We collaborate with Coventry City Council to help tackle their biggest housing challenges

Posted on February 26th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Over the last 6 months we have been talking to Coventry City Council about our innovation work with ?What if! and initially they were particularly keen to hear more about our Fresh Start Standard pilot which includes fresh decoration, new flooring and other renovations as standard throughout our void properties.

Earlier this month, we held an Away Day with the Council’s Housing Team to build a shared approach to innovation in housing.

Throughout the day we pinpointed four important challenges facing Coventry which we could solve better together.

These are:

  1. How can we empower tenants through information and support so that they’re never left in the dark when applying for housing?
  2. How can we tailor our home matching services to individual needs?
  3. How can we think beyond the property to ensure our tenants feel safe and at home in their neighbourhood?
  4. How can we overcome silos to collaborate more effectively?

Our Chief Operating Officer, Kate Still, said: “It was great to hear that Coventry City Council had been in touch following the communications activity around our Fresh Start Standard pilot.

“They were really impressed with our very different approach to innovation. We agreed to host a joint away day focused on developing a one team approach to housing in Coventry.

“It was a really exciting and refreshing day, completely changing our relationship from it being based on them commissioning our services, to us collaborating and co-designing services that best meet the human and business challenges of housing and homelessness in Coventry.

“We now have a joint action plan for the next 12 months and most importantly we have started to develop very different relationships with their team which is very positive.”

Together with Coventry City Council we’ll be running experiments over the next few months to try and solve these challenges together.

Our plans will start in April 2020 and at first will be focused on testing ideas to solve the Council’s challenges in finding temporary accommodation for single people.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

Our Building Better Opportunities scheme helps grandad become a bus driver

Posted on February 25th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Over a year ago David Pagett had difficulty getting into employment.

He was struggling with his nerves and other medical problems and felt that he would not be employed again.

David lives in one of our properties in Worcestershire and was referred to the Building Better Opportunities scheme by our Community Scheme Worker Karen Bowe.

One year on and David is working as a bus driver and thanks to his new job he has also been able to book holidays for his family.

David said: “I found out about Building Better Opportunities through Citizen in April 2018. At this point in my life I felt that I had very little prospects and didn’t think anyone would ever employ me again.

“I was suffering with my nerves and other medical problems, so I was finding it hard to see how I could move forward.

“Soon after I started on the Building Better Opportunities scheme things started to look up. I had a job coach to support me and it gave me the confidence to start believing in myself again.

“Suddenly there was a light at the end of the tunnel and together we started working on job searches.”

David was able to learn how to apply for jobs and submit meaningful applications online.

He said: “It opened up a whole new world to me. To my amazement very quickly I started getting replies to my applications, then interviews and then I secured a job as a bus driver.

“One year later, I am still driving my bus around Pershore and life is really different.  I have built up a rapport with passengers and we are on first name terms, I really enjoy brightening up their day and taking the time to get to know them.”

Since being employed as a bus driver David has been able to do up his flat, take his family on holiday to Disney Land Paris including his son and grandchildren, he has booked a cruise for April 2020 and is planning a holiday in 2021 with his other son.

He added: “I can now truly say that I look forward to everyday.”

The Building Better Opportunities programme is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund and we are one of the partners in the project. It helps people who are unemployed with work experience and job opportunities throughout Worcestershire.

The programme specifically helps those furthest from the workplace with a focus on overcoming barriers such as drug and alcohol addiction, mental ill health and homelessness.

It has been shortlisted for the Resident Employment and Training category at the UK Housing Awards which will take place on May 7 at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

Our Job Coach, Cathy Scarlett, said: “It’s fantastic news that this scheme helped David to get into employment and take his family on holidays.

“When I first met David, he struggled with his confidence but now he has greatly improved and loves his job.

“I am so pleased we were able to help David and we’re looking forward to helping more people who are in a similar situation.”

Funding for Building Better Opportunities has been secured until September 2022 and it will help anyone in Worcestershire who is unemployed, has a legal right to work in the UK and of working age. Most of the participants – around 60% – are our residents who have been referred by our money advice, lettings and neighbourhood teams.

Those who would like support from the programme should call us on 0300 790 6555.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

First staff complete their CIH Housing Practice qualification

Posted on February 17th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

The first round of staff from our Housing team and Care and Supported Housing have passed their CIH housing qualification.

Staff started working towards gaining the Level 3 certificate in Housing Practice last February and have now been presented with their certificates for completing the course.

The qualification covers eight key areas of essential housing knowledge. These include Housing system, Occupancy Tenure and Letting, Rental Income Management, Managing Leasehold Housing Services, Managing Empty Properties, Dealing with anti-social behaviour in housing, Legal Framework for Housing, and Professional Practice Skills for Housing.

We are the first housing provider to commit to putting all housing staff through a professional course with CIH.

Director of Housing Peter Gill said: “Well done to the 15 staff who have passed and achieved their Level 3 in Housing Practice.

“They have all achieved a highly respected qualification with the sector’s professional body.

“The qualification takes 9 months to achieve and consists of five assignments which includes a mix of face-to-face study and individual research. Staff have done really well to achieve the qualification and have worked so hard.”

As part of the course staff get access to ongoing support from a tutor and resources via CIH’s Housing Academy. They also get student membership of the CIH until they are qualified, and Citizen will pick up ongoing membership.

Peter added: “More than 250 staff will gain this qualification and it is being rolled out in cohorts of 16 people with two cohorts a year.

“We are the first provider to commit to put all housing staff through a professional course with the CIH, which is fantastic.”

Head of Learning and Development Lisa Robertson said: “Well done everyone who has worked on this qualification over the last year – you have done an amazing job!

“The skills will help staff throughout their whole career.”

Neighbourhood Officer Clare Walford is one of those who has qualified.

She said: “The course gave me the opportunity to work with different colleagues across the group and share ideas. The day sessions with the tutor were beneficial too.

“I have learnt more about different areas of housing. I have already found this beneficial in my role as a Neighbourhood Officer. It has enabled me to give other options consideration, rather then just the normal routes we may follow.”

Specialist Housing Coordinator Rob Breeze added: “Each module gave me further insight into other parts of the housing aspects which I had not been involved in. I also found the CIH Tutor face to face days were well facilitated, along with group work, sharing examples of our housing practice with others and the vast amount of knowledge around the table.

“It was a nice relief to pass the course and a sense of real achievement and reward of the hard work I put in.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

Our residents travel to the National Memorial Arboretum to help develop VE Day art project

Posted on February 13th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Residents from the Gateway and our Retirement Living schemes visited the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire to help develop an art project to commemorate the 75th anniversary VE Day and VJ Day.

They were given a tour of the arboretum and took part in workshops.

Residents from the Gateway were able to take part in a two-hour clay making workshop where they sculpted and decorated tiles. They used a specific memory as their inspiration.

The Gateway is our primary facility for homeless people in Coventry and houses people from all backgrounds.

Our Retirement Living Scheme residents took part in a VE Day inspired tea party where they shared memories through a range of activities.

The result of both workshops will inspire and feed into the production of new artwork commemorating VE Day and VJ Day at the arboretum.

Ellen Gale, who lives at William Sheridan House, visited the arboretum. She was a teenager during the Second World War.

 She said: “My most vivid memory of the Second World War would be the blitz in Coventry – the sky lit up and it was completely red. I have never seen anything like it in my life.

“It’s so special to come to the National Memorial Arboretum and be part of this art project.”

Robert Reason who lives at Stretton Lodge in Willenhall added: “I remember my dad worked with Avro Lancasters during the war and he had so many stories to tell me. He would always tell me about how he collected shrapnel to sell it and make pocket money.

“It’s great coming to the arboretum and help create this art project as it’s a really important time we need to remember.”

Joan Williams, who also lives at William Sheridan House, said: “I remember seeing a plane firing bullets out of the sky in Coventry while my brother and I were in the garden – it was terrifying.

“It has been emotional visiting the arboretum but it is important that we remember.”

The arboretum is a 150 acre site which is a tribute to those who have served and continue to serve our country.

Our Retirement Living Manager, Tim Ansell, said: “Our residents who travelled to the National Memorial Arboretum had a lovely day – it was great for them to talk about and share their experiences.

“It was a really important time in their lives and to help inspire artwork commemorating the 75th anniversary of VE day is a great experience for them.

“The trip was very poignant too, with many people remembering those who had fought in the Second World War.”

Homelessness Assistant Martin Hancox said: “This was a great opportunity for people from our Gateway accommodation.

“Robert, who is one of our residents, was supported to research information about his great uncle who served in the First World War. He has tried previously but struggled, so he was delighted to be given information about his relative at the arboretum.

“This information inspired his artwork on the day, and he made a clay poppy in tribute to his great uncle.

“The whole day has been a fantastic experience – our residents had huge smiles on their faces, and they were so grateful to visit the arboretum, many of them didn’t know it existed.”

The Tea for II exhibition will be on display at the Arboretum from April 3, 2020, to July 12, 2020.

It marks the 75th anniversary of VE Day and VJ Day.

The exhibition will be displayed in the Remembrance Centre.

Christopher Ansell Exhibits Officer from the National Memorial Arboretum added: “We’re so pleased people who had their own experiences during the Second World War are inspiring this art project to commemorate VE Day.

“It was a significant period in their lives and it’s fantastic that we are able to use real life experiences to shape our VE Day exhibition.

“Thank you so much to everyone who visited the arboretum and became a part if this project.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

Lead consultant appointed for our £33 million regeneration project in Coventry

Posted on February 13th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We are delighted to announce that Baily Garner will be the lead consultant for our first major regeneration project as Citizen.

The £33 million regeneration project in Coventry will transform two of our communities in Wyken and Spon End over the next five years.

The project will see us transform William Malcom House and demolish Vincent Wyles House with proposals to develop c93 homes on the vacant land.

In Spon End, the project will make significant improvements to three blocks – Kerry House, Milestone House and Trafalgar House. We are also exploring opportunities to build new affordable homes at the development.

Our Director of Regeneration Services, Kevin Roach, says: “We’re delighted to appoint Baily Garner as the lead consultant for our first major regeneration project as Citizen.

“Our customers have told us that they want to see improvements to their homes, and we’re determined to do something about this. We’re committed to this £33 million major regeneration project over the next five years. I look forward to working closely with Baily Garner on the project.”

Partner at Baily Garner, Tim Bush, adds: “We’re thrilled to have been appointed as lead consultant for this exciting and ambitious project.

“We look forward to building relationships with both communities at Spon End and Wyken to assist in shaping proposals, as to how their homes will look and perform over the coming months.

“The engagement with the communities will be vital to the success of the project.”

A developer partner for this major regeneration project will be appointed Summer 2020 and work will commence in mid 2021.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

Our HR Team have won an IRIS Customer Award

Posted on February 12th, 2020 by Laura Pickett

We’re delighted to announce that our HR Team won the HR Transformation Project of the Year award at the IRIS Customer Awards last night.

The IRIS Customer Awards, held at the ICC Birmingham, focus on celebrating and showcasing excellence amongst their tens of thousands of customers. The awards focus on Accountancy, HR, Payroll, Education and Corporate Social Responsibility.

The team won the HR Transformation Project of the Year award following their successful implementation of Myplace, our new HR and Payroll system which launched last summer.

Our Director of People, Matt Posaner, says: “What a fantastic achievement! I’m so pleased for the team.

“The development of our Myplace HR and Payroll System has made significant improvements to the way we store, process and manage our HR and Payroll information.

“The change provided by this intuitive system has been really well received by staff across our organisation.

“Well done to the HR project team who worked so hard to deliver this big piece of work. You should all be extremely proud of what you have achieved.”

Elona Mortimer-Zhika, IRIS CEO, adds: “We’re delighted that Citizen has won our Transformation Project of the Year award.

“We’ve seen an exceptionally high standard of entries this year, demonstrating once more the achievements of our customers in their respective specialist sectors and the contribution they make to communities. It’s very pleasing to see their individual success stories and how IRIS has helped play its part.

“Our judges were spoilt for choice when picking a winner. It’s a fantastic achievement that Citizen won this category.”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

Keen to find out more about our ConnectMe scheme? Here is how it can help with employment skills

Posted on February 10th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We are part of a scheme which helps people across Coventry get into employment.

ConnectMe offers a bespoke action plan to help people overcome barriers in relation to work.

Our Money Advice Team Leader Michael Clarke talks about how the scheme helps.

Tell us about the ConnectMe scheme.

The scheme is available for people living in Coventry and helps applicants develop a bespoke action plan. They are also given the opportunity to develop skills to get back into work.

A variety of sessions are available which includes employment coaching and one to one and group sessions. There are also workshops which help with CV Writing, job searching, interview skills and managing money.

Who can take part in the ConnectMe scheme?

The scheme is available for people who are living in the CV1 to CV6 areas of Coventry.

Anyone who is aged over 16 and has a legal right to work in the UK can benefit from the scheme – they don’t have to be a resident.

We are trying to help as many people as we can, so if staff think they know someone who would benefit then they should get in touch.

Do you have any examples of who we have helped with the scheme?

We have helped several people across the organisation through ConnectMe.

Chloe Richards was unemployed, and she benefitted from applying for one of our paid placements.

She is now working as a Trainee Administrator in our Money Advice Team.

We’ve also helped Bhupinder Birdee. She found it difficult to get back into work after a breast cancer diagnosis.

She is now working in our Housing and Neighbourhood Services department.

George Stinton is also a Trainee Administrator in our Estates and Services team thanks to ConnectMe.

He had been out of work for a month and the paid placement helped him get back into the routine of having a job.

How can you find out more about the scheme?

People interested in the scheme can find out more information by emailing connectme@citizenhousing.org.uk or by calling 0300 790 6555.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

We sign up to the National Housing Federation’s Commitment to Refer

Posted on February 6th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

We have signed up to the NHF’s Commitment to Refer which helps people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness across the UK.

By signing up to the Commitment to Refer, we are promising that we will actively refer people who are homeless or at risk of being homeless to their local authority.

Since October 2018 as part of the Homelessness Reduction Act, public bodies are bound by a Duty to Refer, however housing associations are not part of this.

Many wanted to help support the Act voluntarily so the NHF worked with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to develop the Commitment to Refer.

Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale said: “We have signed up to this commitment because we are very serious about ending homelessness.

“We were initially involved in the drafting of the commitment and as we are part of the West Midlands Homelessness group, we felt we needed to be an early adopter.

“The commitment helps by ensuring that the relevant local authority is aware of the action we are taking and can provide the family/individual with specific advice.”

Commitment to Refer also gives local authorities more information about families who are at risk of homeless.

For example, if a person was evicted due to rent arrears, they may end up being homeless so the relevant local authority would be notified. The authority would also be told how many people are in the family and if there are any safeguarding responsibilities.

Martyn added: “Usually people are referred before possession action is taken, this gives the local authority more time to provide the family with specific advice.

“We are also working with other organisations including St Basils and Birmingham City Council to develop a toolkit which can be used by other housing associations and partners which will help embed the commitment across the sector.”

For more information about the Commitment to Refer, visit the NHF website here.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

‘Investing in projects which make our places great is simply the right thing to do’ – Read our Chair Colin Dennis’ blog for the NHF

Posted on February 5th, 2020 by Elaine Davies

Our Chair Colin Dennis has written a blog for the National Housing Federation (NHF) website.

The NHF is the voice of housing associations across the UK.

In his blog, Colin writes it is incredibly important we back decisions that have a big impact on lives over decisions that make the most money.

You can read his blog in full here:

In social housing, the right decision is rarely the one that brings in the most money. In fact, it should always be the one that will have the biggest impact on people’s lives.

Following our recent transition from WM Housing to Citizen, we made an early decision about our first major projects – two large-scale regeneration schemes in inner city Coventry which will cost us £35m.

These projects pose a real challenge for us and neither will make us a penny in extra rent. In fact, we’ll lose rental income because one of the projects will see us demolish a tower block and replace it with a smaller number of new homes.

When proposals like this, which pose very real financial concerns, are put before a board it is the right and proper thing to scrutinise them. But in reality scrutinising proposals like this doesn’t just mean understanding their financial viability, it means understanding their likely impact. That’s why as a board we visited the communities in question to see first hand the issues the proposals were put forward to address.

Once the detail had been agreed the final decision was not a difficult one for us. This is exactly the sort of project we, as a board, should be supporting our executives to do.

We know that these projects will see improvements to hundreds of homes for people in our communities and tackle the priority issues for our tenants – which is the quality of their home and the safety and security of their neighbourhood.

We believe passionately in our new purpose – to provide homes that are a foundation for life and to us our most important role is as an anchor institution in our communities. We want to continue to have a real impact on the lives of the people who live in our communities because that’s how and where we believe we can add very real value.

It’s important that we help more people and that’s why we will continue to have an ambitious development programme so that we can help new people get access to a good quality home. But we already have 30,000 homes and they deserve a good home too. That’s why we will always support projects which enhance our places, even if this means making decisions which are financially difficult.

We have been proud to be part of the National Housing Federation’s Great Places Commission and when our Chief Executive Kevin Rodgers, a member of the commission, attended visits across the North and the Midlands there were fantastic examples of successful regeneration projects with proud people and vibrant communities.

That is what we are trying to achieve with our regeneration ambitions at Citizen and working with the community and our partners we are confident and excited for our future.

As boards we need to be prepared to back our organisations to do the work which adds real value in our communities because that is the work that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments

Party held for one of our longest Retirement Living residents as she turns 100

Posted on February 3rd, 2020 by Elaine Davies

A birthday party has been held for a resident who has lived in Eric Inott House for 25 years.

Eric Inott House is one of our Retirement Living Schemes in Cheylesmore, Coventry.

Edith Brady turned 100 on February 1 and received a birthday card from the Queen.

Edith, who was born in 1920 and has lived through the Second World War, celebrated turning a century with her friends and family.

She said: “I am thrilled that people have turned up for my birthday and have organised this party for me. It’s lovely to have people I care about with me.

“I also received a letter from the Queen too which was wonderful.”

Edith was born in Dundee and worked in a sweet factory while she was a teenager.

She met her husband Charles in 1942. She was sitting on a bus when he asked her out – they were then married six weeks later.

Edith’s husband went off to fight in the Second World War as part of the Black Watch – the Scottish Army and Edith served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Their first daughter, Irene, was born in 1944 and their second daughter Edith was born in 1945.

Following the war, work was unavailable in Dundee, so the family moved to Manchester and lived with an uncle until the were able to find a house together.

In 1957 the family moved to Coventry. Edith worked as a cleaner in the local dentist and served meals at the University of Warwick until she retired.

Edith added the secret to a long life is to drink a drop of Drambuie whiskey every night.

Our Retirement Living Manager, Tim Ansell, said: “We have loved celebrating Edith’s 100th birthday and we’re so pleased she enjoyed her party.

“Thank you to everyone who visited Eric Inott House to celebrate with her.

“We’re very proud of what she has achieved.

“Happy birthday Edith!”

Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments