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Plus Dane Group residents’ magazine

Issue Seven

2010|11

Winter edition

Alan Briggs with Idie p8

Sam Gorst is Chief Executive for the day! p12

as m t s i r h C urs o h g n openi p2

Betty celebrates 100! p4 www.neighbourhoodinvestor.com

Respect and diversity p15


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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Fire safety Keep warm this winter Vulnerable tenants received visits from Plus Dane staff as this year’s Beat the Chill campaign took place. Some 500 members of staff visited around 700 homes to offer advice on keeping warm, minimising fire risks, cutting fuel bills and claiming benefits. They also gave out gift packs containing useful items such as tea, coffee, soup and a torch. Experts say many elderly and other vulnerable people struggle to cope in the winter but by making some simple choices, the risks they face can be massively reduced. By shopping around for the best energy tariff you can save yourself a lot of money on fuel bills. There may also be benefits you can claim to help you through the winter months. The best advice, however, is to eat healthily, have lots of hot drinks, keep the temperature in your home to around 21oc, set your heating to turn on before you normally wake up, wear warm clothes – plenty of layers is best – and stay active, moving around at least once an hour. If you are over 65, it is advisable to get a flu jab, which is available free of charge in local GP surgery. If Plus Dane can help in any way please contact us at the usual numbers.

OFFER

Tenants in Merseyside and parts of Cheshire are being offered free safety equipment by the Fire Support Network. The Safe at Home campaign team will install safety gates, fire guards, cupboard locks, smoke alarms and other equipment free of charge. To be eligible you must have children under five, be in receipt of a benefit and live in one of the following areas: Liverpool, St Helens, Wirral, Knowsley, Warrington, Halton or Macclesfield. The project is due to end in March 2011. To sign up contact your local Sure Start children’s centre.

Gas safety Some residents have contacted us after reading reports of a gas explosion at a home owned by a housing association in Irlam, Salford. While investigations into the explosion continue, we can reassure you that Plus Dane carry out our work safely and have good policies and procedures in place in relation to gas safety.

hello Welcome to the latest issue of UNiTY

A lot has changed over the last 12 months, with a new coalition Government in place, major changes announced to the welfare benefit system and other spending cuts that will undoubtedly impact upon us all in the year ahead. We know that the changes to housing benefits in particular may be a cause of concern and worry for many tenants, and, whilst we do not yet know what the full implications of these cuts will be, you can read more about them and what they may mean for those in receipt of housing benefits in this issue of UNiTY. We are reviewing and monitoring the changes and will continue to provide you with updates and more information in future editions of the magazine. You may also notice a few small differences throughout UNiTY because on November 12th, Plus Dane was taken over for the day by young people from our Youth Forum and students from North Liverpool Academy. They joined us as part of Takeover Day, a national event that offers children and young people across the country the chance to work alongside adults and get involved in decision making.

sing pen oup’s ne Gr s will be clo nd will re-o 11. a D s a Plu t centre 20 ar uary c his ye conta cember t day 4 Jan nd shire a ay d r o 24 De m on Tues f f ta e of S e holid at 9a heshir y during th 6 079 C in e nc 02 ar If you an emerge call 0500 . 7 e e 3 s v 0 a a le h ,p 281 e period or 01260 pleas yside . e s r e M 88 are in 69 29 If you all 0800 1 c

We have been awarded the CORGI Gold award in recognition of our gas systems and procedures following a robust inspection by the external assessors. We have also increased the inspections of completed work as a matter of best practice that follows any incident of this kind.

Engaging with and involving tenants in all aspects of our work remains vital, which is why your introduction to UNiTY magazine now also comes from both myself and a tenant representative. Shaf Choudhary is Chair of the Tenants Together Forum and, along with many other tenants, plays a valuable role in advising and guiding our work so that we continue to deliver the services that tenants want. We hope you enjoy reading this issue of the magazine and to everyone who celebrates Christmas, we hope you enjoy the festive season and that everyone has a happy and healthy holiday period.

Working with our customers, we have established a set of seven neighbourhood investor promises. These are: ■

hours g n i n e er as op custom on d n a Christm s m office at 1p

Sam Gorst, a member of Plus Dane’s Youth Forum, acted as Chief Executive and got involved in a ‘typical’ day, which included chairing a Managing Directors meeting, meeting with the Tenants Together Forum and visiting the IN Environmental Services team. You can read more from Sam about what he experienced on p12. A section of the magazine has also been written and edited by Stephanie Myles and Jessica Frizzell, students of North Liverpool Academy, who took over as our PR Managers and oversaw the production of UNiTY for the day.

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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

Ken Perry Chief Executive, Plus Dane Group

Shaf Choudhary Chair Tenants Together Forum

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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Here are the competition answers from the back page – no peaking for those of you who haven’t had a go!

Betty helps make history

tion Competi rs Answe

UNITY SUDOKU SOLUTION

There were cheers from friends and neighbours as Betty Musker celebrated her 100th birthday by unveiling an artwork charting the changing face of her neighbourhood.

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UNITY CROSSWORD ANSWERS 1 Pitied 2 Arena 3 Macbeth 5 Tuber 6 Applied 7 Adders 8 Gene Hackman 14 Iceberg 15 Celsius 16 Sodium 17 Jersey 19 Issue 21 Poser

DOWN ACROSS

The £5,000 cost of the arts project was met by a grant from Plus Dane’s Neighbourhood Fund. The project was supervised by Art and Cultural – Facilitators, SAFE Productions Limited of Liverpool.

1 Plasma 4 Ottawa 9 Treacle 10 Biped 11 Erase 12 Earlier 13 Highway Code 18 Obelisk 20 Lapse 22 Items 23 Aliases 24 Bugger 25 Opsrey

ished between 1997-2005, on the left in autumnal colours. On the right, in spring colours, is the new estate.

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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

New neighbour in Alsager

End the stigma “I lost my health, career, marriage and my home. I thought I may lose my children. I was very vulnerable and no one would listen to me.” So says Robert Walker, a father of two, who, after experiencing a mental illness, went from high-flying marketing executive and family man to someone facing divorce, homelessness and despair. Robert, who experiences a depressive condition, has been rebuilding his life in the five years since his marriage collapsed. Now the Sandbach man campaigns for better treatment for people with mental health issues and thinks courts must do more to protect men when relationships break down. “I had worked for 28 years, suddenly I had nothing,” he says. “Once I’d been labelled as someone with mental health problems - even though one in four people do – they totally discounted me. “The courts should take into account mental health needs and make assessments that will help men with housing and caring for themselves and their children.

Plus Dane has opened a new office in Alsager The office, at 1 Grove Court, a previously empty property, will host a variety of services, including surgeries by Cheshire Police, benefits services, income support and tenancy support. Plus Dane’s neighbourhood officer Lynda Doukanaris will hold surgeries every Friday from 9am to 1pm. For more information about the services on offer, opening times or to chat to Lynda about issues you may have, call her on 01260 281 037 or email lynda.doukanaris@neighbourhoodinvestor.com.

n g i a p m a c o i l o P ming ! is bloo Children from Quinta Primary School in Congleton, Cheshire, planted more than 500 purple crocus bulbs in the grounds of Heath View.

The event took place to raise awareness among the children about the plight of people around the world suffering from polio.

Immunisation against the illness, which causes paralysis and even death among children, costs only a few pence. The Rotary Club’s

effort to raise money for vaccines is estimated to have saved some five million children from suffering its effects in recent years. Pictured with the children are residents and staff who took part in the day, including June Clayton, Molly Parrott, Colin Sutton, Beryl Machin, Jean Porter, Ethel Oakes, Beryl Bowyer, Brenda Vickers, Ada Bowyer, Sam Bayley and Wendy Townley.

charities to promote better understanding of the issues which affect him and many other men. He would now like to start a social enterprise in his local area that will create useful jobs, such as environmental work, for people living with mental illness and is looking for an appropriate partner organisation.

“A lot of men, especially in their thirties, are experiencing breakdowns with many taking their own lives. These are men who don’t know what their role is anymore, we’ve got to ask why.” “The Government say ‘work is good for you’ but where are the jobs and where is the right type of work and educational pathways for people with mental health issues?” Robert was able to avoid homelessness with help of a Plus Dane shared ownership scheme and enjoys spending time with his teenage children who visit regularly.

“There also needs to be a move to taking solicitors out of the picture. My ex-wife and I were making progress with mediation services but the solicitors were determined to fan the flames and make more profit for themselves.”

“Plus Dane have been great for me,” he said. “They got me a place of safety and security and I was able to maintain my parenting role.”

Robert co-operates with a variety of mental health

“As an organisation they are very socially responsible and that’s brilliant.”

Heath View, a £5.9 million extra-care scheme for retired people in Congleton, opened in March. There are 45 high quality one-and-two bedroomed apartments with a full range of support services that allow people to access care and help maintain their independence and choice and continue to play an active role in Congleton’s community.

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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Reaching his goals The man without fear A blind Liverpool man is gaining a reputation as a daredevil. Alan Briggs was forced to cancel a planned sky dive last month, so is going to test drive a car instead – despite having no driving experience. Alan will drive the car round a track at Jaguar’s car plant in Speke with the help of an instructor. Last month Alan, who is doing the stunt to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind, was set to do a charity parachute jump but was forced to postpone due to bad weather. However, it was then decided that as Alan had suffered a stroke a few years earlier the altitude pressure may be too dangerous. “It was a blow to have to give up on the sky dive so I had to pick something else that would stand out, something dangerous, a bit adventurous,” Alan said. “I’ve never driven a car before so it is going to be a double challenge - I’m looking forward to it.” Alan, who lost his sight three years ago and can now only make out vague shapes, lives in supported accommodation provided by Plus Dane in Everton. He takes an active role in neighbourhood events and is a member of a tenants’ panel. He has chosen to raise funds for guide dogs, which needs to spend more than £48,000 for each dog it provides. His own faithful friend, Idie, will watch the the drive from behind the safety of the crash barriers!

Football fan Dylan Evans is the sort of lad who likes to think things through. The 17-year-old has started an apprentice scheme, plans a career in the Army, gets involved in community forums and even had to cope with a personal tragedy. Dylan decided to take a stronger interest in community affairs following that event and joined Plus Dane’s youth forum. The group of 14 teenagers, drawn from Merseyside and Knowsley, meet regularly to examine what public services are provided to young people and to make recommendations on the sort of facilities and services young people really want.

“Football is a great game,” he says. “It gives you a social life, keeps you fit and gives you a focus in your life. When I played, I loved getting up early on Sunday mornings and getting ready for a match.

At first he felt a little unsure but is glad he persevered.

“Funnily enough there are loads of teams out there but it’s a nightmare to track someone down and get in, especially if you’ve moved to a new area. I don’t want to see any kids turned away, they should be given a chance to play.

At the forum Dylan, from Garston in Liverpool, complained that he wanted to join a local football team but had been unable to find contacts.

“The kids are great, really passionate about their team. I’ve even had to bow to popular demand for extra training sessions.”

Youth engagement officer Lesley Dixon challenged him to go a stage further and become a manager of a youth team, setting up a meeting with a representative of the local Warners League.

Dylan, a Liverpool FC fan, has recently taken up an apprenticeship as a barber after which he plans to go into the Army. He understands that good hair cutters are prized in the forces and is looking forward to building a worthwhile career while getting close to the action.

With further support from Plus Dane’s Ben Carpenter, Dylan signed up to take charge of an under 14’s team, The Warner Lions, and is taking coaching qualifications.

Tenants in Page Moss Tenants in Page Moss, Liverpool, are making friends with a series of social events. The Colwell Court tenants association recently held a popular Scouse and Sandwich lunch, kiddies’ Christmas day, trip to Manchester’s Christmas market and have bought a pub-style pool table and dart board to encourage locals to play games and chat. Chair of the association, Dennis Grimes, said: “It’s very important for people to get together and get talking, that’s what community is all about.”

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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

T he

Beating the debt trap

Inspectors Call!

Listening to news about the size of the national debt – and the cuts the Government feels it needs to make – may bring a sardonic smile to the faces of some tenants.

“They kept offering us special deals, making everything sound so easy,” says Kevin.

“At the end of each month when there was no money left there would be desperate rows. “We split up and I had to live with a friend, it was a terrible time for the family.” After getting back together, Rachel approached Plus Dane for help with switching her gas tariff and was put in touch with financial inclusion officer Carl Thomson. Carl, a former bailiff and financial worker, is wise to the lure of the easy credit firms and, working with the Cheshire Neighbours Credit Union, has set up a branch in Congleton. “They tried to hold on to us even when the union offered to pay off the debt,” remembers Kevin. “They said we were under contract but Carl stuck to his guns and when we finally got the piece of paper to say the debts were cleared it was such a weight off our minds.”

ND • HELPING

“Suddenly we owed them £240 a fortnight but we were on the dole and between the two of us our income was only £280. Once we’d paid the utility bills there wasn’t a penny left to put food on the table.

Help is at hand

Plus Dane is facing its toughest audit inspection yet – by its own customers. A group of tenant inspectors will scrutinise services and report their findings as a way of “plugging the gap” left by the abolition of our two main regulators – the Audit Commission and Tenant Services Authority (TSA) – by the coalition Government. Full independent training has been given to the tenants. One of the inspectors, Betty Craddock, of Congleton, said: “It’s important our voices are heard and that Plus Dane hears from tenants what it is doing right and doing wrong.”

HA

“Before we knew it we’d signed up for other things and were given an interest rate of 29.9%, which they increased by 10% without telling us, then bunged on insurance costs even though we had home insurance.

“If you’re thinking of going to a rent to buy retailer or a credit agency - don’t.” HE ND • LPI NG HA

E ND • H LPING

It turned out to be a terrible mistake.

“There must be millions in the same boat as us, thank goodness we met Carl. He’s an amazing person and told us things about out financial rights that left us gobsmacked”, says Kevin.

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The pair, who have three children with another on the way, needed a new television a few years back and were attracted to a well-known rent-to-buy retailer.

ND • HE LPING

Kevin and Rachel, who live in Middlewich, Cheshire, know all about “painful choices”.

The couple now pay just £120 a fortnight to the credit union enabling them to get on with their lives and look forward to the birth of their next child. Carl has even managed to clear other demands for payments that were unfairly made of the couple.

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While politicians debate over a billion here and there, many ordinary people are finding that relatively modest amounts of debt are ruining their lives.

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The Cheshire Neighbours credit union based in Congleton is run in partnership with Plus Dane. It offers low cost loans, savings schemes, free insurance on loans, savings on white goods such as fridges and washing machines, access to an ‘Argos A Card’ and much more. Borrowing £500 from the credit union instead of ‘doorstep’ credit agencies could save you in excess of £340 in interest charges over a year. For further information on joining contact Carl Thomson on;

01260 288289 or email carl.thomson@neighbourhoodinvestor.com You can call Cheshire Neighbours directly on

0300 111 2150 (All the savings are guaranteed safe by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme)

*The names of the couple in this article have been changed

Tenants will check national standards are being maintained and recommend changes and improvements. A pilot inspection looking at Plus Dane’s repairs and maintenance division will be carried out shortly. Further inspections will be triggered by any dip in service standards that are identified by our internal auditors.

Part of the inspection process will be done covertly, with tenants acting as “mystery shoppers” to test out performance. The group of tenants come from a wide background and include three young adults who are members of the Youth Forum. One of them, Rebecca Moughtin, 18, of Liverpool, said: “I’m looking forward to getting the inspection going. I especially like the mystery shopper angle – I work in the retail industry, which uses this technique all the time, so it will be interesting to be the one doing the inspection.”

New regulations The coalition Government has recently reviewed the way housing associations like Plus Dane are regulated. Among the proposed changes are the abolition of the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) and the transfer of its economic and consumer powers to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). The Government says regulation should be refocused on setting clear service standards for social landlords and addressing only serious failures against those standards. It is proposed that local mechanisms should be used to address routine problems, with an enhanced role for politicians and tenants’ panels in the complaints process.

Plus Dane has been preparing for the changes for some time and is committed to maintaining and exceeding the standards previously set. Along with the setting up of an independent inspection service run by tenants, our promise of Further Supporting Resident Involvement is underpinned by a strong approach to engagement and scrutiny through our Together Forum and Making a Difference groups. If the Government’s proposed changes go ahead, they will likely take effect from April 2012. If you would like to find out more about the changes and getting involved, call Chad Thompson on

0151 330 3447.


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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

On November 12, a group of young people joined Plus Dane for the day for Takeover Day, a national event that offers children and young people across the country the chance to work alongside adults and get involved in decision-making.

Members of Plus Dane’s Youth Forum and students from North Liverpool Academy took part and joined staff from teams across the organisations, including Development, Finance, Communications, Human Resources and Learning and Development. Sam Gorst, a member of Plus Dane’s Youth Forum, also joined Ken Perry and took over as Chief Executive for the day. Here, he tells us more about what he learnt.

In his own words By Sam Gorst

Takeover Day was designed to give young people a fantastic opportunity; to give them a view of what it was like to be respected more, to be more personally developed, to show innovation and creativity and to be given the chance to do a job they may not necessarily get the chance to do. I fortunately got the chance to take on the daunting role of being the Chief Executive of Plus Dane,

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Ken Perry. The day was partially adapted to cover my current interests of politics and journalism, which I would love to pursue at university. From the outset I learned what it was like for someone so busy to travel, prepare, organise, think and then actually engage in the different environments and situations of an average day. I had an interesting agenda. First I went along with Ken and chaired a Managing Directors Team meeting. Next I met with the Tenants Together Forum, where we talked about the Tenants Services Authority and the National Tenants Voice. Surprisingly, politics was discussed in depth throughout the meetings. The next part of the day was going to a meeting about the North Liverpool Coalition of the Willing project with three senior councillors of the Labour Party at Liverpool City Council’s Municipal Buildings. This was really interesting and informative as they discussed along with Ken about themselves, their jobs and what they do with emotion and passion. After that we went to Plus Dane’s In Environmental Services depot, an environmental service in Liverpool that provides employment opportunities for local people. We had a discussion about how they employ, promote, develop and respect all their employees. The last part of the day was my most favourite part, meeting a journalist from Inside Housing magazine called Carl Brown. I learnt about his interview techniques, his shorthand, his voice recording and not to mention it was like a photo shoot of the royal family was in action! We had two different organisations snapping away at every angle. This whole experience has not only given me knowledge but I was given some invaluable advice that I can't afford to dismiss. Not only can I put that I’ve been acting Chief Executive for Plus Dane on my CV but I can have the confidence, respect and motivation to try and conquer things I thought I never could. Lastly, I want to credit the Youth Engagement Team for all their hard work and support they have shown young people and how they have enhanced my own personal, social and cultural development. They really do provide excellence as well as the other areas of Plus Dane I worked with.


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This is a really exciting project and you’ll be hearing more about it early in the New Year!

What is Toxteth TV? Toxteth TV is a small production company that houses a number of creative community organisations and small production companies. Our building is fully kitted out with a TV studio as well as editing suites from film and media, which we also rent out to larger organisations such as Liverpool Community College. We train local people across the whole of Liverpool and offer a lot of different training programmes such as after school and holiday workshops. We also have an online centre where anyone can use the internet and get free internet training. We aim to be a professional production space but very much community focused.

What are its aims? Our main aim is about community outreach. We’re about training local people in media skills to empower them in their local communities. We are a professional production space but very much community focussed. We want to give local people a voice and give them the right skills and training to do it.

How long has Toxteth TV been running for? Toxteth TV has been around for about eight years. We are a small organisation but with big ambitions.

How long have you worked for Toxteth TV? I have been here about 6 months. Before I joined here I ran an arts company that worked with prison offenders which is where my passion for trying to work with and engage hard to reach groups has stemmed from. I believe that the arts is a powerful medium for helping people to realise their aspirations and so I was really interested in the huge potential of Toxteth TV. I’ve joined at a really exciting time because Toxteth TV is really looking to the future, we are trying to put some big projects in place that will build on all the good work that its done over the last 8 years.

Where can people find out more about Toxteth TV? They can contact me for any further information about what Toxteth TV has to offer on; 0151 709 6014 or email me at; clair@toxteth.tv Or for anyone with access to the internet, you can find out more on our website; www.toxteth.tv

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Using the wealth of information we have about the areas in which we work and the needs of tenants we service, the local offers aim to highlight the core Plus Dane services that we offer under the seven Neighbourhood investor promises, as well as the tailored services we aim to provide for each of the neighbourhoods we work in. To do this, we need your feedback to tell us what you want and what your aspirations are for your local area. Over the next few months we will be getting out and about to consult with tenants to ensure that the offer for your area reflects what is important to you and your neighbourhoods. Your thoughts, views and opinions will then be collected and pulled together into our revised Service Standards and Neighbourhood Investment and Influence Plans to ensure the right services are in the right place to meet the local needs and aspirations of the neighbourhoods we serve. These plans will be agreed and in place from April 2011 and we will be featuring more details on the local offers and what they mean for tenants and residents in the next issue of UNiTY in April.

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ES • OUR PRO

Here Stephanie Myles and Jessica Frizzell, two students from North Liverpool Academy who took over as Plus Dane’s PR Managers for a day on November 12, interview Clair Heaviside, Creative Director from Toxteth TV, to find out more about the project and what it has to offer the local community.

To do this we will be putting in place training sessions for tenants to help them develop media skills. The training will be free and will cover areas such as how to use pocket devices, such as flip cameras, to enable tenants to get out in their communities to report on local news, take part in community consultations and much more.

Over the past 12 months we have been building our neighbourhood plans as we develop local offers for each of the neighbourhoods we work in.

MIS

This article is all about Plus Dane’s partnership with a creative media hub on Windsor Street in Toxteth, Liverpool, called Toxteth TV.

local offers Es MIS

By Stephanie Myles & Jessica Frizzell

We are currently developing a partnership with Plus Dane to provide free training to Plus Dane tenants and residents to use a range of different media to report on local news within their communities.

Developing

ES • OUR PRO

Tell us a bit more about how Plus Dane and Toxteth TV are working together.

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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

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Family moves in to pioneering Retrofit house Following an extensive refurbishment programme, an old Victorian property in Wavertree, Liverpool, may still look like a normal family home, but beneath the surface it has undergone a major transformation that now sees it meeting some of the highest possible energy efficient standards. Renovation work is now complete and family David Cave, Diane McLoughlin and their children Ella and Jimmy have now moved in to their new home, which boasts a range of innovative green features.

Dave and Diane have been fully involved in the project’s development, from attending project group meetings to choosing elements of the interior, and they couldn’t be happier with their new home. Dave said; “We are already seeing a noticeable difference in our energy use and starting to fully realise the benefits that this green technology can bring in terms of reducing our energy bills.” During September, Dave and Diane also got involved in a visit by Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for

Energy and Climate Change. Diane commented: “Showing the Secretary of State round the house as part of this visit was a great opportunity to show the Government how old houses like this could be refitted to be more energy efficient.” The project, part of the Technology Strategy Board’s Retrofit for the Future programme, has now entered its next phase, monitoring the property's energy use over a two year period and beyond to help provide important direction on how the UK’s current housing stock can be made more energy efficient in the future.

Respect and Diversity It’s easy being green New tenants are moving into Halton’s most eco-friendly homes. The Plus Dane managed properties on Keepers Walk, Castlefields, Runcorn, are among the first in the to meet new Government targets for cutting carbon emissions and are 44% more energy efficient than a typical home built in 2006. Tenants will also enjoy lower running costs for heating, electricity and water. Helen Tucker, 45, recently moved into her new home with her threeyear-old daughter, Rhianna, and both are already feeling the benefit. “I absolutely love my new home, everything about it is great,” said Helen. “We had been living in a damp bungalow with no boiler, but now I have a lovely newly-built home that’s warm and comfortable – this is a new start for both of us. “My daughter loves the garden but what she can’t get over is the stairs – she’s up and down them all the time!” The eco-friendly development at Keepers Walk, all built to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 standards, are managed by Plus Dane Group and form part of a £100 million investment in the neighbourhood being undertaken by the Castlefields Regeneration Partnership. The site of the new homes was once occupied by an unpopular deck access block. To date nearly two-thirds of the 1,400 deck access units which once blighted Castlefields have now been demolished, with more planned. These have been replaced by 646 new homes with a further 101 currently under construction. The Castlefields Regeneration Partnership has been guiding the transformation of the neighbourhood since 2002 and is a partnership of Halton Borough Council, Plus Dane, Liverpool Housing Trust and the Homes and Communities Agency.

Plus Dane tenants and staff have been taking part in a range of events celebrating our diverse neighbourhoods. This year’s Plus Dane-sponsored Merseyside Black History Month was a great success with more people attending the events – including a lavish awards ceremony at Liverpool’s St George’s Hall than ever before. A cultural food feast in Sefton Park saw thousands enjoy diverse cuisine and entertainment by local talent, while a gala night in Liverpool 8 to raise cash for the victims of the Pakistan flood disaster saw local people give more than £1,500. Plus Dane tenants and staff also took part in the Liverpool Pride Festival, which celebrates the contribution lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people make to society. The marchers held aloft a purple puppet elephant called Delilah, which was created by local artists from the Hallangen Art group.


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Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Make it happen with HomesHub

Changes to housing benefits In October, the Government announced the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review, which outlined its spending plans for the next 5 years and how it plans to cut the UK’s budget deficit over the current term of parliament. The welfare benefit bill is one of the areas where the Government has announced significant changes in order to reduce this deficit and changes to the Housing and Local Housing Allowance benefits have been proposed. These changes will affect people claiming these benefits in both the social housing and the private rented sectors.

HomesHub is helping people realise the dream of buying their own homes. Five new homes in Sandbach’s stunning Hop Yard development are currently available and 13 homes at Jack Lee Mill in Macclesfield will shortly come on the market.

Whilst the impact this will have on those in receipt of these benefits is not yet fully known, we have outlined and explained them below to give those affected an idea of what they might mean for them.

The scheme allows people to buy a share of the property, between 25-75% and then pay a below-market-rate rent on the remaining share. You can then buy more shares at any time, up to 100%, when you are ready.

Lowering the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate from the 50th to 30th percentile from October 2011

The homes in Sandbach, which have off-road parking and gardens to the rear, are available from just £67,500 for a 50% share.

“The customers can buy more shares when they can afford them and eventually own the whole property if they want to. They are also free to sell the share on the open market if they want to move on. “At a time when local people are struggling to get on the property ladder because they can’t afford the large deposits, or are finding they can’t meet mortgage criteria, this offers a great way to take the plunge and enjoy the benefits of owning and investing in your own home.” HomesHub has recently launched a new and improved website. First time buyers who are seeking help to buy their first home through Government assisted initiatives can search for a new home, apply online and track the applications progress. So whether you are a first time buyer, your circumstances have recently changed, or you are simply on the lookout for an affordable home, our website can help you. Visit: www.homeshub.co.uk.

Middlewich revamp Dozens of homes in Middlewich, Cheshire, are to be offered free eco-friendly improvements. Fifty-five Plus Dane homes in the area will be fitted with external insulation, which will not only slash tenants’ heating bills but also give the homes a smart new look. The first properties to be worked on are on Kitfield Avenue, with the project then rolling out to St Annes Avenue and Sutton Lane. The houses, all originally built with so-called solid walls, are unsuitable for cavity wall insulation work and residents have complained that they are costly to heat. They will be fitted with state-of-the art insulation panels on the outside which will be covered with new brick at the front and pebble at the rear. The second phase of work is due to start after April 2011 subject to consultation with tenants.

Impact that housing associations may see: • tenants being less willing to care for their elderly parents in their own home • increased demand for independent housing • higher incidence of adult children being asked to leave the family home • increased risk and incidence of increasing rent arrears

Full housing benefit entitlement will be cut by 10% for those claiming Job Seekers Allowance for more than 12 months from April 2013. A reduction in housing benefit contribution by 10% would mean tenants needing to find an additional £7.50 per week from 2013/14. Impact that housing associations may see:

LHA will be capped from April 2011 at:

• increasing financial pressure on tenants, especially in areas where long-term unemployment is prevalent • increased risk and incidence of increasing rent arrears • higher levels of abandoned properties • increased incidences of non-dependant deductions and overcrowding • increasing requests for transfers as households seek cheaper properties

• £250 per week for a 1 bed property • £290 per week for a 2 bed property • £340 per week for a 3 bed property • £400 per week for a 4 or more bed property

Housing benefit will be limited for working age claimants so that it only covers the property size that is deemed necessary for the household

This will mean that people claiming housing benefits will only be able to claim in line with the bottom third of properties in the local market, rather than half.

Details of the Jack Lee Mill homes, all one and two bedroom apartments, will be made available soon. HomesHub’s Sales and Marketing Coordinator, Jo Morfee, said: “First time buyers typically have to find a smaller deposit than they would normally, and pay a reduced rent on the remaining share, which is retained by Plus Dane Group.

19

LHA will be linked to the Consumer Price Index from April 2013 This means that rents can only be increased using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate, replacing the Retail Price Index (RPI), which has historically been higher. The above three changes will primary affect the private rented sector, who are not subject to using the Governments rent setting formula.

Impact that housing associations may see: • higher demand for social housing from tenants who currently live or intended to live in private accommodation

Increasing non-dependent deductions from April 2011 The non-dependant deduction is made where families have children in the household who are working or elderly relatives who receive care benefits. The deduction is made from the level of housing benefit the household receives.

Impact that housing associations may see: • higher demand from existing tenants for smaller properties • increased risk and incidence of increasing rent arrears • potential need for additional staff to cope with workloads At the moment there are no details set out for transitional arrangements so on the anniversary of a claim the new rates will apply. We recognise that this will be a worrying time for those that will be affected by these changes. Plus Dane has set up a working group to review and determine the specific impact of the changes and will we continue to update you in future editions of UNiTY.


tition Compe e Tim

We have two competitions in this edition of UNiTY – Sudoku and a crossword. In both cases you can win a £20 voucher – so get puzzling!

Please send your entries in to us by 1 February 2011 to be in with a chance of winning. Solutions are on Page 5.

UNITY SUDOKU 3 4

1 8

7

2

4

9 5

5 6

2

ACROSS

9 Thick black syrup made from molasses (7)

1

7 3

4 Capital of Canada (6)

8

1

2

1 Bloody television! (cryptic) (6)

5

9 4

6

8 1

How to play Sudoku:

10 Two-legged (5) 11 Rub out (5) 12 Previous (7) 13 What you need to study before taking a driving test (7,4) 18 Monument such as Cleopatra's Needle (7) 20 Temporary failure (5)

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!

22 Articles (5) 23 False names (7) 24 Street robber (6) 25 Fish eagle (6)

This document is available in other languages, on audio format, in large print or in Braille by request.

DOWN 1 2 3 5 6 7

Felt sorry for (6) Stadium (5) The Scottish Play (7) Vegetable such as a potato (5) Went for a job (7) Accountants? Snakes in the grass! (cryptic) (6)

8 US actor who's played 'Popeye' Doyle and Lex Luthor (4,7) 14 What sank the Titanic (7) 15 Measure of temperature (7) 16 Metallic element in common salt (6) 17 Channel Island (6) 19 Send out, publish (5) 21 Tricky question or affected person (5)

The solutions are on page 5.

Contact us! If you have any comments about UNiTY magazine, please let us know - if you like it, tell us why, if not, tell us how we can make it better. 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 9EN. You can also e-mail us at unity@neighbourhoodinvestor.com

Plus Dane Group Baltimore Buildings 13-15 Rodney Street Liverpool L1 9EF

Plus Dane Group Shepherds Mill Worrall Street Congleton, Cheshire CW12 1DT

t: 0151 708 0674

t: 01260 281 037

www.neighbourhoodinvestor.com

SGS-COC-005062

©2010 This publication has been written & designed by Plus Dane Group’s Knowledge, Innovation & Performance Team working alongside the Customer Communications Focus Panel 1726.11.10


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