First community projects funded through the Citizen Local Fund revealed

Posted on March 31st, 2021 by Elaine Davies

The first round of projects we are funding through our Citizen Local Fund can now be revealed.

Eight projects were successful in landing a share of the £50k pot, which is part of our Citizen to Citizen initiative.

We had more than 20 applications for the first round of funding and with the help of our Customer Assurance Committee we identified the successful bids.

Will Walker, our Director of Transformation, said: “We are delighted to be able to fund our first projects as part of the Citizen Local Fund.

“We were very impressed by the applications we received for the fund and we are supporting a strong and diverse group of projects, run by community organisations who have a track record of success.

“The involvement of our Customer Assurance Committee and other customers has played a central role in shaping this. This is important, because we want to make sure the projects we support add real value for people in our communities.

“Each project has a sponsor, and this is just the start of our relationship with each organisation. We will keep people updated on the progress of each project and there will likely be volunteering opportunities in the projects which we will be able to offer to staff later in the year as well.

“One of our strategic objectives is to improve our support services and tackle homelessness and our Citizen to Citizen project is an important part of this. By supporting these projects through the Citizen Local Fund we will be able to do exactly this.”

The first round of funded projects are:

To find out more, click here to visit our dedicated Citizen Local Fund webpage here.

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‘When we work together as a sector there is nothing we can’t achieve’ – Martyn Hale writes a blog for the NHF to mark a year since the Everyone In campaign

Posted on March 26th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale has written a blog for the National Housing Federation (NHF) to mark a year since the start of the Everyone In campaign.

The campaign was launched by Government who wrote to local councils asking them to provide covid-safe accommodation for anyone who was rough sleeping or homeless during the pandemic.

Martyn’s blog looks at how we supported this initiative through our former retirement living scheme in Coventry.

Read Marytn’s NHF blog below:

At Citizen, we had been planning the use of an empty retirement living scheme as temporary accommodation for homeless families with children for some time.

We would provide accommodation for families with our local authority partner, Coventry City Council, until permanent homes could be found. This was developing nicely and nearing completion, ready for the first families to move in during March 2020.

Then we received the call – are you able to provide accommodation for rough sleepers as part of Everyone In?

It wasn’t a very long conversation and we all agreed this was the right thing to do. We recognised we were in for a hectic, intensive period as we had geared the service to receive families with young children, not single rough sleepers. This meant we had 44 self-contained flats prepared with furniture and white goods for a very different client group.

Cots and bunk beds were swiftly removed and single beds with protective mattresses and high-grade flame-resistant bedding sourced. Our suppliers rallied and supported us quickly and efficiently. The wider teams involved went above and beyond throughout this period, nothing was too much trouble.

The team on site mobilised rapidly and worked with the council’s outreach team to let all 44 units to single rough sleepers within 10 days of the request.

A number of residents had quite complex support needs with a history of substance and alcohol misuse. There were also people who had no access to public funds, so we agreed a process with the council where it would meet the accommodation charges directly. The remaining residents were able to access Universal Credit, supported by our on-site team.

Simple things became quite complex, like access to meals and food, as the flats were originally equipped for families to cook and prepare meals themselves. But by working closely with the council, we were able to make appropriate adjustments. We accessed a supply of food and one meal a day was delivered to each resident. We quickly adapted the cooking facilities, switching from cookers to microwaves. Communal areas were restricted due to our ‘safe systems of work’ in operation and the new outside play area for children was closed.

This swift turnaround worked because of the fantastic team on site led by Gail Cooper, our Service Manager, who worked closely with city council colleagues and immersed themselves in the project.

The 44 flats are now being used for their original purpose to accommodate families with children, while the previous group were all rehoused elsewhere by the council and in some instances by us offering permanent, alternative accommodation.

While I wouldn’t want to receive a request like this every week, what this intense period showed is when we work together there really is nothing, we as a sector can’t achieve.

Read Martyn’s blog on the NHF website here.

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New partnership will see us shape approach to measuring social value

Posted on March 24th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

A new partnership will see us shape an approach to measuring the value of the work of organisations with a social purpose.

We’ve joined a group which includes leading housing associations and organisations from other sectors, to work with innovation agency HACT.

The group will drive forward HACT’s social value roadmap and play a part in enhancing and developing tools and calculators to help organisations likes ours measure the social value that their work adds.

The roadmap will enable the social housing sector to use social value information to improve services, enhance decision-making and increase the impact it makes. Over the next year, we will be taking part in working groups to develop this approach.

Will Walker, our Director of Transformation, said: “Our social purpose is integral to our work and being part of a group of organisations which will shape an approach to measuring social value is a great opportunity for us.

“We look forward to working with HACT and partners to drive forward this important agenda.”

Matthew Grenier, Associate Director of Communications at HACT, said: “We’re delighted that Citizen is joining the social value roadmap. Their involvement will ensure the values, tools and use cases are applicable and accessible across the sector, regardless of organisational size.

“Our ambition is that the roadmap will result in social value becoming a key part of business decision-making, including forecasting, performance measurement and operational excellence, driving value for residents and communities.”

Visit the HACT website for more information.

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Full fibre broadband is being rolled out to 5,000 of our properties

Posted on March 3rd, 2021 by Elaine Davies

Full fibre broadband is being rolled out to 5,000 of our properties across the West Midlands.

We are partnering with full fibre broadband provider Hyperoptic to ensure that our customers have access to broadband speeds of up to 900Mbps.

This is more than 12 times faster than the UK average.

Currently only one in four homes has access to gigabit broadband – which has speeds of one gigabit per second – and the Government is aiming for 85 per cent of homes to have access to a gigabit broadband connection by 2025.

This roll out, which will begin in the near future, will mean thousands of our properties will be a step closer to this.

A number of community hubs will also be connected to Hyperoptic’s network, to give customers access to free internet for education and enterprise use.

Liz Bloomfield, Portfolio Manager at Citizen, said: “We’re really excited that our full fibre broadband rollout with Hyperoptic is starting soon. We think it’s really important that our homes have access to the best broadband and I’m really pleased we’re already working towards our homes having gigabit broadband before the government’s target of 2025.

“We’re also thrilled to be working with Hyperoptic to ensure some of our most vulnerable customers in our supported housing get free access to the broadband to support their education, to help with job opportunities and to support recreation activities. I think this ties in nicely with our social purpose here at Citizen.”

Liam McAvoy, Senior Director of Business Development at Hyperoptic said: “Citizen have a clear social purpose, which is to provide homes that are a foundation for life.

“We are pleased to support this ambition. As well as digitally future-proofing properties, full fibre connectivity enables a host of social benefits – across online financial savings and on individuals’ wellbeing.

“Over the last ten years we have built an industry-leading proposition for registered housing providers, which is why we have become the go-to partner of choice. We look forward to the rollout and delivering a service that is so-needed in these difficult times.”

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