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WINTER 2012

Service Standards Residents’ blog Moving home

Direct Debit Free debt and money advice Benefit changes explained

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Page 4 – 5

In

The Green Deal Adopt a green space Home Improvement Agency Award

How we’re doing Get active Resident scrutiny panel

Bogus contractors – beware Bowling event Can do awards Shape Orbit East’s future

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Orbit

Seasons Greetings Wishing you a happy holiday season and all the best for 2013

Orbit 2020: You tell us your top 10 suggestions Your views are important in how we develop our plans for the future, and as part of our Orbit 2020 research project, we’re looking at what the future of housing and the economy might look like. We recently got together with groups of residents to talk about it and learn more about what you feel is important, so that we can include your views in our future plans. Residents got their thinking caps on at meetings with area forums and focus groups, as well as a survey, telling us what they thought our future priorities should be. We received a huge variety of ideas!

At our Residents’ Fair in September, we whittled them down to your top ten suggestions: 1.  Get the basics right, by listening and responding to residents 2.  Offer rewards e.g. rent holidays at Christmas for those who pay their rent on time 3. Encourage residents to take more care of their properties and communal areas 4. Use solar power 5.  Improve the way we deal with vandalism and anti-social behaviour 6.  Inspect repairs more diligently and keep to appointments 7. Re-house existing tenants into different size properties before new applicants 8.  Support residents to maintain their gardens (especially older people) 9.  Provide more homes to suit our ageing population 10. Friendly ear service for lonely or vulnerable residents.

We’ll be taking a closer look at your suggestions in the weeks to come as we put together our Orbit 2020 business plan. Read the full summary of resident views by visiting our new resident blog at www.oeinvolvedresidents.org.


Subscribe to our blog and you could win £50! We have launched a new blog where you can find all the latest news and involvement opportunities online. If you sign up to receive email notifications of new blog posts by Thursday 31 January 2013, you will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 shopping voucher. We will notify the winner by email within five working days of the closing date. To subscribe to our blog visit: www.oeinvolvedresidents.org

Our service pledge to you We care about the service we give to you and are committed to giving you excellent and responsive services at all times. We work closely with residents to monitor and review our service standards regularly.

This includes things like: ✓ Being polite, friendly, helpful and willing to listen ✓ Replying to letters or emails within 10 calendar days ✓ Making sure that new homes are clean, safe and ready for you to move into ✓ Enabling you to report anti-social behaviour through writing, email, text, phone... 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can view the current service standards on our website, or for a printed copy, contact us on 0345 600 2535.

Travel to a Brighter Future

Do you need help getting to work or job interviews? We know that travel costs (especially for those living in rural areas) can sometimes be a barrier in terms of finding or getting to work, so Orbit East is offering our ‘rural’* residents a grant of up to £300 for work-related travel.

World’s Biggest Coffee Morning comes to Lowestoft! Faversham Court in Lowestoft raised £355 for a cancer charity in September. Residents and neighbours (pictured above) of the sheltered housing scheme, who sadly lost two residents to cancer recently, organised an event to support Macmillan’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning. Activities included book, CD, bric-a-brac and cake stalls, plus a raffle. A big thanks to everyone who supported the event! www.macmillan.org.uk

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These are some of the things the grant can be used for: • Driving lessons (for car or motorbike) for a normal or specialised licence • A bicycle (to get to work the healthy way!) • Travel fares to get to work and to and from job interviews. If this sounds like something that would help you find or sustain work, or if you have ideas that you’d like to discuss, contact Tom Llewellyn, Orbit East Community Investment Officer on 0345 600 2535 or email tom.llewellyn@orbit.org.uk for an application form. * ‘rural’ is here defined as any resident who lives in a town or village of less than 7000 properties.

0345 600 2535 Email – info@orbit.org.uk www.orbiteast.org.uk


Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves! We know that times are tough right now and that saving money is more important than ever for all of us, so here are a few tips on how to cut back on your spending:

We’re trying to save money too! If you know of a way that we can cut our costs, we would love to hear from you. Just send us an email at oecommunications@orbit.org.uk or call us on 0345 600 2535

• Try banking with a credit union to get the same services at a lower cost and avoid ‘doorstep lending’ • Do your weekly shop online if you can • Walk or cycle if you can – fuel costs continue to soar and it’s good to improve fitness! • Review film, satellite and telephone subscriptions – do you really use them, or could you downgrade to a more basic package? • Plan your meals for the week and only buy what you need. If you make a shopping list and stick to it, you can avoid impulse purchases • Do a quick calculation before you stock up on multi-buy items – are they really cheaper? • Shop smart! Look out for coupons and loyalty schemes.

Moving home – our promise to you Moving home is a big deal and everyone expects their new home to be clean, safe and ready to live in when they first move in. Our Void Property standard sets out how Orbit prepares homes to a lettable state. A group of residents in our Resident Scrutiny Panels recently worked with us to review the standard and make improvements. As a result, these improvements will be made: • We are now calling the standard a ‘Lettable standard’ so that it is easier to understand and ‘does what is says on the tin’! • Use plain English and photos • Include information in residents’ welcome packs detailing when home improvement works are planned to be made • Introducing checklists for cleaning • Clearly labelling where stop taps are located within properties.

Other ideas for improvements, which are subject to funding, include installing front external lights and changing all locks including garages and outbuildings. Naomi Richards, a Resident Scrutiny Panel member said; “The best bit about today is that something is actually going to happen.” James Connolly, Head of Reactive Services said; “The next step is to review the ideas that may have cost implications and if they can be absorbed, they will be added into the standard.”

There are lots more opportunities for residents to help improve services for everyone. If you would like to know more, just contact our Resident Engagement Team on the number below.You can also view our service standards on our website, or if you would like a printed copy of our newly updated Service Standards booklet please contact us on 0345 600 2535

If you would like this information in Braille, large print, audio or a different language please contact the Customer Service Centre on 0345 600 2535

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Two ways to earn a shopping voucher from Orbit East up a Direct Debit. 1 Set Make your rent payments easier, faster and more reliable by setting up

a Direct Debit. Do it by 31 March 2013 and Orbit will even send you a £15 shopping voucher. You can make a Direct Debit payment on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis to ensure your rent is paid on time and without fuss. We can also alter your rent payments at rent increase time without you having to do anything. The Direct Debit Guarantee means we won’t make any changes without giving you at least 14 days notification. If you are in arrears, you must set up an agreement to pay off your arrears by 31 March 2013 at the time your Direct Debit is set up to qualify for the voucher. Simply ring the Income Team at the number opposite and quote promotion code DD007.

paying by Direct Debit but not in advance? Ring our Income 2 Already Team and set up an agreement to increase your monthly Direct Debit to bring your account completely up to date, and we will send you a shopping voucher worth £10. Quote the promotion code DD007.

All customers who qualify for a £10 or £15 voucher will be automatically entered into a free prize draw with a chance to win £200 of shopping vouchers. Only one voucher can be claimed per rent account and the draw will be made after 31 March 2013. So get on the phone and qualify for your voucher today!

Orbit East

0345 600 2535

Free debt and money advice In the last issue of Your Orbit, we told you how Orbit’s Community Investment Fund is paying for the secondment of Emma Hunter, our Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) Money Adviser. Since June, a total of 50 referrals have been made to Emma to assist people with their debt issues, and if you’re struggling with your finances, she may be able to help you too.

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She can give you advice on how to maximise your income and organise your finances. She can also contact creditors on your behalf, look at reducing your payments, help you apply for Debt Relief or Administration Orders or even assist with bankruptcy applications. Following a meeting with Emma, an Orbit East resident recently said; “Before, I found it very difficult to pick up the phone and open letters regarding my debts. Emma was there to do this on my behalf and it has been such a relief.”

The resident’s rent arrears have gone down significantly, payments are made regularly and all creditors have been contacted, with an affordable payment arrangement now in place. Emma provides free, independent debt and money advice. If you are struggling with your finances and are interested in a free referral, please contact Orbit East’s Income Recovery Team on 0345 600 2535.

0345 600 2535 Email – info@orbit.org.uk www.orbiteast.org.uk


Benefit changes explained – under occupation One of the changes that will happen in April 2013 is the reduction in Housing Benefit for households of working age that are under occupying their home. Benefit will be reduced by 14% for homes with one spare room and 25% for two or more spare rooms. Customers will have to pay the difference between their Housing Benefit entitlement and rent.

What can I do if I am currently under-occupying? Always make sure that your rent is up-to-date so that if you decide to stay in your current home, you can start planning for paying the shortfall on your rent from April 2013. We can provide money advice to support you, contact our Income Team on 0345 600 2535 if you need help. We offer a range of free training courses such as intro to IT, food hygiene, customer service and retail skills if you’re looking to get into work. In some areas, we also run Job Clubs to provide practical help with job search, CV writing, interview preparation, confidence and motivation. Just contact our Community Sustainability Team if you would like more information. You may wish to consider moving into a smaller property. It is likely that some of your other bills, such as heating costs, may reduce too.You can do this via a mutual exchange or alternatively, by applying to your local authority for re-housing via the Housing Register. Our team can offer you practical help in arranging your move, you may also qualify for an incentive payment to assist you with the costs. Just contact your Neighbourhood Officer for more details.

Mutual exchange From April to September this year, 46 families moved into our homes via Mutual Exchange. Did you know that if you have a secure or a fully assured tenancy with us or another social landlord, you can apply to swap homes with each other? To find out more visit www.houseexchange.org.uk or contact your Neighbourhood Officer.

If you would like this information in Braille, large print, audio or a different language please contact the Customer Service Centre on 0345 600 2535

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‘Bag It & Bin It’ The ‘Bag It & Bin It’ campaign is a national campaign to encourage people not to flush discarded personal products down the toilet. Sewers are designed to take away waste water from sinks and baths, toilet paper and human waste flushed down the toilet, and rainwater which runs into road drains.

More and more often we are being called upon to unblock pipes and drains and it is needlessly costing a lot of money. Sanitary items and other personal waste should be disposed of properly in the household waste bin, firstly by placing the item in a bag and then putting it in a bin. This is to protect our beaches, rivers and canals from the mess and prevent harm to the marine and wildlife that live there.

The Green Deal

The following items should not be flushed down the toilet – disposable nappies, paper towels and tissues, incontinence pads, sanitary towels, condoms, razor blades, cotton buds, kitchen roll, facial and hand wipes. For more information visit www.water.org

minimise o t s y a w y Five eas gy bills: your ener e £60 a year – you can sav

Fuel costs are rising and it impacts on our customers and their ability to live comfortably in their homes. The Government is introducing its Green Deal, a scheme designed to help households make energy saving improvements such as insulation, solar panels, condensing boilers etc., with no upfront costs. Householders will be able to able to get a loan of up to £10,000 to pay for energy saving measures. As your landlord, Orbit will apply for the loan on your behalf. It’s not a grant, but a loan that has to be paid back. The money to do this comes from the savings made by having lower energy bills and the loan is attached to the property, not the person living there. So if you move, the loan stays with the property.

ostat down n heating 1. Go easy o gree you turn your therm r for every de boil the wate ly n o , le tt e k ng the 2. When filli ot as you need make it too h it’s ’t n o d , th a b ga er –  hen runnin r a hot wash. Take a show 3. W fo e 60°C is fin eaper! sher on faster and ch e and dishwa tting in h c a m g in sh  un your wa se a 30°C or economy se 4. R u t on full loads and s off (and no e you up e c n lia p p a d  urn lights an not in use – it could sav 5. T n standby) whe r! a ye to £40 a

The Government is working with a number of organisations, including Orbit, to run a pilot scheme, called ‘Go Early’. This will help us understand how it will work. We’ll keep you posted in future editions of Your Orbit.

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0345 600 2535 Email – info@orbit.org.uk www.orbiteast.org.uk


Adopt a green space

in your community! Keen on gardening? A little while back, we launched a new scheme to encourage people to adopt unused spaces of land in their community to make them more useful and attractive by either creating a small garden or adding a bit of colour.

One of our residents from Orbit South did just that! He submitted plans to Orbit to introduce some greenery to a patch of concrete in his neighbourhood. It has now been replaced by grass and a couple of trees. He also requested permission to plant a pear tree alongside a communal space outside of the block where he lives.

e Befor

After

The pictures above show a ‘before’ and ‘after’ shot of what the tree will look like next summer. Large, small, neglected or barren – it doesn’t matter, we will consider all applications. For more information, please contact Estates Assistants Cassandra Gibbs or Julie Goodall on 0800 678 1221.

Orbit East’s Home Improvement Agency scoops community award Orbit East’s Home Improvement Agency (HIA) has won a regional Community Impact award for its ‘Healthy Homes, Healthy Lives’ service. The National Housing Federation awards celebrate the difference that housing associations make by giving people opportunities and bringing communities together, with the HIA winning the award in the ‘Better health’ category for the East of England. Norwich HIA, known as Care & Repair, works in partnership with Norwich City Council to help older, vulnerable and people with disabilities remain living independently in their own homes. The service bridges the gap between housing, health and social care, providing free advice on a range of issues, and linking directly with hospital discharge teams, GP practices, community Occupational Therapists, Age UK and other key

organisations to ensure vulnerable people within the community can be discharged from hospital and return to a safe and decent home. Mike Scarlett, Head of Orbit East’s Home Improvement Agency, said; “We are delighted to win this award! Since the launch, the scheme has made a substantial difference to the lives of many vulnerable people. It was gratifying for this to be recognised by the NHF and we will continue to build on, and increase, the good work of the team.” The HIA, together with regional winners from the other categories, will now be put forward for the overall national Community Impact award, to be announced in 2013.

Left to right: Mike Scarlett, Head of Home Improvement Agency, Orbit East, Anne Brighton, Head of Neighbourhoods, Orbit East and Councillor Richard Roberts.

To find out more about the services offered by HIA Care & Repair please contact us: Suffolk Tel: 0800 1217711 Email: suffolkhia@orbit.org.uk Norwich Tel: 01603 283337 Email: norwichcare&repair@orbit.org.uk Or visit www.orbiteast.org.uk

If you would like this information in Braille, large print, audio or a different language please contact the Customer Service Centre on 0345 600 2535

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How we’re doing July to September 2012 We are always working hard to deliver a ‘Customer First’ service to our residents and one of the ways we measure our progress is through the collection of key performance information from across the business. In each edition of Your Orbit, we publish this information so that you can see exactly how we are doing.

KEY

 – slightly below target

Performance indicators

– significantly below target

Target

Actual

Measurement

Current rent arrears (before payment of Housing Benefit)

£499,525

£928,615

Current rent arrears (after payment of Housing Benefit)

£807,566

£580,086

17 days

19 days



Emergency

99.6%

97.9%



Urgent

98.8%

94.6%



Routine

98%

93.5%



Average time to re-let a property Repairs completion:

Gas safety

Amount of rent lost due to empty properties

100% Target

99.94%

Understanding complaints

£66,780

Against a target of £76,765

of Orbit East homes held a current gas safety certificate (as of September 2012).

What residents complained about: n Care & Repair n Customer Service Centre n Income Recovery n Reactive Gas n Reactive Services n Supported Housing

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– above or on target

We welcome customer feedback and see it as an opportunity to improve services for all our residents. We record all feedback, but there are differences between complaints and negative feedback. A ‘complaint’ is a formal dissatisfaction about the actions, decisions or failure of our services after Orbit has had the opportunity to put things right and is managed through our complaints procedure. Negative feedback is recorded if dissatisfaction is received or a suggestion is made for an improvement, but the resident does not want a formal complaint to be raised.

0345 600 2535 Email – info@orbit.org.uk www.orbiteast.org.uk


Get active

with Live Well Suffolk If 2012’s year of sport has encouraged you to get more active, Live Well Suffolk’s community health coaches can offer advice or guidance on achieving a healthier lifestyle.

We also run free sessions in Zumba, Dance workout, Aerobics and more – or try gentler options such as Yoga or Pilates, both great for improving flexibility, stamina and strength in a relaxing environment.

Our health walks, led by a trained health walk leader, are suitable for all fitness levels, last between one to six miles, and are a great way to step into fitness whilst exploring the Suffolk countryside!

If you’ve been inspired by Victoria Pendleton or Sir Chris Hoy to get on your bike, try our bike-based spinning classes. With regular taster courses, each free session combines fun workouts with practical tips on how to make small changes to improve your overall health.

If you are unable to participate in mat-based exercises, we offer chairbased exercise sessions – great for people of all ages or those recovering from injury.

Visit www.livewellsuffolk.org.uk/active Tel: 01473 229292 ‘Like’ us on Facebook or send a tweet to @LiveWellSuffolk

Walking is a great way to stay in shape and has been proven to help reduce blood pressure, while getting fresh air and meeting new people.

Resident scrutiny -

?

your opportunity to make a difference Want to learn new skills that you could add to your CV? Want to meet new and interesting people? We’re looking for people who have even just a little time to spare and want to make a real difference to all Orbit East residents. Joining our resident Scrutiny Panel gives you the chance to review our services, make suggestions and challenge the way that we do things, so that we can make improvements for everyone.

Just contact the Resident Engagement Team on 0345 600 2535 for more information about the Scrutiny Panel or other community involvement opportunities.

If you would like this information in Braille, large print, audio or a different language please contact the Customer Service Centre on 0345 600 2535

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Bogus contractors – beware Now that the colder months are upon us, many people have been having the gas safety appliances in their homes checked, which is an important thing to do to keep your home safe.

However, there have been some people out there phoning residents and posing as one of our contractors to try and sell them a new boiler. No one from Orbit or Swale Heating will ever call you out of the blue and tell you that you need to buy a new boiler and pay a deposit or pay upfront. If you ever need a new boiler, you will be advised once we have carried out a gas safety check in your home.

We all need to have a roof over our head and a home that is comfortable and secure for our loved ones. Providing an annual gas safety check is one of the most important things we do to ensure your home is safe.

Keeping everyone safe in their home With this in mind, the Resident Scrutiny Panel has just completed their second review, this one on gas servicing. The panel looked at the overall way in which gas service calls were carried out, as well as the way we communicated that information to residents throughout the process. They also studied good practice and performance by other organisations. The panel’s recommendations are being worked on now and will be presented to the Orbit Board in February. We’ll let you know in future editions of Your Orbit about what the improvements will be and what it will mean for all residents.

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If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to work for Orbit, simply ask them for a phone number you can call them back on and then call us with the details. We can check everything for you to make sure they are legitimate and not pulling a scam.

In the meantime, we need more people like you to tell us what they think about how we operate. If you haven’t got the time to attend meetings, you are welcome to join our ‘virtual’ Scrutiny Panel, where you can review information and provide feedback at your convenience via email at residentscrutiny@orbit.org.uk Just contact the Resident Engagement Team on 0345 600 2535 for more information about the Scrutiny Panel or other opportunities.

Have you received a reminder letter and not yet booked your gas servicing appointment? Just give us a call on 0345 600 2535 and we’ll arrange it for you. Carbon monoxide hurts or kills hundreds of people each year, but getting your gas appliances checked every year can significantly reduce the risk. Call us now if you need an appointment!

0345 600 2535 Email – info@orbit.org.uk www.orbiteast.org.uk


Bowling event

scores a strike with residents! Residents from around the East region attended our Residents’ Fair at the Namco Funscape Bowling Centre in Norwich and enjoyed a complimentary game of bowling while learning more about ways residents can get involved at Orbit East. Residents and their families chatted with staff and signed up to the many initiatives open to them to become involved in their community. Those attending were encouraged to explore several interactive zones and complete a questionnaire based on what they saw and read, including: • Scrutiny Panel • Repairs service • Community sustainability • Mystery shopping • Estate inspections • Orbital • Using social media.

There were also opportunities for people to win prizes too! Dylan Scarll from Norwich correctly guessed the number of bricks in the Lego house and Sophia Gough-Solar, Riley Drake and Amelia Stepmale all won a children’s colouring competition to ‘design a brick’. They each won a £10 Toys R Us voucher – well done! Ms Bartram of Union Street, Norwich was our grand prize draw winner, taking home a £50 shopping voucher.

If you would like to learn more about the opportunities to get involved with Orbit, visit our residents’ blog on www.oeinvolvedresidents.org or contact the Resident Engagement Team on 0345 600 2535.

Please remember to pay your rent on time as usual over the festive period A big thank you to our customers who always pay their rent on time. Please do contact the Income Team on 0345 600 2535 if you are having any difficulties in meeting your rent payments – or need help and advice on benefits or managing debts over the festive period. We are here to help and can either help you directly or put you in touch with someone who can help.

If you would like this information in Braille, large print, audio or a different language please contact the Customer Service Centre on 0345 600 2535

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Nominate an Orbit staff member who has made a difference! We believe our staff have a real ‘can do’ attitude and want to thank those that go the extra mile to deliver a great level of service to our customers and colleagues! You can help us by nominating the staff member who you think deserves a little extra recognition for a Can Do award. We want to hear about people you think have done something outside of their job role, or something that has made a real difference to you or your neighbourhood. Entry forms are available in your local reception or on the Orbit East website. You can also have an entry form sent to you by contacting our Customer Service Centre on 0345 600 2535. The closing date for entries is Friday 25 January 2013. For his continuing dedication to improve relations with local authorities, voluntary organisations and other partners, Alan Sharman, Casework Team Leader for Orbit East, was awarded a Can Do award. His positive attitude towards his work and colleagues is highly commended! The Resident Engagement Team, consisting of Tom Gaskin, Lisa Cornish and Russell Heath, were awarded the team Can Do award for their substantial efforts to organise a highly successful resident engagement event in Norwich. The team demonstrated the organisation’s values and were praised for going ‘further than the extra mile’.

Contacts: NORWICH OFFICE 14 St Matthews Road, Norwich Norfolk NR1 1SP 0345 600 2535 Open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday STOWMARKET OFFICE 7 Finborough Road, Stowmarket Suffolk IP14 1PN 0345 600 2535 Our phone number is chargeable at a local rate regardless of whether you call from a mobile or a landline. Did you know? Monday mornings are when we get our highest number of calls. Remember, you can contact us anytime by phone. If you have access to the internet, you can sign up for the free ‘Customer secure’ area of our website and access your account details 24/7. Call us and we can help you set it up!

Tell us what you want to see in Your Orbit

Would you like to help shape Orbit East’s future?

Do you have an understanding about what good service is? Could you make a contribution to improving it? Can you think critically and challenge constructively? Then we’d like to hear from you! We’re looking for residents who can spare a day every three months or so to help us review our performance and identify opportunities to improve our services. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do have to have an understanding of what good service looks like – and be willing to work with staff and board members to help Orbit East be one of the best housing organisations in the country. If you would like more information or an application pack, please contact Tom Gaskin by email on tom.gaskin@orbit.org.uk or 0345 600 2535. Homes & Communities Agency Reg. No. L4060. Industrial and Provident Societies Act, 1965. Registered No. 27802R (Exempt Charity) Orbit South Housing Association Ltd. Registered Office: Foy House, 27-29 High Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1DL Part of the Orbit Group. Orbit Group Ltd, Orbit South Housing Association Ltd and Heart of England Housing Association Ltd are exempt charities.

We’re working behind the scenes to improve your newsletter so that it contains stories you want to know about and this Spring, you’re going to see a new and improved Your Orbit land on your doorstep. If you have any ideas or suggestions about how we can make it better, please let us know by emailing oecommunications@orbit.org.uk We’re always looking for new members for our editorial panel too. If you have a little time to spare, contact the Resident Engagement Team on 0345 600 2535 for more details.


Your Orbit Winter 2012