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Plus Dane Group residents’ magazine

Issue Six


Customer Annual Report 2009|10 edition Retrofit for the Future p6 Big Clean Up p10

Engaging with young people p13

Promoting skills and training p22


Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

hello Welcome to this edition of UNiTY magazine, which is dedicated to our 2009|10 Customer Annual Report. This year’s report shows you how we have performed over the year and gives some real life examples of the work we are doing in your neighbourhoods. Our job as a Neighbourhood investor has become increasingly important as the world has become a much more uncertain place - politically and economically. Whilst the economic outlook is continually changing, we remain committed to maximising investment in neighbourhoods so that quality of life, choice and opportunity is enhanced. Our seven promises, which were developed together with customers, identify how we will deliver our mission, which when supported by our vision to spend less on running and more on doing, really allows us to put the neighbourhoods we serve in the lead.

2009|10 was the first full year of operating as Plus Dane, following the merger of Plus Housing and Dane Housing in 2008. This has allowed us to make further improvements to the business and improve our financial capacity to serve you even better and put more resources where they are needed the most. You will see in this report some of the examples of how the work we do in your neighbourhoods really is making a difference. Customers continue to be the driving force of everything we do and the commitment, support and time that many customers give to us to help us ensure we are delivering the best possible service, continues to be outstanding. In developing this report, we worked closely with our Customer Communications Focus Group, who were involved in every element from content to the design and production. They asked to us to build on what we produced last year, putting an even stronger focus on customer stories, once again using UNiTY as the way of delivering

Pól O’Gray, a tenant Board Member for Plus Dane, was appointed as a board member for the new National Tenant Voice (NTV) organisation during the year, following a rigorous selection procedure. The NTV was set up to give tenants a greater say on the housing issues that affect them, and is advised and supported by a council made up of 50 social housing tenants from across the country.

Boa rd M e m ber

P ó l O’G ra y

The Board will work closely with the Tenants’ Services Authority (TSA), local government and other stakeholders to ensure that the voice of

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

are ch at s with Phievllienpt W K en Pe rry (le fter) yb in e at an Ev odyOnl

our performance information to you. Their input has been crucial and has made sure that this is a report that has been made by tenants, for tenants.

Sh af C houd ha ry, Te C ha ir (le ft) with D na nt s Togeth er Fo ru m es F in le y, Vice-ch ai r

This involvement will be even more important over the coming year, as we work to develop our engagement approach to make sure that customers remain at the very heart of our service improvement and delivery, as well as developing our local priorities through the review of our neighbourhood investment and influence plans. We have made good progress this year but we know there is much more to do and we look forward to building on this success in the year ahead, working even more closely with customers to make your homes and neighbourhoods the best they can be. Ken Perry Chief Executive, Plus Dane Group

We hope that as you read the pages of this magazine, we will show you the many ways in which we are delivering our promises.

Shaf Choudhary Tenants Together Forum Chair

Working with customers, we have established a set of seven neighbourhood investor promises. These are: some 8.4 million tenants continues to be heard.

Increased investment in existing property Creating great places to live

He said: “It’s a great challenge which I welcome. “It will be fantastic to work at this level and have the opportunity to make a real difference for tenants. I will also be able to bring back learning and best practice to benefit Plus Dane and the customers it serves.”

Increased community safety measures Further supporting vulnerable customers Further supporting resident involvement Increased creation of local jobs Increased supply and choice of homes



Home Standard

Increased investment in existing property How are we doing? Our Asset Management Team has been busy making sure that we are on track to deliver decent homes and develop a sector leading repairs service where every tenant experiences a consistently excellent standard of service. In 2009|10 we continued to perform well, carrying out an average of 3,000 repairs every month, with at least three out of four jobs completed at first attempt. Customer satisfaction with repairs has remained in the top 25%. In Merseyside, 230 homes received either new heating or boiler renewals and upgrades, making them more efficient and cost effective to heat. In addition, 280 new kitchens and bathrooms were fitted. In Cheshire, more than 80 properties benefited from new kitchens and 150 underwent additional improvement works, including 58 new roofs.

This year, working closely with our Asset Management Engagement Group (AMEG), we have: ■

Reviewed our Empty Homes Standard and agreed a new standard to make sure that homes are empty for a shorter time between tenancies.

Reviewed our Asset Management Service delivery and undergone a comprehensive and thorough procurement process. This has resulted in the establishment of a Group-wide in-house trades team for repairs and gas servicing, as well as agreeing the contractors and components through the Fusion 21 framework to undertake all planned works.

Improved our repairs leaflet to provide additional information about our service and advice on general DIY repairs.

Begun installing carbon monoxide alarms in properties with open flue fire appliances to improve safety.

Introduced extended appointment times at the request of customers.

In 2010|11 we will develop and improve our service by:

U pg ra din g h eati

n g sy st e m s

Building on and enhancing the role of engagement and tenant inspectors.

Continuing to work with tenants to agree our ‘local offer’ to deliver a repairs service that reflects what you want in line with the Home Standard.

Rolling out text reminders for appointments to ensure customers have a ready reminder and reduce the number of appointments missed.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Upgrading heating systems in Cheshire Throughout the year, we have been completing work to improve ‘hard to heat’ properties in Cheshire. Typically these are old solid wall or system builds that can be difficult and expensive to upgrade. Properties on the Palmer Road estate in Sandbach fitted into this category and were also blighted by unsightly and often cracked brown tiling on the fronts. This was all taken off and new cream cladding put on, free of charge for tenants. This process had the added bonus of providing tenants with cavity wall insulation to make their homes warmer. Sam Arnold, who lives on the estate, said: “The tiles and air vents were in a poor state and damp

K e y Eve nt. E lle s m e re Po rt o ffe ri n g pe op , le ch oice in t h e ir h o m e s was getting in, so this was a really welcome job - it gives us a new sense of pride in our homes.” Neighbour Tracy Goudie added: “The difference in our gas bill was amazing, we don’t use anything like as much. The houses got a lease of life, it has lifted the whole estate.”


of you are satisfied with repairs completed



Home Standard

Retrofit for the Future During the year, we have been taking part in an innovative competition to turn an empty Victorian end-terrace property into a pioneering eco-friendly home of tomorrow, as part of the Technology Strategy Board’s £17 million Retrofit for the Future project. The scheme aims to demonstrate how green technologies can make existing homes more energy efficient and reduce carbon emissions. We secured more than £107,000 from the project, the only scheme in Merseyside to receive funding and one of only seven in the North West, to transform the Wavertree property in Liverpool to meet the highest possible energy efficiency standards. And, after a search to find someone to live in the city’s most eco-friendly home captured the imagination of the media, a family of four are due to move in.

Local artist and lecturer Diane McLoughlin, her husband David Cave and their two children Ella and Jimmy will live as they would elsewhere whilst technology and experts monitor the way in which the property transforms their energy use. The family are active members of the project team and will be involved in evaluating the project as they settle into their home and enjoy its benefits over the long-term. “Since we’ve got involved in this project, we’ve been so impressed by the thinking behind it,” says Diane, 35. “Going green shouldn’t be difficult to do, if people are going to change for the better then it should be easy to understand.” Diane and David, 39, who runs his own engineering company, have been living with their children in a one-bedroom flat in central Liverpool - and are delighted with the development of their new three-bedroom home.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Maintaining a high standard

Another job was at St Cyril’s Court in Liverpool, where four new kitchens were fitted to help disabled residents use facilities more easily.

We do a lot of work repairing and maintaining homes, but we also recognise that it can often be the smaller investments that can make big difference.

Maureen Finnegan, 63, of Liverpool was pleased with the renewal of her kitchen, especially the choices she was offered in units, shelving and flooring. “I’ve not had a new kitchen for 17 years,” she said. “It was a real blessing to get the work done and the standard is very good.”

Doreen Power, 70, of Middlewich, Cheshire, was widowed three years ago. Her husband had built their kitchen a decade or so earlier and part of it had fallen down. Plus Dane’s trades team gave the kitchen a complete makeover, putting in new units and flooring, and Doreen is delighted with the results.

Dolores Martin, 71, of Liverpool 7, needed extensive work doing to the pipes and plumbing in her home. She said: “Two very nice men came to do my repairs, they were both extremely pleasant, hard working, helpful and kept me informed each step of the way what they were doing.

“The work they did was brilliant. They did the job in good time, tidied up and even took away the old units. They were very pleasant people and I’m very pleased.”

“They completed the job very quickly and left the place perfectly clean. I am 80% disabled and can feel very vulnerable but they made me feel at ease and gave an excellent service.”

Diane believes the project can kick-start the redesign of the UK's social housing stock. “If there’s going to be a real change in how we tackle climate change then older homes will have to be refurbished, it’s not an option to just demolish and rebuild,” she says.

Retro fit fa mily: Di an e M cL oug hlin an d he r hu sba nd Da vid Ca ve wit h the ir children Ell a an d Jim my

10 days erway elop m ent gets un d ev d it of tr re he T : ss Work in prog re

The typical time it takes us to complete non-emergency repairs



Neighbourhood and Community Standard

Creating great places to live How are we doing? A ‘great’ neighbourhood is hard to define. It is made up of many different elements, much of which is determined by the look and feel. However, working with you to create and maintain neighbourhoods where people want to live is a core part of being a Neighbourhood investor. This year, we have continued working on the main aspects that you have told us are important for your neighbourhoods through our neighbourhood influence and investment plans.

But its not just us doing our bit to clean up the neighbourhoods we work in, you have also been getting involved, with Plus Dane customers earning two awards for their green fingers:

We understand that the look of a neighbourhood is a big part of how it feels. This year, with the support of residents and partners, we have carried out a number of environmental action days, including Big Tidy Ups and providing hanging baskets to brighten up neighbourhoods.

Our grounds maintenance team, IN Environmental Services (INES), also ‘clean and green’ the equivalent of 77 football pitches every two weeks.

Riverview Residents Association was named as “Outstanding” at the RHS North West in Bloom Awards for their Healthy Living Garden, which was designed with Plus Dane’s In Environmental Services (INES) team. The garden will be a community resource under the management of the association and the community will come together to grow a variety of fruit and vegetables. The team has been working hard over the past year to make this garden a reality, and have raised more than £11,000 in external funding.

9 10 out of

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customers are satisfied with their new home

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Working with our customer engagement groups, this year we have: ■

Introduced a new calendar of neighbourhood inspections and walkabouts which are tailored to the needs of neighbourhoods.

Worked hard to be an influential part of Cheshire East’s new Choice Based Lettings Scheme, a new way of allocating housing that allows customers and existing tenants who want to transfer to apply for vacancies that are advertised widely in the neighbourhood, e.g. on the internet, in local council offices, libraries and other areas.

Introduced a Group-wide free gardening service to vulnerable tenants who meet the criteria. More than 600 tenants benefited from this service this year. Following your feedback, we have enhanced our visibility in neighbourhoods through easily identifiable high-visibility jackets and waistcoats.

Buglawton was awarded a Merit for their contribution to “breathing life into their community” in the Congleton in Bloom competition. A cluster of bungalows was awarded their very own community garden where residents will grow their own flowers and vegetables, and more importantly, have an area where they can get together.

The regeneration of Castlefields in Runcorn, where Plus Dane is working with a wide range of partners to deliver a multi-million Regeneration Masterplan, also made strong progress in 2009/10. It has now entered an exciting phase which will see the completion of the Village Square, providing much needed community, leisure and retail facilities. The project is funded by Halton Borough Council, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), Plus Dane Group, WREN and Renova Developments Ltd. Working with our partner Brouhaha International, we have also received two prestigious awards for the annual World in Princes Park event - Black History Month’s Arts and Media Award and the National Association of Neighbourhood Management Local Economy Award.


77 Our INES team ‘clean and green’ the equivalent of 77 football pitches every two weeks

Our INES teams now have days dedicated to each neighbourhood to make sure any issues are addressed quickly and effectively.

Our Income Management Team has worked with our Financial Engagement Group to review our approach to arrears management and tenancy support aimed at “prevention rather than cure”, and amended the wording in our arrears letters and rent statements.

A new tenant welcome pack has been developed and approved for new customers, by our existing customers.

Direct debit frequency rates have been increased, giving you more choice on payment dates.


Neighbourhood and Community Standard

In 2010|11 we will continue to develop and improve our service by: ■

Further developing the role of tenant inspectors, particularly around our empty home property standard.

Reviewing our grounds maintenance contracts and providers.

Continuing to work with you to agree our ‘local offer’ to deliver a tenancy and estate management service that reflects what tenants want in line with the Neighbourhood and Community and Tenancy Standards.

Big Clean Up Plus Dane has been playing an important role in helping to clean up neighbourhoods with a series of community clear up events. In Cheshire, neighbourhood officers in Middlewich, who have a budget for community events on their estates, used a little of this money to hire skips and provided staff to help residents on four estates get rid of general household items and bulky rubbish that they would otherwise struggle with. The skips were filled very quickly and Plus Dane handymen used the extra time to help with other general litter collection in the area. Amanda Thornhill, Plus Dane’s Neighbourhood Officer for the area, said: “The event was very well received. Typical comments included “this is a great idea for single parents to get rid of their rubbish as they have no way of getting to the tip!”

Transforming neighbourhoods Big C lea n U p

Residents in Castlefields, Runcorn, are starting to reap the benefits of a comprehensive regeneration programme to transform the area. To date, Plus Dane has invested more than £23 million in the project and is working in partnership with Halton Borough Council, the Homes and Communities Agency, Liverpool Housing Trust and the Northwest Regional Development Agency to help drive the area’s redevelopment. But while the financial figures are impressive, even more significant is the effect on the people who live there.

Pl us Da ne IN Enviro nm ent al Se rvices (INES) sta ff at wo rk

Chris Harrison, 63, moved to the area with his family in the 1960s and has seen Castlefields go from model village to one with many problems and now back again.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Celebrating diversity Plus Dane has been working to promote and celebrate the rich cultural diversity of many of the areas we work in, both in the workplace and in the neighbourhoods we serve. We are committed to maintaining environments that are free from discrimination, victimisation and unfairness. Our Neighbourhood investor vision includes a commitment to create and sustain thriving neighbourhoods where diversity is celebrated, exclusion is ended and wealth generated. Our Something for Everyone (SfE) strategy details our approach to delivering equality and diversity to customers, stakeholders and staff over the next three years. A group of SfE Diversity Champions plan events to get people talking and asking questions about age, disability, gender, race, religion and belief, sexual orientation and transgender.

“It was a great place to be at first, there were plenty of jobs, the pubs were full, there was a real party atmosphere,” he says. “It was so much better than the lives we’d come from. There was an expectation and optimism.” But all this turned sour in the 1980s as thousands of jobs were lost in the nearby industrial areas of Speke and Halewood. As people left in search of work the area began a downward spiral. Now, the area’s fortunes are swiftly turning around as regeneration work reaches its climax and Chris, an entertainer and talent booker who spent nine years in the Navy, has moved into a new two-bedroom house near his old home. “I’ve watched the metamorphosis, especially in the last year when it’s really kicked in. Community spirit has started to develop again. “This is what regeneration can do, it can give people hope. If the environment is right it can have positive impact on life psychologically.”

The scheme will include a new village square, due for completion in 2011, with shops that Plus Dane is investing more than £2 million into. There will also be a new health centre, community centre, café and library. This year a play area for children was completed and countless hours of engagement projects with local people are having a real impact, Ca st le fi el d s re si d ent C h ri s H a rr especially is on those involving young people and challenging antisocial behaviour.



Neighbourhood and Community Standard

Increased community safety measures How are we doing? Through our ongoing engagement with you, we recognise that being able to feel safe in your homes remains one of your key priorities. To make sure we succeed in delivering our community safety promise, we work closely with local people and partners, such as the police, fire services and local primary care trusts to adopt a joined up approach not only to fix problems when they arise, but to try and prevent problems happening in the first place. As well as addressing some of the physical improvements such as door-chains and security lights and a 24-hour service to victims of antisocial behaviour, we have also adopted an innovative approach to supporting perpetrators of antisocial behaviour to help them remain in their homes and communities.

In 2009|10 we have: ■

Carried out security improvement programmes across neighbourhoods that had been highlighted as being at risk by our work with the police and fire services. For example, securing windows and installing anti-vandal paint in Sheil Park in Liverpool.

Secured funding to carry out security improvements to 400 homes in Liverpool 8.

In 2010|11 we will continue to develop out service by: ■

Establishing a Community Safety Task Group to review our current approach to managing antisocial behaviour, hate crime and domestic abuse.

Continuing to work with tenants to agree our ‘local offer’ to deliver a tenancy and estate management service that reflects what tenants want in line with the Neighbourhood and Community and Tenancy Standards.


The number of antisocial behaviour cases we managed during 2009|10

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Cooking session at Bedford School, Boot le Birt h d a y c

e le b rat io n s

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Engaging with young people Throughout the year we organised a wide range of activity to engage with and involve tenants and residents. This included organising a number of events for young people across Cheshire and Merseyside including drama, music, sport and training schemes. Often the activities are designed to deal with a specific challenge on a particular estate. For example, concerns were raised in Anfield, Liverpool, about young men drinking alcohol to excess in the evening. To help stem this, we organised football sessions which ran from 9-11pm, encouraging players to abstain. Another project saw a ‘dry’ St Patricks Day event in Anfield in which more than 70 people

enjoyed bands and other attractions without drinking alcohol. On the infamous ‘Mischief Night’ (October 30th) and Guy Fawkes Night when youths can sometimes get involved in serious antisocial behaviour, we ran a series of positive activities including a ‘pink party’ to raise money for breast cancer, trips to a circus, two skiing trips and carting sessions aimed at a targeted group most likely to cause disturbances. In Liverpool alone, police reported their best ever statistics for nuisance calls in the areas we targeted during this period. Other work underway to support resident involvement includes an internet project which was worked on with young people from Anne Conway House in Liverpool and

Hungerford Road in Crewe. Called “movin on, movin in”, the site was created after several workshops, work with a graphic designer and a residential session. In response to the murder of 16-year old Army cadet Joseph Lappin in the Everton area of Liverpool, we engaged more than 500 local youngsters in the “say no to guns and knives” festival. Some 178 people signed a pledge to do all they could to challenge violent culture. But it’s not just the negative side of life that we get involved with. We organise sports days, cookery sessions, computer projects, family fun days and much more all year round throughout the neighbourhoods we work in.


Valuable support Charles Clarke of Walton, Liverpool, faced losing his home because he took a stand against antisocial behaviour and went from being the victim of trouble to being seen as the perpetrator. But, with the help of our support service, he turned the tables. We assigned him a support officer, who works with tenants accused of bad behaviour, encouraging them to resolve disputes. Charles, 49, found out that his son had fallen in with a gang who were exploiting the teenager’s special needs. Despite being disabled, Charles decided to confront them. “I dragged him away and they didn’t like it. They started throwing bricks and eggs at the house, tried to force their way inside,” he says.

N orm a n & C h a atte n d a Focurlses (a bove) G rou p

Tackling Antisocial Behaviour (ASB) Throughout the year, we continued to commit more resources to dealing with antisocial behaviour.

“The last straw was when a brick came through the window, in a room in which my granddaughter was

our wardens to see if they need any support or crime prevention advice. Peggy Tracey, 80, suffered two terrifying attacks on her property, with doors kicked in and windows smashed for no apparent motive. “It was a terrifying time,” she says.

Nicola Andrews, Neighbourhood Investment Manager, has been given the role of reviewing community safety across the board, looking at what we do, how we do it and most importantly how we can improve.

“Plus Dane came round and were very good. They did all the repairs free of charge and installed security lights around the property. I also got a little camera to see who is at the door. While I’m still very afraid, they helped me feel that little bit better.”

But in addition to customer engagement groups, close partnerships with the police and other agencies; it is the personal touch that often makes a difference to tenants.

In another case, two neighbours in West Derby, Liverpool, were at odds over a disputed flower bed border with the resulting ASB escalating. Our offer to build a small fence to accurately divide their gardens was accepted and resolved the problem.

As part of our partnership with Liverpool City Council, we receive crime statistics reports and use these to help tenants cope with the aftermath of crime. For example, every Plus Dane tenant who has been burgled gets a visit from one of

Elsewhere in Liverpool, homes in Sheil Park had fallen victim to actual and attempted break-ins. Plus Dane staff, working together with Merseyside Police and with funding from Liverpool City Council,

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report


sitting. I went after them on my mobility scooter, chasing them off and waving my stick at them.”

“If you have a problem with antisocial you need to report it straight away - don’t retaliate,” says Charles.

A neighbour saw Charles and reported him to the authorities and Charles faced the prospect of an antisocial behaviour order and losing his tenancy.

Charles was offered the chance to meet other residents who had experienced similar problems, including Norman Hunt, a 53 year old former shipping worker from Everton Valley, who is chairman of the ASB Focus Group. The group meets once a month, with Plus Dane supplying meeting space, transport costs, refreshments and the advice and guidance of support worker, Karen Buttery. Karen is enthusiastic about the benefits the group brings. “It can be very expensive to tackle antisocial behaviour, the process of evicting a tenant can cost up to £30,000, so schemes like these are very cost effective.

“I never found out who reported me but I’d like to shake hands with them for all the good things that have happened since,” says Charles, who has been married to Claire, 45, for 21 years and has two other sons. “A housing officer from Plus Dane came to see me. Everything changed. I got all the help and support I needed. They also realised that my old house wasn’t suitable for me and my family because of my disability - and moved me to a two-bedroom bungalow in an area with great community spirit.” Charles’ son is now out of the gang and is being helped to find accommodation with Plus Dane that will support his special needs.

led a new ‘target hardening’ project to make properties more secure.


“So far the results have been fantastic. A lot of people say they don’t know what we’re doing but they want us to continue doing it.”

Typical cost of an eviction through antisocial behaviour

safer now it’s in place. When people you’re not sure about are knocking on the doors, especially after dark, it can get very frightening.”

Measures such as extra security for windows, anti-vandal paint and the distribution of property marking kits have made residents feel safer in their own homes. In Cheshire, a new partnership with local police in Sandbach was launched to introduce No Cold Calling zones in streets inhabited by older people in bungalows. A community event explained the dangers of cold callers, and offered advice on how to deal with people on the doorstep, as well as warning of specific scams. Signs and stickers were put up to publicise the No Cold Calling zone, and residents were also given special pens to mark their belongings.

Sa ndba ch No Co ld Ca lle rs Pa rtn ers hip

David Steele, 68, a retired retail worker was just one of the people who complained to us about salespeople - who may or may not be genuine plaguing the estate. David said: “It’s been a good idea and I do feel

m ea su re s Ho m e safety


Neighbourhood and Community Standard

Further supporting vulnerable customers How are we doing? At Plus Dane, we see it as an essential part of our role to provide additional support at times when people need it most. People may need this support at different stages in their lives, for example, moving into your first home, or as a result of some change in personal circumstances such as a health issue, bereavement, homelessness or drug/alcohol related problems. Throughout the year, our neighbourhood teams continued to offer support, as well as signposting to relevant partner organisations. Our specialist teams also offer - The value of 104 major support across adaptations we carried neighbourhoods out, using disability to refugees, information on more ex-offenders and than 65% of our those causing customers antisocial behaviour.


Ni st af f he lp wit h

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This year we have: ■

Continued to provide specialist housing for the elderly, people with health issues or those facing homelessness. A key achievement was the opening of Heath View in Congleton, Cheshire, which offers 45 one or two bedroom apartments and a first class range of facilities.

Following the success of our Beat the Chill campaign in 2008 and the positive feedback you gave us, in December 2009, we visited 700 vulnerable customers to provide advice and support on how to stay warm and safe over the winter months.

In 2010|11 we will: ■

Continue to work with you to agree our ‘local offer’ to deliver a tenancy and estate management service that reflects what you want, in line with the Neighbourhood and Community Tenancy Standards.

Build on our partnerships with local organisations to deliver the Beat the Chill winter warmth campaign, with the aim of reaching even more people.

Continue to work with partners to deliver our support services.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Hungerford Road “My parents didn’t love me anymore, we were always arguing and I had to leave. I’d just turned 16 and was upset and angry and sleeping on floors at friends’ houses and missing my schooling and exams. I had nothing.” This is the story of Ryan, a young man who is one of the many people helped through our accommodation and support service for people aged 16-24 at Hungerford Road, Crewe, which gives a new start and new hope to people who find themselves homeless at a vulnerable age. In the two years he has been receiving support and accommodation, Ryan has been back to college, embarked on a Prince’s Trust course, is enjoying a work experience placement at a local garage and is ready to move into his own flat. He is also applying to join the Army. “Hungerford Road has provided me with a lot of different life skills, learning about money, how to budget, how to cook and clean and look after myself,” he says. “It’s a very supportive environment, it’s helped to keep me out of trouble.”

£750,000 - The amount gained in unclaimed benefits for customers

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Hungerford Road exists to help support a variety of agencies working with young people and address what Plus Dane has identified as a gap in local services. It also runs a ‘moving on’ house to help those who need extra support making the transition to living on their own, a three month floating support service for former residents and drop-in availability for former residents. “I feel now that I’ve got the skills to move on and make something of myself,” adds Ryan. “I’m hoping that going into the Army will make my mum and dad proud and they will see me in a new light.”



Neighbourhood and Community Standard

Floating Support Plus Dane is helping many people throughout Merseyside and Cheshire get their lives back on track through its floating support services, which offer a range support to help people to live independently. Sarah Oselle came to this country from Uganda in 2002. Her husband at the time, a prominent businessman, had been accused of treason and arrested. Hearing that the police were coming for her, Sarah fled, taking her baby, Ariko, but making the heartbreaking decision to leave behind her two other children. “I arrived in freezing cold. I didn’t know where I was, where I would go, who would help me,” she says. She was persuaded to seek asylum status and after an exhaustive application process, she was taken to a centre in Dover then sent to live in Huddersfield where she faced a difficult battle to stay in the UK. She was eventually successful and, as she was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK, decided to move to Liverpool. Her relief that she was free at last was tempered by the fact she was suddenly homeless, jobless and penniless.

up again, she saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, she made me look at the future in a different way. “With her help I was able to get a tenancy and a community grant - just a little bit of money but enough to allow me to move from the hostel.” Sarah went on to take a foundations degree course in Social Policy, Health and Housing at St Helens College and secured a place working on Plus Dane’s Property Pool Review Project, where she gained valuable skills. She currently works shifts as an NHS support worker, earning just enough to make her living. She is now preparing for her son and daughter in Uganda, now aged 11 and 15, to come and join her and Ariko, now aged 9, in their Edge Hill home. “Jackie never stopped supporting me,” she says. “I pushed her hard and she never lost patience. She has such a passion for her job - everyone at Plus Dane is like that, they are really in it for the community even though sometimes they have very difficult challenges.”

“I was sent to a hostel for the homeless. It was a very tough time,” she remembers. “I was living with some bad people including one man who was a drug addict and racist. His abuse was constant, he used to scream at me and racially abuse me in the most horrible of ways. He really hurt me and I think then that was when I was at my very lowest.” But things began to turn around for Sarah when, with the help of one of Plus Dane’s floating support services, she was assigned support worker, Jacqueline Connolly. “Jackie was so accepting,” Sarah says. “She was so sympathetic and friendly. She built me

Vis ito rs at a F loatin g Su ppo rt Eve


Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Finance and debt support

Reaching out to elderly residents

Sandbach tenant Bill Hillier, who had been running a business selling decorative lighting to the retail trade throughout the North West, found himself with mounting debts as the recession deepened.

As part of our work helping tenants adapt to the digital TV switchover, Plus Dane teamed up with a school in Cheshire to help vulnerable people.

He was diagnosed with an illness which prevented him from driving and left him unable to work and ended up in £46,000 of debt, with interest payments of £900 a month.

Members of our Neighbourhood team worked with students from Eaton Bank High, an IT and technical specialist school in Congleton, Cheshire, to offer assistance to elderly residents who were struggling to get to grips with the digital TV switchover in the Granada TV region last November.

But, with the help of Carl Thompson, Plus Dane’s Financial Inclusion Officer, Bill managed to get help and support to clear his debts. “Carl was brilliant, he put me in touch with debt advisors - he actually drove me to the meeting - helped me fill in forms and what to say and even went with me to the court for the bankruptcy hearing,” says Bill. “The judge agreed that there were genuine reasons why I’d got into debt and there was no way I’d ever pay these off. He wiped the slate clean - it was a great feeling.”

Students were given training and advice on how best they could support vulnerable residents to make sure that they were able to access their favourite channels. Age Concern also offered tips on what kind of questions residents might ask and how best to get the message across. Students and the Plus Dane team sent letters out to local residents informing them of the offer of support and then visited those residents who were most in need. During the visits they helped explain what the digital switchover was and what equipment was needed. They also offered practical help, such as tuning boxes and programming channels.

Winter Warmer In December 2009, more than 400 members of Plus Dane staff, including gas fitters, accountants, electricians, housing managers, plumbers and administration staff, visited customers to advise them on how to stay warm and safe in their homes during the winter as part of our Beat the Chill Campaign. They also handed out gift packs containing useful items such as thermos flasks, blankets and tea and coffee. Working closely with customers and key partners such as the Merseyside and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services and local Primary Care Trusts, we devised a useful booklet providing information on a range of key issues such as how to save money on energy bills, how to increase your income to pay bills and stay warm and healthy throughout the winter and how to avoid fire risks in the home.

Beat the Chill Wint er Warmth

Ca mpaig n



Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard

Further supporting resident involvement How are we doing? Plus Dane is committed to encouraging tenants and residents to become involved in all aspects of our work. There are many opportunities to become involved, ranging from neighbourhood events, summer parties and carnivals to board membership, neighbourhood panels and other engagement The number of forums and groups.


complaints received and resolved

Members of the Asset Management and Engagement Group

This year, 51 residents have been involved in our Residents’ Academy, taking part in courses such as Healthy Eating and DIY for Beginners. Customer feedback is an important part of making sure that we continue to challenge ourselves to deliver the services that you want in the way that you want them. This year has seen a significant increase in the number of customers involved in driving our business forward. Customer groups have been established as an integral part of our service improvement approach, covering specific areas of Asset Management, Income Management, Tenancy and Estate Management and Lettings. Additionally, customer and staff teams were established to focus on Customer Service and Leaseholder Services.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

In 2009|10, working with a wide range of customer engagement groups, we have: ■

Reviewed suppliers and products for planned improvement works.

Undergone a thorough exercise to procure a repairs service.

Developed an improved customer website.

Produced our customer annual report.

Enhanced our performance management framework to align it to our engagement and governance structures.

Ensured that customers are now a regular part of our recruitment interview panels.

In 2010|11 we are committed to strengthening customer engagement further by: ■

Introducing an enhanced engagement structure.

Reviewing our complaints process to include an opportunity for you to be involved.

Reviewing our approach to customer satisfaction reporting.

Recruiting and training 20 Tenant Inspectors.

Introducing Mystery Shopper and Audit training for tenants.

Using our customer profile information to look at innovative ways to enhance involvement opportunities.

Continuing to work with tenants to agree our ‘local offer’ to deliver an engagement approach that reflects what tenants want in line with the Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard.


Plus Dane tenants appoint £32 million contract Supporting resident involvement is at the heart of what Plus Dane does. Everything from this report to major procurement projects comes out of consultation with the people we serve. When the contract for the £32 million repair and maintenance of 7,000 Plus Dane properties in Merseyside was up for renewal, we decided the best people to decide who should provide property services for tenants, were tenants themselves. Twelve volunteers from the tenants’ Asset Management and Engagement Group gave up 250 days of their time to read the 11 shortlisted tenders, interview the competing teams, visit work sites and call centres and speak to existing customers of those firms. “Tenants want to know that if someone comes to their home they are going to do a good job, to have the tools to do the job quickly and do a quality job, they have to have confidence that workers will respect their homes,” says Des Finley, 68, of Liverpool. “I feel privileged that as a tenant I was asked to take part in the selection process. We got to pick the right team to carry out the repairs to our homes - it was vital that our voices were heard.” Shaf Choudhary, 42, also of Liverpool, said: “People in Merseyside are going to notice the difference and can feel a lot more secure in how their landlord delivers repairs and maintenance of properties. “The whole thing is very inspiring; tenants are driving a better service as customers.” Lilian Hazell, 67, of Sandbach Cheshire, adds: “You don’t often have the responsibility of deciding people’s jobs and lives, it was only after it was all over that we reflected on the enormity of it. But I feel we did the best for our fellow tenants.” After the exhaustive process was over, the 12 were unanimous in awarding the contract to Plus Dane’s existing in-house trades team in Cheshire, which currently enjoys a 98% satisfaction rate among tenants in the county, and a new Plus Dane trades team in Liverpool has now been formed. The deal will have the added bonus of saving Plus Dane more than £500,000 in VAT with efficiency savings on top of that of £150,000. This is money which can be used to further increase investment in the communities we serve.

£500,000 - The amount saved in VAT through the creation of a new Plus Dane Trades Team in Liverpool


Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard

“I don’t like paying bills,” she adds, “so although there was a lot I already knew I did pick up some useful knowledge to keep the house warmer and save money, such as putting foil behind radiators. Gina Grain knows everything there is to know about energy conservation - but even she picked up useful knowledge from the one of the many resident training courses we run. The 67-year-old who lives in Holmes Chapel in Cheshire lived for a large part of her life in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, a place where electricity blackouts and water shortages were a fact of daily life. “We had to find ways to make do,” says the mother of two. “Imagine having to use the same water to shower and flush the toilet with - that gives you an idea of how energy conservation is a necessary fact of life.” Gina, a super-keen bridge player, gets involved in lots of Plus Dane activities – especially social events, which she believes are a vital part of our pledge to support the isolated. This year she took part in courses about home safety and saving energy.

“Courses like these help people realise the dangers and give good advice,” she says. “Plus Dane makes a difference and the staff work so hard. Their outreach work is very good at tackling isolation, it’s just a shame that more people don’t get involved.” Earlier this year residents were awarded certificates subjects such as CIH Housing Level 2, Marvellous Meals in Minutes, Finding out about Energy, Recruitment and Selection, Equality Impact Assessment and Equality and Diversity. At a graduation event at The Gateway, Warrington, there were speeches from residents like John The number of Kane, who gave a engagement activities moving account held throughout of what he had the year *More than half of achieved.



these specifically for young people

Pinehurst Estate A residents’ association in north Liverpool is thriving after taking a fresh approach to building a stronger neighbourhood. The Pinehurst Estate Tenant and Resident Association (PETRA) in Anfield has earned a reputation as a focal point for the community, working with partners like the police, the local council and Plus Dane for the good of residents.

Te n a nt s C onfe re nc

e 20 10

One of their pioneering approaches includes designing activities that young and old can do together. The group puts on an impressive number of events, everything from circus skills to yoga, and also runs an environmental service which sees young people

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Mary Parrott of Heath View receives her certificate to recognise her contribution towards finding out about energy in May 2010

51 Residents have been supported through Resident Academy training

tidying up the gardens of vulnerable people, putting up hanging baskets and growing organic fruit and vegetables. PETRA’s latest event was a hugely popular talent show, with scores of people cheering on local acts. The under-18s category was won by dancers Amy McFadyen, Lauren McFadyen and Sarah Taylor, who wowed the judges with their Lady Gaga-inspired set. The over 18s title was taken by dance comedy duo the Go Lightlys, consisting of Barbara Smith and Marge Drummond. Terry Smith, 42, Chairman of PETRA, said: “Our work is all about breaking down barriers and creating a stronger community built on respect and trust. We also like to have a lot of fun – it’s important to bring the community together for events like these.”

P ET R A Env iro n

m enta l Tea m

The success of PETRA is one of the inspirations for a new push to revitalise the areas of Anfield, County and Kirkdale with a “coalition of the willing” that will cut through red tape. A taskforce called the North Liverpool Action Team, in which Plus Dane will take the co-ordinating role, has been set up to tackle local problems such as antisocial behaviour and grot spots, with a “just do it” approach. The group will consist of elected councillors, city officers and staff from a diverse range of local organisations.



Neighbourhood and Community Standard

Increased creation of local jobs In 2009|10 we have: ■

How are we doing? During these challenging times we recognise that supporting local people to get into training and employment is increasingly important if we are all to be successful in creating and maintaining great neighbourhoods for people to live in.

As a Neighbourhood investor, we support people into work in a variety of different ways.

Through EverybodyOnline, installed 10 reconditioned computers at Bromley Farm in Cheshire, allowing 30 local residents to access the internet to look for jobs, access social networks and carry out their hobbies. Worked in partnership with Tesco to bring the prospect of over 500 jobs to the Liverpool 8 area. Employed 60 Environmental Rangers from a variety of backgrounds to keep neighbourhoods clean and tidy. Secured 60 jobs for local people through the setting up of an inhouse repairs team in Merseyside.

In 2010|11 we will: ■

Continue to develop training and employment opportunities both within the organisation and through working with key partners.

Strengthen our links with schools, particularly looking at placement and apprenticeship opportunities.

Build on our approach to supporting and developing local social enterprises.

Work with tenants to identify improved ways in which opportunities can be promoted across the neighbourhoods in which we work.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Work experience When Phillip Ware decided to leave the Army and begin a new life, he didn’t realise what a battle he would face. The 25-year-old hoped to turn his military experience into a good career but found that wherever he went, doors were closed in his face. “I was institutionalised,” he says. “I’d been in the cadets until I was 16 and then went straight into the Army. All I knew was the military way of doing things, military terminology.” During his Army career, Phillip worked in Iraq as a human resources administrator, recruiting Iraqis to work for the Forces, interviewing candidates, sorting out pay and dealing with grievances. It was tough work and often dangerous. But while his military discipline had equipped him to

deal with hazards like exploding mortar shells, he found the job market a tough place.

in Merseyside supported by Plus Dane.

“It was difficult to know where to start from,” he says. “When I was going for jobs I was finding it hard to get through the interview stage. They ask you questions and expect you to elaborate on your answers but in the Army that’s not the done thing.

Here Phillip, who lives in the Tuebrook area of Liverpool, was able to put his knowledge of computer systems and leadership to good use, setting up projects to help bridge the digital divide, helping people with no ICT skills to access the educational, social and financial benefits of internet.

“I knew that I could do the jobs and that I had fantastic experience but they didn’t see this as relevant to business, it was all too military. I started applying for lower paid jobs and they would brush me off as over-qualified.” Phillip, a proud Yorkshireman, eventually signed on the dole. It was then he got referred to Training Network Group (TNG) and Future Jobs Fund, securing a placement with Everybody Online, a multi-partnership ICT-based social enterprise

He is now looking to the future with confidence as his placement comes to an end and he begins the hunt for a job. “I’ve got a lot of life experience to offer and now I’m hopeful I can get a good job as I’ve got the sort of experience that will tick the boxes. I enjoy community work, even though the pay can be quite low, but there’s a lot of satisfaction to be had making a change to people’s lives and knowing you’ve done something worthwhile.”



Neighbourhood and Community Standard

Creating opportunities Another success story is Plus Dane’s IN Environmental Services (INES) team. INES, a thriving social enterprise, was originally set up and support by a Neighbourhood Renewal Fund grant and considerable support from Liverpool City Council to create work for long-term unemployed people, those with vulnerabilities and ex-offenders. Based in Toxteth, an area of Liverpool with high levels of unemployment and barriers to work, the team specialises in cleaning up neighbourhoods and turning eyesores into places of community pride. Part of their work involves volunteering their services to improve the local environment, everything from cleaning up school grounds to providing free hanging baskets for everyone who wants them.

Safeguarding jobs The £32 million repairs and maintenance contract for Liverpool properties, awarded by Plus Dane tenants, had the additional benefit of safeguarding 60 jobs and creating 11 apprenticeship roles through the creation of a new in-house trades team for Merseyside. It was people like Phillip Fitzgibbon, 28, who benefitted. “My previous job was coming to an end and my girlfriend is pregnant,” he says. I faced the prospect of being a new father and on the dole.” Phillip, a plasterer, was just one of the dozens of local people offered work on the new Merseyside trades team. “Everywhere else seems to be laying off but Plus Dane have been taking on at the right time. Getting a secure job took a huge weight off my shoulders,” he says.

“Our ethic is to try to get socially excluded people into work,” explains head of environmental services, Joe Feeley. “A lot of people come to us, they can’t read or write, they’ve got on the wrong side of the law for mistakes that young lads sometimes make, they may have a disability or come from a family where there have been generations of unemployment. “They come into interviews with their eyes down, chins in their chests, no expectation that they’ll get the job. It’s up to us to draw these people out, give them a chance, help them, mould them. “In three months people can go from an undesirable member of the community to a desirable one. They turn their lives around.” One person who went through the process is James Brown, 25. Jobless for over a year, the father of two finally managed to get back into employment through the Future Jobs Fund and INES.

Rewarding success Chris Ogden, 25, an apprentice bricklayer with Plus Dane, scooped the Apprentice of the Year title for what his bosses called his “exceptional” attitude and commitment. Congleton lad Chris, who had been a football coach and had trials with Stockport County before injury struck, has a reputation as someone who regularly goes beyond the call of duty. After breaking his foot, Chris, who works on adapting properties for disabled tenants, decided not to take time off, but came into the office on crutches and volunteered to help out with admin work. “Winning was a major shock - I thought it must be a joke at first,” Chris said. “Plus Dane has been great to me it’s a brilliant company to work for. They instil in us that we must do our very best for tenants and they are very supportive in giving the workforce the training to do this.”

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report


“INES likes to employ local lads and I lived just round the corner,” says James, who has been working as an environmental ranger on gardens and landscapes. “They do a lot of work in this area, doing good jobs to make it a better place, so I was made up. “If you look at some of the places we’ve worked on and think back to what they used to be, we can really say we’ve improved things, really made a difference.” James, who is a big Liverpool FC supporter and enjoys spending time playing football with his children, has picked up lots of new skills while on the INES placement and is looking for work in the garden maintenance/environment trade.

Ja me s Brown,

INES (rig ht)

One job that James is particularly proud of is the work the INES team did on the Greenhouse Project, a multi-culture play and arts scheme based in Lodge Lane. “The area was getting a bit run down so it gave me a lot of satisfaction to see it given a new start, to see the kids playing there,” he adds.

60 jobs Have been safeguarded with the maintenance contract


Tenancy Standard

Increased supply and choice of homes How are we doing? We remain committed to increasing the supply and choice of homes, with almost 1,500 new homes at various stages of development, offering a number of affordable housing options. We undertake all our activities in a responsible manner and are continually working to improve our construction methods to make sure we use the most modern and environmentally friendly techniques and materials. This was recognised in our nomination for three awards in the Sustainable - the amount invested by Housing Plus Dane in the new £11 Awards during million Village Square 2009. development in

£2 million

This year we have: ■

Helped over 100 households to move into home ownership through our HomesHub team and supported 20 homeowners struggling to keep up with their mortgage payments to remain in their homes through the Mortgage Rescue Scheme. ■

Castlefields, Runcorn

e Edge wate r Pa rk, Ch es hir

The development, at Oriel Road, will provide high quality, affordable rented accommodation for people over the age of 55.

Built 251 new homes and invested £1 million in both existing homes, and to provide 132 new homes for older people and those with special support needs.

Developed and built 12 new two-bedroom semi-detached homes in Scholar Green, Cheshire, all for affordable rent, aimed at couples and small families. The houses come with renewable energy features such as ground source heat pumps, water butts and energy saving fittings and lightbulbs. Started developing 24 new apartments in the Queens-Bedford neighbourhood of Liverpool, a partner in Evolve Neighbourhood Regeneration.

Held 30 tenant events across Cheshire and Merseyside specifically related to environmental activities.

Secured over £100,000 funding from the Technology Strategy Board’s Retrofit for the Future project.

In 2010|11 we will: ■

Continue to do more for the environment by working with tenants to enhance our approach to sustainability, not only in construction and maintenance of homes, but also in the manner in which we operate.

Work with our engagement groups to enhance the way we provide and promote additional services.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report


Providing the right homes Overcrowding is a common problem in homes, but less well-known is the challenge of under-occupancy. People like Martin Horn, 41, and his disabled sister Joanne, 40, were left in a four bedroom house with big bills and facilities that were unsuitable for Joanne’s disabilities when their father died.

M a rt in Ho rn

e a n d his si st

e r Joa n n e

We helped them to move into a modern, eco-friendly property in Castlefield’s, Runcorn. Martin and his sister are delighted with their new home. “When we walked in our eyes lit up. It’s ground floor entry, open and light, there’s a walk-in shower, it’s eco friendly and there’s smaller bills. It’s brilliant.”

“Plus Dane have been with us every step of the way, they helped sort out bills and transfer accounts when my dad died and it was all a bit much for me. We wouldn’t have been able to move to the smaller home we needed without their help.”

Kings Head Close, Runcorn

Heath View A new £5.9 million state-of-the-art extra care scheme for retired people opened its doors in Congleton in March 2010 and is setting the standard for future schemes to be judged by. Among its residents is Rachel Malcolm, 85, a former nurse who was living alone in a high-rise flat, but after cracking her spine in a fall came to stay with her daughter in Congleton. Determined not to be a burden on the family, Rachel was referred to Heath View and says now: “I’ve never had it so good.”

A rn ol d Ta sk er

£5.9 million - the amount invested in the development of Heath View, a state-of-the-art extra care scheme in Congleton

R a ch el M a lcol


Increasing choice Many people find themselves in a vulnerable position when the split with a partner. Finances can be a major worry, with private rents and property prices beyond the reach of most single people, especially when children are involved. Plus Dane has been increasing the supply and choice of homes to deal with lifestyle changes just like these. Two men - Philip Brown and Geoff Scotton - are among those benefitting. 28-year-old security specialist Phillip Brown was left feeling decidedly insecure when a long-term relationship broke down six years ago and he was forced to give up the home he owned with his ex-partner and move back in with his parents. “It was not ideal but the only option,” he says. “I wanted to own a home but the housing market was going bananas and there was no way I could afford to buy.”

“I’m so very happy here,” she adds. “Everyone is so nice and it’s a lovely place. There’s always something on to do, I have a lovely apartment and views over the fields. The staff here can’t do enough for you, I feel really lucky to have a place like this to live out the rest of my life.”

As time went on Philip was beginning to think he’d never find the home he dreamed of until he came across the website and read about our shared ownership offers. The scheme allows people to buy a share of between 25%-75% to move in. Customers typically lay down a smaller deposit than normal and pay a reduced rent on the remaining share, which is owned by a housing association. You can buy more shares as you can afford them and eventually own the whole property if you want to. You are also free to sell the share on the open market if you want to move on. It suited Philip perfectly and he was able to buy a newly built home on the Great Hall development off Cambridge Road in Ellesmere Port. “I decided to sell my car and take the plunge,” he says. “Without this help I wouldn’t be able to get on the property ladder. It was a great feeling to get the keys and step through the door of my own home again after having to live with my parents for so long.

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Another resident, Heath View’s joker-in-the-pack, Arnold Tasker, 79, lived in the former St Mary’s home for the elderly that was knocked down and replaced by Heath View. He was one of the first to move in to a luxury two-bedroom apartment and is full of praise for his new home. “There were a lot of things wrong with St Mary’s,” says the former milkman and chemicals worker. “It was very run down, there were swarms of ants in the summer and very little space. “Heath View is like a five-star hotel. Being here makes me very happy and I feel very lucky because they have thought of everything that the elderly person needs. You can’t fault Plus Dane, they’ve done everything for us.” Among the facilities on offer in 24-hour care, a bistro, TV lounges, games rooms, internet suite, hair salon, laundry, health and well being suite, keep fit classes, arts and crafts days, landscaped gardens and much more. There are 45 one and two bedroom apartments with a full range of support services that allow

“I finally feel as if I’m back on track.” Geoff Scotton is someone else who feels he has his life back under control. After a divorce and the financial fallout that followed, Geoff walked into a home he had thought beyond his reach.

people to access care and help to maintain their independence and choice and continue to play an active role in the community. “Coming here has given me a new lease of life,” says Arnold. “I lost my wife, then a long-term partner. I thought I was going mad – at one point I was talking to the walls. Here I’ve made so many friends, I love to laugh and tell jokes and everyone is so friendly and gets on so well.” The project, which received a £1.7 million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), was led by Plus Dane Group and construction was carried out in partnership with J&S Seddon (Building) Ltd. Residents were fully involved in consultations about the design of the building and the facilities on offer, making sure the finished product was exactly what they wanted. “It’s an amazing place, you only have to look round it,” Arnold adds. “All homes for the elderly should be like this one.”

“If it wasn’t for HomesHub, I don’t know what I’d have done. Being here is the best therapy I could have wished for.”

Geoff, 40, is one of Plus Dane Group’s Rent-toHomeBuy customers, people who want to own their own property but need time to save and plan. For his two-bedroom home in Hereford Drive, Netherton, he has the option of paying rent - at around 20% less than the going market rate - for five years while he decides whether buying is right for him. But for Geoff - who shares his home with his son Alex,18 - the decision will be an easy one. “I was going through a marriage separation and had to find a new place,” he says. “I’d come from a life where I had a nice house, a garden - a lovely home. All of a sudden I was looking at grotty bedsits because I couldn’t afford to buy a home.

Philip B hi s n ew h omroewinn sett le s into Elle sm ere Port



Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Many of you have told us that you value our Winter Warmth campaign, which offers information and advice on ways to reduce your energy bills and stay warm and healthy over the winter months.

This year, we have once again been working closely with customers and key partners to develop the campaign and increase its reach to provide support to as many people as possible. Here are some of our top tips for staying warm and saving money this winter: ■

Check whether you can save money by changing your energy supplier. It is recommended that you turn your thermostat to 21°C during the day. Turning down your thermostat by just 1°C could reduce your energy bill by 10%. 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.

Set your hot water to a temperature between 43°C and 60°C. Reduce draughts by keeping doors closed and only heat rooms that you are using. Use energy saving light bulbs where possible. Remember to turn lights off when you are not in the room. At night, close your curtains or blinds as this helps to keep the heat inside your home. 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. Use a microwave where possible as they use less energy than conventional ovens. Switch off appliances when not in use, rather than leaving them on standby.

Stay healthy this winter by: Staying active If you are able, try to move around at least once every hour. Try to exercise as much as you can but consult a doctor before you do a lot of exercise.

Eating well Food is a vital source of warmth and energy, so try to have regular hot meals and drinks. Getting a Flu Jab If you are aged 65 or over, or you are at risk of developing a serious illness if you catch the flu, you will qualify for a free flu jab. To find out more about getting a flu jab, please talk to your doctor, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647, or visit Financial Support Did you know that we can offer you information, advice and support on: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Claiming benefits. Claiming grants and loans. Managing your rent account. Managing any debts you might have. Reducing your household bills, particularly energy bills. Applying for credit if you need it.

We work closely with our partners, including local credit unions, to help you get the best deal. To find out more contact us on:

Wearing the right clothes The best way of retaining body heat is to wear several layers of clothes.

erg Winte r Warmth en

y advice

0500 026 079 - Residents in Cheshire and Staffordshire 0800 169 2988 - Residents in Merseyside and Lancashire

Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Performance information Performance plays an important role in achieving our aim to provide excellent and efficient services. Performance helps to tell us how we are doing and where we can be even better. At its simplest, performance management is about practical ways of improving how we do things in order to deliver better outcomes for customers. We collect lots of facts and figures to monitor how well we are doing and we set challenging improvement targets for the coming year.



Rent receivable net of identifiable service charges


Service charges receivable


Supporting people funding


Development and management services


Sale of housing properties


Private contract and other income


Income from finance leases


Joint venture income


Interest and investment income


Surplus on the sale of fixed assets

1,512 54,203

Expendit ure

Some of the PI’s (performance indicators) we produce are collected by other housing associations across the country which helps us to compare how we are doing. Our aim is that we perform in the top 25% of housing associations in the country. To assist us, we use a company called HouseMark who have been running a benchmarking service for 10 years and are well established, successful, recognised and used by over 750 housing associations across the country. We have submitted our yearly data to HouseMark and are currently waiting for validation and publication of our report. Once we are in receipt of this, we will be sharing our performance against our peers in future editions. In the first full year of trading, the financial performance of the group has exceeded expectations as a whole as efficiencies continue to be driven throughout the business and opportunities for growth have been realised. The results are

Management and service costs


Repairs and maintenance


Depreciation and impairment of fixed assets


Provision for bad or doubtful debts


Cost of property sales


Other costs


Interest payable and similar charges


Corporation tax

459 52,478

Retained surplus for the year


welcomed with some caution as the economic climate will continue to present challenges during the coming year. However the results provide a strong platform on which to build future provision.

Units owned

Units managed

Managed by others

Non-social housing











Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

In April 2010 the TSA announced ‘The Regulatory Framework For Social Housing in England from April 2010’, which focuses on a co-regulatory approach. This included the introduction of six standards know as the TSA standards, where housing providers must demonstrate outcomes for tenants. The TSA Standards and requirements are: Standard


Tenant involvement and empowerment


■ ■


■ ■ ■

Customer service, choice and complaints Involvement and empowerment Understanding and responding to diverse needs of tenants Quality of accommodation Repairs and maintenance Allocations Rents Tenure

Neighbourhood Management Local area co-operation Antisocial behaviour

Value for money

Value for money

Governance and financial viability

Governance Financial viability

Neighbourhood and Community

■ ■

Te na nt In specto rs

L a un ch Event

Home Standard



Best 25

Average time to complete a repair - Merseyside

8.5 days

8.7 days

10 days

Average time to complete a repair - Cheshire

9 days

7 days

10 days

Percentage of customers satisfied with repairs service - Merseyside




Percentage of customers satisfied with repairs service - Cheshire




Percentage of properties not meeting Decent Homes standard - Merseyside




Percentage of properties not meeting Decent Homes standard - Cheshire




Percentage of homes with valid gas certificates - Merseyside




Percentage of homes with valid gas certificates - Cheshire




Plus Dane UNiTY Customer Report

Tenancy Standard



Best 25

Current rent arrears percentage - Merseyside




Current rent arrears percentage - Cheshire




Average time to re-let these homes - Merseyside

34 days

29 days

27 days

Average time to re-let these homes - Cheshire

37 days

58 days

27 days

Percentage of customers satisfied with their new home - Merseyside




Percentage of customers satisfied with their new home - Cheshire




Rent Due - Merseyside



Rent Due - Cheshire



Number of homes that have been empty this year - Merseyside



Number of homes that have been empty this year - Cheshire



Tenant Involvement & Empowerment



Best 25

Percentage of customers whose gender we know - Merseyside




Percentage of customers whose gender we know - Cheshire




Percentage of customers whose age we know - Merseyside




Percentage of customers whose age we know - Cheshire




Percentage of customers whose ethnicity we know - Merseyside




Percentage of customers whose ethnicity we know - Cheshire




Percentage of customers who we know has a disability - Merseyside




Percentage of customers who we know has a disability - Cheshire




Percentage of customers whose religion we know - Merseyside




Percentage of customers whose religion we know - Cheshire




Percentage of customers whose sexual orientation we know - Merseyside




Percentage of customers whose sexual orientation we know - Cheshire




Neighbourhood & Community



Number of ASB cases raised - Merseyside



Number of ASB cases raised - Cheshire




Your opinion matters Our Neighbourhood Investment and Influence Plans are used to ensure that the right services are in the right place to meet the local needs and aspirations of the communities we serve. The plans reflect the priorities of tenants and neighbourhood forums by identifying what is important to them in their neighbourhoods, and so will continue to form the basis of our approach to developing our ‘local’ offers.

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.

This autumn we are keen to hear the views of as many people as possible and will be using a range of different ways to do this including neighbourhood forums, neighbourhood events, our website and postal questionnaires. We want to hear about where you think we are performing well, as well as where you think we need to improve.

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


Unity Issue 6  

Our tenant magazine

Unity Issue 6  

Our tenant magazine