Plus Dane Group residents’ magazine
Inspectors on the case p5
Creating local jobs p7
Becky’s moving story p10 www.neighbourhoodinvestor.com
New look for North Liverpool p16
Plus Dane UNiTY
hello Welcome to the latest issue of UNiTY
Winter warmth campaign
Every member of staff from Plus Dane Group visited a tenant during November and December 2010 to advise them on how to stay safe and warm during the cold winter months, as part of our third annual Beat the Chill campaign.
The ‘Joined Up’ programme, which pools cash and resources in the area, provides more than 400 children and young people with safe places to go and fun things to do.
More than 500 staff visited over 600 homes across Cheshire and Merseyside to offer advice on keeping warm, minimising fire risks, cutting fuel bills and claiming benefits.
Plus Dane has been celebrating the success of its partnership work in Liverpool’s Riverside ward.
Police report that street drinking has reduced by 64% and youth disorder by 50% since the programme began four years ago. The success of the partnership was celebrated recently with an awards ceremony – the Riverside Oscars – which highlighted the positive achievements of children and young people.
In the frame
The campaign really does make a difference to tenants and enables us to quickly respond to any issues or queries from customers. Through the visits, 20 gas referrals were made, 67 repairs issues were reported and followed up on, 43 people were able to gain further advice and support on how to better manage their income and 71 tenants were referred to their neighbourhood team for additional support. Andy Lomas, Neighbourhood Director at Plus Dane said: “The cold conditions were particularly brutal this winter, especially in the lead up to Christmas, and so our Beat the Chill campaign has never been more important to enable us to ensure the wellbeing of tenants. “Through the visits, staff were able to report back on any issues and make a number of referrals, which shows how valuable these visits are in enabling us to take swift action when necessary.”
This issue has a ‘young people’ theme and highlights the wide range of work we do to support young people and create new opportunities for them to learn, develop and grow. We understand the importance of providing the right support for young people to help them realise their aspirations and potential and we hope you enjoy reading about how this work is making a difference, along with some inspirational stories of youngsters that have overcome significant challenges to turn their lives around. We have also been working over the last six months to develop our neighbourhood plans and put in place local offers for the neighbourhoods we serve.
They also gave out gift packs containing useful items such as tea, coffee, soup and a torch. The visits enabled staff to check whether homes were properly heated and report back any issues identified so that the team could follow up and address them.
Hello and welcome to our spring issue of UNiTY magazine, which once again brings you stories and news on how we are working together to deliver our seven Neighbourhood investor promises.
Working with our customers, we have established a set of seven neighbourhood investor promises. These are: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■
Increased investment in existing property Creating great places to live Increased community safety measures Further supporting vulnerable customers Further supporting resident involvement Increased creation of local jobs Increased supply and choice of homes
will be monitored and scrutinised closely by tenants, and we will be reporting our progress to you later in the year in our annual report. We hope you enjoy reading this issue of UNiTY and that you find it interesting and informative. We are always looking at ways to improve the magazine and ensure that it contains the stories and information that you want to read about. UNiTY is your magazine, which is why, working together with the tenants communications group, we are going to be gathering as many of your views and comments about the magazine as possible over the next few months. This issue includes a short survey on page 23, which we hope you will take the time to complete and send back to us in the freepost envelopes provided so that we can use your feedback to look at how we can make the magazine even better in the future.
Importantly, we have been working together with tenants and residents to understand the issues and priorities that matter to you in your neighbourhoods, and the local offers outline how we will deliver the services that you have told us you are important to your communities. You can read more about the offers and what they mean for you and your neighbourhood on page 20 and more information is available on our website www.neighbourhoodinvestor.com. The local offers
Chief Executive, Plus Dane Group
Chair Tenants Together Forum
Tenants decide on how to allocate £200,000 A home of their own Young Plus Dane residents in Cheshire and Merseyside have developed an information pack to help their peers live independently. Movin on, Movin in, which comes on a computer memory stick, contains all the practical information and advice needed to aid a smooth transition to renting a home and reduce the rate of failed tenancies and associated problems.
Plus Dane has been working over the last 12 months to identify areas where it can make efficiencies across the organisation so that we can continue to maximise investment in neighbourhoods. The campaign has been a great success and all staff have worked hard to identify innovative ways in which savings can be made. As a result, we are delighted to have generated an additional £200,000 which will be
spent directly to benefit the tenants we serve. How this money is best spent will be decided by tenants. The Tenants Together Forum (TTF) will now be working over the next month to determine how it should be allocated to make a difference to tenants. This is a great result and we will be telling you more about how the TTF have worked to allocate this additional investment in the next edition of UNiTY.
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A fond farewell
Inspectors on the case
When John Pollard became chairman of the fledgling Plus Dane Group he anticipated challenging times ahead. As he steps down the group’s performance is surpassing his expectations. John took on the role in 2007 after 12 years as chairman of Dane Housing and originally planned to stay on one more year. However, the increasing complexity of his work as HM Coroner for Greater Manchester South, as well as his confidence that integration between the Cheshire and Merseyside associations has gone smoothly, prompted his decision to leave. “The way the board has melded and workforce integrated gives me a clear indication that things have come together well,” he said. “Knowing there were many excellent candidates to take over and bearing in mind my increasing workload, I felt it was the right time to step aside to allow a new chairman to take the steps forward the group now needs to take.”
“I will miss the job enormously and have not ruled out offering my services to the group at some time in the future.” Thinking back over his time as chairman, John is satisfied that giant strides have been made in the neighbourhoods Plus Dane now serves. “I think the first achievement was removing the concept of ‘the council house’ and replacing it with homes that people wanted to live in but that they chose to rent rather than buy,” he said. “Our homes are now so well maintained they are as good as, if not better than, comparable homes in the private sector.”
“It’s so important that people live in decent houses. We’ve made giant strides to address that but we must avoid complacency – there’s always room to improve. “The other challenge ahead will be development. It will be very disappointing if there is a period of stagnation and in five or 10 years there is a dearth of houses for people to live in.” Speaking about the decision to merge Dane Housing with Merseyside-based Plus Housing Group, John said: “As soon as we spoke to Plus, we knew there would be differences and difficulties, not least the perceived difference between ‘leafy’ Cheshire and ‘inner city’ Liverpool, but we understood each other and we were all aiming for the same objectives.
A team of tenant inspectors have swept through Plus Dane’s repairs and maintenance service and are ready to deliver their verdict on how it is performing. “I’d like to pay particular tribute to Anne Ward (the then chief executive of Dane Housing) because Anne knew in her heart of hearts that when she signed up for the merger she was signing away her role as independent chief executive. It was admirable that she was prepared to do that for the long term benefit of the company and tenants.
As we went to print, the team were writing up their reports on the strengths and weaknesses of how we deliver these essential services to you. The inspections, which took place over three days in Merseyside and Cheshire, are in response to the planned abolition of the Tenant Services Authority and our desire to make sure our high standards stay high.
“The merger has gone remarkably well, much better than I could possibly have hoped it would.”
A snap shot of tenants taking part revealed high levels of satisfaction but also areas for improvement.
Plus Dane’s new Chairman is Councillor Richard Kemp (see pages 6-7) and the new deputy chair is Nigel Hodges, a senior member of the management team at pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
One of the inspectors, Commander Harry Harley, (pictured right) a former Royal Navy man, compared the exercise to “working up” a ship.
Speaking of his successor, Richard Kemp, John said: “I wish Richard well for the future. He is fortunate in inheriting what I always had: a very able and friendly parent board, all of whom are committed to doing the best for the company and the neighbourhoods.
“One of my Navy jobs was to be part of a team that went through ships, to find every little thing that was wrong,” he said. “We were hated by the crew, but in the end, the benefits were for all to see.”
“I’d also like to thank the tenants for their tolerance of me and hope I’ve contributed in some way to making their lives better.”
“Everything we have achieved has been carried into effect by our excellent workforce who always go the extra mile, not for money or self aggrandisement but, because they really care about the people they serve.”
On the final day of inspection, Harry was part of a team that called customer numbers at random to ask them if they were satisfied with services they’d received. “The first woman I spoke to was so full of praise for Plus Dane, I feared it was a plant!” he joked. “However, the second one I spoke to had experienced huge frustration with getting a window replaced, which was down to sloppiness from sub-contractors and, I would say, a failure to ensure quality control over them. “You are always going to get fall downs, it is how Plus Dane responds to the issues we raise that will be the true test. However I have to say this exercise has left
me with a deeper respect and understanding of the work Plus Dane does and the commitment and enthusiasm of their staff.” Alsager tenant John Kane added: “We have been going through all the facts and figures. We are not here to criticise so much as improve the service for the good of all tenants and ensure that if Plus Dane say they are doing something they can prove it.” Many other areas of recommendation will come out in the final report, which we will feature in the next issue of UNiTY and on our website. Plus Dane community engagement manager Chad Thompson, who led the exercise, said: “It is an exciting, innovative project that really puts Plus Dane at the forefront of tenant engagement. “It is essential that we do this. Businesses stay strong when they listen to their customers. It is essential that we are open and deliver what they want and can prove we are worthy of their trust.” Inspectors tested the repairs and maintenance service using methods such as ‘mystery shopper’ interviews, quality scoring, interviewing management teams, customers and trades staff. The next tenants inspection programme will take place soon, to find out more about becoming a tenant inspector call Chad Thompson on 0151 330 3447 or email email@example.com
TAT R A expands! The Avenues Tenant Resident Association (TATRA) in Sandbach, Cheshire, which covers Third Avenue, Fairfield Avenue, Townfields, Latham Road, Coronation Crescent, Hungerford Place, Newall Avenue and Price Avenue, has now extended to cover Union Street and Cecil Rigby Close and is pleased to welcome residents from the new areas. The Association’s meetings take place monthly at the Community Centre on Union Street, which have a regular presence from the police, community wardens, Plus Dane Group and town councillors. Members have the opportunity
to put a question to these partners if they have an issue or query that they would like to raise. Members arrive at 7pm for a 7.30pm start and for anyone wishing to join, there is a £1 membership fee with an option to purchase a raffle ticket and drink. There are also regular presentations and talks on interests such as cake decoration and crafts. TATRA’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be taking place on 3rd May and all members and residents are welcome.
Plus Dane Report UNiTY Plus Dane UNiTY Customer
an organisation like Plus Dane because we have the answers that local and central government are looking for. We know how to join things together and how to work very differently from other organisations.
takes the chair
etition p m o C rs Answe
Here are the competition answers from the back page – no peeking for those of you who haven’t had a go!
UNITY SUDOKU SOLUTION
1 3 5 2
4 1 6 8 5 2
5 8 2
3 7 4
4 2 5 8 9
1 7 3
7 5 9 3 4
3 2 1 6 8 5
9 4 2 1 7
1 Ivy 2 Nap 3 Vespers 4 Ounce 5 Treatment 6 Retrieve 8 Iota 10 Digestive 11 Merchant 15 Distill 16 Brag 18 Borax 22 Gin 23 Hoe
DOWN 1 Innovation 7 Passion 9 Eye 10 Dumbest 12 Ewe 13 Garish 14 Adhere 17 Hob 19 Respect 20 Ion 21 Rigging 24 Excellence
In addition to offering training in the skills required for the jobs, the Ni Academy will also equip apprentices with a background in other areas of the housing industry, giving them rounder career and promotion prospects as they progress.
Some of these roles are supported by an innovative academy programme to help graduates build a career after their apprenticeship ends.
“I believe there’s a tremendous opportunity for
Plus Dane is investing in 14 new apprentices
He said: “Often when a company has the word ‘Neighbourhood’ in their title it is just a throw-away line, but Plus Dane really does invest in neighbourhoods and these new apprenticeships prove that commitment.”
UNITY CROSSWORD ANSWERS
Investing in the future
The scheme was welcomed by Cllr Joe Anderson, the leader of Liverpool City Council, which has provided funding help.
“That gives me the petrol in my tank for the battles and opportunities that lay ahead.”
“I am passionate about my political beliefs but I work effectively with people of all parties.
“I wanted to be the chair because I get great satisfaction out of the work Plus Dane does. Whenever I feel really hacked off with politics, I go down to see someone like Joe Feeley and the work he does offering jobs and training opportunities at the INES depot in Toxteth, Liverpool 8, or I demand to be shown the latest properties we are building and meet the people moving in and hear what it means to them.
“While there may be difficulty, I see this as a time of opportunity.”
Plus Dane UNiTY
We deserve to be heard Teen dreams of making a difference Mark Green is a young man on a mission. The 16-year-old dreams of becoming a youth worker and is well on his way to achieving that aim. Mark joined the latest Plus Dane’s youth forum to help him “get the confidence” he knows is essential for the job – and since then has seen his life change for the better.
Young people deserve to be heard Plus Dane has been supporting children and young people on their journey to adulthood. The youth engagement and floating support teams have been working throughout Merseyside and Cheshire to encourage young people to enjoy life, stay healthy and achieve their full potential. Plus Dane believes children and young people have a right to be heard and taken seriously and that their voice and influence is crucial as we strive to improve services and neighbourhoods.
Above: Young residents at Hungerford Road in Crewe
On the following pages, we tell some of the stories of young tenants, how they are getting involved in their communities with the help of Plus Dane, their challenges and their aspirations.
Shellesa’s the real thing!
He has picked up lots of skills with the help of a personal development programme the youth forum offers each member, hopes to go to college and has been gaining work experience at Plus Dane’s environmental services team INES. “I’ve always wanted to work with children but knew I needed to boost my confidence. Joining the youth forum was one of the best decisions I’ve made, as soon as I got here I could see it was working for me.”
“You get training, you do all sorts of fun activities and you get a voice that you can use. But the best thing about it is the people involved, the friends you make and the workers who help you. “You know they are there for you and that’s been something so valuable for me.”
Warm gesture Tenant activist Alan Griffiths has been working hard to bring a little sunshine into the lives of the young people living in Anne Conway House.
Mark, who is a committed Christian with a love of gardening, also helps out at his local church’s youth group and wants to do his youth work in Toxteth and Wavertree, where he has his roots.
The Runcorn man has arranged for decking to put down in the garden of the Plus Dane home, which offers accommodation and support for homeless young people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.
“I want to be part of that effort for good and with help of the youth forum I’m getting there.”
As well as contributing £200 from the funds of the Shepherd Group charity, in which he takes a leading role, Alan persuaded trade firms Beesley & Fildes, Smiths and Penny Lane builders to contribute cash, materials and labour.
The current forum, which works with Merseyside Youth Development Service to give young people a voice in how services are delivered to them, is coming to an end as the graduates reflect on what they’ve learnt and how to take those new skills and insights into the wider world. New forums will begin soon in Merseyside and Cheshire and Mark would recommend that as many young people get involved as possible.
He is now raising money to provide seating and storage sheds. “The staff there are wonderful but they don’t have the time to harass people for funds and outside help, so I said I would do it for them – I can be very persuasive and tenacious!” he says. Anne Conway House, in Liverpool, helps find permanent homes for young BME people, refugees and asylum seekers, and supports them in gaining the skills needed for independent living as well as training and employment opportunities.
Teen’s journey from shy girl to leader Shellesa Coke says she used to lack confidence – now she’s got it by the bagful. Although softly spoken, the 17-year-old has become a powerful voice for young people in Liverpool and impressed Plus Dane so much that they put her forward to encourage youths in Congleton to do the same. Shellesa, who lives in a Plus Dane home, is heading up a new youth forum in Cheshire that will give young people there the chance to influence the way their Neighbourhood investor delivers services. And one of the first things she plans to do is to promote the personal development programmes that have helped her so much. “I wasn’t a confident person and wanted to do something about that, so when I heard about the Merseyside youth forum – and how it would offer young people the chance to have a say in how Plus Dane’s services are delivered - I plucked up the courage to go along.
“I was made to feel very welcome by (youth engagement officer) Lesley Dixon and the other young people and I soon realised just how valuable the forum was. We went on courses that boosted our CVs, learned new skills and received so much support for our personal development.” Shellesa, who is also studying for a BTEC in business but who now plans to build a career in youth work, became an enthusiastic member of the forum, attending all the meetings and impressing fellow members and Plus Dane staff with her leadership qualities. So when the go ahead was given to launch a youth forum in Congleton, staff felt she was the natural choice to lead the engagement efforts. “I’m thrilled to have been offered this opportunity,” says Shellesa, who in her spare time enjoys a range of sports
and has even tried her hand at boxing. “Young people in Congleton should really consider getting involved. If they want a voice, if they think things are wrong and want to put them right, if they want training, career help, trips away and lots of fun they should definitely join. “It’s done so much for me. It’s helped me conquer my inner fears and find my confidence and independence.”
Join the youth forum To find out more about joining a youth forum in either Cheshire or Merseyside; Call Lesley Dixon on 07792 779 755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Plus Dane UNiTY
Some of Plus Dane’s most inspiring stories come out of our accommodation and support service for young people aged 16-24 at Hungerford Road, Crewe. The service, which will shortly celebrate its sixth birthday, gives a new start and new hope to people who find themselves homeless at a vulnerable age. Here are three stories of just a handful of those who have benefitted.
Becky’s come a long way
Becky Evanson knows what she wants – her difficulty has been communicating that to others. The 25-year-old has suffered more than a few knocks in her life but she stays cheerful and determined to stand on her own to feet. Becky has her own place now and her first paid job but for a while she didn’t know where to turn. As someone who is challenged by a speech impediment and some learning difficulties she was offered support at school and enrolled on a course in animal care – which was eventually thwarted by allergic reactions - but once she left the supporting environment of education, the Crewe girl found herself on her own. “I didn’t get on with my step dad,” she explains. “He couldn’t understand what I was saying or what I was about. He and my mum did care for me but he would get angry because I couldn’t do the things he wanted me to.”
However, just when her prospects were moving in ever decreasing circles, she was offered a place at Plus Dane’s supported housing scheme at Hungerford Road and the help she needed. “I was so relieved to be here, to be safe at last,” she says. “It was scary but they gave me a buddy who helped show me the ropes, and the staff were very good at helping me with all sorts of things like getting my money sorted, getting a social worker and seeing my mum.” Becky, who never stops smiling and in her spare time enjoys football and “chilling” to R&B, rap and reggae music, thrived at Hungerford Road, taking part in Prince’s Trust courses and working voluntarily in the community.
Becky’s frustration led her into what she describes as some “sticky” situations, which revolved around people taking advantage of her good nature and vulnerabilities.
However, with a growing sense of independence and more life skills under her belt, Becky took the daunting step of leaving Hungerford Road for the service’s moving on house, a two-bedroom semi where former residents live independently with the safety net of the team if they need it.
“This made things worse at home and my step dad didn’t want me living with him and mum any more,” she remembers. “My mum didn’t know what to do, she didn’t want her daughter on the street but she didn’t have a choice.”
And six months ago Becky moved into her own place and secured a part time cleaning job with Plus Dane, which has given her a self respect a huge boost.
Becky found herself homeless and couldn’t get the support of local social services because of the way they judged her learning difficulties.
“It feels good, I feel proud, that I’ve proven something to my family. I know I have a lot of vulnerability but I am very happy,” Becky adds.
She was also finding that others were taking advantage of her situation, taking money off her and leaving her in an even more perilous situation.
“I don’t know what I would have done without Hungerford Road, the staff and my friends there. If it wasn’t for them I would be on the streets and I just hope that other people will get that help when they need it and be able to be safe and happy.”
Life’s been a bit of blur for Kieran Bebbington, but now he feels as if he’s all set to turn a corner.
from whoever would offer him a temporary roof over his head. But unlike other boys his age he had cash to spend, as a friend’s father gave him casual work on building sites, despite his tender years.
As he skilfully rides his BMX, Kieran Bebbington looks like a teenager without cares or fears, yet this was a boy who left home, quit school and gave up on his childhood aged just 13.
That all came to an end when Crewe-lad Kieran reached 16.
Kieran can’t really explain what happened. He found it hard to get on with his mother and sister and one day decided enough was enough. The next three years were a blur of rotating sofas and spare rooms
Work began drying up and the demands of officialdom meant that the youngster was turned away. Then the young couple he was staying with had a child and needed their space back. “It’s was a rough time,” admits Kieron, who is now 17. “I got on well at first but then it got harder.”
ready to move
On the right track Kieran knew about Plus Dane’s Hungerford Road supported housing scheme for young homeless people through friends. Despite being a free spirit, he decided it was best for him to accept the disciplines of the scheme in return for the security and support it offered.
Kieran has special reason to want to move on in life, he now has a four-month-old son and wants to have his own place and work so that he can be a more active father. He hopes to get a job as a mechanic and lovingly cares for a Vauxhall Corsa.
“It was a new start, my own bedroom to move my stuff into. I get on well with the people here and it’s helped me get right and think about getting my own place again,” he says.
But it is riding his BMX that is his true passion. “I’m a street rider,” he says proudly. “I just love the speed of the bike, the adrenaline rush of it, the fact there’s no brakes, it’s just you and your bike.
“There are times when my life has been very stressful and I can get angry but you get offered support here when you need it, help to calm down when things get on top of you.”
“I’ve been injured a lot, had skin grafts on my face, my back is wrecked and I’ll probably be old before my time because of the injuries – but you feel free.”
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The recovery position John is getting back on his feet and hoping to help others will do the same! John Cornwall has endured a few painful moments in his life, but they haven’t stopped his determination to build a life helping others. The now 19-year-old had a home, a job with the family business, enjoyed carp fishing trips with his dad and bright ambitions for the future.
Tackling antisocial behaviour Neighbours have been celebrating after a court backed claims that a tenant was causing a nuisance and had to be evicted. Plus Dane Group were granted an immediate possession order against John Kavanagh of Abbotsbury Way, Croxteth Park, after a judge at Liverpool Civil and Family Court agreed that his behaviour made life intolerable for others living in the street. The court was told that Mr Kavanagh would verbally abuse neighbours and would bang on walls and windows of their homes at all hours in retaliation for hearing the slightest noise.
Plus Dane had worked with Mr Kavanagh to encourage him to change his behaviour. However, the group were forced to take out an injunction against him in 2009 and later began the long and complicated legal process of evicting him.
If you are suffering from the effects of antisocial behaviour, call our dedicated support team on 0800 169 2988 (Merseyside), or 0500 026 079 (Cheshire).
Dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK today but slowly help is starting to come on line. The condition which is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities, affects more than 822,000 people in the UK and is estimated to cost the economy some £23bn a year.
Plus Dane’s neighbourhood investment manager Nicola Andrews said: “Plus Dane takes antisocial behaviour very seriously and has a good track record of supporting people to change their ways but sadly in this case, Mr Kavanagh left us with no alternative but to seek the order to evict him so that we could protect the wider community from his actions. “If anyone is suffering the effects of antisocial behaviour they should report it to us. Antisocial behaviour cases are sometimes very complicated and can take a long time to resolve but positive results like these prove that by working with us we can stop the actions of the minority affecting the majority of people who do not cause any problems for their neighbours’.
He also caused neighbours stress by reporting them to the police and other agencies on spurious antisocial behaviour grounds, the court heard.
A problem shared
Mr Kavanagh refused to accept that he was a nuisance but Judge Ian Trigger, sitting at the Vernon Street court, said that the evidence and the negative effect on the community was clear.
There is support out there and the latest effort involves a partnership of organisations developing a pilot project called DemenShare.com in Cheshire. The website aims to help those people living with or caring for someone with dementia in Cheshire. For more information visit www.demenshare.com
01772 566 566
Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report
Safe and sound
A home of your own
Security expert Philip Brown is just one of those taking the home-buying plunge with HomesHub
Have you ever dreamed of owning your own home?
“It’s great that it’s a new build and I don’t have to do it up. Everything from the windows, the plastering, the central heating, the painting is done. There’s a nice kitchen built in including a great cooker, so I have to do very little apart from choose my carpets and move my stuff in.
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“It’s a blank canvas that I can make my own.”
01260 288206 email@example.com www.homeshub.co.uk
T View • W
w • We s t vi e
WE S T V I EW
Support for entrepreneurs
Partners join together to show North Liverpool’s beautiful face
West View Tenants
V I E W • WE S T
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Celebrating 10 years of success Last year, the West View Tenants Association, based in Goostrey and Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, celebrated its 10th anniversary through a range of special events and outings.
“Beautiful North is all about doing things differently and showing how, through being innovative and targeting and joining up our resources better, we can make big things happen in North Liverpool.”
Young entrepreneurs with businesswoman Zita Richardson
A scheme that supports the Beautiful North’s aims to create new opportunities in North Liverpool has been launched. Eighty budding entrepreneurs – from sports trainers to electrical engineers to dressmakers – aspiring to set up and run their own businesses in North Liverpool will be supported by business leaders and experts through mentoring.
Young People explore Anfield’s past,present & future
The Association was set up just over 10 years ago, with the support of what was then Dane Housing, as a way of bringing together tenants living in sheltered accommodation. Its aim was to provide a social outlet and to act as a platform for channelling tenants’ queries and complaints. Through this process, issues such as garden maintenance, off-road parking and general property maintenance have been successfully resolved through the Association and Plus Dane working together. The Association also organises social afternoons, where members meet to enjoy a game of bingo, cups of tea and a chance to chat, as well as arranging outings to places of interest, ranging from a trip to York to a visit to Salford Quays and the Imperial War Museum.
Each entrepreneur taking part in the Stepclever Business Mentoring programme will receive a free laptop and help to use the internet to sell and network with other businesses. Entrepreneurs will also be matched with and supported by 60 business leaders, many of whom started out in North Liverpool and see this project as a way of investing their experience in the city’s future.
During its 10 years, the Association expanded to include associate members and has gone from strength to strength. Its affairs are run by a small committee, chaired by Ray Davies, who all work extremely hard to ensure that members enjoy the many varied activities and outings.
Mentors will be available to provide guidance and support on marketing, finance, ICT and procurement through a combination of one-to-one and online web-based advice.
As part of its 10 year anniversary celebrations, the Association went on an outing to Llandudno, a favourite venue for members who enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Queen’s Hotel. A celebration cake was baked by a member and was decorated with scenic photos of some of the sheltered housing in Goostrey and Holmes Chapel.
The project is led by EverybodyOnline, Plus Dane’s digital inclusion project that works to get more people accessing and using the internet.
In his toast to the Association, Mr Davies remarked on the journey undertaken over the past 10 years and how he hoped that the following years would prove just as successful. The celebrations were drawn to a close at the Association’s Annual General Meeting in November last year, where members were treated to a special tea.
Plus Dane’s Erika Rushton at the Business Mentoring Programme launch
Financial matters are dealt with by the treasurer, Margaret Clephan, who keeps a watchful eye on income and expenditure and prepares a set of accounts each year, which are audited by John Moores in Plus Dane’s finance department.
Chair Ray Davies, commented: “Since it was first set up, the West View Tenants Association has evolved into a remarkable organisation. It has held true to its commitment to be a voice for the residents of Dane Housing and later, Plus Dane, and to promote the well-being of all its members. It operates on a sound financial footing which enables our members to enjoy an enhanced quality of life.”
Plus Dane UNiTY
New neighbourhood housing ‘surgery’ opens in Ellesmere Port
Primary school benefits from innovative approach to learning
“We believe strongly that through the support which the Quiet Place programme provides, that access to an understanding of their own emotional wellbeing and that of others, is why the children from The Oaks have over recent years, achieved so well academically at every level.”
New affordable housing development for Ellesmere Port
Local community celebrates HHEET Centre opening A new centre that will help people access work and training opportunities in Ellesmere Port has been launched by Cheshire West and Chester Council. The Housing, Health, Employment, Enterprise and Training (HHEET) Centre, opened its doors to the public in February with a launch event for residents and community members. Operating in the Westminster area of Ellesmere Port, the HHEET Centre is a multi agency approach which will help people access work and training opportunities by breaking down barriers to work. It also intends to create local work opportunities through social enterprise and development. People face a range of barriers to getting into work and HHEET will offer support to people with issues such as debt and financial advice, lone parent advice, confidence building and motivation, interview skills, job search to name some of the services we will offer.
“As a Neighbourhood investor, Plus Dane works to improve people’s quality of life, choice and opportunity in the neighbourhoods we serve and I was delighted to visit The Oaks and see first hand how an innovative scheme like this can make such a difference. It really has helped to create a more positive and engaging learning experience for its pupils and build their aspirations.”
Local residents were invited to celebrate the launch of the centre by taking part in a fun day of activities for all ages, including arts and crafts and team games. All those that registered with HHEET on the day were entered into a prize draw for a range of prizes, including £100 in ASDA Vouchers which was provided by Plus Dane to support the opening. For further information on the centre and its services please contact Sonia Bassey on 0151 356 6664 or Collette Linford on 0151 356 6661 at Cheshire West and Chester Council.
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These are just some examples of the work we are committed to delivering through the neighbourhood plans which are your local offer. You can view the plans for your neighbourhood and see the full range of services we are committed to delivering in your area on our website www.neighbourhoodinvestor.com. To receive a hard copy or if you have any queries please contact Emma Sneyd on 0500 026 079.
Neighbourhood Plans launch your new Local Offers From April 2011, we are required to set out how local offers will be delivered against the following National Standards:
• Tenant Involvement and Empowerment
• Neighbourhood and Community
Monitoring and reporting our progress Every year, we report back to you on how we are performing against our promises and the national standards set out by the Tenants Services Authority. We will be doing this again later in the year through your annual report.
Developing your Neighbourhood Investment and Influence Plan Over the past 12 months, we have been working with tenants and residents to develop neighbourhood plans, which include the local offers for each of the neighbourhoods we serve. These plans set out the services that we will deliver in your neighbourhood against our seven promises, which reflect the National Standards and local offers.
The plans will also be monitored and scrutinised closely by tenants throughout the year to ensure that we are delivering and performing effectively.
These plans highlight our shared vision for the neighbourhoods we work in. They have been developed through talking to you about your aspirations for your local neighbourhood, along with the priorities and services that you have told us are important to you.
At local level, our performance and delivery against the plans will be reviewed by neighbourhood forums and panels across Merseyside and Cheshire, with the two regional forums – the Dane Tenants Federation and the Merseyside Forum, taking an overarching role in monitoring performance.
We have been reviewing your feedback from customer satisfaction surveys, Make a Difference groups and from the local conversations to develop the plans so that we can deliver your local offer. We have also been consulting with tenants and residents to get your views, opinions and comments on the draft plans to ensure that the right services are in the right place to meet local needs.
Tenant Inspectors will also be scrutinising how we are delivering the plans and the Tenants Together Forum will be overseeing scrutiny to make sure that we deliver the things we say we are going to.
We have now agreed these plans with you and other local stakeholders and we will be working hard to deliver going forward.
How will we deliver? We aim to provide all the neighbourhoods we serve with a range of excellent services but in addition, through the introduction of ‘local offers’ we aim to be even more locally responsive. Neighbourhood plans will focus on delivering the seven promises and services that matter to you and affect your neighbourhood.
Money Matters Plus Dane puts cash in tenants’ pockets!
For example, we will offer customer choice to ensure we complete 80% of repairs at first time fix. We will promote how to improve energy efficiency to help you get the most out of where you live by ensuring it is affordable. We will work with partners to maintain and improve the standard of your neighbourhood including all communal areas ensuring that they are safe and clean by carrying out regular neighbourhood walkabouts with customers.
Any issues or service improvements identified by these groups will be Tenant Inspectors delivered by the Make a Difference groups, which are made up of both tenants and Plus Dane staff and focus on leading any services improvements indentified.
Plus Dane tenants have been benefitting from the work of our income teams.
Plus Dane will continue it’s
support on Black History Month
In Cheshire neighbourhoods we will deliver a rural engagement project in Holmes Chapel using digital technology to reduce inequalities and improve access to services through the internet. In Sandbach we will continue to support TATRA (The Avenues Tenants and Residents Association) to help provide activities for residents in the area. In Congleton we will work with the community payback team to address environmental problems. In Middlewich we will work in partnership with Middlewich Vision and work with the ‘community life sub group’ to improve quality of life. In Merseyside neighbourhoods we will continue to support Black History Month and look for opportunities to share and involve groups from other parts of the city in events and activities to celebrate difference and diversity. We will work with partners, including the community food workers, the Primary Care Trust and other housing associations, to support and promote the Decade of Health and Wellbeing. In Halton, we will continue to support the Halton Youth Squad in providing activities focussed on enhancing young people’s confidence, self esteem, safety awareness and self respect. In Sefton we will work alongside and support the Gemini, Park Lane and Evolve RAP tenant and resident associations on areas that will improve the quality of life for residents such as health and wellbeing, community safety, financial inclusion and community cohesion.
It is estimated that financial inclusion teams have secured more than £900,000 in unclaimed benefits back into the pockets of tenants of the past year and are making a difference in many innovative ways.
The first graduate of the scheme was Wendy Leech of Sandbach who said: “It has been so much help to me.” On Merseyside, the Income Team, led by Jill Burns, have been visiting customers to talk about money concerns.
In Cheshire, tenants who have been struggling to pay their rent have been enrolled on a four-month money management course with a specialist advisor.
The eight-week exercise has seen up to 10 members of staff visiting homes, with some 200 tenants visited in the first three days! This is in addition to existing weekly visits.
The programme, which is supported by a grant of £10,000 from Cheshire East Council and led by Income Manger Robin Edwards, sees them go through a series of one-to-ones to sort out any debt issues or expenditure concerns.
Income manager Michael Neilson was assisting an elderly lady in Wirral with a range of problems. When he visited her recently, she had knitted him a cardigan for his newborn son and since then done six more!
As the course comes to an end, and if there is a proven commitment to make a new start, Plus Dane has been match-funding rent arrears payments to help clear those arrears.
If you would like advice on debt or paying your rent call 01260 288 230 in Cheshire and 0151 330 3507 in Merseyside.
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Welfare reform Since the last issue of UNiTY where we brought you an update on the changes to housing benefits, the government has set out its welfare reform bill plans, preparing for the biggest change to the welfare system for over 60 years. Whilst the full impact of this are still to be determined, we have outlined the reforms below and will continue to bring you updates in UNiTY throughout the year. Announced on the 16 February 2011, the main elements of changes are:
• A single universal credit to come into force in 2013 • Tax changes to enable people to keep more income • Changes to the disability living allowance • Those repeatedly refusing work and support facing a maximum three year loss of benefits • Annual benefit cap of approximately £26,000 per family
2011 Census Developing
Please help make sure you count
People across the country will have received a Census form through the post during March 2011.
schools, hospitals and emergency services – won’t be as good as they could be.
The census takes place once every 10 years and is really important in making sure that all our neighbourhoods get a fair share of national and local spending.
The information you provide is strictly confidential – Plus Dane Group won’t see it, just the census office – and by law it cannot be shared, not even with other government departments.
The numbers, ages and so on of people living in an area are added up and the money divided up according need. If you are not in the census, then you won’t count.
Please remember, the Census is compulsory. If you are having any difficulty completing your Census form please telephone the national Census helpline on 0300 0201 101 (or visit www.census.gov.uk).
And the services that our neighbourhoods receive – including
The universal credit will see existing out-of-work entitlements and in-work entitlements such as Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Housing Benefit, paid as a single lump sum.
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The details on how this will work are not yet known, but the government has said that temporary arrangements will be put in place to make sure that no one is worse off while they are being moved to the new system. Tell us what you think of UNiTY magazine.
Housing benefit changes The government has dropped its plans to cut housing benefit by 10% for people out of work for more than a year, however, tenants deemed to be ‘under-occupying’ homes face cuts.
Over the next six months we will be working with the Tenants Communications Group to review UNiTY magazine and look at new ways that we can refresh its content to make sure that it contains the sorts of stories and information that you want to read about. UNiTY is your magazine, so to help us do this we need your views and ideas. We want to know what you think of UNiTY, what you like/don’t like about it, and what you’d like to see more of. Please let us know what you think by completing the quick survey below.
Other changes include an increase in non dependant charges, which increased on 4th April 2011. A non dependent deduction is made where there are other adults in the household apart from your partner. The circumstances of the adult non dependent deduction will determine the deduction made. This change affects all claimants with a non dependant deduction and will reduce the amount of housing benefit entitlement when reassessed in April. The income team in Merseyside on 0151 330 3507 can point you in the right direction for debt and benefits advice if you have any concerns, worries or queries about benefit changes or if you are a Cheshire resident, contact 0500 026 079.
Changes to tax credits Changes to the way tax credits are worked out from April 2011 mean that you are likely to see a drop in your award. You will need to inform your local Housing Benefit Office of this as you may be entitled to more Housing Benefit (HB) and Council Tax benefit. If you don’t currently qualify for Housing Benefit but your Tax Credits reduce you may now qualify for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Child Maintenance and Child Benefit are not counted when HB is worked out. Over 50 % of working people who could claim HB don’t because they don’t think they would qualify.
Employment and support allowance If you are currently getting Incapacity Benefit or Income Support because of ill health or disability, your claim will be reassessed during the next three years. If, after having a medical you are found to have a “limited capacity for work”, you will be transferred onto the new Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). If you are awarded ESA you should be no worse off as benefit levels are protected. If you are found fit for work, you can appeal against this decision and you can still be paid ESA at a reduced amount until the outcome is known. Otherwise you may be able to claim Job Seekers Allowance, or if you are a single parent (with a child under seven) or a carer – Income Support. These will generally be paid at a lower rate than your current Incapacity Benefit.
ABOUT YOU (optional) Name: Age: Postcode:
5. I feel that UNiTY should... ❏ Tell me more about what’s going on in my neighbourhood ❏ Keep me up to date with Plus Dane Group news ❏ Tell me more about changes to social housing ❏ Tell me more about welfare benefits ❏ Tell me more about work and training opportunities ❏ Tell me more about social events
YOUR VIEWS (please tick one box only) 1. I read UNiTY ❏ On the day that I receive it ❏ Over the course of the next week ❏ I don’t read UNiTY 2. Which statement best describes your view of UNiTY… I ❏ Love it ❏ Like it ❏ Have no strong feelings about it ❏ Don’t like it ❏ Hate it
6. Please tell us your least favourite thing about UNiTY
7. How would you like to receive and read UNiTY in the future? ❏ Printed magazine ❏ Online 8. Finally, for the chance to win £50 worth of vouchers to the store of your choice, complete this sentence in no more than 20 words: ‘What I like best about UNiTY magazine is…’
3. Which statement best describes your view? UNiTY has: ❏ Too many photographs ❏ Just the right amount of photographs ❏ Too few photographs 4. Is there anything missing from UNiTY? If there is please write what you would like to see covered below:
The first entry to be drawn will win the £50 voucher first prize, two runners up will win £25 worth of vouchers each. Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. If you would like to enter this competition please ensure you provide your name and telephone number. Please send us your form in the freepost envelope provided.
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CONTACT US customer contact centres: (has emergency 24 hour repair line) t: 0800 169 2988 (Merseyside) t: 0500 026 079 (Cheshire) repairs email: firstname.lastname@example.org general information email: email@example.com write to us: Merseyside 172 Park Road Liverpool L8 6SJ
Cheshire Shepherds Mill Worrall Street Congleton CW12 1DT
www.neighbourhoodinvestor.com If you have any comments about UNiTY magazine, please let us know. We also welcome any ideas for stories that you might have, and would love to talk to people who would like to take part in our regular columns or have news to share. You can contact us in the following ways: Call our Communications Team on 0151 522 1349, or write to us via Sarah Moston, Communications Team, Plus Dane Group, Smithdown Office, 4 Smithdown Place, Liverpool L15 9EH. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org SGS-COC-005062
UNITY SUDOKU Thank you for all those who entered our crossword competition in the last issue. The winners were Sandra Harrison of Widnes and Letitia Jackson of Middlewich.
This time we've made the crossword slightly more complex and the £25 prize for the winner will be the first entry drawn out of the hat which completes the crossword and correctly enters the answers to clues into the yellow coloured boxes provided below. CLUE: The answers are Plus Dane’s four PIER values – do you know what they are?
ACROSS 1 Something new, a departure (10) 7 Powerful emotion (7) 9 Centre of a hurricane (3) 10 Most stupid (6) 12 Female sheep (3) 13 Crudely colourful (6) 14 Stick to (6) 17 Male ferret (3) 19 Esteem (7) 20 Charged particle (3) 21 Ship’s rope (7) 24 Superiority; high status (10)
DOWN 1 2 3 4
Climbing plant (3) Short sleep (3) Evening church service (7) Snow Leopard (5)
©2011 This publication has been written & designed by Plus Dane Group’s Knowledge, Innovation and Performance Team working alongside the Tenants Communications Group.
The solutions are on page 7.
How to play Sudoku: Complete the grid so every row, every column and every 3x3 box contains the digits 1–9. You won’t need maths but you will need a flexible brain!
PIER VALUES (fill in answers)
5 Medical care (9) 6 Bring back (8) 8 Tiny amount; Greek letter (4) 10 Type of biscuit (9) 11 Trader (8) 15 Concentrate, purify (7) 16 Boast (4) 18 Multi-purpose household chemical (5) 22 Alcoholic liquor (3) 23 Garden tool (3)