Staff across the organisation support MacMillan’s Coffee Morning

Posted on September 30th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

Staff across the organisation have helped to support cancer charity MacMillan by taking part in the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning.

Cakes were made and brought into offices by staff who donated money to the charity.

The event was held across the organisation on Friday, September 27, and more than £700 was raised.

Our Chief Executive Kevin Rodgers says: “It’s great seeing staff taking part in such a worthwhile event and raising money for such a worthwhile cause.

“I’m very aware that people across the organisation have been affected by cancer so it’s particularly heartwarming to see us doing our bit to help a charity that supports so many.

“Thanks to everyone who brought in cakes and donated to this fantastic cause.”

The total amount raised in each office was:

  • 4040 – £338.81
  • Apex – £33
  • St Thomas House – £108
  • St James Lane – £56.19
  • LPS – £177.40

A bake-off competition was also held in 4040. The winners were:

Best Tasting – Mennat Elsherif for her American Cheesecake
Best Decorated – Asha Rajput for her cupcakes
Most Unique – Mennat Elsherif for her ice cream cupcakes.

All left over cakes at 4040 were donated to the Gables charity in Nuneaton. The charity helps to provide food and shelter to homeless men.

Well done everyone!

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The best innovations should drive social purpose for housing associations – read our Chief Operating Officer’s innovation blog for the NHF website

Posted on September 24th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

Our Chief Operating Officer, Kate Still, has written a blog for the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) website.  The National Housing Federation is the voice of housing associations in England.

The piece focuses on how the best innovations should drive social purpose for housing associations.

The piece comes just before Kate is speaking at the NHF Housing Summit on Wednesday, discussing transformational leadership and personal brand/credibility at work.

You can read the full article here:

The best innovations should drive social purpose for housing associations

In early September we became Citizen. This was the culmination of an extremely challenging, year-long process in which we worked with our residents, staff and stakeholders to put ourselves under the microscope and ask a fundamental question – will where we are now get us to where we need and want to be?

The answer was no. We knew we wanted to make a step change in what it means to provide quality social housing that helps people thrive.

How we identified the challenge we wanted to solve

To achieve this, we needed to address the expensive and difficult elephants in the room – tackling homelessness demand at scale, offering a standard for empty homes that helps people to thrive as soon as they move in, and offering robust services to promote social and economic mobility.

We came to a board level agreement that solving these issues was paramount, and this was the first fundamental aspect of our innovation journey.

Next, we looked at what existed in our business that was incompatible with this and set about addressing the human and business problems they created.

We set three priorities for our first stage of service innovation:

To help us build our skills we partnered with an innovation company called ?What If!  A cross-functional team in the organisation was set up to make sure the ideas were robust and would pass key business case tests.

As Chief Operating Officer I participated in the team doing the same research work as everyone else.

I did this so that when it came to having to make cases to our board I had the knowledge of the product, its impact and how robust the development process had been.

This was crucial for our first innovations as all too often the senior sign-off process crushes an innovation.

The results so far

We are nine months into this process with exciting new products and services in development.

Our first product launch was our new 24/7 tenant support and wellbeing service.

Staff across our organisation were frustrated that they couldn’t get help for customers quickly enough on a wide range of issues which would help to keep people in their homes during times of personal crisis.

We started to look at what existed in a range of other sectors but quickly realised we already had a service like this in our own business – our employee assistance programme.

We asked our provider, Life and Progress, what we thought would be an impossible question, “how much would it cost to expand this service to customers?” The answer was just £45,000 a year.

We started a two-year pilot of the service in May this year. To date we have rolled the service out to a pilot group of new tenants, around 400 people, and 59 of them have already accessed the service. In the autumn we will expand this to all 30,000 households.

This confidential service is not just a responsible thing to provide for our customers, it also informs our work by giving us great insight into the issues they face in their wider life which we are using to inform the development of our services and our wider innovations.

We can already see, for example, that relationship breakdown and addiction are two considerable concerns that people are reaching out for help with. The process of coming up with this idea and rolling it out took just a month.

What we have learnt along the way:

Leaders need to be careful not to crush ideas – don’t shut them down or judge everything by financial standards. The process of innovation is about building on kernels of ideas, not all of which will be fully formed at the beginning.

Kate Still, Chief Operating Officer, Citizen

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Our Development Team are shortlisted for two Inside Housing Development Awards

Posted on September 17th, 2019 by Laura Pickett

Our Development Team has been shortlisted for two awards at this year’s Inside Housing Development Awards.

The team are hoping to collect the Best Development Team and the Best Approach to Modular Construction award, following on from the completion of our first two modular homes in Littlethorpe, Willenhall, Coventry this summer.

The final ceremony will take place on Wednesday 27th November at The Intercontinental O2 Hotel in London.

The Inside Housing Development Awards are the most prestigious in the sector and are an opportunity for landlords, developers and architects to celebrate the best developments and teams across the UK.

Our Development Team had a truly outstanding year last financial year; from smashing their targets for completions, starts and sales, to signing a landmark deal as part of a strategic partnership with Homes England and initiating our first modular pilot.

Nick Byrne, our Executive Director of Development, said: “This is fantastic news for our organisation and recognises a huge amount of hard work that the team has done over the last year.

“To get some early recognition as Citizen is excellent and will help us to build our reputation as an organisation which delivers quality homes.”

You can find out who our Development Team are up against at the awards ceremony here.

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Baroness pays a visit to our regeneration projects across Coventry

Posted on September 17th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

Baroness Diana Warwick has been given a tour of our regeneration projects across Coventry.

Our Chief Executive Kevin Rodgers and Director of Regeneration Services Kevin Roach showed Baroness Warwick the result of the Spirit Quarters development.

She was also shown Spon End and Wyken which are part of our £35m regeneration projects.

Baroness Warwick, who is chair of the National Housing Federation, emphasised the importance of regeneration while she visited Spirit Quarters.

She said: “I am very impressed with what I have seen and the way in which Citizen has addressed community issues here. I love the green spaces and there is plenty of scope for community growth.

“It is important to build new homes but at the same time we can’t afford to neglect existing homes as communities have already developed.

“Here there has been a huge amount of effort and money put into an impressive regeneration project. Everyone involved should be very proud of what has been achieved.”

Spirit Quarters is our award-winning regeneration project which has transformed communities in North East Coventry.

Since the project began in 2006 we have demolished 500 homes and built 800 new homes.

We’ve also made huge improvements to existing homes – including an award-winning scheme at the Manor Farm estate, which saw us work with partners to transform 300 homes and the surrounding areas.

Our team remains at the heart of regular community activity at Spirit Quarters thanks to a thriving partnership with Moat House Community Trust and the project has created hundreds of training and job opportunities.

Our Chief Executive, Kevin Rodgers, said: “It was great being able to show Baroness Warwick around our developments in Coventry and illustrate the commitment we have made to the communities.

“She really enjoyed her tour of our Spirit Quarters development and was impressed by our plans for Spon End and Wyken.

“Creating great places to live requires significant investment, bold leadership and a long-term vision.

“That is what we are trying to achieve with our regeneration ambitions at Citizen. We have to be prepared to throw ourselves headfirst into investing in projects from which we will see no return, simply because it is the right thing to do.”

The visit comes after Spirit Quarters and Spon End were featured in the NHF’s Great Places Commission report. This is part of the NHF’s Great Places programme which looks at how housing associations can work with the government and others to create thriving and successful places.

We are planning to transform Wyken in Coventry by demolishing the Vincent Wyles tower block and building 93 new homes and refurbishing William Malcolm House.

In Spon End we will be transforming three blocks – Kerry House, Milestone House and Trafalgar House by making improvements to the properties.

Both will be developed over the next few years.

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Five new interns will start working with us this month as part of our supported internships

Posted on September 16th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

Our award-winning Supported Internships Programme is set to start again this September as five new interns join our organisation.

The students from Hereward College, Coventry, will start their course this week and will work in a variety of departments.

Our new interns are:

Tharsan – will be working in the Involvement and Engagement Team at 4040
Abi – will be working with our Facilities Team at 4040
Megan, Ryan and Nathan – will all be working with our Estates and Services Team in Coventry

All interns will work in their placement until July next year.

Each individual will have a job coach from Hereward College who supports them and helps them to flourish throughout their placement with us.

The project has been running for three years and has so far helped five people secure permanent employment across our organisation.

The project also won the 24Housing Award for Best Apprenticeships scheme last year.

Our Head of Customer Involvement and Engagement, Claire Hardwick, says: “It’s fantastic that we are welcoming a new set of interns to start their journey with us this September.

“The award-winning programme has been useful to interns during the last three years and we wish the new interns all the best for the next nine months!”

Principal at Hereward College, Paul Cook, adds: “It has been a pleasure working with Citizen on this internships programme over the last few years.

“It is always great to see our students gain skills that will help them to progress with employment.

“We hope the new interns will enjoy their experience working at Citizen this year.”

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New training will see all managers become Mental Health Champions by March 2020

Posted on September 12th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

All of our managers will have taken part in a mental health training programme by March 2020.

In June we launched our new mental health training programme to help improve the health and wellbeing of our staff.

The programme, which is being provided by Birmingham Mind, introduced basic mental health training for all staff, an enhanced course for line managers and the opportunity for staff to become qualified mental health first aiders.

The programme has progressed well and we are now ready to provide our one-day training course to all managers to enable them to become Mental Health Champions.

This is a compulsory course for all our line managers and will give them the skills and confidence to spot when a colleague is struggling and how support can be provided.

The training is being rolled out across the organisation from November to March.

Matt Posaner, our Director of People, said having Mental Health Champions in our organisation was crucial.

He said: “We are very pleased to be providing this enhanced training course to all our managers and demonstrate our commitment to the wellbeing of all staff,” Matt said.

“Managers are in a position where they are more likely to be faced with mental health issues among their colleagues and as mental health champions, they will be able to recognise the early signs and act on it confidently with the appropriate support.

“It’s important to remember that we’re not expecting managers to become mental health experts or to handle problems alone, but they will be able to give the right support and guidance to their colleagues to help them get further information and advice.

“We are therefore asking all managers to book themselves onto one of the 12 training sessions available and ensure they complete the course.

“We are also progressing well with training approximately 80 members of staff as Mental Health First Aiders and we will shortly be providing a list on staff notice boards on who has now qualified and is available to help. “

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Our Director of Care and Support, Martyn Hale, helps lead national fight against homelessness

Posted on September 12th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale has been appointed for a crucial role in the fight to tackle homelessness.

Martyn has become chair of a sub group of the Homelessness Steering Group for the National Housing Federation (NHF).

It means that Martyn is now a major player in running a group of housing providers who work together with local authorities to tackle homelessness.

It follows on from a winning project Martyn helped create in July to help rough sleepers get ID and a bank account by providing them with an address via a virtual locker. The scheme, which won a competition at the Housing 2019 conference, the biggest in Europe, is now being developed and will be trialled by Greater Manchester Homes.

Martyn said: “I am very pleased to have been asked to chair this hugely important group.

“Homelessness is a national scandal and as Citizen we have a chance to support the work nationally of partners and encourage other like-minded providers to get involved.

“Figures from the NHF show that the total number of rough sleepers has increased by 165% since 2010, the number of homeless acceptances has risen by 42%, and over 120,000 children live in temporary accommodation.

“We now have a part to play and sometimes we need to step outside of our comfort zone and seek to influence and find solutions to the most difficult of housing challenges.

“As chair of the sub group I am very much looking forward to ensuring registered providers engage more widely and support Council partners to relieve homelessness.

“The NHF is supporting some new innovative approaches and it’s great to be a part of this.”

For more information visit the NHF’s website on homelessness.

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Our ConnectMe scheme provides four paid trainee placements for our Coventry residents

Posted on September 11th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

Four twelve-month paid trainee placements with a range of our Coventry teams have been offered to customers through our ConnectMe employment support programme.

ConnectMe helps get customers in Coventry who are unemployed into employment.

The programme gives applicants a bespoke action plan which identifies their key barriers in relation to work, they are also given the opportunity to take part in group workshops and one to one sessions with our employment coach to help them develop skills.

All paid placement applicants took part in a group interview and then a second interview.

Chloe Richards has benefitted from the scheme working as a trainee administrator with the Money Advice and Connectme team.

She was unemployed when she applied for the ConnectMe programme and felt it was too good an opportunity to miss.

She says: “There were different workshops and paid placements available. I applied for a paid placement, took part in the interview and was successful.

“I was really happy when I was offered the placement as I had been out of work for two months and I wanted to get back into something.

“I feel like I have learned a lot already. Many people feel that they need an extra push and some guidance when it comes to employment and that’s exactly what this offers.”

George Stinton is a Trainee Administrator for our Estates and Services team. He heard about the ConnectMe scheme through his sister because she works at our Little Park Street office in Coventry.

He says: “I was out of work for a month or two while I was looking for full time work. The placement has helped me so much by providing me with a routine of getting up in the morning and meeting new people too.

“This is a new style of job for me, as all my other roles have been in call centres, and it has helped me get extra experience.

“I have thoroughly involved myself in my role and it has given me a great experience which I can take forward.”

Bhupinder Birdee was also helped by ConnectMe. She works as a trainee administrator for the Housing and Neighbourhood Services Department after she struggled to get back into work following a breast cancer diagnosis.

She says: “ConnectMe has given me the confidence to come back into work and think about where I might go in future.

“I found it daunting trying to remember everything when returning to work and working at specific times.

“I feel so proud that I became involved with ConnectMe going from not working at all to being able to do something.”

The scheme is available for residents in the CV1 to CV6 areas of Coventry and helps anyone who is unemployed over the age of 16.

ConnectMe Manager and Group Money Advice Team Leader Michael Clarke says: “The ConnectMe scheme is a great way to help people across Coventry who are struggling with accessing employment, education or training opportunities.

“Customers on the scheme are given a variety of opportunities that best suit them and will help with their career goals going forward.”

People can get involved in the scheme and find out more by calling 0300 790 6555.

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Our Chief Executive, Kevin Rodgers, is part of the NHF’s Great Places Commission

Posted on September 10th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

The Great Places programme is an initiative set up by the National Housing Federation (NHF) in March 2018.

It seeks to understand what makes a place great and consider how housing associations can work with the government and other partners to create thriving and successful places.

The work was led by the Great Places Commission, a group of 12 leaders from across the sector, including our Chief Executive, Kevin Rodgers.

The Commission have now produced a final report which includes a number of case studies from their visits around the Midlands and the North, and gives their ten recommendations on how to create great places.

These visits included a visit to our regeneration work at Spirit Quarters and our forthcoming plans for Spon End in Coventry.

Our Chief Executive, Kevin Rodgers, says: “As Citizen, we will continue to have an ambitious development programme so that we can help more people who need a good-quality new home.

“It’s really important that as well as new developments we keep our 30,000 homes and tens of thousands of residents who deserve a good home, forefront of mind.

“This is why I joined the NHF’s Great Places Commission.

“For too long, regeneration hasn’t been given the attention that it deserves. But now, we’re seeing a change – there is a growing cross-party consensus that something has to be done.

 “I’m proud to be part of the commission and our site visits across the North and the Midlands were fantastic examples of successful regeneration projects with proud people and vibrant communities.

“There were also places that felt left behind or that missed out when government priorities and the economy changed. Creating great places requires significant investment, bold leadership and a long-term vision.

“That is what we are trying to achieve with our regeneration ambitions at Citizen. We have to be prepared to throw ourselves headfirst into investing in projects from which we will see no return, simply because it is the right thing to do.”

Some of the recommendations set out in the NHF’s Great Places Commission report includes:

You can find out more about the NHF’s Great Places Commission and access their final report here.

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Our show home at our £9.5million development in Coventry opens

Posted on September 9th, 2019 by Elaine Davies

On Saturday we opened our showhome at our Tudor Grange Development in Coventry.

The showhome showcases the 21 homes available for sale through our Signature New Homes team.

The £9.5million Tudor Grange development comprises of 72 homes, 21 are available for private sale and 51 will be offered at affordable rent.

The development is situated on a piece of land between Gerard Avenue and Queen Margaret’s Road off Charter Avenue in Canley. Two- and three-bedroom homes are available for private sale now through Signature New Homes starting at £226,000.

Our homes were developed through an innovative partnership with Coventry City Council which will see 230 homes developed on land owned by us and the council throughout Coventry.

Our Executive Director of Development, Nick Byrne, says: “It’s fantastic to see our Tudor Grange show home in all it’s glory.

“The homes will provide a variety of options for customers thanks to a mix of property size.

“Our homes have proven very popular in the area with designs to accommodate modern living”.

Work started on the Tudor Grange development in November last year. It consists of two, three and four bedroom homes, with the affordable housing element being partly funded by a £1.4m grant from Homes England.

The 21 Signature New Homes are expected to be completed by December 2019.

For more information about available homes at Tudor Grange, please contact our Sales Team on 08450 132 713 or email info@signaturenewhomes.co.uk

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