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The Taff Times April 2008 - March 2009

Taff Housing Association ANNUAL REPORT

www.taffhousing.co.uk

Dynamic duo cook up kitchen hit! One of the biggest success stories for Taff in the past 12 months was the launch of its own kitchen fitting team. The project was set up with the knowledge gained from the Integrate housing consortium. Taff realised that by delivering the kitchen improvements directly they could do the work for Tenants more quickly and at a reduced cost, as well as guaranteeing the quality. The dynamic kitchen team,

THE RESULTS Customer satisfaction has been recorded at 100% Neil Richards, 44, and Dave Squires, 27, have proved a hit with Tenants, winning plaudits for their hard graft and quality work. The pair are busy installing one kitchen per week in Tenants’ homes. Results speak for themselves - customer satisfaction has been

recorded at 100% with letters and cards of thanks being sent into Taff’s offices. “We chose them from dozens of applicants because of their skills and more importantly, their attitude to customer service, which has paid dividends,” said Phil Dunn, Maintenance Manager.

Neil Richards and Dave Squires – the kitchen fitting team “We have made savings, enabling us to do more kitchens for the same price.” Over an eight month period, the kitchen fitting team has built 37 new kitchens, at a total cost – including their salaries – of £118,290. This works out at £3,197 per kitchen.

This meant the cost of each fitted kitchen is £1,303 lower than Taff was paying before to fit new kitchens for Tenants – an overall saving of £48,000 for the eight months of the team’s operation. It is also forecast that the figure will drop again once the project has been running for a full year.

Survey shows high satisfaction The overall level of satisfaction with Taff’s services remains high among Tenants, according to a survey. The study was conducted by Priority Research in May and June 2008 on behalf of Taff Housing Association, using a system which allowed for comparisons with the previous survey in 2005 – and with other housing associations. The questionnaire was sent to every household, and 343 homes (37%) returned completed surveys.

‘Taff is good at keeping you informed.’ Tenants were asked to give their response to a range of questions, regarding repairs and maintenance, customer service, their own home, their local neighbourhood and communication and information. Taking into account all the responses, the overall

satisfaction level among Tenants with the service they received remained strong. The vast majority (83%) said they were very or fairly satisfied compared to only 7% who were dissatisfied. Some of the highlights of the survey included: Customer service – 88% satisfaction with the question “The staff who dealt with me were helpful.” The home – 89% satisfaction with “The overall quality of your home”

The local neighbourhood – 81% were satisfied with “This neighbourhood as a place to live” Communication and information – 86% satisfaction with the question “Taff is good at keeping you informed.” 83% of respondents were satisfied with the overall quality of repair work, and satisfaction with the way we dealt with antisocial behaviour had improved by more than 20%.

Customers were generally very satisfied regardless of their age or where they lived, although the level was a little lower for those who had recently experienced anti-social behaviour. Deputy Chief Executive Janet Bochel commented: “Although there are some areas where we still need to improve, we are really pleased with the results and we’re glad the changes to the way we deal with anti-social behaviour and our repair service have made a difference.”

Taff is a charitable Housing Association registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 No. 21408R Alexandra House, 307-315 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF5 1JD Tel: 029 2025 9100 Fax: 029 2025 9199


FEATURES EDITORIAL

The Secret of Success By Guest Editor, Simon Dawson, Chair of Taff’s Board Creating a successful organisation is a huge challenge and demands a lot of effort from every single person involved to make it happen. Taff has proved it is such an organisation over the last few years, and we now face perhaps an even bigger challenge of staying at the top of our game … indefinitely! Our formula for doing this is simple in concept, but hard work to deliver: We’re driven by our Vision & Values – everyone involved with Taff knows what we’re trying to achieve, why we want to do it, and how we aim to conduct our business People Matter – we listen to our customers collectively and individually, and do our best to meet their aspirations. We value our staff, motivate them and thank them for a job well done. In working with our partners, we try to find solutions that add value to all our organisations. We are always looking for new ways to tell people about our services, as well as new ways to listen to their needs. We make it easy – we try not to make anything a chore for others – if we want people’s co-operation, it’s up to us to find ways to make it as easy as possible for them. So, we don’t weigh everyone down with onerous processes, procedures and performance indicators. If it’s the right thing to do, we don’t stop people from just doing it! We just give people the right tools and our trust and confidence in them. Willingness to be challenged – yes, we do well in lots of areas, but if we want to improve, we must be willing to learn how we can do better. We’re proud of our achievements, and love to share news of our successes, but we also acknowledge and act on our failures.

Highlights of the Year

This year’s Tenant Survey results, our improved Best Workplace listing, and the Pat Chown Award for Innovation have been particularly pleasing, as have our accelerated drive towards achieving WHQS, new support contracts and securing good deals on our loan portfolio. Despite the current recession, we’re optimistic we have the right people to do the best for all our customers, and we look forward to 2009/10 as another opportunity to demonstrate how we always rise to a challenge.

Taff Housing Association Annual Report

April 2008 – March 2009

BME project achieves top award Taff crowned a year of achievements with a special award for the BME community project. Run in partnership with CCHA and Cadwyn, the three-year scheme was funded by a Social Housing Management Grant. The key outcomes included the production of an Advocates’ Handbook, the BME Housing Plus website and the formation of a BME Contact Group. As well as looking at ways to improve services to Tenants at all three Cardiff HAs, the project was also a way of developing strong two-way communication. The BME project was entered into the Pat Chown Award for Innovation in Housing, at the CHC Annual Symposium at Llandudno in November 2008. The Taff team was delighted to win first prize and receive a cheque for £1,000, which was donated to SOVA, a charity for asylum seekers and refugees. BME Project Officer Annette Kerr, who coordinated the scheme,

said: “I engaged with many BME groups and individuals in and around Cardiff as well as staff of the three Associations. I received a very good response to a survey which was sent at the beginning of the Project in 2007. From this, I was able to establish where service delivery needed to be revisited in order to implement improvements.” The project’s aims and objectives were all completed and the closing report was sent to the Welsh Assembly Government. The achievements of the project included: A Sustainable BME Housing Contact Group – 25 members from various BME groups. Members are available for focus groups and consultation as well as advice on matters relating to culture, religion and language. A Housing Advocates’ Handbook – widely disseminated throughout Cardiff. Information about housing and

John Chown, Annette Kerr and Taff Housing Chief Executive, Elaine Ballard signposting to organisations who are sensitive to BME issues. Cultural Diversity Awareness Training for all staff, Tenants and Contractors A BME website full of resources and information for Tenants, including advice on money matters, education and employment – www. bmehousingplus.com

Difficulties Highlighted

Annette added: “I have thoroughly enjoyed working on the project. I have had the opportunity to meet with interesting and inspirational people from many different cultural backgrounds. I have been present at the launch of the Eritrean Community

Group, the Light of Africa Community Group, the United Arab Association as well as many other events. I hope my research into services will help highlight the difficulties faced by BME communities when trying to access services and prove useful when planning new strategies and procedures. I would like to thank all Tenants and colleagues who took part in the initial survey. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given by the Partner Associations to work on this project and especially for my senior managers and colleagues at Taff who have encouraged me and spurred me on, allowing me to develop my skills and confidence.”

Waiting lists made simpler A new way of applying for housing in Cardiff was unveiled this year. ‘Cardiff Housing’ is a partnership between all social landlords, housing associations and Cardiff Council to provide a Common Waiting List (CWL). It was a phased entry, with Cadwyn initially piloting a version of the CWL for a year. Other housing associations followed and Taff entered on January 1st 2009, with all associations becoming members by April 1st. Applicants for housing now only need to complete one form which they can obtain from any of the associations or Cardiff Council. This is then returned

to the Council in the envelope provided. The new system does away with the need to complete many different and sometimes confusing application forms for each housing provider. The CWL aims to provide a fairer and more efficient housing service to those in housing need. With more partners, it will mean more properties available for letting. The same process will apply for current Tenants wishing to transfer and it will not affect their chances of being re-housed. Again, it is a bigger list with more properties available. One of the changes that applicants have been getting used to is not being able to directly check with Taff staff

where they are regarding their current position on the waiting list. The Taff team has been busy giving out contact details for the Council’s CWL team and re-directing all those enquiries to the re-housing unit. Jo Redmond, Taff’s Allocations Officer, said: “I am very positive about the Common Waiting List. It is a fairer way of addressing housing need. “It is now much clearer for applicants to understand the process. “Also, the allocation team are happy to help and advise on any housing issues.” The Re-Housing Unit contact telephone numbers are: 2053 7032 or 2053 7033.


Taff Housing Association Annual Report

COMMUNITY

April 2008 – March 2009

IT project offers new horizons for clients A community project to provide elderly and disabled people with training on computers has proved a hit. One of Taff’s support teams has worked with E-Inclusion Recycling in Newport to provide bespoke IT training to the clients, helping them learn to do home shopping, banking over the internet and find useful information. The Lighthouse Project team helped secure funding for the ICT Project to support 10 people with a personalised programme based on their needs and interests, and to help improve their confidence and

independence through IT. The E-Inclusion trainers set up the clients with computers on broadband and taught them how to use the internet and how to contact other beneficiaries on the project using Skype (internet telephony). Each client has received a refurbished computer, Skype headset and webcam and four hours of one-to-one training on how to use their computers, with additional hours provided if required – plus encouragement to explore further IT training opportunities in the community. Part of the package also includes four hours of IT support,

‘Each client has received a refurbished computer, Skype headset and webcam.’ ICT project beneficiaries re-build a computer to deal with maintenance issues. One of the clients has been trained to build his own computer, which has helped to increase his self-esteem and confidence and to get him out of the house. He has also struck up a new friendship with another client on the project. Part of the training includes a trip to the E-Inclusion Computer Refurbishment centre in Pillgwenny, Newport, where the clients were shown how computers are re-built. This

Full house for refugee fun day By International Affairs Correspondent, Annette Kerr Taff staff dusted off their favourite board games for a day of competitions with Tenants as part of Refugee Week in June 2008. Two dozen refugees took part in the fun and games at Taff’s offices, with support from staff and Displaced People in Action (DPiA). The fun day on June 17th included traditional board games such as snakes and

Bex Gingell leads the puzzle making

helped to remove the mystique or fear about computers and technology and to appreciate the work involved in building refurbished computers. As part of the project, clients fund their own broadband connection and they are also encouraged to give something back to their local community, which E-Inclusion Recycling supports them with. The project has proved a success and there are now proposals to find funding to

train four more Lighthouse clients in Newport. The Lighthouse Project helps 150 people in the city with their housing related needs and was set up after Taff secured funding to run Newport Council’s supporting people contract.

Neil Thomas joins in the fun with refugees playing draughts ladders, ludo, bingo, Scrabble, puzzles, Connect 4 and draughts, which were taught to enthusiastic refugees. Some included 15-16 year-olds who are seeking asylum, supported by DPiA. Many staff volunteered time out from their busy schedules to give an hour or two – others got caught up in the fun and spent the whole day playing games! A great spin-off from the day was the chance for office-based staff to meet the refugees and learn about different cultures,

while the refugees benefited from the opportunity to practice their English – as well as the chance to relax playing traditional games. A hot lunch was provided before the games resumed with a couple of bingo sessions, where there was an opportunity to win shopping vouchers. The day finished with more board games and Neil Thomas kindly gave away the games to those enthusiastic refugees who were still playing at the end of the day.


COMMUNITY

Taff Housing Association Annual Report

April 2008 – March 2009

Round the Houses Ty Seren

It has been a busy year for Ty Seren, with numerous events being held – and staff getting involved in all manner of activities, including an ice skating trip, a Valentine’s Day craft day, a cookery competition and a festive Christmas programme. Other fun events included a horse riding day in the spring for residents, aimed at building their trust and confidence. A Comic Relief event in March was a big hit, with 20 residents all involved in making pizzas, dressing up and taking part in a quiz. The Women’s Aid workshops also proved popular and very useful to those young women who took part. On the staff front, Katy Ueber headed off on an epic adventure to one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet – the Atacama Desert in Chile. Katy took part in a 250km foot race over seven days, running at 3,000m above sea level – without any showers and carrying her own rations and equipment. She was joined by her 76-year-old father, Lawrence Brophy, who was competing in his fifth race. Well done, Katy!

Ty Enfys: Miracle baby

A former Ty Enfys resident returned home with her Miracle Baby, six months after he was born prematurely weighing less than 2lb. The baby was born four months before his due date on December 22nd 2008, weighing just 1lb 13oz, and was given specialist care in hospital. The biggest concern for medical staff was his lung development and it was some weeks before his condition and weight stabilised. But no-one gave up on him and he rewarded all the medical staff’s efforts, and his mother’s constant love and attention, to finally pull through. He required an eye operation and treatment for a hole in the heart and further medical

treatment before he was allowed home. The baby now weighs 11lb 10oz and he is being weaned onto baby rice and bananas. Staff at Ty Enfys have stayed in touch with the family and are delighted to hear about their progress. Project Manager, Gaynor Davies says, ‘It looks like a really bright future for both Mum and Baby, and we all wish them well!’

Staying fit

Staff at Ty Enfys began 2009 with a pledge towards healthy living and ran activities through the Women’s Workshop. The New Life Project provides a learning programme aimed at pregnant teenagers and young mothers who are taking their first steps into learning and those who want to adopt a healthier and more active lifestyle. This included a Women Get Fit programme, computing, home maintenance and English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes. All of the courses provided are free, with an on-site crèche and transport also provided.

Getting involved!

We have had a bumper year at Ty Enfys with more events than ever before. Some of the events involving Tenants have included: Cooking with a top hotel Head Chef, when he visited the project. Attending various “Language & Play” sessions, facilitated by Treganna Family Centre in Canton, with transport and food laid on. A Baby Heart Start course, delivered by a professional paramedic with certificates for those attending the course. A talk given by two representatives of the South Glamorgan Women’s Workshop on the courses they are running for young, single mothers, the play groups they offer and

volunteering opportunities. Working with a teacher from the Friary on the “Tell a Story” project while their children attended the project “playgroup” An anger management workshop

Lighthouse Project

Away from the success of the E-inclusion IT project, the Lighthouse Project has also been busy with other success stories. Staff members Mandy and Verity completed their British Sign Language Level 1 examination, without being allowed to say a word, which proved a challenge for the chatty team members! Spring 2009 saw a number of service users attending free monthly sessions at Newport’s monthly indoor market tea dance. They are open to the general public and our service users have the opportunity to dance, meet new people and broaden their horizons. Local Services are also present offering advice on active ageing and well-being. Verity, Andrew & Mandy joined staff from Newport Supporting People Team to promote The Lighthouse Project Service at a Senior Citizens Information Day in Newport Leisure Centre last October. They networked well with other relevant services in Newport, gained some useful contacts and generated some new referrals.

Vale Team

The Vale team has had a busy year supporting clients, including customer involvement sessions. October saw the team secure a number of grants for Tenants – and the team also managed record Housing Benefit back payments for clients, totalling £6045.00. Staff received some great comments about the quality of service from the customer

Ty Enfys staff member (Elaine O’Reilly) – Red Nose Day March 09

survey conducted by the Priority Research team. Before the Xmas break some of the older Tenants in the Vale attended a Customer Involvement event in the Toby Inn, Cardiff. Feedback from this was very positive so thanks to all those who helped organise it. The Tenants each received a time banks credit. The staff have increasingly focused on getting customers involved in participating within Taff wherever possible. Karen Berry, along with Stuart Aspey and Chris Woods, are devising an easy-to-follow guide to the Customer Involvement Strategy.

Red Sea House

Red Sea House (RSH) is a sheltered housing scheme for the BME communities, which is managed by Taff Housing Association. Since 2008 staff there have helped to facilitate meetings for the Residents’ Association which was formed in 2007. They felt they needed extra help with this aspect of running the Association, and have now gained more confidence. The group meets on a regular basis and are aware of the role they play in the running of RSH.

Khat Focus

In 2008 RSH staff and residents met local police officer Vince Donovan to discuss the issues facing the local community. As

we are the Housing Association with most contact with the Somali community, he asked if we could support him to improve the services and support for them. After a few meetings we decided to tackle the main issue facing the community which was Khat (Khat is typically chewed like tobacco. The fresh leaves, twigs, and shoots of the khat shrub are chewed, and then retained in the cheek and chewed intermittently to release the active drug. Dried plant material can be made into tea or a chewable paste). We decided to host the first Khat Community Focus Group (KCFG) in RSH. The group helped draft questionnaires and discussed a possible training input to introduce the community representatives and support agency volunteers to the issues related to Khat. The group is still taking shape, but a lot of work has been done in the last few months. The community leaders that we have spoken with are keen on the idea and have given their support and encouragement.

English Classes

We have linked up with MENFA (a local charity) that now runs English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes in RSH for the local community. This is a long term project and we are proud to be part of it.


Taff Housing Association Annual Report

COMMUNITY

April 2008 – March 2009

Language Scheme Back-2-Basics on track brings fun to streets! Taff’s Scheme was approved by the Welsh Language Board on 1st May 2008. Since then we have: Updated our database of languages spoken by Tenants 17 Tenants can speak or write Welsh, only one wants us to use Welsh to communicate with him We have had 4 requests during the year to communicate or respond in Welsh New Fire Safety Signs will be bi-lingual We offer Welsh name suggestions for all our development schemes (though the Council has the final say) We have had no requests for public meetings to be

conducted in Welsh or for translation at any public events Our Welsh Language Scheme is available on our website in Welsh & English We have revised our Induction format, so that it now includes details of the Welsh Language Scheme We have 6 Welsh speakers and 3 Welsh learners We have received no complaints about the operation of our Scheme Lastly, as part of our community engagement activity, we helped stage a ‘Flavour of Wales’ event so that people from Cardiff’s ethnic communities could learn about Welsh culture, heritage and the importance of the Welsh Language.

Tenants tackle Credit Crunch over lunch Tenants at Taff Housing Association picked up handy hints and tips to beat the credit crunch at a special advice and information day on February 19th 2009. The Credit Crunch Lunch was supported Taking a bite out of the credit crunch by Cardiff Credit Union, Swalec, Age Concern and Caroline Davies, Taff’s other organisations who were Assistant Housing Manager, on hand to give Tenants on- said: “Everyone who attended the-spot help about money took away some useful matters. information and enjoyed Tenants were also given meeting new people. advice about energy-saving It was a great way to bring and environmentally- Tenants, support clients and friendly household items. the general public together Asda, Somerfield and and we look forward to Swalec donated raffle prizes, working on something similar including an energy efficient again in the future.” kettle and a composting bin.

Taff celebrated the success of phase one of a new three-year programme to reduce anti-social behaviour and neighbourhood nuisance problems. Back-2-Basics took to the streets of Canton during Easter 2008 working with agencies in the area and at local venues to engage Tenants in positive activities, whilst having fun and learning new skills. The programme focused on Verallo Drive, part of a larger development, built by Redrow. Sadly, the area began to experience youth annoyance, anti-social behaviour and neighbour nuisance problems from a small minority of young people in the early days of its existence. This soon had a knock-on effect on the perceptions of the area and quality of life for those living there. As well as the usual ‘hard’ responses of CCTV, first stage ASBOs and tenancy enforcement action, Taff wanted to try a more sustainable programme, helping the young people of the estate to develop an understanding of the values

There has been a noticeable reduction in anti-social behaviour on the estate, with only five complaints in 2008. of good citizenship which would help change behaviour.

Targeted approach

Tenants in Verallo Drive were consulted about their interests and concerns and then potential partners were brought in to run a programme of events from April – September 08 under the themes of health, art, citizenship and the environment. As well as fun activities like football sessions, mosaic making and graffiti art, young people were able to access advice on a range of subjects including health, education, careers and training opportunities. They also learnt about ‘green’ issues and how to look after their environment. Working with local media arts company ‘Community Helps Itself’ enabled participants to develop new

Youngsters at a Bike Doctor session in Verallo Drive

skills, such as video-recording, editing footage, and developing a website. Feedback from parents, partners, young people and private residents was overwhelmingly positive - their comments were recorded on a special DVD about the project. There has been a noticeable reduction in anti-social behaviour on the estate, with only five complaints in 2008, compared to 23 in 2007, before the project started.

A better future

One of the hoped-for outcomes of the project was to encourage the community to help itself, by working with parents and forming a group to maintain contact with partner organisations. The lessons learned from the Canton Phase 1 of Back2-Basics have been fed into the development of Phase 2 in Grangetown and the final phase in 2010 in Riverside. Linking in with the Taff Timebanks scheme, young people have also learnt a simple message – positive behaviour is rewarded!


COMMUNITY

Taff Housing Association Annual Report

Team work brings great results The Cardiff and Forensic teams have had a busy year achieving excellent results with clients. Taff Housing was among 10 organisations bidding for a new contract with Cardiff Council Tenant Support Services, which resulted in an increase from 40 to 60 Tenants for the Cardiff contract and 25 to 30 Tenants for the Forensic contract. The teams scored highly in the

Tenant A

An eviction warrant had been issued against the Tenant due to rent arrears. The Tenant was supported to visit Cardiff County Court to fill out a form for the suspension of the warrant, which was successful, and repayment terms were agreed. With budgeting support, the Tenant then stuck to a repayment plan and the arrears were cleared within a few months. A grant application was successfully submitted on behalf of the Tenant for £2204.81 from the Civil Service Benevolent Fund, which was used to clear his council tax arrears. A referral was also made to Cardiff Alcohol and Drugs Team (CADT) for the Tenant to get

last audit by the Council, with 83% of respondents agreeing that, as a result of having support, they are now able to live independently and maintain their tenancy. Working closely with clients to achieve results can require time and patience – but this approach also produces great outcomes. The success stories for the teams in the past year have included: support with his drinking problems, which had led to his debts in the first place. With the help of Morgan’s Solicitors, the team managed to get a Barclays Bank loan debt of £6,757.35 totally written off. The team’s negotiation skills helped stop the Tenant’s possessions being taken by Cardiff Council Bailiffs, when he had missed his council tax repayments. The team also liaised to ensure the smooth transition to State Pension from Incapacity Benefit when the Tenant reached the age of 65, as he had no idea what would happen or who to contact. The Tenant continues to maintain his tenancy and he lives independently within his community.

Tenant B

The team started supporting John (not his real name) in December 2008, having met the client for the first time a week before his release from HMP Cardiff. John is a young man who has numerous convictions for shoplifting, theft and burglary. He had started his criminal behaviour as a way to finance his heroin addiction. He was about to be released from custody and needed help securing his Cardiff Council property, as it was at risk of being re-possessed by the court for arrears, complaints by neighbours and unrecorded damage to the flat.

Getting over the crisis

It was clear he needed Tenant support as he had little idea of the processes he would have to go through to secure his property and get his benefits claim started.

Together with John, the team agreed to focus on having his repairs to the flat done. Within one week, he had a new boiler and his front door was made safe. The team then liaised with housing finance and they agreed to accept a regular amount to address his rent arrears. Once the essentials were in place, the team started working together with the Prolific Offenders Unit (PPO) and the Drug Intervention Programme (DIP) to help him achieve his dual goals of becoming drug-free and getting into paid work. John began to stabilise his drug use and started a methadone treatment plan through DIP. Gradually his dose was reduced and he was switched to medication which has fewer side effects.

April 2008 – March 2009

Ready for work

Over the next few months, the team visited John every week at his home to help him with forms and to respond appropriately to correspondence from housing and benefit agencies. With encouragement from all those working with him, John got to a point where he felt he could try and engage with some education and training. He was able to access a fast-track forklift training course via the PPO team. He attended and passed the course and became qualified for both types of forklift with flying colours. When his support ended, he was preparing to attend a number of job interviews, which he hoped would help him maintain his fresh start into the future.

Renewed Contact with Kids

John had two children who he only saw occasionally as he was estranged from his ex-partner. We put him in touch with a family solicitor to make a formal arrangement. Through discussion with the grandparents and his ex-partner, John has managed to have regular time with his two children on an informal basis.

Banking Tenants’ time The community Timebanks project run by Taff Housing Association has developed into an increasingly important asset to the association. The past year saw the scheme evolve into exciting new areas, focusing on rewards that inspire Tenants to get more involved with Taff and community activities. Timebanks vouchers are awarded for volunteering time with groups, community schemes and other events. The project has become a major cornerstone of Taff’s Customer Involvement Strategy, since it was extended to all general needs Tenants.

“We’ve tailored the rewards to what people tell us they want, including theatre and arts-based activities, health and fitness and other activities,” said Caroline Davies, who launched the project last year in her role as Community Involvement Officer. “The launch involved one of our partners, Cardiff Blues, who sent along Xavier Rush and Sam Warburton, who were happy to try out some circus skills with the kids.” At the launch, there was lots of information, fun activities and a chance to meet the Cardiff Blues players and coaches. The No Fit State Circus

(Cardiff) ran a circus workshop and The Small World Theatre (Cardigan) ran a healthy eating workshop with their innovative smoothie bike. Chief Executive Elaine Ballard said: “We’re in a ‘win win’ situation – Taff gets lots of good feedback so we can improve the way we do things. This in turn benefits the communities we work in, individuals get the chance to meet up for social activities or learn new skills, and the partner agencies fulfil some of their ‘corporate social responsibility’ objectives.” Five Scheme Partners were initially involved, including Cardiff Blues Rugby

Smoothie operator! Club, Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff Council Leisure Centres, The Gates Arts Centre and St David’s Hall. Taff can also offer more personalised rewards to individuals or groups.


Taff Housing Association Annual Report

SOCIAL CARE

April 2008 – March 2009

Bridging the gap for older people By Jackie Amos, Community Affairs Correspondent Part of Taff’s business plan last year was to focus on what we could contribute to services for older people in the community. Many Housing Associations have concentrated their services on bricks and mortar, which has led to extra care developments. Whilst we think these are a great solution for some, we are aware that most people want to stay at home and get the support they need in familiar surroundings. With this in mind, we focussed our attention on how we could contribute to a partnership approach to improving the health and wellbeing of older people in the community.

Following on from a consultation with Nici Evans, Head of Partnership Development for Cardiff and the Vale NHS Trusts, Taff held a multi-agency event called Bridging the Gaps in the conference suite in October 2008. The aim of the event was to raise awareness among our colleagues in the health and voluntary sectors of the contribution that housing related support can make to health and wellbeing. It also looked at how housing and health could work towards a shared agenda which bridges gaps in service provision for older persons. Bridging the Gaps began with an opening address by Councillor Judith Woodman and the event was well attended, with representatives from

health, the local authority and the voluntary sector. It provided a good forum for networking and sharing good practice and the workshops generated excellent debate, as well as identifying gaps that could be bridged together.

‘The event demonstrated clearly the commitment of all sectors to work in partnership to deliver the most effective and complete service possible.’ The contacts made and ideas shared will continue to inform the ways we consult and work with our colleagues across the sectors for the benefit of older people.

Lighthouse becomes beacon for support

Dozens of older persons living in Newport have been benefiting from the support offered by the Lighthouse Project team in the past year. The scheme helps 150 people in the city with their housing related needs and was set up after Taff secured funding to run Newport Council’s supporting people contract. Starting in April 2008, the project team set about asking Tenants about the types of services they needed to make a difference to their lives. The Lighthouse Project has also now been extended to support some younger disabled people too. Corinne Flemming with client Joyce Francis during a visit to Links have also been made to the Taff the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, August 2008 e-inclusion project (see special article in this edition). Headed up by Team Leader has helped me with the CAB, Age Concern and Chris Woods, the team puts on social events for BT. I am very grateful for his support” residents, often combining these with events for The official launch of the Lighthouse Project older people in Cardiff and the Vale. was held in August 2008 at the Newport Wetlands Customer feedback for this service is excellent, Centre with the Deputy Mayor of Newport as one service user commenting, “Before I used to guest of honour. think I needed a miracle worker, and what’s so lovely is that now I have one. Your support worker

Special Report

Neil puts Tenants at their ease Taff Tenants seeking to adapt their homes to meet changing physical needs have found themselves in safe hands. Assistant Development Officer, Neil Thomas, took over responsibility for the Physical Adaptation Grants (PAGs) from colleague Dave Cox, who acted as a wise mentor during the transition.

‘These are things that an able person would probably take for granted.’ Neil quickly set up a good working relationship with Jo Redmond from Tenant Services on the referrals of people needing support assessment. “I receive referrals either from Occupational Therapists or occasionally Tenants themselves”, explained Neil. “This highlights problems that each person is facing in trying to manage everyday activities, such as getting in or out of the bath or managing to climb the stairs. “These are things that an able person would probably take for granted.” Neil said that in the course of his new role he had found some Tenants had been struggling for quite some time, as they were not aware that help was available. “They felt a little embarrassed to discuss their issue or sometimes were too proud to admit some assistance was needed,” he said. Following on from a referral, the next step for

Neil Thomas and Jo Redmond Neil is to pay a home visit to ensure the suggested adaptations are appropriate – and importantly, to put the Tenants’ minds at ease by explaining the procedures. Neil also sits down with the Tenant to explain the estimated timescale for the works and what his own role is, to ensure the work goes smoothly for them. “It’s very easy for someone to think you might not be doing anything, although the reality is you could have been spending the majority of your time ensuring everything is covered and the Welsh Assembly is happy for us to proceed.” Neil’s work doesn’t stop there – he’s also hands on assessing Taff’s PAG contractors to ensure they fully understand Taff’s Policies and Procedures. “After all,” he explained, “they will often be dealing with very sensitive issues and must always be respectful to the Tenant and their home.” He also focuses on each and every Tenant’s request for a PAG as a new project requiring his detailed attention. Neil added that he takes pride in seeing the difference that adaptation works have on the quality of Tenants’ lives.


SOCIAL CARE

Taff Housing Association Annual Report

Letters to the editor Dear Taff Housing, I would like to thank you so much for the new kitchen that you installed. I am pleased with the quality and finish. I would also like to recommend the workmen who came to install it, they were on time every morning, were very helpful, polite and friendly. They worked all through the day and got it fitted and finished quickly and cleanly. Thank you to Neil and Dave. Keep up the good work. (Name and address supplied)

Dear Taff,

that l a walk in shower, a job Workmen came to instal we e 3-4 days. Since then I was told would only tak ding ms, and despite you sen have had terrible proble ed 4 fix t no times, it is still the workmen back many y! weeks later. I’m not happ

Editor’s reply: Nor would I be! This really isn’t the standard of service we want to deliver, and I apologise for all the hassle you’ve had to put up with. The bathroom had some unique and complex problems which it took us a while to get to the bottom of, hence the long delay. I’m pleased everything has now been fixed and that you have received compensation in accordance with our policy. When we get things wrong, we’re the first to admit it, and do our best to fix it as soon as possible.

Dear Taff,

For the last four and a half years I hav e been a Tenant of Taff HA and would like to mention they ’re the best housing association in the delivery of services they provide for the Tenant, and they’re always ready to sup port, whatever your needs, any time, any where – they des erve a gold medal. I am very happy with the services of Taff, especially in terms of speed of response for repairs matters. (Name and address supplied)

April 2008 – March 2009

Dave completes resettlement mission By Special Correspondent Dave Owen I worked on a nine-month secondment with Cardiff Council where I was responsible for developing and implementing the Resettlement Strategy so that it could function within the existing structure of the Council. The aim of the strategy is to improve access to social housing for vulnerable people living in supported accommodation by identifying those residents who are ready to move on. Their application is then prioritised and this enables their vacated rooms to be used for people who urgently need accommodation. The objective of the Strategy is twofold: to assist individuals to secure an independent tenancy once it is no longer beneficial for them to remain in a hostel environment; and to contribute to reducing homelessness levels within Cardiff. Initially, it was necessary to develop an overall policy and structure to identify how the Strategy could best operate. Work centred on formulating a clear process from the identification of appropriate Service Users, to the referral and decision-making processes and ultimately on to the practicality of securing appropriate accommodation and initial support. I worked on various documentation which needed to be developed and trialled.

A sub-group was formed to consider each applicant’s suitability to be accepted.

Regular contact

Organisational structures were then developed within the Council departments to ensure needs were met. A comprehensive monitoring system was put in place to ensure all aims of the Strategy were being achieved. It was agreed that the Strategy steering group would continue to oversee its development. The next stage then involved meeting with the managers of all the projects in Cardiff that could potentially refer through the Resettlement Strategy, to explain the requirements for applicants and the administrative and allocation process. Training was also provided for staff members from some of the referring organisations. Taff projects were amongst the first to become involved and Ty Enfys in particular has made significant use of the scheme. HAs were informed at the early stages of the Strategy’s development and received information on its operating procedure.

Ongoing discussions

They were asked for their input and after ongoing discussions a process of

Dave Owen communication was developed to enable HAs to provide tenancies to applicants coming through the Strategy (in accordance with the voluntary agreement that they would contribute five per cent of their available lets to this process). Taff Housing has consistently aimed to meet these targets and fully participated in the process. HAs continue to be involved in the Strategy’s development through representation at the Steering and Sub Group, the Housing Managers’ meeting and an Allocations Officers’ meeting. The scheme has had a positive impact resulting in many successful tenancies for those housed and a reduction in waiting lists for supported accommodation providers. It was given the highest grade for a departmental project at the Council Homelessness awards and is now an integral part of Cardiff’s Planning, Coordination and Development department.

RECRUITMENT

Integrate appoints new Director Taff Housing Association has been at the forefront of developing the benefits of belonging to the Integrate Consortium. Integrate is a group of eight housing associations who manage 19,000 properties

between them. The members work together to gain economies of scale in delivering their services, particularly in maintenance and development. During 2008, Consortium members carried out a review of the way it worked and decided to

create a new full-time Director post, to co-ordinate and lead on its activities. Following a recruitment process, Ian Layzell was appointed to the position.

Prior to joining Integrate Ian worked for the Welsh Assembly Government. In 2008/09 Integrate members completed 695 new homes. Ian Layzell


Taff Housing Association Annual Report

RECRUITMENT

April 2008 – March 2009

It’s all for charity! Taff staff dipped into their pockets time after time for good causes, raising hundreds of pounds. The Staff Forum Charitable Activities during 2008-09 raised a total of £594.97 from a variety of events. These included £85.00 for Cancer Research from the Halloween event, £85.37 for Children in Need from a Dress Down/Up Day and a Teddy Bear Competition. During BBC Children in Need, staff paid £1 to enter their favourite teddy bear into a competition to win a prize for the most unique teddy. People also donated £1 to wear something more lively than their usual work clothes.

Then in March, £153 was raised for Comic Relief, from a series of events including a Wii Bowling Challenge, Lunch-time Bingo, a Dressup day, with staff wearing, amongst other things, PJs, silly ties, or clashing colours. There was also a cake sale and a game to guess the weight of the Red Nose Cake. The donation sent to Habitat for Humanity will enable them to buy 1109 bricks. ‘In 2008, Habitat served a record 49,000 families in housing need through enabling them to build, renovate or repair their homes.’

Taff tops table of UK workplaces – again!

Staff wear it Pink for Charity!

DONATIONS Proceeds from donations on Taff’s popular Dress Down Days were made to: Welsh Refugee Council Hardship Fund (cycle sponsorship) Local fundraising event for Breast Cancer Awareness Somali Youth Association Habitat for Humanity Cardiff Mind

£35.00 £41.00 £81.39 £61.00 £53.21

Joint working is way forward Taff Housing’s bright idea to share the Human Resources services of Cardff Community HA’s top expert is paying dividends. The move to find a way of delivering high quality strategic HR services was prompted when former Head of HR, Juliet Mainwaring, left Taff in February. A trial collaborative arrangement was set up with CCHA to share the

By Editor Elaine Ballard services of their HR Business Partner, Louise Sulley. Both Associations have now developed a joint work programme for Louise and her two HR teams. “The goal is to ensure that we get the best out of our HR investment, with

the added benefits of saving money and avoiding duplication,” said Elaine Ballard, Chief Executive, Taff Housing. “Any savings are re-directed to service improvements elsewhere. All public services are being asked to ‘make the connections’, and to be more efficient through collaboration, so we’re showing how this can happen in a practical way at Taff and CCHA.”

Dracula haunts Halloween event A cast of spooky characters transformed Taff’s offices into a Halloween haunt for the day, run by the Staff Forum. The Halloween Celebration Day saw the conference suite decorated by Nicole and Jess (from our Maintenance

Team) and a range of exciting games were organised by Gemma and Jill. Staff dressed up with some making a special effort, including John ‘Count Dracula’ Watts, to ensure the day went brilliantly. The fun and games included a

Lucky Dip, which raised £85 for Cancer Research. ‘Staff work so hard all year to deliver a great service, so it’s nice to say thank you with events like this, once in a while’ – Elaine Ballard, editor.

Taff has improved on last year’s performance in the Great Places to Work Survey with a fantastic top 15 finish. Year on year the Association has improved its position and in the 2008 survey it saw further progress in the Top 50 list of Best Workplaces in the UK, finishing 15th. The key highlights that came out of the survey included: Management is competent at running the business; A strong sense of pride overall and the way in which the Association contributes to the community; The Association is a welcoming and friendly place to work where people care about each other; A high level of fairness exists, regardless of diversity, and a strong sense of being treated as a full member, regardless of position; Work-life balance policies are highly appreciated; The Association cares about its impact on the environment and on society.

Taff’s Chief Executive, Elaine Ballard, said: “We will continue to participate in the survey and we have already registered for 2009. “We value the opinions of our staff because everyone is responsible for the success of the Association.”

See some examples of how Taff got to become a ‘great place to work’ on this page.


FINANCE

Taff Housing Association Annual Report

April 2008 – March 2009

Team approach Financial Statements to rent arrears For the year ended 31 March 2009

Income and Expenditure Account

Taff’s programme of financial inclusion activities for Tenants and the creation of a dedicated rents team has already had an impact, with a positive knockon effect on rent arrears. The three team members, Rhodri Thomas, Pamela Evans and Emily Latham, work well together, taking telephone enquiries from Tenants and also conducting home visits. Team Leader Rhodri said there is now a strong focus on Tenants’ needs, to support them and get their problems dealt with.

what to do. We would rather they contact us, we are here to help.” Pam said: “We all support each other and we work well as a team, backing each other up.” Figures for the year end in April 2009 showed the net rent arrears were down to 3.55%, compared to 4.22% for the year ending 2008. “Given the current climate we believe that this figure has significantly reduced due to the extra financial inclusion work we have been doing,” said Gemma Watkins, Taff’s

2009 £000 6,910 (5,560) 1,350 3 (1,175) 178 140 3,870 4,188

Turnover Operating costs Operating surplus Interest receivable Interest payable and similar charges Surplus for the year Transfer from restricted/designated reserves Revenue reserves brought forward Revenue reserves carried forward

Balance Sheet

2009 £000

Tangible Fixed Assets Housing properties Less grants

69,001 (48,659)

Current Assets Debtors Cash at bank and in hand Creditors: Amounts falling due within one year Net Assets Creditors due after one year

Quick thinking saved the day Given the turbulence that hit the financial markets, we could have found ourselves in a very difficult position, as so much of our outgoings relate to mortgage interest. However, our financial team reacted quickly to fix interest rates on around half of our loans (c£12m) at less than 4% (plus margins). This protects us from the future ups & downs of the market. The interest rate fall during

the second half of the year enabled the Association to bring forward the planned maintenance programme to assist the targets to be achieved for the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) by 2012. Work carried out in previous years has also improved our forecasting techniques, which last year helped us fund extra planned maintenance, using £80,000 of savings made.

Restricted reserves Designated reserves Revenue reserves

2008 £000

64,374 (45,819)

543 3,342 3,885 (2,719)

The Rents Team - Pam Evans, Rhodri Thomas and Emily Latham Housing Manager. “This included publicising good practice through our subscription to Quids In!, the community money matters magazine. We also held a Credit Crunch Lunch and gave an introduction to free financial health checks for all existing and any potential Tenants.”

2008 £000

20,342 1,780 2,216 24,338

Investment property Other fixed assets

“There is always someone available to discuss rents and other issues,” he said. “We do budgeting with Tenants as well and contact the Council’s benefits department on their behalf.” He added: “We want to take the strain out of the situation. People do tend to bury their heads sometimes and not know

2009 £000

2008 £000 6,383 (5,085) 1,298 1 (1,193) 106 (70) 3,834 3,870

18,555 1,780 2,255 22,590 394 48 442 (1,902)

1,166 (20,603) 4,901

(1,460) (16,407) 4,723

278 435 4,188 4,901

281 572 3,870 4,723

Number crunching pays dividends “It’s debt serviceability that stops Housing Associations borrowing more private finance to build more desperately needed homes,” according to Taff’s Director of Finance, Steve Smith. “We’ve plenty of equity in the housing that we own to borrow more, but rent levels in Wales just can’t support more debt.” Steve has been crunching the numbers through financial models for the Finance

Workstream group that was set up following publication of the Essex Review. This looked at the Benchmark Rent regime and how Associations could deliver more affordable housing. Welsh Housing Association rents have been regulated by the benchmark system since 1997. Steve added: “The Assembly’s rent setting system has been very successful in keeping rents low (probably too successful) but now constrains how much we can borrow to

build new homes.” Grant funding for new housing, already inadequate to keep pace with demand, is set to dwindle further as pressure comes to bear on public finances. Steve and the work group have put forward recommendations to amend the Benchmark regulations to remove anomalies and, more importantly, for a small increase in rents to finance a lot more affordable housing.


Taff Housing Association Annual Report

PROPERTY

April 2008 – March 2009

Taff on track with home improvements Taff’s target to upgrade Tenants’ homes under the Welsh Housing Quality Standard programme has seen major investment taking place. The WHQS plan started in March 2007 and in the two years since, Taff has spent £1.71 million. The Association set out its largest planned budget of £920,000 during the 2008-2009 financial year and met its WHQS targets for the year. Taff’s Maintenance Manager, Phil Dunn, explained the focus for improvements had been on making homes more energy efficient, with lower running costs. “We have been improving insulation and fitting efficient A-grade boilers,” Phil explained. “We have also been improving security by fitting secure-by-design doors, plus carrying out a large kitchen and bathroom programme, incorporating showers as an improvement.” The table below details our progress to date and our future planned progress.

Progress towards WHQS

Completed as of 31/03/09

To be Completed by 31/03/10

To be Completed by 31/03/11

To be Completed by 31/12/12

75%

84%

89%

100%

Windows

100%

100%

100%

100%

Kitchens

80%

86%

91%

100%

Bathrooms

59%

72%

81%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

84%

87%

92%

100%

100%

100%

100%

100%

Elements Doors/door entry system

Smoke Detectors Central Heating Roofs Properties

1180

Development coup for new homes 2008-09 proved to be one of the biggest years ever for development by Taff Housing. Over £3.5m of grants was claimed to support the programme to start building an additional 53 houses and flats for letting during 2009-10. One of the most important is the Inn on the River re-development, which will see 23 flats built on the site of the former pub, for occupation during 2009.

This is the first fully collaborative scheme in Wales, which saw Taff working with contractors and sub contractors at the design stage and with suppliers, kitchen designers and other firms. The purpose was to work in a more open and efficient way with companies to fix prices and guarantee their profits whilst ensuring a cost effective scheme for Taff.

In addition, Taff has ensured that all its new homes now meet the Code for Sustainable Homes, lowering the running costs for our Tenants and making them even more sustainable for future generations.

An artist’s impression of the new development at the Inn on the River site


SPORT

Taff Housing Association Annual Report

Rugby star turns showman!

Cardiff Blues and All Blacks rugby star Xavier Rush took time out from his busy schedule to juggle an appearance at Taff Housing for a special event. Find out what he was up to on page 6.

Run, Run! As fast as you can! Cardiff Blues and All Blacks rugby star Xavier Rush

Tenants take the plunge Taff Tenants dived in when they were offered the chance to visit their local swimming pool! The Tenant Support Team pitched the healthy living idea to Tenants at one of our refugee projects for a relaxing swim in Splott. With the support of team members Anthony Thickett and Toutou Monzelli, two Tenants paid their first trip to their local pool - and had a fun time.

The team realised that one Tenant could not swim, so they gave him some instructions in

April 2008 – March 2009

basic swimming skills. The second Tenant could swim but had a very interesting technique, which staff helped him refine. As a result of the trip, one Tenant has since taken up swimming lessons. The other Tenant has continued to visit the pool and he was so impressed with the sports facilities, he has also decided to join the gym.

The sporting theme of the Taff team continued when half a dozen staff entered a relay race organised by Run and Become. Proceeds from the event went to Toutou Monzelli’s charity. And staff also took part in the 5km Race for Life for Cancer Research UK in the summer of 2008.

Staff at the ‘Run and Become’ race

Staff participating in the 5km Race for Life 2008

ENVIRONMENT

Taff embraces green changes By Environment Correspondent Bex Gingell Taff has taken a leap forward with plans to cut down its carbon footprint and work in a greener way. The Sustainability and Regeneration Group was formed in July 2008 to bring in better, smarter ways of working. To date, the group has overseen Taff becoming a Fair Trade organisation, bought two bicycles for staff to use for Tenant visits and also persuaded staff to sign up to a CarShare scheme. Now the group will be promoting a car share day each month. For Taff’s Tenants, the group is devising an energy efficiency workshop, where Tenants will be informed of ways they can save money through being ’greener’ in the home.

In addition, the group is in the process of leading Taff through the Green Dragon Environmental Standard, with the aim of achieving level 2. Green Dragon gives Taff the focus to plan forward-thinking ways of doing things, to take action, check the progress and review the achievements made. On the development front, Taff has committed to constructing all its new dwellings to exceed building regulations by at least 25%. In terms of energy efficiency and thermal insulation, this results in less reliance on natural resources, such as gas, and reduces bills for our Tenants. There are other benefits in terms of reduced water usage and carbon emissions from their homes.

IT overhaul brings improvements Taff’s IT team, with colleagues from all over the Association, have been overhauling the current system to provide the best service for all the staff. The team undertook a thorough review of the main IT system, which is used for all major functions including rents and repairs, to see whether it was fit for purpose. The other goal was to look at getting the best out of the system. The outcome of the review was a project brief to re-implement the whole system, in a much more integrated way, so all departments become aware of all the functions, rather

‘Customers will see the benefit of this, as they can ask the first person they speak to about checking their rents, repairs, and tenancy matters, without having to be transferred to other people.’ than just the part they use themselves. “We found that this was a major issue – changes in one area were having a negative impact in other

parts of the system, so consequently, problems were occurring,” explained Dave Brooking, IT Officer. “The review also persuaded us of the value of a Contact Management System, which gives us very easy access to all the main issues relating to a tenancy on one page. “Customers will see the benefit of this, as they can ask the first person they speak to about checking their rents, repairs, and tenancy matters, without having to be transferred to other people. “We will be implementing the new system very soon.”

Annual Report 2008-9 (English)  

Annual Report 2008-9 (English)