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					                                                                                                  Winter 2003

                          Open House       The Vale Housing Association’s Newsletter

Getting Involved: page 3 • Need Careers Advice?: page 4 • Staying Warm: page 7

     The Vale Housing Association would like to wish all its
    tenants a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

                                               Cheers - Celebration of new affordable housing

                           New technology is helping     receive power this way if necessary and so they
                           The Vale Housing              can sell extra energy back if they generate more
                           Association to cut tenants’   than is needed.
                           fuel bills. This year we
                           have installed                This is one of many initiatives for Vale Housing
                            “photovoltaic cells”,        Association tenants. This autumn we celebrated the
                            which convert sunlight       completion of 24 new homes for rent in Grove.
                            into energy, on the rooves   The houses and flats are built on the site of the old
of three new properties and four existing homes.         Yoplait Dairy site, as part of the larger development
The cells mean that these homes, which are in            built by Berkeley Homes. Councillors, staff and
Sutton Courtenay and Childrey, can benefit from          tenants celebrated the opening in October. The site
free electricity. They are still connected to the        also includes two flats built for shared ownership,
electricity network so that they can continue to         where people part-rent and part-buy their home.

(   AREA OFFICES: Abingdon – (01235) 536001 Wantage – (01235) 760007
    News on rents
    Next years rent increases for the majority of tenants   (almost 1/3rd of total) will face no increase at all.
    will be on average around £3.84 per week. This
    follows Government guidance that rents should           In late February we will be writing to everyone to let
    increase by no more than inflation (2.8%) plus 1/2%     them know what their individual rent will be, and
    plus a maximum of £2.00 per week.                       this will include information about charges for other
                                                            services. If you have any questions about this article
    For tenants who are already paying higher rents,        please contact Steve Russell, Director of Finance
    which are closer to the government’s target, average    and Administration, on 01235 536001.
    increases will be below £1. Over 1500 tenants

    An Inspector Calls                                       Free Education Courses
    We have now been inspected by the Audit                  Once again the Vale Housing Association is offering
    Commission, who are responsible for judging how          free computer courses - this time in Abingdon.
    good housing associations are at providing services.     The Abingdon Family Centre, based
                                                             at Caldecott School, is hosting a course of ten
    While the Audit Commission were with us they             beginner computer sessions run by Abingdon and
    spoke to staff and tenants, visited repair work          Witney College. The course is for anyone who
    which had been recently carried out and met with         wants to help a child or grandchild with computing
    groups of tenants to talk about the services that        work or would just like to get started
    they receive. Thanks to all those tenants who gave       on the computer. It will be held every Thursday
    up their time to speak to them.                          afternoon from 1.00 till 3.00 from 22nd January
                                                             until 1st April, with a break for half-term.
    We have now got back the first results of this           To register on the course or to find out more contact
    inspection. On the whole they are happy with how         Christine Long on 01235 216269.
    we work. Areas which they particularly praised
    were the “floating support” service we provide to
    some tenants to help them keep their tenancy
    conditions, ways we involve tenants in our services
    and the helpful attitude of our staff. They have
    also recommended some areas to improve.

    A full report will be produced by the Audit
    Commission soon and sent out to all our tenants.

    Computer System
    This autumn we have introduced a new computer            In particular it means that we have addressed the
    system and all staff have been trained in this. We       issue of making sure that people in one part of the
    are sorry if this has caused any delays but the new      organisation have a better idea of what is
    system will mean we have more efficient ways of          happening in other departments.
    dealing with your enquiries in the future.

2                 (      REPAIRS HOTLINE: Abingdon Area – (0845) 450 8241
Getting Involved
                                                       Tenants Open
Tenant Forums                                          Day– Have Your
The last forum meetings met with an external           Say and win a £20 prize
consultant who is helping us take a long hard look
at how well we listen to our tenants. It’s part of a   We are planning a tenants event – a chance for
process where we will ask “Do we offer you ample       tenants to get together for some fun social activities
opportunity to have your say ?” and “How would         and to help shape some of the Association’s policies.
you like to get involved?”                             We will be organising this jointly with Soha housing.

But if you have any ideas on how we can improve        We are currently planning what form the event will
on our listening to tenants please get in touch with   take and when is the best time to hold it. For the
us or speak directly to our advisor, David Williams    first time we are giving you the chance to send us
on Freephone 0800 0855 492                             your comments by text message.

The next tenant forums are:                            The question we want your views on is:
Wantage/Faringdon Area – The next meeting will         “What time do you think would be best to hold a
be held on Monday 5th January at 7.00pm at the         tenant event in order that the maximum number
British Legion Hall in East Challow. There will be     of people can attend?”
a question and answer session with James Rippin
from the Wantage office.                               All you have to do is text us on 07787 556357 with
Abingdon – The next meeting will be held on            one of the answers below. The possible times we
Wednesday 7th January at 7.00pm at the VHA             could hold an event are:
offices on the Vineyard. The speaker will be from
Neighbourhood Watch.                                   Easter holidays – text “Easter”
                                                       Evening event – text “evening”
                                                       Saturday event – text “Saturday”
Tenant Participation Compact                           Weekday event – text “weekday”

A compact has now been agreed between staff            If you have any ideas for what workshops or events
and tenants at The Vale Housing Association.           you would like to see at the Open Day then please
This sets out ways in which tenants can make their     text us these too!
opinions known or get involved with groups. More
details will be available in future newsletters but    Alternatively let us know your views by emailing,
if you would like a full copy of the compact           writing or phoning us using the contact details on
please get in touch.                                   the back page.

                                                       We’ll carry out a prize draw from all the answers we
                                                       receive – with a gift voucher of £20 up for grabs.

                                                       We are also looking for residents and young people
                                                       who can demonstrate a skill or craft eg. renovating
                                                       furniture, making birthday cards etc or can run a
                                                       workshop. If you can help with this, please leave
                                                       your name and address when you contact us.
Tenants having a say in the association

                  Wantage & Faringdon Area – (0845) 450 8242                                                    3
       Need Careers Advice?                                Is your fridge
       A Guest Article from the IAG                        behaving badly?
       Are you looking for advice on learning and          A scheme helping people get rid of their old
       work? The Oxfordshire Information, Advice           fridges and freezers for new, more energy-efficient,
       and Guidance group can provide FREE and             ones is being restarted, following the sucess of a
       impartial advice on learning and work to all        similar project run a few years ago. This enables
       adults across Oxfordshire. This includes            people who are in receipt of certain benefits to
       help with job-hunting, job applications and         exchange their old, inefficient fridge or fridge-
       CV writing and interview skills. We have a          freezer for a brand new highly efficient one for £50
       comprehensive careers library and provide           (£75 for a fridge-freezer). Not only will the new
       access to IT resources and the internet. For        fridge/fridge-freezers help to protect the
       information or to book an appointment               environment, but it can also save you up to £46 per
       please contact one of our trained advisors.         year on your energy bills.

       For Abingdon and Vale area call Gill on             To qualify your old appliance must be in working
       01235 524841 or email on gcoupe@cfbt-               order. For a small charge the scheme will also or for South Oxfordshire/Didcot           remove it for you.
       area call Jacqui on 01235 813115 or email
       on                          Application forms are available in our offices,
                                                           from scheme managers or by contacting Sian
                                                           Llewellyn on 01235 536001.

    How Close should                                       Community Grant
    you Plant that Tree?
                                                           Money available
    New laws are soon being introduced to make sure
                                                                                      We still have money
    that leylandii and other fast - growing trees, which
                                                                                      available for projects or
    grow dangerously fast, are kept under control.
                                                                                      groups who benefit the
                                                                                      community in some
    Full grown trees can block out light and their
                                                                                      way. We can award up
    roots can damage the drainage and foundations
                                                                                      to £150 to tenants or to
    of buildings. There are simple guidelines to follow
                                                                                      groups which work
    if you want to plant a tree. The chart below shows
                                                           with our tenants to make a difference in some way
    how close to a building you should plant each
    type of tree.
                                                           So far the grants we have given have helped:
                                                           1 The Faringdon Community Bus to provide
                                                             clamps for wheelchairs in the bus
                                                           2 A tenant who wanted a strimmer to tidy
                                                             up a piece of communal land
                                                           3 A senior citizens club

                                                           If you feel that you would qualify for one of
                                                           these grants please contact Emily Griffith on
                                                           01235 536001.

4                 (      REPAIRS HOTLINE: Abingdon Area – (0845) 450 8241
Are you suffering from harassment?
The Vale Housing Association is opposed to all          There are also other places you can turn to for
forms of harassment and will do everything in its       help. These helplines offer specialist advice on
power to protect our tenants against harassment.        harassment problems:
If you are receiving abuse or persecution from
anyone, whether it is racial or for any other reason    Racial Harassment hotline: 01865 815126
then contact your area office and the police. We will   Victim Support hotline: 01865 751511
respond to your problem within one working day.

Glorious gardens                                        Do something amazing

Congratulations to Mrs McMahon of West Hill in          Setting aside some of your time to give
Wantage who was one of the entrants in this year's      blood could make an amazing
garden competition. Although she did not win one        difference to somebody. It could
of our main prizes we were still impressed by the       even save a life. Clinics are held
effort she had put in to transforming her garden.       at many local centres in
                                                        Oxfordshire. To find out where
The photos below are "before and after" shots,          your nearest blood donation
showing how far Mrs McMahon went to produce a           centre is phone 0845 7 711 711
lovely garden.                                          or look up the website on

                                                          Action on Flytipping - Reward of £100

                                                          Residents of Ock
                                                          Street flats and
                                                          Southmoor Way
                                                          flats in Abingdon
                                                          are experiencing
                                                          problems with
Before                                                    people dumping
                                                          unwanted rubbish
                                                          near their homes.
                                                          Flytipping is unsightly and dangerous and the
                                                          Association seeks to take action against it
                                                          where possible. If you are prepared to act as
                                                          a witness against someone who is dumping
                                                          items you could be entitled to a £100 reward -
                                                          for further information call David Rundle on
                                                          01235 536001 or Phil Small on 01235 548600.
                                                          If you call out of office hours leave a message
                                                          and we’ll be in touch.

                  Wantage & Faringdon Area – (0845) 450 8242                                                5
    Christmas card                                         A Christmas thought.....
    competition                                            This poem was contributed by an Abingdon
                                                           tenant, Mrs Crellin, who is a member of our
    As part of the seasonal spirit we are running a        Editorial Team:
    Christmas card competition, available to children
                                                                  Another year has come and gone
    and adults. Cards can be made in any way and on
                                                                     Another milestone's past
    any material. A prize will be given to the best
                                                                  And may each year as it goes by
    entry in the following categories:
                                                                       Be better than the last
    Under ten

    Ten- sixteen

    Adult                                                Neighbourhood Wardens
    The deadline for entries is Friday 19th December.    In South Abingdon
    Send your entries in to Christmas Card
    Competition, The Old Maltings, Vineyard,             Since its launch in June 2001, the Vale of White
    Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3UG or drop them in at          Horse District Council’s Neighbourhood Warden
    one of our reception areas.                          scheme in South Abingdon (the area south of Ock
                                                         Street) has been a huge success with some types of
                                                         crime being reduced by over 50%.

    Parking problems                                     Our Housing Manager David Rundle visited the
                                                         South Abingdon neighbourhood wardens, David
    Several tenants have complained that caravans have
                                                         Coates and Richard Baker, to find out more about
    been parked in spaces meant only for cars. We
                                                         what they do. The wardens provide information to
    have also recieved complaints about people parking
                                                         residents wanting to know about council-related
    their cars on grassed areas. We are aware that in
                                                         matters whilst keeping in contact with the Vale
    some places parking is limited but please be
                                                         CCTV control room at the police station. The
    considerate towards other people when parking.
                                                         Neighbourhood Wardens cycle round the area in a
                                                         distinctive uniform as this allows them to be easily

    Congratulations!                                     The Neighbourhood Wardens can be contacted
                                                         by calling their office on 01235 554783; by
    Congratulations to                                   mobile phone on 07909 535558 (David Coates)
    Frank Isahak, who                                    or 07884 235622 (Richard Baker) or by stopping
    has been awarded                                     David or Richard in the street.
    “Black Writer of the
    Year” award from the
    Association. Frank
    has recently become
    one of our tenant
    board members, and
    will help to run our
    tenant forum for the
                                                         Housing Manager David Rundle finds out more
    Abingdon area.       Frank with his award            about being a neighbourhood warden

6                  (    REPAIRS HOTLINE: Abingdon Area – (0845) 450 8241
Stay Warm, Stay Healthy –
Tips For Keeping Warm This Winter
Winter can be a dangerous time as the cold weather       • Eating properly plays a big part in keeping warm
can make you more vulnerable to chest infections and       and well. During cold weather, hot meals every day
other conditions. As a result of the icy and wet           and regular hot drinks will give you extra warmth
surfaces you are more at risk of falling and if your       and energy.
body is cold, your muscles react more slowly which       • Make sure you have had your flu jab if you are over
may make it harder for you stop a fall if you slip.        65 or suffer from chronic heart, chest or kidney
Following the steps below should help you to reduce        complaints or diabetes. Contact your GP for more
the risk of this happening to you:                         information.
• It is essential to keep warm at home. The general • Make sure you know how the controls work on
  principle is that you should keep the temperature in     your heating system. If you are having problems
  your living room at around 21ºC (70ºF) and all other     using your heating please contact Vale Heating Care
  rooms in use at 18ºC (64ºF).                             on 0845 450 8243.
• Around the home, dress for warmth and comfort –        • For more information about keeping warm this
  several thinner layers of clothing are better than one   winter, call the Winter Warmth Advice Line on
  or two thick layers. Long-sleeved and thermal            Freephone 0800 085 7000 Textphone: 0800 085 7857
  underwear helps keep you warmer. A thin silky scarf      Monday to Friday 8am-8pm
  or neckerchief worn inside the collar will help keep
  your neck and shoulders warm.                          We have recently completed our Affordable Warmth
• Outdoors, take care to dress for the weather and       Strategy which explains what we intend to do to help
  wrap up warmly. Up to half of body heat is lost        our tenants afford to heat their homes to a comfortable
  through the head, so a hat or headscarf is essential.  level. Copies will be available shortly from Sian
                                                         Llewellyn who can be contacted on 01235 536001.

Planning for a Power Cut                                  Burst Pipes
The National Grid has warned of the chance of            Burst pipes can cause havoc once
power cuts this winter. Here is some advice to           the cold water sets in. To stop this
help you prepare for and deal with one.                  from happening to you check your
                                                         stopcocks (both internal and external)
1. Make sure that you have some candles and              before winter starts. If they are difficult to turn off
   something to light them with to hand                  and on, don’t force them. Please ring our Customer
2. Keep a torch in an easy to find place so that         Services at Hanney and request a plumber to come
   you can find things that you need.                    and check them out. Doing this check could prevent
3. Make sure that you have plenty of warm                a major flood in the event of a freeze up.
   clothes and blankets available – most of our
   heating systems, even those that use gas, rely        For Sale or Exchange
   on electricity in some way.                           Do you have something you would like to sell or
4. In case there is long power cut, make sure that       exchange for something else? We can offer free
   you have some food in stock that can be eaten         advertising in this newsletter to any of our tenants
   cold or, if you have it, cooked using gas.            who have clothes, furniture, childrens toys or other
5. If there is a power cut and your heating is out       second-hand items they no longer need. The next
   keep all your curtains closed and use a gas fire      newsletter will go out in March – to place your
   if you have one. Try to stay in one room with         advert please contact Emily Griffith using the
   the doors closed so that the heat doesn’t escape.     contact information on the back page.

                  Wantage & Faringdon Area – (0845) 450 8242                                                       7
    Competition Corner
    In keeping with the festive season we have
    produced a Christmas-themed “spot-the-difference”
    competition for this edition. Can you spot the five                  Spot the difference
    differences between these two Christmas scenes?

    All correct entries will be placed in a prize draw
    with a £20 gift voucher for the lucky winner.

    Return your completed puzzles to:
    Emily Griffith at the address at the
    bottom of the page.

                 Enclosed with this newsletter is a copy of your tenants
                charter, which explains what your rights are as a tenant.

    Useful Contacts
    Vale Housing Association                               Cash Office Opening Times
    Area Offices:                                          Faringdon, Corn Exchange 9am–12.30pm, Mon–Fri
    Old Maltings, Abingdon (01235) 536001                  Wantage, Church Street   9am–2pm, Mon–Fri
    Church Street, Wantage (01235) 760007                  Abingdon, Old Maltings   9am–4pm, Mon–Fri

    Repairs:                                               Police
    Abingdon Area                          0845 450 8241   Abingdon                      (01235) 555959
    Wantage & Faringdon Area               0845 450 8242   Didcot                        (01235) 512929
    Vale Heating Care                      0845 450 8243   Wantage and Faringdon         (01235) 776000
    Emergency Number
    (out-of-hours)                         0845 450 8244   District Councils
                                                           Vale of White Horse                  (01235 520202)
    Web Site        South Oxfordshire                    (01491 823000)
                                                           West Oxfordshire                     (01993 702941)
    Email addresses
    Area Offices               Your Tenant Editorial Team:
                       Write care of Emily Griffith,
    Repairs                Communications & Research Manager,
    Rents                  The Vale Housing Association, The Old Maltings,
                                                           Vineyard, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 3UG
    Tenant Representatives                                 Tel: 01235 536001
    Frank Isahak     Abingdon Town (01235) 522200          Email:
    Barbara Russell, Rural Areas (01865) 820030
    Ray Morse,       Wantage/Faringdon Area                  This newsletter is available in other languages
                     (01235) 764082                          Italian –   Questa bollettino e anche
    Violet Goodall, Wantage/Faringdon area                               disponibile in Italiano
                     (01793) 783487                          Chinese –
                                                             Urdu –

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