making smarter use of the huge purchasing power of public agencies. By working together to buy in greater bulk, Gershon expected public services to obtain better deals from firms wishing to sell them goods, services or capital works. Armed with this report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer promised more money for many public programmes but attached the condition that their efficiency would have to improve by 2.5% in each of the following three financial years. These rules apply to Northern Ireland as well as Britain. The government therefore expects the Department for Social Development to show efficiency gains of £1.7 million, £2.4 million and £4.5 million in the budgets for housing association activity in 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2008/09. Housing associations have always pursued efficiency so the Federation promptly requested full and open engagement with the DSD about the Chancellor’s initiative. Since March 2005 the Federation and Department have held numerous discussions and exchanged correspondence on how best to proceed. This dialogue has produced agreement on the following important points: • the aim of the exercise is to produce more and/or better housing and related services with the resources available; not to cut the budget • the clearest efficiency would be a reduction in the amount of capital grant (without significantly increasing rents) per home developed by housing associations

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ENGE & CHANGE iency Challenge • it is also valid for associations to record efficiency gains made inside their organisations, even if these do not affect the level of funding from the Department • although they are more difficult to measure, quality improvements achieved at no extra cost may be counted as efficiencies • all efficiencies must be capable of verification by auditors. Echoing general government thinking, the DSD sees great potential for efficiencies in the “bundling” of housing development projects. The Department expects building contractors to submit keener tenders in such a scenario because the successful firm would be awarded a series of contracts and thus secure continuity of work for several years. Since the scale of the whole housing association development programme is modest compared to major building projects, the DSD believes the benefits of bundling will be maximised if

development administration is concentrated in a very small number of housing associations. It also takes the view that associations need to achieve accreditation through the Construction Client’s Charter before taking part in a development procurement group. The Federation agrees that long-term partnering in the field of construction will produce tangible benefits but is not convinced that the cost and delay involved in achieving the Client’s Charter would be necessary and worthwhile. We also feel that the risks of putting all the “development eggs” in one basket (or even two, three or four baskets) should be carefully assessed before the Department adopts such a radically different procurement strategy. NIFHA and the Department are united, however, in believing that housing associations can obtain significantly better value for money by collaborating to procure goods and services on a collective basis. In fact, the Federation has directly facilitated a number of such exercises over the last 30 years and recently instigated some new ones!

Big Council Changes! In May 2009 housing associations will adapt to another major change when they engage with the seven proposed “super-Councils”. The new Councils will not only be responsible for much bigger populations but also for three additional functions which are important to housing associations. The first of these is landuse planning i.e. formulating Area Plans and taking decisions on planning applications. The second is the new function known as community planning. The Councils will be expected to play a co-ordinating role so that the other public authorities (such as health, social services and

education) integrate their activities in the district to achieve “joined up” service delivery for local residents. The third function emerged recently when the Secretary of State announced that certain “non-core” functions of the Housing Executive would also be transferred to the new Councils in 2009. One of these is the Supporting People framework, which brings together the public authorities responsible for housing, social care and probation. This inter-agency group is required to assess the need for housing support services, plan future provision, enforce service standards and pay grant to service providers.

Conclusion As well as celebrating another considerable success by housing associations this article sketches key challenges and changes facing them. If history is anything to go by, the Federation’s members will respond flexibly and positively to the new agenda!

YOUR COMMUNITY NEEDS YOU The previous article highlighted a number of current challenges facing the voluntary housing sector. However, some things never change and one perennial challenge for any voluntary organisation is to renew or refresh their governing body to ensure that the organisation continues to have access to the competencies, skills, knowledge and experience that facilitate optimum performance. For this reason NIFHA maintains a register of persons interested in serving on the committee of a housing association or of the Northern Ireland Housing Associations Charitable Trust, which is the charitable arm of the movement.

If you believe you have something to offer your community and are interested in serving in a voluntary capacity, please contact the Federation on ☎ 028 9023 0446 or : for further information. We would be delighted to hear from you.



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AWARDS & ACHIEVEMENTS Like many other organisations housing associations take a great deal of pride in the work that they carry out, whether it be new housing projects or actively seeking to improve living conditions for their residents. So, when work is formally recognised NIFHA is more than happy to spread the word…

Housing Council Awards The Northern Ireland Housing Council has maintained a long standing interest in the achievement of high standards in housing and the delivery of housing services. The Council is committed to recognising the contribution of staff in terms of excellence in the housing field. Historically the Housing Council Awards have only been open to staff from the Housing Executive however due to the increasingly significant role played by the Housing Association movement, the Housing Council took the decision to extend an invitation to Housing Associations to submit nominations for 2005 awards. There are currently 3 awards for which nominations were sought. 1. The Norman Capper Memorial Trophy: This award is presented for excellence in the field of customer service or public relations. 2. The Jack Bailie Award: This award is presented to a member of staff who introduces an efficiency initiative. 3. J R Gorman Trophy: This award is presented to the Senior Maintenance Officer in the Housing Association movement or the District Maintenance Officer in the Housing Executive, who

has demonstrated the greatest efficiency in response maintenance. Having carefully considered the award categories those housing associations interested in entering the awards opted for the ‘Norman Capper Memorial Trophy’ as a result of its flexibility in relation to the customer service element. After careful short listing, formal notification was given to the successful housing associations along with an invitation to the official awards lunch which was held in Coleraine. Each housing association was highly commended for their efforts and thanked for their involvement. NIFHA was delighted with the standard of entries from housing associations and sincerely hopes that this experience, and it has to be said success, will encourage other associations to take the opportunity to enter the 2006 Housing Council Awards. If any association would like further in formation on the awards or the entry process please do not hesitate to contact the Federation on ☎ 028 9023 0446.

CHOICE & CORINTHIAN CELEBRATE CSHS AWARD Two of Northern Ireland’s most proactive housing associations, Choice and Corinthian have successfully attained the prestigious Centre for Sheltered Housing Studies (CSHS) code of practice. The CSHS code of practice mirrors that of the quality assessment framework operated by The Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s (NIHE) Supporting People Unit, and is a United Kingdom wide programme, which recognises the practice of continuous improvement relating to sheltered housing

schemes. This type of accommodation is specifically designed for both elderly and special need tenants. In the majority of cases the tenants will go about their normal lives with the added security of dedicated support staff that help to monitor tenant’s health and welfare. Usually a scheme coordinator will be on site and can be contacted 24 hours a day. Commenting on achieving the CSHS code of practice Arthur Canning, Chief Executive, Choice and Corinthian Housing Associations stated: “This is a tremendous recognition of the work that is carried out by all staff involved in sheltered accommodation schemes within each association and clearly demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that our sheltered scheme residents receive the highest standards of care.” For further details on Choice and Corinthian Housing Associations and their CSHS work please contact Helen Colville on ☎ 028 9030 8140.

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CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF MARKETING AWARDS Following the successful completion of the 2005 ‘4 Peaks (Ireland) Challenge for Homelessness’ The Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) in partnership with Ark Housing decided to enter the prestigious Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Awards. First pioneered in 1998 the CIM awards programme has assumed a personality of its own, establishing itself as the premier awards event saluting all that is positive in Marketing throughout Northern Ireland. The submission included key facts which surrounded the project allowing the judging panel to gain an insight into the work of the partnership:

CIM Entry: Voluntary and Community Sector Marketing Award The ‘4 Peaks (Ireland) Challenge for Homelessness’ was first thought of by Ark Housing Association in January 2005. Its express objective was to raise the awareness of the social problems associated with homelessness in Northern Ireland and to generate much needed funding for the sector. The trek was a first for the voluntary housing sector and fostered an inter-agency approach, supported by both the Simon Community Northern Ireland and Shelter (NI). The project which saw 20 novice trekkers, including homeless service users take on and successfully climb the four highest

peaks in Ireland and raise over £15,000 for Northern Ireland’s Homeless. Ark Housing is the only housing association to directly manage a dedicated homeless service, providing accommodation and support services for homeless people. Ark Housing was established in 1987 and is an affiliated member of NIFHA. NIFHA is an umbrella organisation whose primary role is to represent, support and promote the 38 registered and six unregistered Housing Associations in Northern Ireland. Housing associations actively work to benefit the community by providing affordable accommodation and related

housing services to those in greatest housing need. Taken together, our members now manage over a quarter of Northern Ireland’s social housing units, build 1,500 new units each year and have attracted over £295million of private finance. In a hugely competitive category the NIFHA (4 Peaks) entry was judged to be the runner up, however the panel praised the submission and rated it as highly commended. As this was the first year that the Federation had entered the CIM awards it should be viewed as a fantastic achievement and future submissions should be encouraged.

Excellence Award for Triangle Housing Association In 2007 Triangle Housing Association will celebrate 30 years of “delivering quality housing and appropriate support to people in need, promoting equality and opportunity for all.” By way for an early celebration the association became the first Housing Association in Northern Ireland to be awarded the EFQM Mark of Excellence. Commenting on Triangle’s award The Centre for Competitiveness described the Association as: “… clearly a very successful and selfsustaining organisation (which) has continued to grow and develop its service and customer base since it was first created.” “There is a clear focus on the needs of customers and policy and strategy is developed and delivered … with the unfaltering aim of improving quality of life for vulnerable people.” Since registration as a Housing Association in 1977, Triangle has experienced

tremendous growth and been at the forefront of change. As part of the larger social housing sector Triangle continues to provide high quality housing services for the benefit of the community and views its main strength is the ability to offer diversity in the area of special needs housing and supported services. Triangle recognised in 2000 that success in the longer term required the establishment an appropriate management framework which could help measure the journey to excellence and help understand and implement solutions that would help to improve the business. The model that was adopted was the European Foundation Quality Excellence Model Framework. The EFQM Mark of Excellence validates Triangle’s business activities and the quality of services to

government, regulatory bodies, commissioners, stakeholders and customers. Most importantly it validates Triangle as ‘partner of choice’ to tenants and service users. After all, Triangle exists to serve and support these groups! If you would like further information on any of the awards discussed please contact NIFHA on ☎ 028 9023 0446



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A key role of the Federation is to represent and promote the work of its member associations. The following reports highlight some of our members’ recent successes and news stories.

2005/2006 NEW BUILD PROGRAMME The Federation is pleased to confirm that Northern Ireland’s Housing Associations exceeded the target of 1,500 new units to be started in the year 2005 – 2006. 1,519 units were actually started. NIFHA has expressed its sincere thanks to all of the Housing Associations involved and to those whose co-operation and partnership was essential to the successful outcome, in particular the Department for Social Development, NIHE, and the Planning and Roads Services. Commenting on the Housing Associations’ success, Social Development Minister David Hanson MP said: “I very much welcome the successful outcome in the year just past. Housing Associations often face criticism that they are not delivering the Government’s targets but the reality is that for the last 3 years they

have delivered the targets set for them. Furthermore, Associations successfully attracted almost £40m of private finance into the programme which means that more houses were able to be provided than would have been the case with Government grant alone. When taken alongside the annual re-lets of NIHE and Housing Association properties these new homes will help address the housing needs of those in housing stress in Northern Ireland. Much remains to be done but I am confident that Housing Associations will continue to meet the challenge. I join with NIFHA in thanking and congratulating everyone involved in this effort”. For further information on this year’s new build programme for social housing please contact NIFHA on ☎ 028 9023 0446 or

LOCAL HOUSING ASSOCIATION LOOKS AFTER ITS OWN South Ulster Housing Association (SUHA) in partnership with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) have been working tirelessly in the Keady area to actively address housing need. The project dates back to 1997 when the NIHE awarded a transfer scheme of 20 units to SUHA. Now in its final phase the project will deliver no less than 64 units of

accommodation for the local community in the Keady area. By providing this accommodation SUHA has allowed local people to remain in Keady and has assisted in the regeneration of the area. Demand for social housing in the area is still increasing highlighting the need for successful partnerships like that of SUHA and the NIHE.

MAKEOVER MAGIC Passers-by in Ballymoney will have noticed major work on a well-known local building recently when Covenanter Flats at Eastermeade Park closed for substantial refurbishment and extension work. These flats, which are managed by the Covenanter Residential Association Ltd (CRAL), were originally opened in January 1979 to provide sheltered accommodation for the elderly but after 25 years some work needed to be done on the building, and it was decided to

extend and improve the facilities. CRAL employed Triangle Housing Association (also based in Ballymoney) as Development Agent to help implement their plans. The work entailed both building and adaptation to create 27 flats – 14 double and 13 single, including 3 to wheelchair standard. The refurbished and extended scheme was re-opened by Further information on these properties is available from the Warden, Dr H J Blair, a founder member and Mrs Gladys Johnston, Covenanter Flats, former Chairman of the Association.

8 Eastermeade Park, Ballymoney, BT53 6HP

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EVEN HOUSING ASSOCIATION NEED A PLACE TO CALL HOME In March of this year Dungannon & District Housing Association officially opened its new office accommodation, Anderson House on Thomas Street in Dungannon. The Association was established in the late 1960’s by Dominic Rafferty, Kieran Conlon and Paddy Duffy, in an attempt to combat problems surrounding the housing situation in Dungannon at that time. Since its inception the association has grown considerably and now manages approximately 300 units in the Cookstown, Dungannon, Omagh and Fermanagh District Council areas made up of general family housing, housing for those with special needs and sheltered accommodation for the older retired person.

BCHA EXTEND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT Belfast Community Housing Association has certainly been living up to their name in recent months. Not only did the association start a new £1million housing development in East Belfast but they also came to the aid of a local football team. The Orangefield Boys club were finding it hard to raise the money needed to purchase a new football strip. BCHA were approached with a view to helping the boys raise the money. The association was delighted to have been asked and were more than happy to help. The club have now been able to afford a new strip and it is rumoured that their results have improved but the team’s coach has assured NIFHA that it is down to their skills and not BCHA sponsorship!

Now in its 40th year the association continues to provide high standards of quality accommodation working closely with key partners such as Women’s Aid, BCM and The Northern Ireland Association of Mental Health. Indeed it was the partnership with BCM which enabled Anderson House to be used for additional services. These extra services have also been facilitated by vital Supporting People funding from the NIHE and support from the Armagh and Dungannon Trust. Commenting on the new office premises John Gill, Chairman of Dungannon and District Housing Association stated: "Anderson House is a fantastic achievement, not only has it allowed the

association to move to modern premises capable of meeting the needs of our client base but it has also been equipped to provide assistance for young people leaving care. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all those involved in the project and I look forward to the continued success and growth of the association." For further information on the work Dungannon and District Housing Association please contact Martin Magee on ☎ 028 8772 2121.

MOYRA MITCHELL: LIFE LONG SERVICE Moyra Mitchell opens Fold Housing Association's new building 'Moyra Mitchell House' Mrs Mitchell has given a lifetime of service to housing and the wider community. She was Fold's first employee in 1976. Her first task was to form a Board of Management. This Board provided Fold voluntarily with a wealth of professional expertise which enabled Fold to be the successful organisation that it is today.

The association chose to recognise Mrs Mitchell’s important contribution by naming their new office in her honour.

If you would like to find out more about any of the above projects or would like further information on future Housing Association announcements then please contact NIFHA’s Communication Department on ☎ 028 9023 0446 or



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WILL ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR POLICY TACKLE THE “YOB” CULTURE OR IS IT JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL? It is interesting to note that the term “yob” originates as slang word for boy, only back to front. As most organisations are all too well aware, modern times, and more specifically Section 75, render it inappropriate to label one gender or indeed a perceived group as guilty of committing crime and/or anti-social behaviour. Even during the contentious “troubles”, I am not too young to remember a time when front doors were left open and neighbours could call with each other, but those days are not so long gone! It seems impossible to determine when or why there was a turning point which has given rise to communities with many vulnerable people across tenancy types who feel like prisoners in their own home. The main consequences of this are: • Loss of independence • Greater reliance on authorities to protect them

action through twenty six community safety partnerships. It is anticipated that both statutory and social policy, will provide a lasting solution to problems that according to Minister David Hanson, “blight the life of our local communities”.

they see as major issues that have a serious impact on the overall fabric of society. ASBO proposals have not gone unnoticed, on the contrary they have fuelled significant debate and there is some concern that they have a serious impact on a specific age group.

ASBOs were first introduced in Scotland To date, the three relevant authorities in almost seven years ago although Northern Ireland have reported nine Registered Social Landlords have only ASBOs, in total, having been granted. been able to apply for orders directly, This is a very small number when under the Anti-Social Behaviour Order compared to thousands that have been (Scotland) Act 2004. The Anti-Social issued in other parts of the United Behaviour (NI) Order Kingdom. More 2004 is a parallel importantly, only two I am not too young to legislative document, of these have been remember a time when which has brought served to persons front doors were left about DSD directives under the age of for Registered Housing open and neighbours eighteen. This Associations in could call with each other evidence would Northern Ireland. therefore suggest that However, it would ASBOs are targeted at appear that a similar scenario is likely to anti-social behaviour rather than a be much further down the line. For the particular age group.

We live in a time where people within a neighbourhood are happiest to “keep themselves to themselves”. This flies in the face of a government agenda striving to encourage and support networks and restore community spirit so that the wider community structure is sustained.

Where we are now Over the last number of years legislation has been introduced with the intention of addressing a problematic “yob culture” in Northern Ireland. This has resulted in the introduction of measures aimed at the development of joined up

foreseeable future, the Secretary of State is content that any applications for ASBOs must be made through PSNI, District Councils or the NIHE. Clichéd though it may be, many policy makers are fundamentally of the opinion that “prevention is better than cure” and thus see the need to devise, amend and/or introduce mechanisms to tackle what

Safe on our streets? A popular Channel 4 programme recently referred to Northern Ireland as one of the safest places to live in Europe. This comes at a time when local politicians make comment that violence on television has contributed to an increase in the level of crime and changes in public opinion in relation to what may be defined as unacceptable behaviour. In addition, constant cries for

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adequate security measures such as CCTV, simultaneously counteracted by calls for a right to personal privacy clearly demonstrates the difficulties encountered by those organisations responsible for getting the balance right.


However, this imbalance has been addressed over the last year through numerous initiatives funded directly by the NIO Community Safety Unit, in partnership with others. The Holyland Community Safety Warden Scheme in South Belfast and the Essential Services Safety Group in West Belfast which aims to reduce attacks on emergency and transport services. Such measures clearly indicate that ASBOs are only one of a series of tools that may be used to challenge anti-social behaviour. Organisations should look at a wide range of deterrents and intervention such as warnings, mediation, diversion and support, acceptable behaviour contracts, as well as injunctions, criminal prosecutions and evictions. Innovative concepts across the water such as providing lollipops to people coming out of clubs at the weekend, in order to avoid on street brawls might give some food for thought. In effect ASBOs should be served appropriately in instances of persistent behaviour AND as “a last resort”. As members of the voluntary housing movement in Northern Ireland, it is important to stress that association staff are not and should not be expected to adopt a policing role, although they do have a responsibility to ensure that their tenants live in a peaceful enjoyable environment. It is also widely recognised that there is a distinct lack of respect within society, and in many instances there is a “no fear” mentality for some individuals or groups when they get on the wrong side of the law. Examples of this include rioting, revving vehicle engines, drinking in public and breaking curfews. Perhaps it is therefore wise to make a clear distinction between crime and unacceptable behaviour, but only where there is a consensus on whether these may or may not be the same thing. ASBOs may go some way to build long term solutions in restoring social confidence, but should not be promoted as an explicit means of punishment or become part of a mish mash of gimmicks. Otherwise it is nothing more than another brick in the wall.

Donall Henderson, Housing Policy and Research Manager at NIFHA.

In the last issue of POSH the Federation was pleased to announce that 35 associations had received the Equality Commission’s approval for their respective Equality Scheme. We can now confirm that all 37 of the designated housing associations had their Equality Scheme approved by the Commissioners by December 2005. A composite disk containing a copy of each designated association’s Equality Scheme was issued to all the original consultees in January 2006 and may be obtained on request from NIFHA. This effectively ended phase one of the joint equality exercise which was coordinated by the Federation. In our view and that of our members the arrangement had been very successful since it minimised the administrative burden on consultee organisations, while at the same time enabling associations to pool knowledge, experience, skills and resources. Feedback from the Equality Commission and a number of consultee organisations has supported this perspective. Whilst our members accept that each has an individual responsibility to implement equality of opportunity within their own organisation, the benefits of this collaborative approach encouraged the designated housing associations to undertake additional work in this fashion and to extend the joint exercise beyond the creation of Equality Schemes. Other activities have included working together on the policy screening process and conducting a joint consultation exercise, organising a series of training to raise awareness in relation to particular categories of the nine groups and commissioning specific training on policy development and undertaking Equality Impact Assessments (EQIA). Throughout our joint equality process the Federation and its members have used the obligations arising from the Statutory Duties as an opportunity to improve

services and to explore the options for increasing the accessibility of those services. One example of this is that on behalf of our members NIFHA has arranged for the production of ‘Welcome’ posters which are intended to offer a friendly invitation to people from a wide range of cultures. Similarly, we are in the process of negotiating to procure telephone-based interpretation services with the aim of achieving a better deal through collective buying. The reason the Federation has taken responsibility for these tasks is that a single joint purchasing arrangement is likely to be much more cost effective, therefore more of our members’ money would be available for work to mainstream equality. In addition, by working together housing associations are able to achieve significant efficiencies, which is in line with current government priorities. Given the undoubted success of working together on the first stage of the equality initiative NIFHA’s members were strongly in favour of continuing this method of implementing the statutory duties. Therefore, we formed a larger representative group to co-ordinate the EQIA process. This group has already facilitated a series of workshops to help members begin to assess the impact of the two policy areas which have been ‘screened in’ for year one of the EQIA timetable. Access and Communications and Complaints policies are the focus of our joint work for the coming year and we would welcome any comments you may have either now or during the period of public consultation which is scheduled to take place in late spring/early summer. We all recognise that mainstreaming equality and good relations is a major task, however NIFHA and it’s members believe that by working on the principle of ‘joint effort, individual responsibility’ we can make a positive difference.



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OMNILEDGER LIMITED – A Company Profile Back in October 2005 OmniLedger Limited, took the strategic decision to participate in NIFHA’s Annual Conference. This was the first time that NIFHA had taken the positive step of actively approaching housing suppliers with a view to launching a trade exhibition. Following the overall success of this event OmniLedger began to follow up on the positive leads that they had generated and as a result the company now has a foot hold in the Northern Irish housing market. Who are OmniLedger? OmniLedger Limited is the author and supplier of Pyramid, which is a fully integrated Housing Management system. Having supplied systems to almost one hundred RSL’s in England, Scotland and Wales OmniLedger contacted NIFHA with a view of expanding their business into Northern Ireland. “Our first exposure to the market was at the Annual NIFHA Conference and Exhibition in Derry and we were very surprised by the level of interest. We knew from our initial marketing that a number of associations were looking for systems, but the number of demonstrations subsequently booked was astounding”, says Sales Manager Lee Wagnall. One of the organisations looking for a system was Presbyterian Housing Association (PHA) and during December 2005 a demonstration was arranged for the staff and management team. As a result of this OmniLedger was awarded the contract to supply a fully integrated Housing Management system, including the Pyramid Rent, Repairs and Financial modules. With data collection and the project management elements now complete everything is in place for live implementation in early May 2006. OmniLedger have since

demonstrated Pyramid to more than a dozen RSL’s in Northern Ireland and have just been awarded their second contract! Details of this will be announced shortly. POSH asked OmniLedger if there is anything that they believe is fundamentally different or special about their Pyramid system?

why John Tinman, Chief Executive, commented that the PHA had previously been working with separate software systems for Rents, Finance, and Maintenance and Housing and clearly needed a fully integrated management software system.

We looked at the market and invited five providers to give presentations to all our management and head office staff. The system we all “Certainly there are many special agreed seemed to provide what we benefits to be gained from using our were looking for, and also had a Pyramid software, but that is just user-friendly interface, was the one part of our complete solution. OmniLedger Having the best Pyramid package. Having the best software software and and hardware in place won’t hardware in place We were do you any good at all if it’s won’t do you any particularly not complemented by good at all if it’s not impressed at the detailed planning complemented by receptiveness of detailed planning and Lee and Gary from followed up with high-quality OmniLedger to deal with potential training and support. problems and by their willingness, where possible, to tailor the We target new systems to be fully programme to meet our particular up and running, including data requirements. So far so good….we transfer, within eight weeks of initial have already commenced staff installation. Yet even today we come training and will see full across competitors systems that still implementation within the next few have great chunks of the software weeks. totally unused after being installed There can be no doubt that the four years ago”, states Roy Blyth, OmniLedger system, certainly Managing Director of OmniLedger. represents a fully integrated approach and this can bring huge What does the customer have advantages to housing associations. to say? If you wish to learn more about the PHA was the first organisation in product please visit the OmniLedger Northern Ireland to purchase the website: pyramid system and when asked

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Abbeyfield UK (NI) Abode Ark Housing Ballynafeigh Belfast Community BIH Broadway Choice Clanmil Clonard Connswater Coral Crescent Corinthian Covenanter Craigowen Donacloney Dungannon & District Filor Flax Fold Gosford Grove Habinteg (Ulster) Hearth Newington North & West Oaklee Open Door Presbyterian Rural SHAC South Ulster St Matthew's Triangle Ulidia Wesley Woodvale & Shankill NI Co-Ownership Unregistered Bangor Provident Trust Glenall Housing Co-operative Habitat for Humanity Belfast Intercomm Enterprises Threshold Ulster Provident

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These organisations provide housing but are not registered housing associations and do not receive DSD funding.

PROVIDED HOUSING KEY HOUSING PROVIDED Elderly Accomodation Special Needs General Housing Single Persons Accomodation Tenant Controlled


HOUSING PROVIDED Sheltered Accomodation Supported Housing Integrated Housing Architectural Merit Single Homeless Units


HOUSING PROVIDED Single Student/People Units One Parent Families Women at risk from Domestic Violence New/Existing House for Sale Rural



02_Posh Issue 4_Spring Summer 06  
02_Posh Issue 4_Spring Summer 06  

perspective on social housing Issue 4 -Spring/Summer Magazine of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations Northern Ireland Fe...