We’ve introduced Structure Telephone Counselling to our Tenant Support and Wellbeing Service this year

Posted on May 11th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

Two years ago, we launched our Tenant Support and Wellbeing Service for our customers.

The service is available 24/7 and is free and confidential for customers to use. The service offers help with anything, including mental health and wellbeing, family matters, relationships, managing debt, workplace issues and rights as a consumer.

It is delivered by Care First which means that we don’t know who has accessed the service and what for – and the service now also offers our customers Structured Telephone Counselling too.

Through the Structured Telephone Counselling customers will have access to six telephone sessions.

Previously the telephone counselling sessions were only available for short-term ‘in the moment’ issues. This meant that a single call to offer support for an issue was all our customers were entitled to.

This is now being increased to planned and structured counselling that will be available for individuals who call the service. It will help to provide a way for our customers in distress to explore their feelings, talk about their problems and challenges and help support with making a positive change in their lives.

Our Director of Housing Peter Gill said: “We are so pleased that we are now able to offer this new service to our customers. It fills a real gap in the service which we were unable to offer before.

“Investing in services to improve our customers’ wellbeing through the tough times has never been more important to us and we are delighted that we will be able to offer the extra support of Structure Telephone Counselling.

“One of the pledges in our business strategy is “we are looking out for our citizens”, we want our services to reflect that we are on our customers’ side, to make their lives easier and to support them when they need it.

“We are pleased to have provided this service over the past two years and I’m really looking forward to seeing the take up of the Structure Telephone Counselling.”

This year we will also be improving our customer feedback on the service by asking those who have used the Tenant Support and Wellbeing service to complete a confidential survey on our customer portal My Account.

We also plan to improve marketing of the service by providing monthly bulletins for customers about our Tenant Support and Wellbeing service. These will also raise awareness of certain topics such as anti-social behaviour and debt advice and will be uploaded to My Account for customers to access. We have bulletins planned for the next 12 months.

In the last year 291 new cases used our Tennant Support and Wellbeing Service, which generated 442 contacts.  Anonymous usage data tells us that relationship breakdown and addiction are two considerable concerns that people are reaching out for help with.

Customers can access our Tennant Support and Wellbeing Service on our website here.

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Our first modular home pilot with Totally Modular is extended to build 24 homes on former garage sites in Coventry

Posted on April 21st, 2021 by Elaine Davies

We are extending our modular pilot to build 24 new homes on eight garage sites in Coventry.

Planning permission has been granted for all the sites across the city and work has started on building the homes in our partner’s factory.

We are working with Totally Modular on the pilot which is a multi-million-pound project and will regenerate ex-garage sites to provide highly energy efficient family homes and bungalows.

The sites include:

We previously worked with Totally Modular to build two award winning homes in their factory in Cradley Heath, near Dudley, these were then transported more than 30 miles on the back of a truck before being craned into place in Littlethorpe, Coventry.

Our Executive Director of Development Nick Byrne said: “It’s fantastic we are extending our modular housing pilot. It allows us to to proceed with our ambitions to deliver modular construction homes on some of the most difficult sites to develop and replicate the quality standards of our homes at Littlethorpe.

“These new schemes will have a positive impact on the current issues around temporary housing and offer future customers a home which is a foundation for life. The homes will be offered at affordable rent so will be very attractive to families living in Coventry.”

The scheme at Littlethorpe achieved an A rated Energy Performance Certificate, which means this type of development is in the top one percent when compared to quality standards measured nationally.

Nick added we are also looking to replicate this type of delivery on our extended pilot.

He said: “The energy efficiency we are achieving in these homes is in line with the Government’s future homes standards and our Development strategy.

“We have decided to extend the pilot, so we can show further the benefits of modular construction especially on sites which are former garage sites. This means a reduction on the impact on residents due to the homes being manufactured in a factory which minimises the construction on site.”

Other benefits of modular homes include reduced time on site and reduced fuel bills for customers. The actual running costs for the Littlethorpe pilot were approximately £1.48 a day for a three-bedroom home with five occupants.

Managing Director of Totally Modular John Connolly said: “We are extremely pleased to be given this opportunity to work alongside Citizen again after our initial successful pilot scheme.

“As with all trials there are lessons to be learnt and our collective aim is to implement the take outs from that scheme to ensure both Citizen and the residents benefit from best available technology with regard to both environmental and energy performance.

“With the direction of travel for UK housing delivery being net zero carbon, Totally Modular and Citizen are playing their part in ensuring the assets delivered today are future proofed for the city and residents of Coventry.”

The developments are due to be finished early next year.

Watch the video about out modular pilot below:

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We are trialling a new Smart Camera to tackle fly tipping in Coventry

Posted on April 20th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

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 in an area of Coventry and will be moving to different areas throughout the pilot.

Our Director of Housing Peter Gill said: “We have installed one of the Smart Cameras 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.

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We sign up to Mental Health at Work Commitment

Posted on April 19th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

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:

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.”

Find out more on the Mental Health at Work Commitment here .


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Properties are handed over at our completed site in Hall Green

Posted on April 15th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

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.

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Further £514k secured for 16 extra flats at Gateway

Posted on April 14th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

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.

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Our Development Team increase the amount of affordable homes we’ve built this year by 25 percent

Posted on April 13th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

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.

Well done to everyone in the Development Team!

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‘A wonderful example of what can be achieved if you think differently’ – Martyn Hale talks about the creation of Lorna Esien Court in partnership with St Basils

Posted on April 12th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

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:

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Apprentice programme recruitment process starts this month

Posted on April 6th, 2021 by Elaine Davies

Earlier this year we revealed plans to improve our apprenticeship scheme to encourage the progression of more young people to support talent development and succession planning in our organisation.

This is an important part of our objective to become an employer of choice in our 2020-23 business strategy.

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:

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.

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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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