We are trialling a new Vodaphone Smart Camera in Coventry to help us tackle fly tipping.
Throughout lockdown there has been a huge growth in the amount of fly tipping and littering – most notably in Coventry.
Since lockdown we have seen a 21 percent increase on the amount we have spent on fly tipping.
After being approached by Vodaphone, who have partnered with iDefigo a UK-based instant surveillance company, we decided to take part in a pilot to use electronic surveillance to tackle fly tipping – and it has already caught someone in the act!
Fly tipping is the illegal dumping of waste. It can be liquid, solid, and anything from a single bag of rubbish to a large amount of waste dumped from a truck. This can include littering, organised dumping, or dumping furniture and fridges.
Fly tipping can result in the perception that an area is untidy, and customers can lose their sense of pride in the area and it also encourages further littering.
The Smart Camera is a mobile high-grade camera that is easily moved and captures events that matter. It transmits images to any device, 24/7, and sends alerts when a trigger event has occurred, such as an act of fly-tipping. The images are encrypted and are accessed via secure login and password and are saved up to year.
The camera has been installed at Hermes Crescent in Coventry initially.
Our Director of Housing Peter Gill said: “We have installed one of the Smart Cameras at Hermes Crescent and we are pleased to say we have already caught one person dumping some rubbish in the area!
“The other benefit of the camera is that it is easy to use, so we would be able to train colleagues to move it to different locations.
“We are hoping it will deter people from fly tipping and it will help with the prosecutions of those who do.
“Citizen has been a victim of its own efficiency as, by removing rubbish so quickly when reported, people were becoming reliant on this as ‘the system’ for disposal of their rubbish and choosing to dump their rubbish onto the street instead of disposing of it properly.”
Colleagues in our Estates Teams have established regular dialogue with local authority waste removal teams to tackle fly tipping in other areas.
We have recently signed up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment, demonstrating our pledge to continue improving the emotional wellbeing of our staff.
The Mental Health at Work Commitment is a set of actions which are organised into six standards that have been developed by leading organisations and wellbeing experts including Mind, Public Health England and Bupa.
The aim of the commitment is to encourage employers to have a more joined-up approach to tackling the causes of poor mental health and supporting those who need help in the most effective ways possible.
The six standards in the Mental Health at Work Commitment state that we will:
Prioritise mental health in the workplace by developing and delivering a systematic programme of activity
Proactively ensure work design and organisational culture drive positive mental health outcomes
Promote an open culture around mental health
Increase organisational confidence and capability
Provide mental health tools and support
Increase transparency and accountability through internal and external reporting.
Our Director of People, Matt Posaner, said: “By signing up to the Mental Health at Work Commitment, we’re joining the growing movement of likeminded employers, businesses and organisations across the UK by declaring that mental health at work is a priority at Citizen.
“Here at Citizen we believe mental health is as important as physical health and we are committed to supporting all colleagues.
“I’m delighted to see that we’re already doing a lot of what the six standards of the Mental Health at Work Commitment outlines. It feels great to make our ongoing commitment to supporting and highlighting the importance of looking at your own mental health more formal.
“We’re now committed to embedding the six standards further at Citizen and developing a comprehensive approach to mental health in a way that works for us.”
The 210-home development built on a former greyhound track in Birmingham has now been completed.
We worked with regeneration specialist Vistry Partnerships to build the homes on the former stadium in Hall Green which closed in 2017.
The development is made up of 109 affordable homes, which include shared ownership and affordable rent, and a further 101 are being sold for private sale through Vistry Partnerships’ award-winning housebuilding-arm Linden Homes.
The affordable homes were all handed over to customers in March.
Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said: “We’re so pleased to see the completion of our Hall Green development and that the homes have been handed over to customers.
“It’s always great to see a brownfield site brought back to use and the homes available here will really help with the housing need in the local area.
“This is one of many developments which we are working on with Vistry Partnerships and we’re thrilled it’s been completed to a high standard.”
The development is a mix of apartments and two- and three-bedroom homes.
Managing Director at Vistry Partnerships West Midlands, Darren Beale, said: “After three years on site, we are delighted to have finished our work with Citizen in Hall Green and we wish all the new residents every happiness here. Our final few private sale homes are nearing completion and we expect the remaining properties to be sold out shortly.
“The Hall Green scheme is another example of how our working relationship with Citizen is helping to bring much-needed homes to the West Midlands, and we look forward to working alongside the housing association again as we continue to deliver high-quality homes.”
Work started on the development in 2018 and it is close to local amenities such as schools, shops and public transport including commuter access to Birmingham New Street station.
We are also working with Vistry Partnerships on the adjacent York Road scheme which started in late 2020. The project is due for completion in the summer of 2021, and 100 per cent of the properties will be affordable.
We have secured a bid for £514,320 to build extra accommodation at the Gateway which will help rough sleepers and homeless people in Coventry.
The successful bid was submitted to the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and it will allow us to build an extra 16 flats at our Gateway accommodation. This means there will be 79 flats at the Gateway in total.
The grant has been secured following another bid which was announced earlier this year – £1,750,000 which will deliver 25 units across the West Midlands for homeless single people. Five of these will be available in Coventry.
This is more than £2.2m invested in accommodation to tackle homelessness in the West Midlands this year.
Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale said: “It’s brilliant news that we are able to provide extra temporary accommodation at the Gateway.
“The Gateway is our primary homelessness residence in Coventry and these units will be a valuable addition to the scheme that supports those who have found themselves homeless or on the streets.
“In our business strategy one of our objectives is to improve our support services and tackle homelessness. By 2023 we hope to have an additional 76 new homes that will provide temporary accommodation and it’s brilliant that we are well on our way to this number already.
“Homelessness is a serious issue and we want to play our part in helping people who have found themselves without a home.”
Work on the new units at the Gateway started on March 31 and is due to be completed by September 30, 2021.
Find out more about the £1.75m bid announced earlier this year here.
Our Development Team have had a brilliant year by considerably increasing the amount of affordable homes built by 25 percent.
The last year has been difficult for many – there have been several lockdowns and at one-point construction sites were forced to close.
However, despite these challenges, our Development Team have worked with determination to increase the number of homes built compared to last year whilst also ensured they beat this year’s target too.
In the financial year 2020/21 the team delivered 457 affordable homes and 49 market sale – a total of 506 against a target of 451 affordable homes and 41 market sale. This target was revised because of covid. Prior to lockdown the target was 587.
During the 2019/20 financial year the team built 362 affordable homes and 38 market sale – a total of 400 which highlights their fantastic performance over the last year.
Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said the team worked together to beat the target by intensely monitoring schemes on site, verifying contractor programmes, monitoring slippage, and checking in on programmes.
He said: “The last year has been a particularly challenging one for everyone and I am really proud of how the Development Team have worked over the last year.
“I would like to thank them for their ever-present determination to get the job done, commitment to success and willingness to carry on in the face of adversity and the completely new ways of working.
“To beat the previous year’s results by 25 percent despite Covid is a fantastic achievement. Not only that, it is our biggest development programme ever!”
The Development Team have had an exceptional year elsewhere winning Best Collaboration at our 2021 Excellence Awards for Keeping our Customers Moving in, Natalie Littlehales passed her Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) exams with a distinction and Alex Mackness and Indy Panesar graduated from the Development Trainee programme.
Throughout lockdown we have worked with one of our partners, St Basils, to provide more accommodation for young people in Coventry experiencing homelessness.
Farmcote Lodge was our former retirement living scheme and St Basils approached us to help transform it into a new scheme for young people who were homeless or at risk of homelessness, in memory of the Deputy Chief Executive at St Basils, Lorna Esien.
Our Director of Care and Support Martyn Hale talks about the creation of Lorna Esien Court and how, by thinking differently, we have played a part in developing something that will make a real difference to young people now and in the future.
When we think about partnership working in terms of homeless prevention amongst young people what does this conjure up?
Accommodation with support, a traditional commissioning relationship and a short-term revenue solution, or something very different and unique.
True partnership working takes the art of the impossible and makes it possible. Citizen and St Basils did this in Coventry during what was a very difficult period nationally, as we responded to the coronavirus pandemic.
Citizen has had a long, positive relationship with St Basils across the West Midlands. They manage several services from schemes on our behalf and are a powerful influencer both regionally and nationally in terms of addressing youth homelessness.
When we began to talk with them about a scheme in Coventry there was an obvious natural fit. Farmcote Lodge was a former retirement living scheme in Coventry that was occupied by property guardians pending a decision on its future.
We eventually agreed to dispose of Farmcote Lodge to St Basils but what made these discussions different was a desire to make this work financially but also in terms of deliverability.
A capital receipt was important but not at the expense of making the proposed service unviable. We discussed this openly with St Basils and came up with a solution that looked at disposing of the building at less than market value.
We took this idea to our Board, making it clear that our articles of association allowed us to do this, if the Board agreed that it fitted with our wider social purpose. I’m delighted to say that this was welcomed and supported.
The sale was agreed, and the building transferred to St Basils, who secured funding from Homes England and Heart of England Foundation Trust, in late 2019.
Almost immediately work began and the building has now opened and is a wonderful example of what can be achieved if you think differently.
So, you might be thinking where does the name Lorna Esien Court fit into this story?
Lorna was the Deputy Chief Executive of St Basils who very sadly passed away. Lorna was a force to be reckoned with and a powerful advocate for those who were homeless and needed support. For more than two decades Lorna worked with Jean Templeton, St Basils innovative Chief Executive, to create safe accommodation and services for homeless 16-25-year olds and advocate for transformational change in terms of homelessness prevention.
As a fitting tribute the new service was named Lorna Esien Court and opened formally by her family last year.
What makes this story special is the legacy that Lorna leaves and will live on in the service that St Basils provides.
Citizen played a part in this because we were willing to consider the outcome rather than focus on barriers, working with St Basils to create solutions.
By thinking differently, we have played a part in developing something that will make a real difference to young people now and in the future. Given the challenges we have all faced over the last 12 months it is fantastic that such a service has been able to develop and now open.
We all need to feel and hope we make a difference and sometimes something wonderful can emerge. Lorna Esien Court is one such example.
Martyn Hale, Director of Care and Support
Find out more about Lorna Esien Court in the video below:
We are pleased to confirm that the recruitment process for our new apprenticeships will be starting this month and they will be joining us from the summer onwards.
We are offering 14 apprenticeships this financial year in the following directorates:
Assurance and Procurement – 1
Care and Supported Housing – 1
Communications – 1
Customer Services – 1
Housing – 2
Maintenance Operations – 6
Organisational Development – 1
Transformation – 1
Our first vacancies will be advertised mid-April, starting with a Housing Apprentice within the Income Team who will start their course at the beginning of July and an Administration Apprentice with our planning team. Other vacancies will follow during May, with a few planned later in the year.
The apprenticeship programmes we will be offering include qualifications in Housing, Administration, Human Resources, Customer Service, Carpentry, Plumbing, Painting and Decorating.
This is in addition to the 11 people who are currently completing apprenticeships at Citizen. Six of these are within our Maintenance Operations Team, two within Development, Sales and Regeneration Team and three within our Finance Team.
Our Director of People, Matt Posaner, said: “It’s fantastic that the recruitment process for 14 new apprenticeships at Citizen is getting underway and they’ll be joining us in the forthcoming months.
“Encouraging the progression of more young people to support talent development and succession planning in our organisation is extremely important.
“Our apprentice scheme has always been really successful, with many of our previous apprentices still working with us at a managerial level. I look forward to keeping you updated with our recruitment process.”
We are committed to recruiting 14 new apprentices in 2021/2022 and we will be offering further apprentices in 2022/2023.
Eventually we hope to have over 30 apprentices working at Citizen.
All vacancies will be advertised on the jobs section on our Citizen website when recruitment starts.
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:
Attwood Community Enrichment – a community organisation in Birmingham will use our funding for a project called A.C.E. Tunnel Gardens. This will see a former allotment brought back into use. Rubbish will be cleared from the site, it will be landscaped and levelled to create better accessibility and areas for planting, growing and seating will be developed to create a community site. Once landscaping is completed the community will then plant, develop and maintain the gardens bringing them back into full use. This will improve the environment and help to reduce social isolation.
BME Mental Health Association – a Birmingham-based organisation will be funded for a project called Single Parent Care Package. This will provide essential items – including toiletries, household items, baby items and second hand clothes – to single parents across the city as well as counselling for those who need it.
Enterprise Club for Disabled People – a Coventry-based charity which celebrated its 80th birthday in 2018. We will fund a project called Keep in Contact. The project is a telephone buddy system for 150 disabled members of the Enterprise Club, many of whom have been badly isolated by the coronavirus pandemic, which will see them receive regular phone calls from their buddy. When activity starts to return to normal the focus will be on those still isolated due to shielding.
The Living Room – a Hereford-based community hub providing support for people in the town will use our funding to support its work.
The Living Room is in central Hereford and includes a café, community larder and training and community spaces. Its team of volunteers provide a range of support to people in Hereford from food parcels and help for people who are homeless, to safeguarding and counselling.
Love Coventry – a Coventry-based charity run by volunteers from the city will use our funding for its work to upcycle furniture and provide it at a very low cost to people in the city who need it. The organisation works closely with community groups and charities in the area to make sure it acquires furniture and once upcycled it goes to a home that needs it.
Stoke Aldermoor Community Association – a community organisation in Coventry will receive funding towards a project called Lift Me Up. The project will improve the environment and the health and wellbeing of people in the community through organised community clearings of fly-tipping and litter picks, awareness raising and a campaign to tackle littering and fly-tipping. It will also help to turn disused spaces into places people can enjoy.
Stoke Heath Community Centre – a community organisation in Coventry will receive funding towards a Vulnerable Adults Support Group. The project will see volunteers recruited to become a buddy to vulnerable adults in the community and their families. The volunteers will make sure crucial support reaches them, including access to essential items and food and signposting to support available from other organisations.
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.”
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.”