mhs news Winter 2012 - MHS Homes

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					mhs news

Winter 2012 - Issue 66

Page 1 – Front Cover

Page 2 – Contents

Page 3


Welcome to the winter edition of mhs news
     What a year 2012 has been for Great Britain, celebrating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, hosting the
Olympics and Paralympics and the great number of medals Team GB achieved – I hope you enjoyed all
the successes as much as I did.
     The challenge for us in the year ahead is the welfare reform which comes in to effect from April
2013. These are the biggest changes to the welfare state since it was set up. The changes will involve the
creation of universal credit, direct payment to tenants, introduction of benefit caps and restrictions on the
benefit entitlement of those deemed to be under occupying. I know that many of you will feel
apprehensive about what the changes will mean for you and there is an article starting on page six which
gives you more detailed information. I would encourage you to contact us if you have any queries or
concerns – we are here to help you.
     I would like to welcome Gary Clark who joined mhs homes on Monday 1st October as our new
Operations Director. Gary joins us from Rosebery Housing Association where he has held the position of
Operations Director since March 2010.
     This year our staff and residents have been getting involved in some great fundraising events to raise
money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Staff have taken part in a cycle ride across Kent, an open water swim
and also supported the Mayor of Medway in his abseil down Melville Court! Dave Humphrey, a resident
at Sovereign Court, who volunteered at the 2012 Olympics, also auctioned off much of his memorabilia
from the event to raise money. So far we have managed to raise £13,000 for the charity which is a
fantastic achievement.
     It was great to speak to many of you during my last “Ask the Chief Executive” phone-in. It is very
useful to hear what you think of the services we provide. Another phone-in session is planned for
Thursday 13 December so do phone me on 01634 354070.
     Lastly, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
     Best Wishes,

Board Bulletin
   The mhs homes Board meets every 3 months. In September the Board met and discussed:

Welfare benefits reform
     All board and trustee members were invited to attend a two day conference held in September. There
was much discussion and planning for the future, with a great deal of focus on the impact the welfare
benefits reform will have.
     An action plan has been created which focuses on giving customers greater access to our services via
the internet and mobile services and working with partner organisations to help tackle worklessness.

Neighbourhood strategy
     An update on the progress of the neighbourhood strategy was given, which included the importance
of keeping our customers’ information up to date. This information is being used to make sure that you
are receiving the right details of how the welfare benefit reforms could impact on you and allows mhs
homes to plan for future changes.
Resident involvement strategy
     The resident involvement strategy was approved and the board was pleased to hear resident
participation is growing, but we would still like to encourage more of our younger residents to get
involved. The resident involvement strategy can be found on the mhs homes website --

Page 4



Welcome to the winter edition of mhs news

Pat Austin
01634 666656
07722 040763

Janet Macgregor-
07921 058121

     In September we went with the other members of the Board to our annual away day. The day was
very interesting and gave us an insight into the many changes that will be happening next year to welfare
benefits. Remember if you have any questions on how these changes could affect you, our Welfare
Benefits Advisors are here to help and we would advise you to go to a benefits drop-in session at mhs
express on Wednesdays 8.30am to 4.30pm.
     We know many of you will also be concerned about under-occupation also known as the bedroom
tax. If you are unsure about how this will affect you, please read the article on the welfare benefit changes
which starts on page six or alternatively contact your Neighbourhood Officer for more information.
     On a more positive note, we hope that you enjoyed the Residents’ Day and that it gave you lots of
ideas on how to get involved. We hope that those of you who won a Galaxy Nexus 7 tablet have had fun
with it.
     The competition prize for this edition is panto tickets – Oh yes it is! Have fun entering and even more
at the show if you are a lucky winner.
     Best wishes for the festive season.
                                                                                             Pat and Janet


The Chair’sColumn
     Hello everyone and welcome back to the Customer Scrutiny Panel area of mhs news. We have all
been busy planning the year ahead and now enter the winter period with a full and challenging agenda.
We have been successful in recruiting three new members to the panel and I’d like to welcome David
Fahey, Tyla Cassidy and Simon Wyatt who I am confident will bring their own skills and knowledge to
the panel. Our work plan for the next year is now well defined and I’ll be looking to publish this in future
editions of mhs news so you all know what we’re up to.

                   mhs homes is looking for members to join the Customer Scrutiny Panel.
        This is your opportunity to help shape the future of mhs homes. The panel meets monthly and
   training is available to help you develop your skills. For more information visit the “Get Involved”
                                          section of our website.

Page 5


How are we doing on repairs?

    2012 - 2013 repairs guarantee                   Target         Year to Date: April – Sept
    A Emergency jobs completed in time              99%            96.7%
    B Urgent jobs completed in time                 97.5%          99.4%
    C Routine jobs completed in time                97.5%          98.5%
    D Customer satisfaction                         97%            98.4%
    E % surveys of completed jobs                   15%            12.9%

    A. Our target is to complete at least 99% of Emergency jobs within 24 hours of the repair being
reported. Although we are below our target for the year so far, the July-September figures show an
improvement on the previous 3 months.
    B. Our target is to complete at least 97.5% of Urgent jobs within 5 working days of the repair being
reported. We are exceeding this target.
    C. Our target is to complete at least 97.5% of Routine jobs within 20 working days of the repair being
reported. We are exceeding this target.
    D. After a repair is completed we will contact some of our customers to find out how satisfied they
are with the service they received. Our target is 97%. We are exceeding this target.
    E. Our target is to contact 15% of customers after they have had a repair job completed. We are
below target for the year so far. The July to September figures show an improvement on the previous 3
months and we are working to ensure we reach our target by the end of March.

Performance Figures - As at the end of October 2012
                                                                           Target         End Oct.
    Average relet time for general needs homes                             24 days        21 days
    Percentage of calls resolved on first contact                          80%            87.6%
    Percentage of homes with a valid gas safety check                      100%           100%
    Percentage of customer satisfaction with their new build home          95%            93.1%
    Percentage of fly tipping cleared within 5 working days                95%            94.3%
    Percentage of weekly caretaker visits that have been completed         99%            85.93%
    Percentage of calls answered within 15 seconds                         95%            84.3%
    Percentage of complaints answered within 10 days                       95%            72%
    Rent arrears                                                           1.6%           1.96%
    Heart of Medway rent arrears                                           1.6%           5.43%

Page 6, 7, 8 & 9


How the changes could affect you
From April 2013, changes are being made to welfare benefits. The changes mean some people will
be entitled to less benefits than they did before. Now is the time to see how it affects you.

Universal Credit – your questions answered
   What is Universal Credit?
   Universal Credit will bring together a range of benefits and credits into a single payment system for
working age adults. These are:
   • Working tax credit
   • Child tax credit
   • Housing benefit
   • Income support
   • Income based jobseeker’s allowance
   • Income related employment and support allowance.

When and how will it be introduced?
   Universal Credit starts nationally in October 2013.

    New claims                                              October 2013

    For people in work and on benefits                      April 2014

    Existing claims will be moved to Universal Credit       Between 2014 and 2017

How do I claim Universal Credit?
    You can apply online and you can manage your claim directly through your online account.
    If you make a claim you will be responsible for updating your online account with your information
and changes of circumstance as soon as possible after the change occurs.
    The online account will be managed by the Department of Works and Pensions.

What if I cannot get online or use a computer?
   If you cannot access the internet or use a computer, computers are available to use for free in all
Medway libraries.

Can I get any help now on how to use the internet?
    ‘Digital Champions’ are already in every Job Centre. They will be able to offer support and
encourage you to get online to see the benefits of being able to use the internet.

How is a Universal Credit payment calculated and what does it include?
    Universal Credit is made up of a standard allowance and potentially five elements, as any award is
based on your personal circumstances.

    The five elements are:
    • Child element/disabled child additions
    • Childcare element
    • Carer element
    • Limited capability for work element
    • Housing element.

   The monthly Universal Credit payment covers everyone in a family who qualifies for support. This
may be:
   • a person claiming for themselves alone
   • a person claiming for themselves and their child or children
   • couple making a joint claim for themselves
    • a couple making a joint claim for themselves and their child or children.

    Children over 18 living with their parents or siblings can claim Universal Credit in their own right.

Can I ask for my housing element to be paid direct to my landlord for my rent?
    It is unlikely that the housing element will be paid directly to mhs homes unless there are
vulnerability issues or large rent arrears. Universal Credit will be paid monthly into your bank account
and you will need to budget on a monthly basis. Monthly direct debits for household bills are often
cheaper than more frequent billing options.
    mhs homes is looking into different bank accounts for customers and we are working with Kent
Savers Credit Union to help people budget effectively when Universal Credit starts in October 2013.

Help and advice
    For more information, contact our Customer Service Advisors on 01634 565333. We have three
Welfare Benefit Advisors who can help with all types of benefit queries – you can go to a drop in session
held every Wednesday at mhs express from 8.30am to 4.30pm or you can email them at

Further information
    Contact Medway Council customer services on 01634 332222 or visit the websites: and

Proposed changes to council tax benefit assessment
     From April 2013, if you are of working age and claim council tax benefit, the amount of support you
receive will be changing.
     The government is reducing the amount of money available to fund council tax benefit and asking
local councils to run their own schemes. So, even if you have not paid council tax previously, you will
have to start paying from April 1 2013.
     Medway Council is in the process of consulting with residents and is proposing all residents pay
either 20 per cent or 25 per cent towards their council tax.

Am I affected and will I be protected?
    Anyone of working age and currently claiming council tax benefit will be affected. The government
says that people over pension credit age claiming state pension will be protected and not affected.

When will the final decision be made?
    The council is required to make a decision on the new scheme by January 31 2013. The proposed
scheme is scheduled to be decided by full council (all the council members) on January 24 2013.
    For more information contact the Council Tax Collection Team by telephone: 01634 332222 or by

Will you be affected by under-occupation?
    From April 2013, if you have one or more “spare” bedrooms, your housing benefit may be
reduced. You could be affected by under-occupation also known as the “bedroom tax” if you are
aged 16 to 61, if you are sick or disabled or if you only get a small amount of housing benefit.

Here are some examples of how it could affect you:
   Q) My husband and I have been tenants for 30 years and our family has grown up and moved out.
      How many bedrooms can we have without it affecting our benefit?
   A) If you are both under 61 years of age then you are allowed one bedroom. However,
      if one of you or both of you are over 61 years of age, then the changes do not affect you as you are
      not considered to be of working age.

    Q) I can’t afford the extra rent. What can I do?
    A) You can apply to Medway Council for help via the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme
       (DHP). However this scheme is aimed specifically at two groups:
    • Disabled people living in accommodation
    that has been substantially adapted for their needs, including new build homes
    • Foster carers including those between foster placements

       If you do not fall into either of these categories, you are unlikely to receive extra rent so you may
want to consider moving to a smaller property. See pages 11 and 12 for information on moving to a
smaller property and mutual exchanges. You can also visit our website under the section ‘Want to Move

    Q) My partner and I do not share the same bedroom because we both suffer ill health which affects
       our sleep. Will this be taken into account or will we only be allowed benefit for one room?
    A) Generally there will be no exceptions to the number of bedrooms that you are allowed. If for some
       reason you need an extra bedroom the council may be able to help you with the extra rent through
       the Discretionary Housing Payment fund.

    Q) I am 70 years old and I have lived in this house nearly all my life. Will I have to move to a smaller
    A) No, because you are over pension age (61 years old at April 2013), the new rules do not affect you
       at present, so you can remain in your property.

    Q) My son is away at university. What will happen to his room, can I still keep it for him when he
       comes home?
    A) If your son is only away in term times and returns home for the holidays, then he will be
       considered to be temporarily away from home. He would also need to have the intention of
       returning home after his course ends. This means that a bedroom will still be allowed for him.

    Q) I have a carer who stays overnight a couple of nights each week. Will I be able to keep a bedroom
       spare for them?
    A) Yes, under the new rules you are allowed a bedroom for a carer (or team of carers) who do not
       live with you but provide you or your partner with regular overnight care. This is assessed when
       you apply for disability living allowance.

    Q) My 17 year old daughter lives with me and she has a one year old baby. How many rooms am I
       allowed for them?
    A) Three, you are allowed a bedroom for yourself, a bedroom for your daughter and a bedroom for
       her one year old baby.

    Q) I am under 61 years of age, I work, but also claim some housing benefit. My husband is over 61.
       Does this mean that my benefit will be cut?
    A) If your husband already receives pension credit - guarantee credit, it will not affect you, otherwise
       you will both be treated as though you are of working age.

    Q) I have been told I have more bedrooms than I need. How can I move to a smaller house?
    A) There are several ways you can move to a smaller property from transferring to another mhs
       homes property to using the HomeSwapper scheme. For more information contact your
       Neighbourhood Officer or visit the “Want to Move Home” section of our website or look at the
       articles on pages 10 & 11.

    Q) I have thought about taking in a lodger. Does mhs homes allow this and will my housing benefit
       be affected?
    A) To take in a lodger you must first put a request in writing to your Neighbourhood Officer. You
       must have permission before taking in a lodger; otherwise you are putting your tenancy at risk.
       Currently your housing benefit will be affected if you take in a lodger but under Universal Credit
       it will no longer be affected.

    Q) I have two boys aged 10 years and
       11 years who have to share the same room now. One of them has a medical condition which
       causes disruptive sleep patterns. It also means that he needs 24 hour care. Will the two children
       have to share a bedroom?
    A) Assessments will be made based on individual circumstances.

    Q) How much will my housing benefit be cut if I have too many bedrooms?
    A) 14% if you are considered to have one extra bedroom. 25% if you are considered to have two or
       more extra bedrooms.

    For example:
    A couple living in a three bedroom house with one child. At the moment housing benefit covers the
       full cost of their rent at £105 week.

       Under the new rules they would have one extra bedroom. Their housing benefit will be reduced by
       14% of the rent (14% of £105 = £14.70). Therefore their housing benefit will be reduced by
       £14.70 per week to £90.30 per week. They will have to pay £14.70 towards their rent.

    For more information, please contact the Customer Service Advisors on 01634 565333.

                             Welfare Benefit Advisors are out and about....
                    Our Welfare Benefit Advisors are providing monthly surgeries out in
                     the community to help with any benefit questions you may have.

       The Welfare Benefit Advisors can carry out benefit checks relating to attendance allowance and
              housing benefit and answer your queries about the up and coming welfare
                                             benefit reforms.

       If you have a question about welfare benefits why not come along to one of our future surgeries:

                 Sovereign Court, Bligh Way, Strood on Thursday 24th January 2013
               Russell House, Russell Court, Chatham on Thursday 7th February 2013
             Shawstead House, Hopewell Drive, Chatham on Thursday 21st February 2013

     You can see the Welfare Benefit Advisors at mhs express on Wednesdays 8.30am to 4.30pm or you
can visit the “Paying your rent” section of the mhs homes website for more information

Page 10


Thinking of moving to a smaller home?
     With the upcoming welfare benefits reform you may want to consider transferring to a smaller
property to avoid under-occupying your home.
     If you are thinking of transferring and would like to move to a smaller home, then the bedroom
release scheme may be just what you are looking for and could help you cover the costs.
     To qualify you must be living in a house and be able to move to a smaller property. If you move to a
sheltered scheme for over 55s you can receive an extra £500.
    The table below shows what payments you could receive:

Current        Compensation          To 1 bed       To 2 bed       To 3 bed       To 4 bed       To 5 bed
Property       per bedroom           or bedsit

2 bed house    £500                  £500 +       -                -              -              -
                                     moving grant

3 bed house    £500                  £1000 +      £500 +       -                  -              -
                                     moving grant moving grant

4 bed house    £500                  £1500 +      £1000 +      £500 +       -                    -
                                     moving grant moving grant moving grant

5 bed house    £500                  £2000 +      £1500 +      £1000 +      -                    -
                                     moving grant moving grant moving grant

6 bed house    £500                  £2500 +      £2000 +      £1500 +      -                    -
                                     moving grant moving grant moving grant

    So if you were to move from a three bed house to a one bed flat you would receive:

    £1000 for the release of two bedrooms + £600 moving grant, Total: £1,600.

    If you are aged over 55 and move into a sheltered scheme you will get an additional £500, so in total
you would receive £2,100.
    The property you are leaving must pass a transfer inspection which will be carried out by your
Neighbourhood Officer. For more information the Moving Home Standard sets out the condition your
home must be left in and a table of charges that could be applied should you fail to do this.
    If you would like more information about this scheme please call the Housing Options team on
01634 354013.

Page 11


Mutual exchange could be your quickest way to move
     If your home is bigger than you need and you would like to move before the welfare benefit changes
take place, why not register for a mutual exchange?
     A mutual exchange is a swap between two (or more) customers of mhs homes or another social
     So far this year 34 people have swapped homes with either another mhs homes customer or a
customer of another housing association with some moving as far as Devon and the Midlands.
     If you are looking to move home in Medway or Kent or even further afield why not register your
     mhs homes currently operates two mutual exchange lists via or both are free for customers to use, we recommend you register with both
     Once you have found a customer to exchange with, call our Customer Service Advisors and request
an application form. Please complete and return your form to us and your Neighbourhood Officer will
talk you through the process.
    You will find out if your mutual exchange has been approved within 42 days. It is important you do
not move before or without our permission, if you do you will not have a tenancy at your new address.
    If you have any questions call into mhs express or call our Customer Service Advisors on 01634

Changes to our housing team
     There have recently been some changes between the Income, Neighbourhood and Anti Social
Behaviour teams. Matt Reynolds is now the Neighbourhood Officer for Wayfield, Weedswood and
Shipwrights Avenue, with Chris Peiris the Income Officer for the same area. Sandra Paine has moved to
the Income Team for Strood and Rochester, and Sabina Oleksy is the Neighbourhood Officer for
Rochester (excluding Borstal).
     Trudy McCallum is now the Income Officer for the White Road area and Hardstown. Cheryl Bell is
the Neighbourhood Officer for Luton, Bryant Street and White Road.
     If you have any queries, you can email

Page 12


Have you signed up for your mymhshomes online account? –

3 Steps to managing your account online

As part of the welfare benefits reform you will be required to claim Universal Credit online
    You can also sign up for a mymhshomes online account where you will have easy access to your
tenancy. You can view your rent statement, report a routine or urgent repair and update your contact
    If you have not already set up your account just follow these three easy steps.

Step 1
    Go to our website and select “Do it online” from the “For customers” area.

Step 2
    Click on register to set up your account. You will need your tenancy reference number which will be
on your rent statement.

Step 3
     You are now registered. Take a look at the features you can now access on our upgraded system.
When you have finished viewing your account just choose logout from the menu. Now your account is set
up just choose Login.

Page 13


mhs homes and the prevention of fraud
    At the beginning of 2013 mhs homes intends to take part in an initiative to help in the prevention and
detection of fraud. Called the National Fraud Initiative and introduced in 1996, it has received
international recognition for identifying £939 million in fraud or errors. Identification of fraud in this way
benefits all customers knowing we are all being treated in a fair and transparent way.
     So what will happen? The computerised customer records held by mhs homes will be matched to
other data held by public bodies. Where an inconsistency is identified further investigations will be
carried out.
     The matching exercise is carried out by the Audit Commission with statutory authority under its
powers and does not require the consent of individuals concerned under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Further details can be found at Alternatively, contact
Andrew Pert, Business Assurance Manager on 01634 354081 who will be
pleased to discuss any queries you may have.

Loan sharks
     With the changes to welfare benefits, you may be tempted to borrow money from loan sharks who
operate illegally. They are not registered to lend money and so they operate outside the law. The interest
rates they charge are usually very high and they are often known to use scare tactics if you get behind
with your payments.
     Our advice to you is: stay away from LOAN SHARKS.

How to spot a loan shark
   Loan sharks will often:
   • Start out being friendly – they are often introduced as a friend. The friendly behaviour changes
      when repayments are missed
   • Offer little or no paperwork. They act in a very relaxed manner and make it seem that it is easy to
      borrow money.
   • Encourage you to increase the amount you borrow or add additional amounts. Sometimes they use
      other members of your family to borrow additional amounts
   • They will refuse to give you important information, such as the interest rate or how much you still
   • They take items as security – for example, passports, bank cards or driving licenses

Do you need a loan?
    If you need a loan always go to a licensed money lender such as a bank or credit union. If you are on
a low income and you need to borrow a small amount for a short time, look into borrowing from a credit
union. Credit unions encourage you to save what you can and only borrow what you can afford to pay
back. You will pay from one to two per cent in interest a month.

    For more information contact:
    Kent Savers Credit Union
    Maidstone Community Support Centre
    39-48 Marsham Street,
    Kent ME14 1HH
    Tel No: 03333 21 9050
    Visit them on Facebook and Twitter
    Medway Credit Union
    The Trafalgar Centre (INSHOPS)
    270 High Street,
    Chatham ME4 4BP
    Tel No: 01634 403335
Page 14 & 15


All About You - A Day for Residents
     Television personality Fred Dinenage gave mhs homes customers some great money saving advice as
the guest speaker at our 2012 Residents’ Day.
     The ITV Meridian presenter told how to haggle for goods and services, change mobile phone
contracts and switch to better energy deals.
     Fred, whose catchphrase is ‘How!’ also entertained with anecdotes about his broadcasting career and
encouraged the audience to share their tips for making the pounds go further.
     It was part of an action-packed day at MidKent College, where mhs homes staff were on hand to give
help with services offered by mhs homes together with representatives from the Citizens Advice Bureau,
Kent Fire and Rescue Service and Swale Heating. A team of our Estate Champions were also on hand to
speak to customers about getting involved.
     Medway Council’s housing benefit expert Tina Barnard and independent welfare advisor Jo Brown
spoke about the expected impact of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 – the biggest change in the benefit
system for 60 years. The main message was don’t wait – find out how it’s going to affect you now.
     The afternoon session included a talk entitled ‘Grow your own veg’ by BBC Radio Kent Sunday
Gardening co-host Jean Griffin; an energetic ’ Zumba’ dance class and lessons in playing the steel drums.
     Customers also got the chance to tell us about their priorities for repairs and how they would invest
money in mhs homes’ properties with a game called ‘Asset Monopoly’.
     Customer Barbara Dickson said: “It was a really good day. There was lots of information about
energy saving and how to switch suppliers. “I came away knowing a lot more about issues which directly
affect me.”
     Also at the event was Lesley Bassett, from Rochester. She said: “I thought the speakers were very
good. I did the Zumba class, which was good fun. I also picked up leaflets on a range of subjects”
     Photographs taken at the Residents’ Day can be viewed on the mhs homes website and on Facebook.
     A total of 27 customers signed up to get involved with mhs homes in the future and an additional 16
people have volunteered to join our growing team of Estate Champions. We look forward to seeing you
all at the next meeting.
     Thank-you to the customers who placed their comments on the comment board and also to those who
completed a feedback form. The views about the day and service we provide were very valuable.
     We will use this feedback when planning future events.

Calling all mhs homes homeowners and leaseholders
    In the past six months, a number of new customers have joined us under our shared ownership
scheme and we wish to extend a warm welcome to you all.
    The Home Ownership Forum met recently to discuss improvements to your service charge statement.
It was agreed that the design will be changed to make the statement easier to understand and provide
more information on your sinking fund balance. We welcome any feedback you might have on how we
could further improve these statements.
    The forum also considered the external repairs and painting programme that recently underwent
customer consultation. This programme is now well under way on the Hoo Peninsula and your
representatives on the forum provided valuable feedback to our asset management team who are
managing these works.
    If you have a long term residential lease in ME4 or ME5, a commercial lease or are a shared owner
you can still get involved in the Home Ownership Forum. The forum is there to give you a voice on the
services we provide and how we can improve.
    If you would like to take part please contact our Customer Service Advisors on 01634 565333 or
Page 16


Resident Involvement and Empowerment Statement
    Every six months we produce a statement to explain what we have been doing to involve customers
       and what impact your involvement has had on our services.
    Since spring, mhs has provided a number of opportunities for customers to get involved:
    • Customers were consulted about resident involvement and their feedback was used when
       developing the Resident Involvement Strategy 2012-2015. See page 17 for more information.
    • Customers were trained to take part in mystery shopping to test our services and provided valuable
    • A clean up day was held at White Road as part of the Get Britain Tidy campaign.
    • A Home Ownership Forum was set up for homeowners and leaseholders to give their views and
       opinions to mhs homes.

    To read the full empowerment statement and resident involvement strategy and to find out more
about the opportunities for you to get involved, please visit the “Get Involved” page on our website

Equality and diversity
     mhs homes is working towards an accreditation set by the Government on equality and diversity
called the Social Housing Equality Framework (SHEF). In October, we invited a diverse group of
customers to Broadside to discuss their experiences with mhs homes and to give their feedback on the
way we have delivered services to meet their needs as customers. Thank to you all the customers who
gave their feedback.
     This accreditation will help us work towards our equality objectives for 2012-15 which are to
promote access to our services, promote diversity across the organisation, strengthen diversity with our
customers and staff and achieve equality excellence through the Social Housing Equality Framework.

Want to get involved and have your say online?
   Want to give your feedback at your convenience by email or by visiting our website? Send us an
email at and sign up today to get involved online.

Do you enjoy reading mhs news? Would you like to be involved in how your magazine looks and
what is in it?
    Yes, then why not join the residents’ editorial panel.
    The group meets every three months to discuss what they would like to see in the next edition of mhs
news. We welcome new members from all ages and backgrounds.
    If you would like to join the editorial panel, please contact Grace Bryant: 01634 354117 or email

Page 17


Could you be our next mystery shopper?
    Between May and July, our mystery shoppers were hard at work testing services. In total 15 mystery
shops took place:
    • Five visits to our offices
    • Eight phone calls
    • Two emails

     Feedback showed the majority of customers were satisfied with the customer service they received
from staff with twelve scoring 5/5 or 4/5. However there are some areas the mystery shops highlighted
that we want to improve:
     • Staff will log all contact with customers on their accounts
     • Reviewing the staff levels at mhs express
     • Staff will have additional training for handling telephone calls
     • Staff will be trained to improve the quality of emails sent to customers.
     Thank you to the mystery shoppers who took part – your feedback has helped us to make positive
changes to our service.
     If you are interested in becoming a mystery shopper, please call Grace Bryant, Community
Engagement Coordinator on
     01634 354117 or email

Resident involvement focus group
     In August, we held focus groups with residents of mhs homes and residents of the Endeavour Foyer
to get their views on resident involvement at mhs homes.
     They provided feedback on the current activities available, the promotion of the activities and the
resident involvement brochure.
     We have used this feedback to develop our new Resident Involvement and Empowerment Strategy
2012-15- which is available on the mhs homes website.
     We would like to say a big thank you to the customers who gave us such valuable feedback.

You said, we did

You said…
…you were often unsure how to contact the Anti-social Behaviour Team.

We did…
…we have introduced new contact cards which are provided whenever a case is recorded so that you have
the name of the officer dealing with your case, your case reference number and the contact number for the
Anti-social Behaviour Team which is 01634 354273.

You said…
…you wanted us to provide a service so that you could log Anti-social behaviour 24 hours a day, seven
days a week.

We did…
…we have recently introduced a page on our website for you to log incidents of anti-social behaviour
24/7. If you need to report an incident of anti-social behaviour, please visit the “Your Neighbourhood”
section of our website or call
01634 354273.

Page 18


Fabulous Fun Day
    Members of Melville and Brompton Community Association organised a fun day to coincide with
the Mayor of Medway’s charity abseil. The fun day for the community included music, face painting, a
bouncy castle, five a side football and lots of stalls. Organisers were pleased with the number of people
who turned out to watch the abseilers of all ages descend the 200ft building.
    Councillor Vaughan Hewett was joined by former Gillingham player Nicky Southall, mhs homes
Chief Executive Ashley Hook, ward councillors Craig Mackinlay and Andrew Mackness and 43 other
keen fundraisers who between them raised £4000 for the Mayor’s Charity. Cllr Hewett said, “It was a
lovely sunny day and the views over the River Medway were magnificent. It was an inspirational
opportunity to take people into the zone of adventure, right here on our doorstep.”
    mhs express staff were on hand to chat to customers about the services provided by mhs homes and
deal with any tenancy related enquiries. The charity Groundwork Kent and Medway had a stall to consult
with people about their local tree planting scheme.
    A competition using a speed cage which measures the speed a ball travels when kicked, saw gold
medals being presented to Callum Wiltshire, Levi Marks, Morgan Wiltshire, Megan Sathasivam and
Leslie Pocock.
    Coordinator Terri Capp said, “It was a great day. There was a real party atmosphere. I was especially
proud of my 13 year old grandson Joshua who did the abseil and described it on Facebook as an amazing
experience.” More information and photographs taken on the day can be found on the mhs homes website
and Facebook page.

Tis the season to be jolly… Sheltered Scheme Christmas Fair

Come and join us at our Christmas fairs – open to all mhs homes customers.
     There will be cakes, craft items and works of art that may be the ideal gift for friends and family. Join
us for a mince pie and a glass of non-alcoholic mulled wine and exercise your vocal chords in the
Christmas carol sing a long.
Rookery Lodge, Thatchers Lane, Cliffe:                Friday 7 Dec 2012               10.30am to 3pm
Yeoman House, Princes Street, Rochester:              Tuesday 11 Dec 2012             10.30am to 3pm
Sindal Shaw House, King George Road, Chatham: Thursday 13 Dec 2012                    10.30am to 3pm

    For more information please contact the Sheltered Housing Department on 01634 354041.

Page 19


Celebrating older people – The Big Skills Share
     mhs homes supported National Older Person’s Day on 1st October by taking older residents back to
school for a school dinner. The idea was to link older people with the younger generation so that they
could pass on some of their skills in the ‘Big Skills Share’. UK Older People’s Day is about sharing the
skills and experience between different generations and celebrating the contribution older people make in
our communities.
     Sue Rudd, Supported Housing Manager said, “We wanted to get involved with UK Older People’s
Day this year to help people think differently about older people and challenge stereotypes.”
     During National Older Persons month in September, mhs homes arranged for two residents Dave
Humphrey and Paul Nihill MBE an Olympian Silver medallist to go along to speak to 264 children at
Luton Junior School. Dave gave the children an insight into his role as a Marshall at the 2012 Olympics
and Paul Nihill MBE, talked about what it was like to win a silver medal in the 50km walk race at the
1964 Tokyo Games. The two men were among the 24 residents who joined the children for school dinner.
Both plan to return to the school to help with the book club and sports day events.
Community Chest
     mhs Community Charity can provide grants of up to £3000 for public bodies, charitable or voluntary
organisations working on projects that benefit mhs homes customers. So far this year the Community
Chest has provided grants to the following organisations to support their work and activities;
     Skinner Street Community Centre, Home-Start Medway, The Pilgrim School and the 2nd Rainham
     The 2nd Rainham Guide group enjoyed a week under canvas at Belchamps Scout Centre in Hockley,
Essex, where they tried out a range of outdoor activities including a challenging assault course. After
action-packed days the Guides, aged 10 to 15, prepared their own meals on the gas cookers which they
bought with the £260 donation from mhs homes’ Community Chest. Leader in Charge Daphne Stearn
said: “The stoves meant the Guides could learn to cook in a confined space safely. The whole idea of
going away to camp is to encourage the Guides to think for themselves, to learn new skills and about
     If you would like to apply for a grant on behalf of a charity or voluntary organisation you run, then
contact our Customer Service Advisors on 01634 565333 or send an email requesting an application form

Page 20


Garden competition
     Hayley Goodson was crowned overall winner in the mhs homes Garden Competition 2012 after
entering her first garden contest. She also scooped second place in the best newcomer category and first
place in the best vegetable patch section. Hayley said: “I have always liked the idea of growing your own
food, but have never had the time before. I can’t believe I have won overall. I have never entered a garden
competition before and there are people with a lot more experience of gardening than me!”
     Sadly, the winner of the best newcomer category, Yvonne McLeish, 82, from Wayfield, died in the
period between the judging and announcement of the winning gardens. Mrs McLeish’s colourful front
garden was nominated by her neighbour, Pearl Boorman, who herself came second in two categories.
     Guest judge Andy Garland said he had been impressed with the standard of entries and it had been
difficult to choose the winners. He said: “It really wasn’t an easy task, this was a tough competition. The
weather has not been good at all for gardeners this year. But the entries we have seen have been a
testament to the determination of these gardeners to overcome those problems to create stunning
     mhs homes’ Chief Executive Ashley Hook, who also took part in the judging, praised the gardeners
for their role in making neighbourhoods colourful. He said: “The balconies, communal gardens, hanging
baskets and private gardens have all been spectacular. The joy of gardening is that it not only brings
pleasure to the gardener, but brightens the whole neighbourhood. Well done to all our entrants.”

Overall Winner:
   Hayley Goodson, Chattenden

Best Junior Sunflower:
    1st Place –     James and Fraser Collard, Chatham
    2nd Place –     Kouity Mahe, Chatham

Best Newcomer:
    1st Place –       Yvonne McLeish, Wayfield
    2nd Place –       Hayley Goodson, Chattenden
Best Communal Garden:
    Susan Kyte – Allhallows
    Susan’s garden was nominated by her neighbour, Vera Eves, who won a basket of fruit for putting
      her forward.

Best Sheltered Scheme:
    1st Place –     David Read, John Coopper House, Lower Stoke
    2nd Place –     June Maunder,Sovereign Court, Strood
    3rd Place –     Roy Paton,20 Rookery Lodge, Cliffe

Best Balcony:
    1st Place –        David & Elsie French, Rochester
    2nd Place –        Sara Pattenden, Rochester
    3rd Place –        Joan Page-Mills, Rochester

Best Vegetable Patch:
    1st Place –     Hayley Goodson, Chattenden
    2nd Place –     Roy Paton, Cliffe
    3rd Place –     David Read, Lower Stoke

Most Unusual Container:
   1st Place –     John Turner, Chatham
   2nd Place –     Jean Cowling & Coral Turrell, Cliffe
   3rd Place –     Roy Paton, Cliffe

Most Unusual Private Garden:
   1st Place –     Ernest Phillips, Chatham
   2nd Place –     William Shuter, Strood,

Best Hanging Basket:
    1st Place –    Hayley Goodson, Chattenden
    2nd Place –    Pearl Boorman, Chatham
    3rd Place –    David Read, Lower Stoke

Best Private Garden:
    1st Place –       Hilda & Colin Russell, Chatham
    2nd Place –       Pearl Boorman, Chatham
    Joint 3rd Place – William Shuter, Strood & Mary-Anne Ripley, Wainscott

Page 21


Estate Champions – What do we do?
     Susan Puddefoot is an Estate Champion and here she explains why she got involved.
     “Hi my name is Susan Puddefoot and I am an Estate Champion for Maida Road in Chatham. I
became a tenant in 2003 and three years later I decided that I wanted to contribute to the way mhs homes
worked in my neighbourhood, so I joined the team of Estate Champions.
     I wanted to get actively involved in the area. I don’t have lots of spare time so it had to be something
that would fit in with my lifestyle, which could be very flexible. As an Estate Champion I regularly walk
the area and report anything I see which needs attention from mhs homes. This can be anything which
looks bad and can spoil the area including graffiti, dumped rubbish and overgrown verges. I also report
other things such as cracked pavements, broken signs and faulty lights.
     Being an Estate Champion gets me out and about in the fresh air. I don’t always have something to
report but when I do I feel as though I am achieving something. For me, it’s my way of helping the
     I find that a good thing about being an Estate Champion is that you can do it when you want to. I go
out now and then, when it suits me. I try to join the Neighbourhood Officer on the walkabouts because I
think it’s important that we as residents take an active role in the area where we live. Sometimes when I
notice things I will speak to the caretaker, other times I will telephone the office or use the dedicated
email address we are given for reports. The Estate Champions meet as a team every two months and
occasionally we will pair up. We all have the same interests at heart; we all want to get things done!
     I like my role. When I have pointed out a problem I like to see results and then I get a feeling of
satisfaction in that I have achieved something and have done my bit to improve my area. Why not check
and see if you can help too!”
     For more information about how to get involved, visit the Estate Champions section on the mhs
homes website

Areas covered by Estate Champions
     The areas covered by the Estate Champions are listed below: Is your area missing? If it is and you
would like to become an Estate Champion please contact Kirit Patel on 01634 354291 or email

    • Bryant Street
    • Chatham Grove
    • Chickfield Gardens
    • Churchill Avenue
    • Cliffe area
    • Copperfield House
    • Darnley Road
    • Fourwents Road Estate
    • Hardstown
    • Knights Road Estate
    • Maida Road
    • Main Road, Hoo
    • Melville Court, Brompton
    • Shipwrights Estate
    • Tobruk Way
    • Wayfield Estate
    • Pottery Road
    • Newnham Street

Page 22


Local Offers 2012/13: How are we doing?

This year’s Local Offers are really local, focusing on specific neighbourhoods.

Have you visited one of our express on the road events this year?
    So far we have held 8 events in Hoo, Cuxton and Weedswood and met with around 100 customers.
Customer Service Advisors from both our contact centre and mhs express attend the events and are able
to help with booking a repair, taking rent payments by credit or debit card and giving general housing
     You may want to learn how to access your account online using mymhshomes. Why not come in and
see the team and get help and advice for getting online.
     Our next event will be held on Thursday 13 December noon to 4.30pm at St Matthew’s Church in
Rochester. There are also opportunities for you to meet us on the following dates:

                Saturday 26th January 9.30am to 2.30pm at Delce Junior School in Rochester
            Thursday 21st February 9am to 4.30pm at Bligh Way Children’s Centre in Rochester
                Thursday 28th March 12pm to 4.30pm at Emmanuel Church Hall in Rochester

     Express on the road will also be coming to the sheltered schemes please keep a look out on your
notice boards for dates we will be coming to you.

Fort Pitt Street
    We recently consulted customers on the proposed changes to the refuse areas with most customers in
favour of the project. Parts of our plan are subject to mhs homes obtaining planning permission which we
have now applied for.
    Once this permission is provided, mhs homes will appoint a contractor to start the works. It is due to
be completed by March 2013.

    Look out for more information on the other local offers for 2012/13 in the next edition of mhs news...
signage and lighting at Bryant Street, improving access to Arnhem Drive and parking at Humber

Page 23


Building new homes in the Heart of Medway

New developments for sale through an affordable route to home ownership.
mhs homes and Heart of Medway has a range of shared ownership properties available in prime
     Heart of Medway Housing Association which is part of the mhs homes group, continues to provide
new homes in Medway. The latest development is Provis Place, Wainscott.
     The site was previously a car garage but now has a new development of affordable housing. Provis
Place has a mix of flats, houses and a bungalow. The homes have been built to meet the sustainable
standards set by the Government, which helps to reduce the cost of energy bills. The homes also have
adaptable features to allow residents to live in their properties longer if their needs change.
     All have been let through Kent HomeChoice and the new residents have now moved in.
     The name Provis comes from the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, whose home Gads
Hill is close to Wainscott. Heart of Medway Housing Association held an opening event in October.

    Regent House,
    Station Road, Strood
    From £27,500*
    2 bedroom apartments.
    Available off plan. Ready Winter 2013.

    Maritime Court, Dock Road, Chatham
    From £27,500*
    2 bedroom apartments.

    Potters Court, Hoo
    From £37,500*
    -2 & 3 bedroom house.
    Available now off plan. Ready November 2012.
    Legal fees paid for off plan reservations.

   *based on a purchase of 25% equity share. A monthly rent is payable on the unsold share. Your home
may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage or any other loan secured on it.
   **Subject to terms and conditions.
   For more information, please call Stagnell Fox on 0845 130 1422 to arrange a viewing today!

Page 24


golden goodbyes
     The gold service is a reward scheme which has a number of benefits exclusively available to
customers who keep to the terms of their tenancy agreement for example;
     • access to our Handyperson
     • access to our holiday home
     If you are a gold service member you could qualify for £100 if you move to another property not
owned by mhs homes and leave your old property in a very good condition. To be considered for the
scheme, you need to ask us when you terminate your tenancy.
     In order to qualify, you will need to:
     • Remove all rubbish and carpets from the property
     • Leave the property clean and tidy
     • Leave the property in good decorative condition
     • Make sure any non standard items such as glass doors, ceiling fans, dimmer switches that have been
fitted by you are replaced with the original items supplied by us or matching items to the same standard
and type as the original product.

You’ve got mail
     If you would prefer to have mhs news by email, please send an email to
     It is a greener and more convenient way to read! We are extending the deadline from the last edition
to encourage more customers to sign up! Email us by Wednesday 19 December and you could be in with
a chance of winning £20 in shopping vouchers.

Gold Members competition

SUDUKO - Exclusive competition for gold members
    WIN £30 of vouchers
    Find the correct place for the numbers 1 to 9 in each row, column and box. All 9 numbers must be
used and cannot be repeated.

    All entrants must be mhs homes’ gold tenants or leaseholders.
    Send your completed entry with your name and address to mhs homes, Broadside, Leviathan Way,
Chatham, ME4 4LL or email Deadline for entries is Wednesday 19 December.
Winners will be announced in the next issue.

Page 25


Light up your tree, without risk to your home this Christmas

One of the biggest risks in the home is fire.
    We want to make your home as safe as possible by checking your gas appliances, electrical systems
and carrying out repairs and maintenance work. We also install smoke alarms and heat detectors in your
home if appropriate.
    But accidents can happen; here are some tips for you to help make your home safe:
    1. Dust and test your smoke alarms once a week.
    2. Plan ahead, create and make sure that everyone in your home knows the escape plan.
    3. Keep exits clear so that people can escape if there is a fire. Make sure everyone in your home can
       easily find the keys for doors and windows.
    4. Cooking accidents account for more than half of fires in homes. Never leave young children alone
       in the kitchen.
    5. Take extra care when cooking with hot oil. Consider buying a deep-fat fryer which is controlled
       by a thermostat.
    6. Never leave lit candles in rooms that nobody is in or in rooms where children are on their own.
    7. Make sure cigarettes are stubbed out properly and are disposed of carefully, and never smoke in
       bed. Take special care if you are tired or if you have been drinking.
    8. Remember one plug for one socket and always switch off TVs and other electrical appliances
       when not in use.
    9. Do not leave fairy lights on when you go out or when you go to sleep.
    10. Do not attach decorations to lights or heaters.

     For more advice and information, please visit the Fire Service website or visit
the ‘your home’ section of the mhs homes website.

Page 26


Panto competition!

     Families are snapping up tickets for this year’s dazzling panto Cinderella at The Central Theatre,
Chatham. The all-star cast includes ex- Eastenders star Cheryl Fergison and the comedy impressionist and
Britain’s Got Talent finalist Paul Burling.
     To be in with a chance of winning one of two sets of family tickets (two adults and three children) to
see Cinderella at the Central Theatre in Chatham, find the words linked to Cinderella below and identify
which word is missing.
     Tickets are for the 2pm performance on Saturday 5th January 2013.
    Words to find:
    • BALL
    • FAIRY
    • GLASS
    • MICE
    • UGLY

Cinderella runs from Thursday 13 December to Sunday 6 January. Tickets are on sale now and start at
£15 for adults with discounts available on full price tickets for under 16s, seniors – and there are special
rates for groups. For more information call the box office on 01634 338338 or visit

    Send your completed entry with your name and address to mhs homes, Broadside, Leviathan Way,
Chatham, ME4 4LL or email Deadline for entries is Wednesday 19 December.

    Congratulations to our previous competition winners:
    Suduko – £30 of shopping vouchers: Mrs Vera Morris
    Gold word search – Family ticket to Chatham Dockyard: Ms Helen Rowe


Page 28


Translation Service
   If you require this magazine in another language or format then please contact us on 01634 565333.

What happens if you have an emergency repair?
     We provide an emergency repairs service outside our normal office hours. If you have an emergency
repair where this is an immediate structural problem with your home or danger to people’s safety please
call 01634 565333 and press option 1.
     If the emergency is to do with your gas central heating or hot water, please contact Swale Heating
directly on 01795 513701.
     If you are living in a sheltered scheme, phone 01634 565333 and press option 1.
     Gas leaks should be immediately reported to the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111999.
     You can also find more information about mhs homes services by visiting our website

Dates for your diary!
    mhs homes will be closed on the bank holidays over the Christmas period and will close at 3pm on
Christmas and New Year’s Eve at our Head Office and mhs express in Chatham High Street. Here are the
dates for your diary;
Monday 24th DecContact Centre & mhs express closing at 3pm
Tuesday 25th Dec       Closed
Wednesday 26th Dec     Closed
Thursday 27th Dec      Contact Centre open 8am to 6pm and mhs express closed
Friday 28th Dec Contact Centre open 8am to 6pm and mhs express closed
Saturday 29th Dec      Contact Centre and mhs express open 8.30am to 2pm
Sunday 30th Dec        Closed
Monday 31st Dec        Contact Centre & mhs express closing at 3pm
Tuesday 1st Jan        Closed
Wednesday 2nd Jan      Contact Centre & mhs express return to normal hours

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