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plus dane group residents’ magazine

Issue three 2009|10

INSIDE THIS ISSUE: Customer performance information

Welcome to our new customers p2

A fresh new look p6

CDS Housing, Dane Housing, Hornby Homes & New Generation are members of plus dane group

Summer snapshots p8


plus dane UNiTY

plus dane team changes

welcome to our new customers A total of 186 homes in Thornton, Netherton and Maghull in the Sefton area of Merseyside have now been transferred into the ownership of plus dane. Their former owner, Servite, has withdrawn from Merseyside. The new customers are welcomed into the group, and are assured of an emphasis on strong customer service, bespoke neighbourhood programmes and a very real presence in the area. Not only will customers have access to our Bootle office, but also to an excellent customer contact service and a 24-hour helpline for anybody experiencing anti-social behaviour. The Servite transfer marks the group’s first acquisition since the merger last year, and we are delighted to welcome our new customers. Plus dane group Chief Executive Ken Perry said: “We hope that they will soon feel part of our community, and enjoy the many opportunities to become involved with plus dane and play a role in shaping our future development.

There have been quite a few staff changes within plus dane group that we would like to share with our customers. Clare Budden, who many of you will know from her role as Managing Director Merseyside and Lancs, left at the end of October to take up a senior role with Flintshire Council. We wish Clare Budd en her a fond farewell and wish her all the luck in the world with her new job. She has been replaced by Sasha Deepwell, former Managing Director of our Development team, who has been well Sasha Deep with the group for many years and brings with her a wealth of experience. Sasha is looking forward to her new position, Claire Griff and to deepening her iths relationship with customers. Claire Griffiths will be taking over as Acting Managing Director of Development.

“We are also pleased to be building on our existing role in the Sefton area – we are extremely committed to Sefton and see working with these neighbourhoods as one of our priorities.” The new plus dane homes are predominantly family homes, but also include some supported accommodation. ien Maria O’Br

Maria O’Brien, Neighbourhood Director (Renewal) has also left the organisation after taking early retirement – again Maria is wished much luck in her new life. Her work will be taken over by Andy Lomas, Tony Kiely and Phil Pemberton.

Finally, Margaret Garner, Benefits Advisory Officer at Shepherd’s Mill, has retired – and been replaced by Jayne Skinner. Ken Perry, Chief Executive of plus dane group, said: “We are always sad to lose such great members of the team – but I am sure that staff and customers would join If you would me in wishing them all like any further good luck, and saying thank you for all their information on the hard work, as well as staff changes, welcoming new staff please contact us. into their roles.”

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Welcome to this edition of UNiTY magazine, which also incorporates our 2008-09 Customer Report. Every year one of our most important jobs is to report back to you on how we are doing. You have a right to know about how we are measuring up, and the work that we are doing in your neighbourhoods. This time, we worked with our Customer Communications Focus Group, which is made up of residents from across Merseyside and Cheshire, to decide how to do this. They asked us to use UNiTY as the way of delivering this vital information to you, and to structure it around the progress we have made on our seven promises: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

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

Our seven promises were developed together with our customers, and underpin all of our work as a Neighbourhood investor. This report celebrates our achievements in the first year of plus dane group, and features some real examples of how our work around these seven promises has changed people’s lives for the better. We hope that during this first year you have felt the benefit of our improved services. You will see the investments and improvements that we have delivered to your This summer we received the sad news of the death of James Klass, plus dane Board member and true friend to the organisation.

Farewell to James

James, as a resident and also as a former Hornby Board member, has played a full role within plus dane for several

homes and your neighbourhoods, all of which have been developed with you, the customer, as the driving force. We are also looking ahead to some of the exciting new projects and plans for 2009-10. We feel we have achieved a great deal – but that does not mean we are complacent. There is always room for improvement, and we are always delighted to receive your views on ways we can make those improvements. If you have any comments to make, about this Annual Report or about plus dane group in general, please contact us to have your say. If you want more information throughout the year about how we are performing, you can also visit our website May I also take this opportunity to wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas and holiday period, Best wishes Ken Perry Chief Executive plus dane group years. He had made many valuable contributions to our work, for which we were always grateful. James was a committed family man, and also well known in Merseyside and beyond for his work in music, teaching and broadcasting. He had recently

been named as one of the most influential black Merseysiders by Diverse magazine. Family, friends, and members of the plus dane family, gathered to say farewell to James at his funeral at Liverpool Cathedral. In honour of James, our recently published corporate Annual Report was dedicated to his memory.



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Board member payment update As you will be aware, earlier this year we consulted with our customers on our proposals to make payments to members of the plus dane parent Board. Following the consultation, the decision was taken to go ahead, and in the last edition of UNiTY, we published an article which introduced you all to each of our Board members, and detailed what skills and experience they bring with them to the organisation. However, as our Chief Executive Ken Perry explains, what we did not do was feed back fully on the responses we received to the letters we sent out about the matter. He says: “It has been pointed out to me that although we wrote about the Board members, what we didn’t do was give you the details of the replies to the letter we sent out to you ahead of us taking the decision to pay. I am sorry about that. “We sent out more than 10,000 letters about the proposed payment for Board members. We received 65 responses. Of the 65 responses, 39 people said they would prefer the Board not to be paid. “Considering this, the decision was made to go ahead. I hope that has cleared things up.”

If you require any further information about the plus dane group Board, please contact us.

Customer conference helps shape our future Residents from across Cheshire and Merseyside attended a special conference designed to help them shape the future of housing services. The conference, held in Warrington, was based on the theme of Delivering Neighbourhood Investment and Service Excellence, and was also attended by suppliers and contractors. The conference gave residents the opportunity to hear about plus dane plans for the year as well as progress made in the previous financial year, to share their views and take part in workshops. The findings of the day will be fed back to the national body, the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), as part of its ‘national conversation’. The TSA replaced the previous Housing Corporation, and is engaging in discussions with tenants as it draws up new regulatory standards for the sector. Conferences such as this give tenants the opportunity to make their voices heard at a national level. The event included presentations from Ken Perry, Chief Executive of plus dane group, and Anne Ward, the group’s Chief Integration Officer. Other key speakers included Clare Budden, then Managing Director of plus dane group Merseyside and Lancs. Ken Perry said: “The people who live in the neighbourhoods we serve are at the heart of our work, and this conference gave us an invaluable opportunity to meet with them, talk to them face to face, and as a result improve our services.” Issues being discussed on the day included outcomes of the TSA’s ‘national conversation’, such as repairs and maintenance,

allocations and lettings, tenancy and estate management, and income. Maureen Morgan, a plus dane resident from Aigburth in Liverpool, said: “It was a very interesting and enjoyable day. It gave us an opportunity to find out a lot more about what is going on both within plus dane and nationally, and also to meet and ask questions of senior figures like Ken Perry.” George Jervis, a plus dane resident from Sandbach, said: “I found it to be extremely interesting - not only did we learn a lot about housing services, but it gave us the chance to meet a lot of interesting people, and find out a lot of new information. People are sometimes cynical but I genuinely believe that our opinions really matter to plus dane.”

plus dane UNiTY

NEW £6.3m Heath View scheme to open soon

The brand new £6.3m ‘Extra Care’ facility, Heath View in Congleton, will be having its official opening in February 2010, when the scheme will be fully let. Residents were being given a ‘sneak preview’ at a special party event held at the venue in December, where they were able to take a look around for themselves and see the almost-finished product!

Their leisure has also been taken care of, with superb communal facilities including a hair salon, IT suite, sensory garden and a bistro.

Heath View – which was named by residents themselves – will provide a huge boost for older people in the area.

Tony Kiely, Neighbourhood Director (older people) said: “We are delighted that Heath View is nearing completion, and can’t wait to see what our residents think of it.

As well as state-of-the-art self contained apartments with all mod cons, the facility will provide all of their care needs, with on-site support 24/7. There will also be a facility for local GPs and District Nurses to hold surgeries there on a regular basis.

“It aims to provide just the right balance of care, support and leisure, enabling the people who move in to live their lives to the full – confident that they are in a warm, welcoming and secure environment designed to support independent living.”

Benefit changes – don’t miss out!

Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit when you weren’t before. Or it might mean that you receive more help. Secondly, also from November, the capital threshold for Pension Credit and pension-age Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit increased from £6,000 to £10,000. This means that you can have more savings and still be eligible for help for the first time, or possibly for more help.

Two important changes have come into play from November this year, which could see families and older people better off – so make sure you don’t miss out on what you are entitled to. Firstly, from November onwards, Child Benefit is being completely disregarded when looking at a family’s income. This means that you may now be eligible for help with

Don’t be confused, get help to make sure your benefits are fully up to date and you are receiving as much financial support as you are entitled to. Contact us on 0800 169 2988 (Merseyside) or 0500 026 079 (Cheshire) to discuss what to do next.



plus dane UNiTY

plus dane UNiTY Remember remember the 5th of November! We certainly will, and hope you will too – as that was the day our brand new Neighbourhood investor website went ‘live’ – tested by our own customer group to make sure it is just right. The web address is still the same but it has a brand new look, full of bright, colourful pages and interactive features that make it really useful. The new website was designed by members of our Customer Communications Focus Group, who agreed that they wanted it to be friendly, informative, interactive, attention-grabbing and easy to use. Working with staff from plus dane and web design company Odyssey, they have come up with a piece of work to be proud of – and which we hope customers will find a real asset.

They told the team what they wanted to be able to do via the new website – from reporting repairs to finding out about local events, as well as news, information and even blogs! Using it, customers will have 24/7 access to plus dane information and certain services. And in the New Year, there will be even more exciting interactive features - including a customer log-in section and an events calendar. Kathryn Smith, Communications Manager, said: “It was a pleasure to work with the Customer Communications Focus Group on this project – they had a really fresh take on what was needed in our website, and how it could best be suited for our customers to use. We hope that everybody likes it, and would encourage people to get in touch with their views so we can continue to improve it.”


Summer Snapshots Staff and local residents had a busy summer – with special events organised across our Neighbourhoods in Cheshire and Merseyside. They included family sports days, picnics, carnivals and watersports, to name but a few – and here we show a selection of pictures.

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plus dane UNiTY

RESIDENTS’ ACADEMY Growing Your Skills Brand new for 2009, we are delighted to launch our Residents Academy. Based on residents’ own ideas, we have developed a package of short, practical workshops that will grow your skills, give you a taste of something new and boost your confidence. Here is our exciting new programme: Marvellous Meals in Minutes Jan 2010 – healthy eating for all the family Do you want to learn some tips on how you can feed your family on a budget? This hands-on course delivered in a dedicated cooking studio is a fantastic opportunity for beginners to find out how you can surprise your family with meals that are tasty and still leave money in your pocket! DIY skills for beginners Will you ever get round to hanging that shelf or 0 putting that curtain rail 1 0 2 Feb up or are you going to sit and look at it forever? This practical course is for those residents who are keen to do those odd jobs around the home need a little help. You can learn all the tricks of the trade from our friendly experienced team in a workshop environment. Go on; make it your New Year’s resolution! We are in the process of confirming precise dates for all the above courses. If you are interested in booking a place, please contact Emma Sneyd on 01260 281 037 or freephone 0500 026 079. Transport can be provided to those residents who have mobility problems. All residents who take part will receive a certificate and advice on where to access further training opportunities. Our training programme is open to all residents. Look out for our spring training programme in March 2010. If you would like us to consider providing other training topics, simply give Emma Sneyd a call with your idea. We look forward to hearing from you.

plus dane group winter warmth campaign Our Ten Top Tips for Staying Warm and Saving Money this Winter 1 Check whether you can save money by changing your energy supplier. If you want to find out more contact us for details of how we can help with this. 2 It is recommended that you set your thermostat to 21oC during the day. Turning down your thermostat by just 1oC could reduce your energy bill by 10%. 3 Set your heating to switch on just before you get up and to switch off after you have gone to bed. If it is very cold, set your heating to come on earlier and go off later, rather than turning up the heating. 4 Set your hot water to a temperature between 43oC and 60oC. 5 Reduce draughts by keeping doors closed and only heat rooms that you are using. 6 Use energy saving light bulbs where possible. Remember to turn lights off when you are not in the room. 7 At night, close your curtains or blinds as this helps to keep the heat inside your home. 8 When using your kettle only boil the water that you need to use. When cooking, select the correct saucepan size, only use the water that you need and use a pan lid. 9 Use a microwave where possible as they use less energy than conventional ovens. 10 Switch off appliances when not in use, rather than leaving them on standby.

CDS Housing, Dane Housing, Hornby Homes & New Generation are members of plus dane group


“Working with customers to improve their homes is really rewarding. It's not just about getting the work done, but about listening to them and what they want, and trying to make it happen for them. It’s a great feeling when you finish a big project like a new bathroom or kitchen, or even just a small but important repair, and the customer is pleased with what you have done for them.” – Neil Skilton, Neighbourhood Supervisor How we are doing... As well as developing new homes for our customers, we are focused on improving the ones we already have. We aim to meet the Government’s Decent Homes Standard targets a year ahead of deadline. Decent Homes are warm, weatherproof and have reasonably modern facilities. They meet certain criteria set by national housing guidelines. In 2008/09, we carried out millions of pounds worth of works towards that target, and also towards other objectives - such as tackling fuel poverty by making your homes easier to heat. In Merseyside, more than 350 homes received either new heating or boiler renewal and upgrades, making them more energy efficient. A major re-roofing programme in the Ribble Road neighbourhood

gave flat roofs a new Polyroof fibreglass system with high-performance insulation, again increasing energy efficiency and making the homes easier and cheaper to heat. In our former Hornby Homes area, a large-scale programme of refurbishment saw almost 200 properties fitted with new bathrooms, kitchens or windows. We also continued our rolling programme of ongoing repairs, painting and other maintenance matters. In Cheshire, more than 2,000 properties benefited from a programme of improvements, including new kitchens and bathrooms, decorating, loft and cavity wall insulation, re-roofing, and central heating and boiler upgrades. Residents, where possible, were involved in making key choices – for example, choosing colour ranges, and planning kitchen layouts. Each scheme carried out was overseen by a dedicated quality control officer who

helped customers to understand exactly what was happening and what the processes were. The results and the customer’s satisfaction were also discussed once the projects had finished. Looking ahead, in 2009/10, we are investing more than £6.6 million on home improvements in our neighbourhoods. £1.3m of that will go towards work on 844 homes to ensure they meet Decent Homes standards. £5.3m will be used for a significant programme of planned improvements, which includes renewal work on kitchens, bathrooms, boilers, electrical systems, double glazed windows, front and rear doors and roof coverings. It also includes external re-painting to hundreds of properties. We will also be investing £8.6 million in day-to-day repairs – making sure that you are satisfied with the homes we are supplying. Martin Gladwin Head of Asset Management

plus dane group customer report

increased investment in existing property A customer view... One of the main features of our investment in existing property during 2008/09 was a programme of new fitted kitchens in Cheshire. A total of 114 new kitchens were fitted, with £480,000 being spent on kitchen improvements. William Birks, who lives in a bungalow in Alsager, was one of the customers who received a new fitted kitchen. Residents were involved in the choice of supplier – Chamois Kitchens – whose ethos was based on using recyclable and ecofriendly materials. Each resident was given the choice of four different types of units, worktops, handles and tiles, ensuring that the kitchen suited their needs.

Mr Birks was fully part of the process of choosing and designing his new kitchen from the very start of the project. He says: “I was involved in the planning of the kitchen – things like deciding where the cupboards should go, and where the appliances like the fridge freezer and washing machine should go. “I also got involved with the way it looks, like choosing the colour of the work surfaces and the handles, that kind of thing. “I am really pleased with it.” Mr Birks and everybody else who received a new kitchen was also assigned a quality control supervisor, who liaised with them to ensure they

understood what was happening, and also made sure they were happy with the work. Plus dane group’s own trades teams worked on the installations, and we were partnered with Jewsons, who surveyed the kitchens and also consulted with residents. More than 450 plus dane kitchens are due to be renewed during 2009/10.



creating great How we are doing... Defining a ‘good neighbourhood’ is a difficult thing to do – it is made up of so many different aspects. A sense of community; a welcoming atmosphere, and a neat and tidy environment all seem to be essential to it, though. Plus dane group is working with customers to create great places to live – places that you can be proud of, and where people will want to be. A big part of this has been working with you to draw up our Neighbourhood Investment and Influence Plans (NIIPs), which clarify priorities in our

neighbourhoods and look at ways we will move forward to achieve them. Last year saw the NIIPs being produced – and we have already started to work on fulfilling them. Attention to the environment is a big part of creating great places to live. We realise that the way an area looks can affect the way it feels. In Cheshire we have carried out environmental action days – Big Tidy Ups – and in Bromley Farm, Congleton, we worked in partnership on the Streets Alive project, that saw young and old working together to create summer hanging baskets. We also helped to launch a Community Allotment which not only produced nutritious produce, but increases a sense of local pride and ownership. In the Castlefields regeneration area, working in partnership, we have revitalised

a once run-down estate with new housing, community resources and leisure facilities as part of our ongoing programme. In Liverpool, we have helped many different neighbourhoods to blossom: planting spring bulbs with schoolchildren in Liverpool 8; brightening up the Pinehurst estate; working with residents on the Riverview community garden. Looking to the future, there is an ongoing commitment from us to keep up the good work, with an ambitious range of schemes to clean, green and tidy your neighbourhoods, and to support you in creating the vibrant communities you deserve. We believe that with your help, we can continue to create even more great places to live – and keep them great. Jackie Perry Neighbourhood Director (Young People)

plus dane group customer report

“I get a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that my work makes a difference to people’s lives. Our new office in Alsager will mean I can be more hands on, working with a great bunch of residents to increase community spirit.” – Lynda Doukanaris, Neighbourhood Housing Officer

places to live A customer view... Improving the local environment can provide a real boost for the whole neighbourhood – and when the community ‘digs in’ as well, it works even better. A group of around 100 children from local primary schools in Liverpool 8 helped to transform neighbourhood green spots with a mammoth springbulb planting exercise. The youngsters - aged between six and ten from schools in the Toxteth and Dingle areas - helped to plant 12,000 daffodil and crocus bulbs. They were assisted by our neighbourhood staff, as well as by experts from INes, our environmental services team.

One of the schools involved was St Finbar’s, where children planted bulbs on land in nearby Mill Street.

The schools that took part were St Finbar’s, St Patrick’s, Windsor St CP and St Margaret of Antioch.

Head teacher Rita Bibby said: “They had a fabulous time, they were delighted to have taken part, and could not wait for spring and for their hard work to bloom and give the place some lovely colour.”

The project was jointly funded and organised by plus dane and other service providers in the area.

The bulbs were planted in or near schools, and at other community venues. The flowers were designed not only to look pretty, but also to attract butterflies and other wildlife. The whole project provided a boost to pride in local communities, where these young people made such a positive contribution to the look and feel of the area.



“A key part of my role is working closely with the police and other agencies to tackle anti social behaviour in our neighbourhoods. These are complex and difficult issues, but when we get successful outcomes the difference it makes to residents’ lives is massive – and that makes it all worthwhile.” – Michelle Davis, Neighbourhood Manager How we are doing... Feeling safe in our homes is important to us all – and plus dane group recognises that it is one of the priorities for our customers. To meet our community safety promise we have worked closely with local people and partners, like the police and fire services, to prevent problems from happening, to intervene early when problems occur and to take strong enforcement action when needed. Some of the prevention measures we have taken include the introduction of local HomeWatch schemes and ‘Smart Water’ technology to deter burglaries. We have set up a new drop-in surgery with local police in Sandbach and worked closely with the Police Crime Reduction Advisor in Cheshire. We have also been involved in a range of initiatives in Cheshire to tackle anti-social

behaviour and to reduce the threat posed by dangerous dogs. In Merseyside, we have carried out several ‘target hardening’ projects to make our homes less vulnerable to crime and vandalism. We have also worked with the police to tackle knife and drug-related crime in Kensington, and to increase the police presence on the Pinehurst estate during summer weekend evenings. Our Safer Homes initiative has allowed us to carry out security improvements to the homes of 400 vulnerable people in the Liverpool 8 area, as well as providing training for local unemployed people, and our innovative Anti Social Behaviour Floating Support Services have helped us to prevent problems in our Halton and Liverpool neighbourhoods.

Young people often make a fantastic contribution to our neighbourhoods. Over the past year we have continued to support their involvement in a range of positive activities, organised by our Youth Engagement Manager, often in partnership with other agencies. Some of these activities are planned for times in the year when anti-social behaviour tends to increase, such as Mischief Night and Halloween; others are designed to involve young people on a regular basis over a longer period of time. In these and many other ways, we are working hard to increase community safety and to make you feel safer in your home and neighbourhood. Andy Lomas Neighbourhood Director (Customer)

plus dane group customer report

increased community safety measures A customer view... During the summer of 2008, plus dane group launched an initiative in West Everton, Liverpool, to gather local people’s views on community safety in and around the area. We made the decision because of some real concerns that had been voiced about community safety, and because we wanted to know more about how our residents felt and what they thought we might be able to do to help. A consultation was carried out door-todoor that allowed us to gather information on what their priorities were, and working jointly with the local police and partners we developed a community safety plan. The plan was endorsed by residents and the North Liverpool neighbourhood

panel. Many areas were identified as being too accessible for anti-social activities and we invested around £25K in general security measures, including closing alleyways, heightening fencing, additional lighting and security measures on the top of walls. One resident who felt she needed some work was Peggy Tracy. Peggy is a long term resident who felt vulnerable following an attempted break in and vandalism at her home. To make her feel safer, we installed special security lights to the side and front of her home. Peggy, 79, said: “Better security does not make problems go away, we all know that, but it does make you feel safer in your own home. The lights are really good – they light up when

anybody is walking past at night, which acts as a deterrent and also makes me feel more secure here.” The West Everton Community Safety Plan continues to be implemented in the Neighbourhood.



“My job is challenging, but knowing our team makes a difference to people’s lives makes it worthwhile. We all need some support at sometime in our lives and within plus dane there is a great team to provide it.” – Nicola Higham, Supported Housing Team Leader

further supporting the vulnerable

plus dane group customer report

How we are doing... Many people are vulnerable at different stages in their lives. This can be related to age when you are just starting out or growing older; to circumstances such as homelessness, financial crisis or bereavement; to health issues or drug and alcohol problems.

tenancies and stay in their homes. Several of our projects have been singled out for praise by national charities or housing organisations, showing that in many respects we are leading the way by looking at the ‘bigger picture’ rather than just housing.

At plus dane we see it as part of our Neighbourhood investor role to support vulnerable people as much as we can. It doesn’t just help the people we support – it helps the whole community. We do this in a variety of ways, from specialist housing facilities to partnership working on wider issues.

We provide specialist housing for the elderly or those with health issues, and a range of support for people facing homelessness – including young people at Hungerford Road in Crewe and young black people at Anne Conway House in Liverpool. In Cheshire, we also have a successful Telecare scheme, technology that helps people stay independent in their own homes for longer.

We offer floating support to people in need across our neighbourhoods, including specialist teams who deal with ex-offenders, refugees, and those causing anti-social behaviour. In Merseyside, a new Tenancy Sustainment scheme has helped vulnerable people retain their new

Our income maximisation and financial inclusion work has helped customers drastically improve their financial circumstances through benefits advice, energy advice and access to credit unions,

and we are also working with you via our new Health and Wellbeing officer in Cheshire. Looking ahead, we are proud that our support skills have been recognised in some major new contract wins. In Merseyside, we won two new contracts to supply floating support to vulnerable people and to young people with a history of offending, as well as providing support for people from black, minority and ethnic communities in Halton. And in Cheshire, we are looking forward to the opening of Heath View, our fantastic new Extra Care facility for older people in Congleton. Tony Kiely Neighbourhood Director (Older People)

A customer view... Rosa, 84 from Congleton, suffered a fall in her three-bedroomed home. She lay for eight hours in pain before a vigilant neighbour raised the alarm. During her stay in hospital, it became apparent that Rosa is a very independent lady, and was initially resistant to the support services offered to her. She was referred to plus dane’s Enhanced Visiting Service, which helps to support people after hospital discharge and give support and assistance around falls prevention. It took time to build up a relationship with Rosa, but in the end we were able to make a huge difference to her life. We worked with her housing requirements to offer her a bungalow, which has a community visitor, alarm

and keysafe. Our handyperson service helped her with little jobs in her new home, and she received a £500 ‘downsizing’ grant to help with costs. Our team helped her successfully apply for different benefits, and she is now almost £11,000 a year better off. She also became eligible for the Supporting People-funded Assist You scheme for help with household chores and shopping. In terms of her health, she now has visits from a district nurse and a mobile podiatrist. And although Rosa is an independent lady happy in her own company, she now also looks forward to fortnightly visits as part of Age Concern’s Good Neighbour project.

Rosa says: “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me. It has totally changed my life.” Her niece, Joanne, added: “The fact that my Aunt is now safer has been a great relief to our family as we live some distance away.”



“Working with residents gives me a great sense of satisfaction and enjoyment – knowing that I can really make a difference. I am passionate about involving residents in everything we do and it’s been a fantastic experience for me, meeting and working with them to make their neighbourhoods better places to live.” – Irene Crone, Neighbourhood Engagement Officer

How we are doing... At plus dane we encourage our residents to become involved in all aspects of our work – because what you think and feel really matters to us. This year we have seen a welcome increase in the number of residents who want to work with us to improve our services and neighbourhoods. One group of customers helped us communicate effectively, making our new residents’ magazine a reality and ensuring our new website was accessible. In addition, they played a key role in approving our new suite of leaflets. With residents we drove forward services such as tenancy management and allocations and lettings and have plans in place to ensure our key services respond to and meet the needs and aspirations of residents.

Our neighbourhood teams continued to work in partnership with residents’ associations, and our customers were essential in drawing up both our seven promises and our Neighbourhood Investment and Influence Plans. Training is another valuable way you can get involved. Whether through a return to learning, or a practical skill such as gardening or IT, there is training available – delivered by our Residents’ Academy. Young people have played a vital role. They have their own pages in our resident magazine, UNiTY, and are involved via forums and events – fun activities that stimulate them, as well as serious opportunities such as the meeting we arranged with Tim Loughton MP, the shadow Minister for Children and Young People.

to know each other and enjoy some sociable time together as a community. Ongoing and future plans include involving customers in selecting products, suppliers and staff, all with relevant training and support. With the introduction of the Tenants Services Authority and the National Tenants Voice there has never been a better time to consider getting involved. So come on and join us – get involved! Emma Sneyd Neighbourhood Involvement Manager, and Chad Thompson Customer Engagement Manager

We have had a lot of fun as well – through our neighbourhood events, summer parties and carnivals, and yearround get-togethers, helping us all to get

supporting resident involv

plus dane group customer report

A customer view... Communications Group, Asset Management and Repairs Group and the Resident Involvement Group. Projects she has been involved in range from developing our new residents’ magazine UNiTY – for which she was our first ever ‘customer columnist!’ – to our new website and leaflets.

Tina Davis, who lives in Congleton, has been involved with plus dane group – or Dane Housing Group prior to our merger in July 2008 – for four years. During that time she has brought her enthusiasm and opinions into play in several different ways, including on the

She is very supportive of the work of plus dane and always makes a valuable contribution to meetings, as well as at events. Through her involvement her confidence has grown and she has developed new skills. She has been able to put these new skills into practice through a 23 week work experience with us, and recently she has further supported our work by assisting a variety of departments in the delivery of services.


Tina says: “When I found out that we were going in to a merger with Plus, I knew that it meant a lot of hard work was ahead of us – I was right and we got stuck in! It has been very rewarding though, and I feel we are listened to and that our opinion counts. We can genuinely help to shape plus dane. “On a personal level it has also given me the chance to develop new skills and increase my confidence, through the activities I have been involved in and through the opportunity to do my work experience.”



increasing creation of local jobs “I grew up in this area and it gives me a real buzz to make a difference. A member of our team might start off socially excluded, perhaps having had trouble with the law, or left school early, or been long-term unemployed. All they need is for someone to trust them and give them a bit of responsibility, and within a few months they are changed men – valued members of the community that get just as much of a buzz from making a difference themselves.” – Joe Feeley, Head of IN Environmental Services

plus dane group customer report

How we are doing... Worklessness is high on both the national and regional agendas – and at plus dane we recognise that supporting local people into training and employment is one of the best ways we can help create vibrant, sustainable neighbourhoods. As a Neighbourhood investor, we support people into work in a variety of ways. We offer training in a wide range of different subjects, and through our EverybodyOnline digital inclusion project are working to make sure everybody has access to the technology that can make such a difference in the jobs market. Our CoNet project on the Pinehurst Estate in Liverpool is a pilot scheme being used as an example of European best practice, co-ordinating services to support whole families into the training or work that could change their lives for the

better. Together, we help people overcome the barriers they face in attempting to get into work.

Cheshire, and INes is our environmental services arm, which provides jobs and training for local unemployed people.

Our Enterprise team played a key role in bringing a brand new £30m Tesco store to Liverpool 8 – when opened it will provide 500 new jobs, 250 of them for local residents.

Looking to the future, plus dane was part of a regional bid to the government’s Future Jobs Fund initiative.and will have access to more than £2m of funding, helping to create around 300 jobs.

We have developed plus dane’s first Employment Strategy, which supports 100 trainees and work placements throughout the organisation to assist young people and the unemployed back into the workplace. Our apprentice schemes are thriving in Merseyside and Cheshire, with key skills such as plumbing and gas fitting high on the agenda.

Participants will be able to access job opportunities across a wide range of our businesses and those of our partners, from Youth Work to IT, food retail to Environmental services, across Merseyside and Cheshire.

Our INplaces unit is a social enterprise that provides employment through its work on facilities management and maintenance in Merseyside and

We continue to strive to fulfill our promise to create new local jobs, helping to bring more wealth and stability into the neighbourhoods we serve. Gerard Murden Managing Director Enterprise

A customer view... Dee Blake, 20, has cause to celebrate – this year she become a fully qualified plumber. Dee joined plus dane group as an apprentice, and has been supported through both her academic training in college and her on-the-job work out in the community. As well as now being qualified, she is also still attending college on a level three course of the Institute of Leadership Management. She says: “I know it does seems unusual, and not too many women are involved in jobs like mine, but I have always enjoyed practical things. My dad was very handy and enjoyed DIY. He wasn’t a qualified tradesman, but we did manage to knock down a house and

build it again from scratch, which is quite an achievement! “I knew I wanted to go into something like this as a career, and while I was at college, I was told about the apprenticeships that were on offer. “I went through the usual selection procedures and was really pleased when I got the job.” Since then, Dee has been working hard combining hands-on experience alongside qualified staff from plus dane, with her studies at Stoke College. In 2008, she was also named as a national Apprentice of the Year. She says: “I have been lucky enough to work with and learn from really experienced people who have passed

on their knowledge to me. Everybody at plus dane has been so supportive – not just with work, but as friends. It is a great place to work and I love getting out and about, meeting new people. No two days are ever the same!”



“My job is extremely varied, from developing general needs accommodation for rent through to specialised supported accommodation. I love meeting so many different people and getting an understanding of the issues they face. And seeing schemes completed that provide affordable, secure and high quality homes is so rewarding.” – Gaynor Mellor, Project Manager How we are doing... Increasing the supply and choice of homes available is one of plus dane group’s key promises. We have almost 1500 new homes in the pipeline across our Merseyside and Cheshire neighbourhoods. Using lean, green and sustainable building methods, we reduce environmental impact and provide homes that are cheaper to run because of good insulation and green technologies. For example, we used ground source heat pumps in new family homes at Wavertree Court, Staffordshire alongside a range of measures to support local wildlife and the surrounding environment. Our commitment to building greener homes was recognised this year by the Sustainable Housing Awards 2009.

During the last year, there have been some notable successes. Working in renewal areas such as South Sefton, Liverpool 8 and Castlefields, our partnerships with Local Authorities and the Homes and Communities Agency allow us to provide new homes and whole new ways of living in neighbourhoods that are undergoing a great deal of positive change.

continuing our work in renewal areas, we will open Heath View, our £6.3m ‘extra care’ facility in Congleton. Our expansion in Sefton continues with a mixed development of 52 homes for rent and homes to rent and potentially buy, in the Park Lane area.

We let 90 apartments at below market rent in the £1.2bn Liverpool ONE complex as part of our innovative deal with Grosvenor, and won HomeBuy agent status for Merseyside and Cheshire for the next two years – which means we can support even more people to afford their own home through a wide range of government support.

In Runcorn we will start work soon on the redevelopment of the local shopping facilities – the Castlefields Village Square will provide new shops, a new community centre and health centre and excellent new facilities for the neighbourhood. These are just three examples of the kinds of projects we are working on - all across our neighbourhoods, in fact, we are continually looking for ways we can continue to increase both the supply and choice of homes available to you.

Looking ahead, there are some exciting developments on the horizon. As well as

Claire Griffiths, Acting Managing Director (Development)

increasing supply and choice of homes to suit a broad spectrum of lifestyles

plus dane group customer report

A customer view... Lane development in Liverpool. David said: “We both work but house prices are just beyond us. Before, we were renting privately and paying more rent per year than my wife’s salary. Our new property is a three-bedroomed house with a drive and garden, one we could never afford on the open market, and we are paying half the rent we were.” The Newmans now plan to buy their home as soon as they are able to. David says, “We hope to buy half the property by Spring next year,” David Newman, a youth worker, and his wife Denise, a sales assistant, found their dream home through the Rent-to-HomeBuy scheme. The couple and their two children were among the first to move into our Dingle

He adds: “As a family, this house suits us down to the ground. My favourite room is the kitchen; it’s like a second living room.”

HomesHub, part of plus dane group, supported the Newmans through their Rent-to-HomeBuy application. David says the whole process was “nice and easy, no hassle whatsoever and we couldn’t be happier.” Rent-to-HomeBuy allows you to move into the home of your choice now, paying lower than market rent as you save towards home ownership. Dingle Lane provides a mix of homes through both Rent-to-HomeBuy and affordable rent.



Rents performance



Rent due – this is the amount of rent we charged in 2008/09



Collected – this is the amount of rent we collected in 2008/09






Details of how we are going to collect any shortfall In 2009/10 we have continued to work with customers to ensure that we increase the amount of rent that we collect so that we can make sure we are spending more on your homes. We will continue to: – Work closely with customers who have a change in circumstances; – Ensure customers maximise their income with welfare benefit and money management advice; – Take a firm but fair approach to support customers who cannot pay and take action against those who won’t pay.

Lettings performance



Number of homes that became empty throughout the year. The figure in brackets were permanent decants. Permanent decant is a home that a customer is leaving because it is being demolished.

668 (83)


How quickly it took us to let these homes 34 days 37 days – this average time starts from the time the tenancy ended until the home was ready for the new customer to move in.

Repairs performance



The percentage of repairs that we completed in target in the year



Average time to complete a repair

8.5 days

9 days

Total number of repairs completed in 2008/09



Percentage of homes with valid gas certificates 99.5% – every year we have to complete a gas service for each of our homes. This figure tells you the percentage of homes we have valid gas certificates for.


Day to day spend against budget – this is the amount of money we planned to spend and the actual amount we spent

£2,224,925 Budget £2,195,972 Spend

£4,145,748 Budget £4,512,759 Spend

plus dane group customer report

performance information Customer satisfaction information



The following figures show how satisfied our customers are with the services that we deliver. Satisfied with services provided by us Satisfied with repairs and maintenance service Satisfied that we are taking your views into account Satisfied with the quality of your home Satisfied with the neighbourhood as a place to live Satisfied with the value for money their rent represents

82% 81% 67% 85% 77% 79%

84% 79% 59% 85% 83% 81%

Diversity information



You will notice that we often ask questions about you and the people that live with your. Part of the reasons why we collect it is because we want to understand who our customers are to ensure our services meet your needs and to promote equality of opportunity and make sure no individual or group is prevented from accessing our services. We appreciate that this is personal information but it is important to us. The figures here show the percentage of information that we have collected against each diversity strand for all of our customers.

Gender 99.5% Age 93% Ethnicity 74% Disability 70% Religion 53% Sexuality 48%

Gender 93.7% Age 79.4% Ethnicity 62.3% Disability 34% Religion 18.9% Sexuality 2.7%

Our target for collecting information We have a set a target of collecting 85% of information about our customers. This information helps us understand who are customers are, who is accessing our services and how we can best meet the needs of the different customers we serve.

Staffing information



This percentage shows the turnover of our staff. The percentage indicates how many staff have left in the year.




We hope you have enjoyed reading this edition of UNiTY, incorporating our 2008/09 Customer Report. It has been a challenging and, we feel, successful first year together as plus dane group. As well as sharing staff expertise and experience, the merger has allowed us to share good ideas and working practice with each other – and ultimately with you, our customers. We have also made efficiency savings of £350,000 during the year, with a projected increase to more than £600,000 between 2010 -2011. The sharing, and the saving, is all for the benefit of the neighbourhoods we serve. We have made our seven promises to you and you have seen in the pages of our Customer Report just some of the very real ways we are delivering on those promises. Looking to the future, we will continue to be active in delivering those promises. We will be investing millions of pounds on repairs, and on developing new homes. But as well as the ‘bricks and mortar’, we will be supporting you into work, maximising your finances, assisting you when vulnerable, and helping make your communities safer, more vibrant and more prosperous. That is our mission as a Neighbourhood investor – and we look forward to working with you to achieve it. We are committed to customer involvement and there are a wide variety of ways you can get on board and help us to shape the future of plus dane

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

group. If you would like to be involved, or would like to know more about our organisation or our ongoing work, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are both passionate about the neighbourhoods we serve, and always enjoy getting to know our customers – so please do get in touch if you would like to know more about what we have achieved, and our future plans. With kind regards, Mike Doran Managing Director, Cheshire and Staffordshire

Sasha Deepwell Managing Director, Merseyside and Lancashire

Christmas Opening Hours Plus dane group’s offices and customer contact centres will be closing at 1pm on Christmas Eve this year, with the exception of the Merseyside Customer Contact Centre in Liverpool which will be closing slightly earlier at 11am. The offices will be re-opening at 9am on Monday 4 January. If you are in Cheshire or Staffordshire, and have an emergency during the holiday period, please call 0500 026 079 or 01260 281 037. If you are in Merseyside, please call 0800 169 2988.

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:

Plus dane group Baltimore Buildings 13-15 Rodney Street Liverpool L1 9EF t: 0151 708 0674

Plus dane group Shepherds Mill Worrall Street Congleton Cheshire CW12 1DT t: 01260 281 037

Call our Communications Team on 0151 708 4653, or write to us via Debbie Johnson, Communications Team, plus dane group, Baltimore Buildings, 13-15 Rodney Street, Liverpool L1 9EF. You can e-mail us at ©2009 - This publication has been written & designed by plus dane group’s Knowledge, Innovation & Performance Team working alongside the Customer Communications Focus Group


UNiTY issue3  

plus dane group residents' magazine

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