More than a landlord Partnerships are key More than a Partnerships are key to RCT Homes’ way of working. From the smallest local neighbourhood group to large commercial companies, RCT Homes works hand-in-hand with organisations Landlord across all sectors to deliver improved services for our tenants and their communities. While this booklet gives only a sample of the myriad projects – some short-term, some lasting In 2007, thousands of tenants voted to transfer many years – that go together to make RCT Homes the ownership and management of their homes so much more than a landlord, we are proud to from Rhondda Cynon Taff Council to RCT pay tribute to the many partners who are helping Homes. They did so with the promise that RCT us to make a difference to the lives of tens of Homes would be more than a landlord. thousands of people. RCT Homes is the first community mutual housing organisation – a unique model promoted by the Welsh Assembly Government to produce community-owned-and- controlled housing. It means that RCT Homes is committed to much more than simply allocating housing and collecting rents. RCT Homes’ constitution commits the organisation to promoting community involvement and to supporting the economic regeneration and development of the communities it serves. To this end, RCT Homes works with a wide range of other organisations on everything from helping an individual tenant to access modest, but vital, charitable support to generating more than 90 new, local jobs through an innovative multi-million pound procurement process. This booklet represents merely a small, cross- section of dozens of RCT Homes initiatives that demonstrate how a fresh approach to the role of social landlord has begun to transform lives for RCT Homes’ tenants and their local communities. A New Coat Breaking down barriers... Overview Realising that the play had struck a chord, RCT The household income of more than 95 per Homes arranged for Brian and Christine to take The play has helped RCT cent of RCT Homes tenants is less than half the ‘A New Coat’ on a tour of venues in Rhondda Homes to discuss sensitive UK average – the widely-accepted definition of Cynon Taff. By spring 2010, the play had become financial matters with poverty. so popular that ITV Wales featured ‘A New Coat’ tenants. as the focal point of a half-hour current affairs However, financial matters are a sensitive issue. programme about debt and financial inclusion Many tenants are reluctant to discuss money that was broadcast throughout Wales. problems and the use of high-cost loans from unlicensed doorstep lenders is a chronic problem Results on many RCT Homes estates. ‘A New Coat’ has played a key role in encouraging RCT Homes tenants to consider RCT Homes Sheltered Housing Team Leader financial advice and support. Brian Meadows – a full member of the actors’ Its accessible yet realistic narrative has done union Equity – suggested that drama could be more than any press release or leaflet to used to break down barriers and help to position demonstrate that RCT Homes understands – and RCT Homes as a trusted source of money advice can be trusted to deal sensitively with – the for tenants. financial pressures that many tenants face. Objectives Second Opinion To publicise the hazards of high-cost Actor, director and RCT Homes staff member doorstep loans to tenants in an accessible Brian Meadows said: way. “When we first performed the play, the reaction To establish RCT Homes as a trusted of the audience was amazing and it has source of financial advice for tenants. snowballed from there. To empower tenants to take control of their personal financial situation. “Many people feel that there is no alternative to borrowing from illegal money lenders but that’s What we did not true and, after seeing a performance of ‘A Brian consulted RCT Homes’ Finance Team and New Coat’, tenants can understand the options “ Welfare Rights Advisor before working a number available for anyone in that situation.” of key messages into a moving narrative. Brian wrote and directed the play, ‘A New Coat’, and starred in it himself alongside experienced film The reaction of the “ and television actress Christine Tuckett. audience was The ten-minute play – which traces the distress amazing caused to an ordinary middle-aged woman as she struggles to manage a debt to a doorstep lender – was premiered at a special RCT Homes financial advice ‘Sound as a Pound Day’. The reaction from tenants was so positive that a recording was made available online. Within days Brian and Christine had received an invitation to perform ‘A New Coat’ to Assembly Members and housing professionals at the Senedd in Cardiff. A real plus Overview She also arranged for the provision of simple All homes that are to undergo refurbishment equipment such as a commode and for wooden under RCT Homes’ Major Improvement blocks to be fixed to his armchair to raise it off Programme receive visits from a Tenant Liaison the floor as Fred used to struggle to get out of it. Officer (TLO) before, during and after the work takes place. Results Natalie and Fred developed such a close bond TLOs and tenants often develop a strong that she continued to visit him even months rapport during this time. Under the TLO Plus after they first met. project, TLOs are encouraged to take this He is able to visit the shops regularly and to chance to explore opportunities for RCT Homes once again feel part of the local community. to improve tenants’ lives in ways that go far The daily visits from a home help ensure social beyond home improvements. interaction and keep him from feeling isolated. Objectives Second Opinion To use the opportunity of engaging with Fred said: tenants on a one-to-one basis to explore tenants’ needs in greater depth. “I didn’t have any help before and I don’t know how I was coping. Then this girl came along To ‘lever in’ greater benefit for tenants. and helped me so much. I used to drive until I was 90 but I’m not as quick thinking as I used To ensure that tenants gain access to to be, so I now need my mobility scooter to get services and benefits to which they are around and to go to shops. entitled. “Everything is easier now and Natalie has What we did helped me so much. It’s made a real difference RCT Homes TLO Natalie Dyson visited 91-year “ to my way of life. Natalie is a little star!” old Fred Rowlands at his home in the Rhondda to discuss straightforward electrical work and the fitting of a new shower. It’s made a real It became apparent to Natalie that, no matter on what day or time she visited Fred, he was on his difference to my “ own. Natalie would regularly make Fred a cup way of life of tea and a sandwich and they got to chatting about his service as an army driver during World War II in France and West Africa and his My little star... Natalie’s service as an anti-aircraft gunner in Swansea. impact on Fred’s life has gone far beyond home It was only then that Fred revealed that some simple restrictions on his mobility – such as improvements the height of the pavement near his home in Penygraig – were having a knock-on effect on his ability to interact with the local community. Natalie helped Fred to apply to Rhondda Cynon Taff Council for the kerb to be lowered, enabling him to get to the shops on his mobility scooter. She also arranged for Fred to be visited by a home help three times a day to assist him in the morning, with meals and in the evening and to have help with his garden. Action Camp More than 200 potential tenants Overview only £20 to spend each week. Other activities engaged with RCT Homes on how to Action Camp, organised by Young Wales – a included a lively quiz about money. plan a budget and manage a tenancy social enterprise specialising in vocational training for young people – targeted Results disadvantaged or excluded young people As well as offering young people the opportunity throughout Rhondda Cynon Taff aged eight-to- to interact with RCT Homes, the event showed 25. It was designed to introduce young people RCT Homes staff how eager young people can to “Education for Sustainable Development and be to interact and work together when given Global Citizenship” (ESDGC) and volunteering. the right level of support. Bad weather had The first phase was a three-day camping event threatened to make the task of managing so in Kiln Park Haven, Tenby involving 200 young many children and young people at once a people from diverse local communities and considerable challenge. In the event, the young backgrounds. people adapted quickly, entered into the spirit of things and behaved remarkably. Objectives To give disadvantaged young people the In fact, staff found that their main problem was opportunity to learn about the benefits finding the energy to keep up with the young of volunteering, in order to benefit both people. themselves and their communities. Second Opinion To promote team building and environmental Local community project the Bryncynon Family awareness. Group said: To introduce prospective tenants to the issues “Our young people found it to be an exciting around budgeting and managing their home. and empowering experience. One family enjoyed the camaraderie at Action Camp so What we did much that they asked to be kept informed of RCT Homes has a high tenancy turnover rate of any other activities in which they could take young people living in flats. It is important to part through the Bryncynon Family Group. sustain tenancies in the early days. This project Their enthusiasm has encouraged other was an opportunity to give prospective tenants a members of the community to come forward “ positive introduction to the organisation and to and join our project.” demonstrate the financial discipline needed to run a home. It was an exciting RCT Homes joined the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and conservation charity BTCV as financial sponsors of Action Camp and and empowering “ representatives from RCT Homes’ Finance, experience Tenant Empowerment, Community Regeneration and Communications teams travelled to Pembrokeshire to work alongside Young Wales’s experienced staff, facilitating sessions on team building and financial capability. A series of activities took place on how to manage a budget. Each group was given £10 to spend on food, which they had to spend to the penny. They also had to set priorities for an 18-year old living at home with £20 to spend each week, then reassess their choices for a 19- year old, living in their own flat, who again had Build It Glyncoch Overview As word of their work spread, the trainees were The People and Work Unit – funded by The Rank asked to carry out other basic maintenance and Foundation and based on the large Glyncoch repairs around the community. A local builder housing estate near Pontypridd – provides was so impressed with the quality of their work skill-based training for young people from that he gave up his own time to train them in the community. The training is delivered by plastering skills. two professional project leaders. The unit had completed a number of small, local projects Away from work, they set up a five-a-side quite successfully, but realised the need for more football team and were instrumental in lifting diverse work for their trainees. RCT Homes came local community spirit. Local anti-social up with the idea of asking a group of five young behaviour reduced noticeably and RCT Homes people to take on a vacant property, learning was able to let a property that would otherwise new skills as they brought the property up to the have still been ‘in the system’ awaiting repair. standard needed for it to be let to new tenants. Objectives Second Opinion Provide skills in housing maintenance to Hywel Williams, Project Leader, People and young people Work Unit, Glyncoch Increase community spirit “The Build It project turned out to be a fantastic opportunity for the trainees who gained Reduce vandalism and anti-social behaviour valuable experience. At first there was difficulty in even motivating the trainees to turn up for What we did work on time. RCT Homes selected a vacant property – a ground floor flat in Glyncoch that needed some But, after a couple of days, when the trainees significant refurbishment. RCT Homes appointed realised the rewards of their efforts (that the a Programme Manager to set start and finish whole group would be able to take a lot of pride dates for the project and resolve any on-site in someone living in a property that they helped issues. Over a period of weeks, the trainees went to renovate), there was no stopping them. It is from having no significant work experience a lot easier to train a willing group when their whatsoever to fitting a new kitchen, a new main objective is to produce a high quality bathroom suite, tiling walls and floors, and fitting result.” new doors and windows. “ The team also plastered and painted internal Skilled up ... To meet the walls. The only disciplines the team were not challenge, the young people had qualified to undertake were plumbing and to work as a team electrical works. The project went so smoothly After a couple of that no major issues arose and the works were completed on time to the required high standard. days there was no “ Result stopping them The five young trainees had absolutely no qualifications when they started the project. Following the project, two went on to study at Merthyr Tydfil College, one is working towards a Construction Skills (CSCS) card and two are now in work in the construction trade. Benefits Charity begins at RCT Homes Overview in RCT Homes’ decision-making at the same Since being founded in 1985, Comic Relief has time. become a national institution. The idea of raising money by having fun has won over legions of Benefits fans who rush to buy the latest red nose and For an organisation with fewer than 350 staff, have fun while raising money for this important £3,000 was a tremendous contribution to Comic charity. Under the strapline ‘Do something funny Relief. for money’, staff at RCT Homes were thrilled to be involved. Staff benefitted from the team spirit that went with the day and the membership drive gave Objectives even more tenants a voice in the organisation. Raise as much money as possible for The day proved so beneficial that staff soon took Comic Relief. to organising regular charity fund-raising events throughout the calendar. Within two-and-a-half Increase tenant membership, with RCT Homes years, RCT Homes staff had raised more than promising to donate £1 to Comic Relief for £15,000 for a wide variety of charities. every new member signed on the day. Second Opinion Have fun! Rod Keeble, Head of Tenant Empowerment What we did “The day was a great success and showed With very little preparation time – and no what RCT Homes staff can achieve with very experience of charity fund-raising – the staff of little planning. It provided staff with the spur RCT Homes managed to pull off a day like no to organise everything from charity murder other. There was the opportunity to dress up, mysteries and sponsored bike rides to fund- dress down or, if you were the Chief Executive, raising auctions and even scaling Britain’s save time and come in dressed in your pyjamas. highest mountains to raise money for worthy Various activities took place including a “ causes.” membership drive, Red Nose coffee mornings, parties in sheltered housing schemes and an opportunity to lock the bosses in the stocks and give them a good soaking. For an idea that was Result hastily put together For an idea that was hastily put together the results were truly amazing, with staff and “ the results were truly It’s all for charidee... contractors joining in the spirit of the day to raise almost £3,000 for Comic Relief. Scheme amazing Staff came up with some ingenious ways to Managers and sheltered tenants led the way with a series of fancy dress Comic Relief parties and raise money RCT Homes Home Movers’ Team member David Jones gave Johnny Depp cause for concern as he was revealed as Disney’s new Captain Jack Sparrow. Staff at RCT Homes head office, Ty Pennant, and ˆ local school children enjoyed the opportunity to soak senior managers and tuck into pizza and chilli cooked by Administrator David Tewkesbury and Housing Officer Gareth Jones. Nearly 100 new tenant members were signed-up on the day, raising money and increasing tenant participation Community clean - up Overview visible environment, 32 garages on the estate A survey of more than 2,000 tenants revealed were also emptied of waste. that rubbish and litter were among the top concerns for those living on RCT Homes estates. The week’s events included a ‘litter pick’ where Although refuse collection is the responsibility of staff joined forces with Glyncoch Tenants and the local authority, RCT Homes staff realised that Residents Association and the Council for Green a concerted effort on individual estates could Glyncoch. make a significant difference to local people’s quality of life. Results An open space in Cwmaman was made available Objectives to the local community for the first time in many To use RCT Homes’ resources to make an impact years. on the visible environment. More than 20 tonnes of waste items were To demonstrate to tenants that their concerns removed from Glyncoch. are listened to. The waste was then sorted into recyclable and non-recyclable goods to ensure as much To improve the local quality of life for RCT as possible could be recycled into useable Homes’ tenants. materials. What we did Second Opinion RCT Homes staff were invited to volunteer to Mark Smith, from Glyncoch said, clear rubbish from open spaces around RCT Homes flats in Cwmaman in the Cynon Valley. “A community clear-up is a fantastic idea. Over Staff from teams as diverse as IT, Home Movers the last few years Glyncoch has constantly been and Tenant Empowerment donned boots and getting better and things like this help to get gloves and found themselves being led by the everybody involved in making a difference. It’s Chief Executive who rolled up his sleeves and “ up to us to keep it looking clean and tidy now!” joined in. In a one-day ‘blitz’, the volunteers cleared litter, cut back brambles and other undergrowth and Things like this help mowed overgrown grass areas to make them available to tenants and local families. to get everybody This was followed by a special week-long amnesty on discarded household goods in “ involved in making a Sofa so good... Staff cleared more than 20 tonnes of Glyncoch near Pontypridd. difference waste items from Glyncoch in one week RCT Homes Housing Officer Claire Prew took to the streets of Glyncoch to let tenants know that they could leave any unwanted bulky items, furniture and household rubbish out for collection. RCT Homes Environmental Wardens arranged for a flat-bed lorry to collect the items. Amazingly, the Environmental Team loaded the wagon twenty times over with waste and unwanted household goods including mattresses, sofas, broken gym equipment...and even a giant Winnie the Pooh and a fibre glass fish pond! As well as ridding the estate of items left in gardens that had proved such a blight on the Face-to-face Overview happening in their communities. The idea was While tenants’ forums, working groups and such a success that a number of RCT Homes surveys have helped to put RCT Homes’ tenants’ Sheltered Housing complexes immediately Have your say... The Facebook views at the forefront of the organisation, not considered developing a Facebook group for group can prompt discussions everyone feels comfortable about participating their ‘silver surfers’. and debate between tenants and giving their views through these formal routes. Tenant Empowerment Officer Catryn Benefits Grundy was determined to see how RCT Homes RCT Homes was the first housing organisation could widen its communication with tenants, in Wales to use Facebook and won the TPAS specifically looking at how we could engage ‘Landlord Communication in Housing’ award harder-to-reach groups. Her award-winning idea for its work in improving communication with was to embrace Facebook. younger tenants. Objectives Second Opinion To enable hard-to-reach groups to have their say Nicola Greenway, Sheltered Housing Manager Engage younger tenants in RCT Homes’ “Facebook is a very modern, fast way of decision-making communicating with people and a good way of keeping people updated with what’s going on. Break down traditional barriers through direct We are now looking to extend this to our communication Sheltered Housing complexes and set up groups to encourage communication and enable tenants What we did to promote social activities and build a larger Catryn set up an RCT Homes Facebook group social network.” and linked it with websites and Facebook groups “ of other organisations working in Rhondda Cynon Taff to engage as many people who were interested in community issues as possible. It’s a very modern, Arrangements were made for staff to monitor the site daily so that RCT Homes could respond quickly to issues and questions. fast way of “ communicating The group was promoted through RCT Homes’ tenant magazine, Roof Top, at RCT Homes’ annual Tenants’ Fun Day and through word- of-mouth. The site quickly attracted a younger audience than those who usually take advantage of more traditional avenues to have their say on how services are provided. The online discussions enabled young people to share good ideas about how RCT Homes can improve. One early discussion was about the advantages and disadvantages of using net curtains or steel shutters on empty properties. Staff members of the group answer tenants’ comments daily. Result By joining the Facebook group tenants can send messages to other tenants and share experiences. Tenants can also keep up-to-date with the latest news from RCT Homes and find out what’s Game On Overview As holders, plans are afoot for Wales to host the Game On is an initiative set up by the Coalfields next tri-nations tournament in Rhondda Cynon Heads up... the boys learned Regeneration Trust (CRT) in Wales and is aimed Taff with the hope that this will inspire even the value of teamwork at disadvantaged young people living in our more local young people to get involved. communities. The aim is to engage with young people at a local level through the power of Benefits football and motivate them to work as part of Game On provided an excellent opportunity for a team, encouraging them to lead healthier RCT Homes to engage with young people in our lifestyles, increase their commitment and local communities and build relationships based involvement within their communities, and on respect and trust. ultimately change their lives for the better. Some of the players who took part in the Objectives Challenge Cup were not entirely unknown to To get more young people involved in sport and the local police. Their local Police Community develop healthier and more rewarding lifestyles. Support Officer could not believe the change that had been wrought in their attitude and To motivate young people to become team commitment to teamwork. players. This was a very positive experience for the To engage with young people in a bid to divert players and it had an obvious impact on their them from anti social behaviour. self-esteem and motivation to aim for personal goals. What we did Meadow Prospect, a charity set up by RCT Second Opinion Homes to support community regeneration, Alun Taylor, CRT Regeneration Manager for worked in partnership with CRT to sponsor and Wales organise a special Challenge Cup competition. Teams of six players aged 14-16 from Community “We all feel so proud of the lads for excelling First areas in Rhondda Cynon Taff competed at themselves against strong opposition. Their Tonypandy Community College with Tylorstown outstanding achievement will prove an emerging as the winners. inspiration to others to get involved with Game “ On.” Tylorstown – together with a team selected from the best players from the other teams – then went on to represent Wales in a special tri- nations tournament held in Glasgow. The ‘select’ team went all the way to the final where they “ an inspiration to others triumphed 3-1 over hosts Scotland to take the prestigious title. There was still more to come for the boys, who were then treated to a trip to Hampden Park to watch an international match between Scotland and Macedonia. Result The event was a huge success and those who went on to play in the Glasgow tournament had a wonderful weekend representing their country at international level and doing themselves and Wales proud. The two teams received full Welsh football kits and kitbags sponsored by RCT Homes while Meadow Prospect sponsored the trip to Glasgow. Garden makeover Overview Benefits RCT Homes Tenant Empowerment officer Catryn RCT Homes volunteers worked well as a Grundy was approached by local resident Derek team along with Derek, Cynthia and Doug to Williams who required help to clear and redesign create a great garden for the children to learn a garden area at the front of Cefn Primary School about gardening. This also gives pupils a great in Glyncoch near Pontypridd. Catryn recruited opportunity to get involved in maintaining and members of staff from five different teams who tending the garden during their break times. volunteered to get their hands dirty. Second Opinion Objectives David Davis, Headteacher of Glyncoch School To encourage RCT Homes staff to engage in volunteering with local communities. “The garden is looking fantastic now and it was a real surprise to pupils who hadn’t been To create useable garden space for the children here over the summer. It’s the first thing you to maintain and to learn about gardening. see when you come into the school and I think it looks very nice. The children will be looking To partner up with contractors to improve after the garden and maintaining it with the local communities and build better working help of Derek.” relationships. “ What we did The volunteers from RCT Homes spent two days at the school during the summer holidays with The garden is looking Derek, his wife Cynthia and local councillor fantastic now and it Doug Williams planning the redesign of the garden. None of the team was an experienced gardener so they had to work together as a team to see what they could create. “ was a real surprise to the pupils David Davies, the head teacher, asked if the school’s Princess Diana Memorial area could be ‘glammed up’ as a surprise for the children and be transformed into a ‘Heroes Garden’. The team laid down new topsoil, brought in decorative garden rocks and planted perennial shrubs. RCT Homes’ heating contractors, Bouchard & Jones, kindly donated stone chippings and RCT Homes provided funding to buy appropriate shrubs. Blooming marvellous... The The team kept working through torrential rain to pupils can get involved in create a large tree-shaped rockery with perennial gardening and maintaining their plants. new rockery Result The children were extremely surprised when they returned to school to see that the garden had been transformed. The garden is easily manageable and the children can now get involved in maintaining the garden and be proud of what has been achieved with the help of RCT Homes staff and their contractors. Learning the tools of the trade Overview Not only did this encourage young people What’s the drill? Ben and Amy As well as being a landlord, RCT Homes is to consider a wider variety of trades, it also had hands-on experience of committed to working with other organisations meant that they were less likely to waste time work as a carpenter to develop local skills training, including the on unsuitable options at the start of any future provision of work placements for school pupils. apprenticeship or college course. Only 60 per cent of employers in Rhondda Cynon Taff accommodate work placements and Results these are often arranged on an ad hoc basis. The project proved popular not only with As a major employer in the area, RCT Homes the young people but also with RCT Homes realised that it could provide a number of high tradesmen. The young people maintained an quality, long term work placements that offered obvious enthusiasm that rubbed off on their particularly rewarding experiences for local professional mentors. Discussions immediately young people. begun about potentially extending the project to other schools in Rhondda Cynon Taff. Objectives To help young people to develop skills and Second Opinion attitudes that are in demand in the local job Sixteen year-old pupil Amy Walker: market. “I want to work in painting and decorating To develop the self-confidence and enthusiasm when I leave school so I am really learning a of young people to pursue jobs or further lot. I am working with different people to learn education in traditional trades. about the different trades.” To further strengthen RCT Homes’ relationship “I have worked with a professional carpenter, with the local community. Matthew, to take out an old kitchen and I’ve learned how to box in pipes. I am now helping What we did to put an entire new kitchen together and fit it. RCT Homes entered into a partnership with I am really enjoying getting on with it and doing Pontypridd High School to provide six pupils something different to what most other girls do. with year-long work experience placements with The workmen are being lovely to us too.” “ RCT Homes’ maintenance teams. In previous years, the school had been unable to find any local organisation willing to offer such sustained work experience support. “ I am really learning All six pupils – five boys and one girl – were a lot studying for qualifications in Basic Construction. Each Friday, from the beginning of the academic year through until the following May, each young person accompanied a member of RCT Homes’ maintenance team to gain first hand experience of the full range of skills and disciplines required. The young people experienced working in all weathers and conditions and they were deliberately introduced to a range of trades. For instance, a pupil who may have begun the year with a particular interest in becoming a plumber would also be given the chance to find out whether they would enjoy – and have the aptitude – to become an electrician. Lighting up the valleys Overview energy light bulbs to RCT Homes’ oldest tenants RCT Homes’ financial inclusion strategy aims and those on the lowest incomes. to ensure that tenants are able to manage their Tracey arranged for the light bulbs to be income effectively and includes work to alleviate distributed direct to tenants’ homes through RCT fuel poverty. Homes’ network of Tenant Liaison Officers and Research shows that tenants of registered social Community Housing Office staff. landlords tend to spend a greater proportion of their incomes on fuel than people on higher Results incomes. The initiative was an immediate success with hundreds of tenants accepting low energy bulbs Objectives within the first few weeks of the initiative. To work with utilities companies and other It is estimated that switching to low energy light partners to ensure that tenants are empowered bulbs will save an average family up to £55 to make informed decisions to cut their per year – the equivalent of an entire week’s expenditure on fuel. disposable income for some RCT Homes tenants. To make it easy for tenants to take Second Opinion straightforward steps to cut their fuel bills. Ronald and Myfanwy Richmond have lived in their home in Mountain Ash for eleven years. To demonstrate to tenants that RCT Homes Ronald said: is taking action to address tenants’ everyday problems. “We need to keep our energy bills down as low as possible and I’m really pleased that Tracey What we did gave us these light bulbs. It will help us to keep RCT Homes Tenant Liaison Officer Tracey Cooke costs down and, as soon as I can, I’m going to visits tenants in their homes every day of the pop these in the chandelier. week. She understands that energy bills can be a real concern. When RCT Homes launched “We have the lights on more in the winter a major financial inclusion strategy to ensure months when it gets dark so we are really happy that tenants are able to manage their income with these. Tracey has a great attitude and it’s effectively, Tracey knew that fighting fuel poverty lovely that she and RCT Homes are doing this “ needed to be a key aspect of the project. for us.” RCT Homes is undertaking a huge home improvement programme that includes measures We need to keep our such as installing energy-efficient boilers, improved insulation and double glazing in tenants’ homes to help drive down fuel costs. “ energy bills as low as possible But Tracey wanted to make it as easy as possible for tenants to take their own steps to cut their fuel Bright spark... Tracey helps bills as well. Ronald and Myfanwy to make light work of their Tracey read that low energy light bulbs can electricity bill. last up to ten years without replacement and consume only 20 per cent of the electricity of a comparable traditional bulb. This had the potential to offer a significant saving to families on low incomes. She approached electricity company SWALEC who agreed to supply up to 10,000 free low On the doorstep Overview Allyson’s housing surgeries proved to be an In an age of email, websites and call centres, immediate hit with tenants queuing up to get many housing organisations have consolidated advice from her on a Wednesday morning. their resources into central offices. While RCT Homes offers all the latest ways for tenants to Members of the association and Allyson contact the organisation, it has been eager to also sit on committees together to push for ensure that tenants can still interact with staff at improvements for the community. the most local level. Results Objectives “Gerald and the rest of the TRA have so much To ensure that housing advice and support is enthusiasm for the local community – it’s available at a local level. amazing,” said Allyson. To work in cooperation with local tenants’ “We have worked on lots of committees to get groups. improvements made. We recently worked on a scheme for all blocks of flats in Trebanog Road To ensure that tenants can deal with staff face- to have door entry systems installed. It’s been to-face. a lovely feeling for us all to know that the first systems have now been fitted.” What we did Trebanog & District Tenants and Residents Second Opinion Association is one of the longest established Gerald Doel, Secretary of Trebanog & District community associations in Rhondda Cynon Taff. TRA, said: Gerald Doel, secretary of the TRA, has lived in his RCT Homes house on the Rhiwgarn estate for “We have a great relationship with RCT Homes more than 45 years and has seen a lot of changes as we can refer any housing issues to them. in the community over that time. Six years ago, Allyson is great to work with. If she can help, Gerald joined Trebanog & District TRA, one of then there is nothing she won’t do.” “ the longest-established community associations in the Rhondda. If she can help, then As soon as RCT Homes began operations in late 2007, RCT Homes and Trebanog & District TRA began working together to resolve local issues and improve the surroundings. Members of the “ there is nothing she won’t do Partnership... Gerald and Allyson have worked closely association have worked closely with local RCT together Homes Housing Officer Allyson Whiston to develop some highly successful initiatives. The TRA now runs a community surgery every weekday morning where tenants drop in to raise any queries or concerns and to take advantage of local schemes such as the provision of free energy saving light bulbs and recycling bags. Allyson shares the space on a Wednesday to run a dedicated RCT Homes’ housing surgery, bringing housing advice and support to the doorstep of the local community. Putting two-and-two together Overview Result Tenant Liaison Officers spend considerable time The Knowles family received a new cooker and talking to tenants about their domestic situation £750 from the Royal British Legion to buy new when their homes are set to be refurbished under beds and carpets for their home. the RCT Homes Major Improvement Programme. This gives TLOs an invaluable opportunity to Benefits consider additional ways that RCT Homes can The RCT Homes Major Improvement Programme address tenants’ needs. brings Tenant Liaison Officers into tenants’ homes and provides a valuable chance to Objectives understand the challenges facing many families. Understand the challenges facing RCT Homes Tracey Cooke was able to act as a bridge tenants. between the Knowles family and the Royal British Legion to ensure that they received the Act as advocates and facilitators between RCT support they deserved. Homes tenants and other agencies. Second Opinion Maximise the support that tenants receive. Dennis Knowles, RCT Homes tenant What we did “Until Tracey told us about the veterans’ fund Dennis Knowles from Bryntirion in Abercynon we had never heard about it. We really needed and his wife Colleen have lived in their RCT a new cooker as the last one had only two rings Homes’ house with their four grandchildren for and the lights would go off if you used both the last 18 years. rings at the same time! RCT Homes Tenant Liaison Officer, Tracey “We would have had to go to the Provident for a Cooke, came to know the family well during the loan to get a new cooker but, with Tracey’s help, refurbishment of their home, which included the we had our cooker delivered and installed this installation of a new kitchen and bathroom plus month. Being able to cook a Sunday dinner for “ the complete rewiring of the house. six is marvellous! “ Tracey often chatted to Dennis about the number of medals and awards that he received during his 24 years’ service as a sergeant in the Welsh We would have had to “ Guards in the Falklands, the first Gulf War and go to the Provident Northern Ireland. During another discussion, Dennis and Colleen mentioned to Tracey that they didn’t have enough beds for themselves and their grandchildren. Cooking up a storm... Tracey helped the Knowles family to RCT Homes Tenant Liaison Officers are access the right support encouraged to use the bond of trust that is built with tenants to talk about their financial situation, to make sure they are maximising their income and to help tenants access advice and financial support. Tracey put two-and-two together and realised that the Royal British Legion may be able to help the Knowles family. Tracey advised the retired couple to get estimates for the things they needed for their home and then helped them to complete an application to the Royal British Legion. Safe as houses Overview When RCT Homes heard of the association’s RCT Homes has taken an innovative approach plight, they approached Bullock and arranged to its relationships with its contractors and not only funding for the cameras but free suppliers. It encourages businesses that would installation as well. usually be rivals and competitors to collaborate to address common operational problems and Results share solutions. RCT Homes also works to build The memorial garden has quickly become a bonds between its contractors and the local valuable community space for contemplation. As communities in which they work. well as a landscaped garden, it features benches and plaques engraved with the names of the Objectives fallen. Gerwyn Miles, Site Manager for Bullock, To establish a rapport between RCT Homes’ said, contractors and suppliers and the local communities in which they work. “We have had a fabulous working relationship with the people of Bryntirion and we wanted to To encourage contractors and suppliers to offer them something as a thank you. I personally share their skills and other resources with those miss working here as the community is so great.” communities. Second Opinion To improve community safety. Gwilym Curtis, Vice Chairman of Bryntirion TRA, said: What we did Bryntirion Tenants and Residents Association “We are over the moon with the new cameras brings together RCT Homes tenants and private and it’s been worth the wait. It’s made a home owners on a housing estate in the Cynon real difference to getting the garden up and Valley. RCT Homes donated a property rent-free running.” “ for the association to use as a base and it quickly developed beyond somewhere merely to report repairs, raise queries and collect bin bags to become a focal point of the community. It’s made a real difference “ With the help of Future Jobs Fund placement workers, local people landscaped the garden Safe... Gerwyn fits at the association’s base to commemorate Bryncynon TRA’s new local fallen servicemen and women. In order camera to discourage vandalism and to improve safety for staff working in reception, Bryntirion TRA wanted to install security cameras at the base but they struggled to raise the hundreds of pounds necessary. Housing contractor Bullock had recently refurbished kitchens, bathrooms and electrical systems on behalf of RCT Homes in more than 200 houses on the estate and had formed a close working relationship with the people of Bryntirion. Sound as a Pound Day Overview saved an average of £90 each on their bills. It A cross-section of RCT Homes staff and tenant wasn’t only tenants who benefited-the savings representatives have been involved in developing help tenants to sustain their tenancies, reducing RCT Homes’ on-going Financial-Inclusion the costs to RCT Homes of failed tenancies. programme. The programme-to raise tenants’ awareness of their financial capability-was given Benefits the title ‘Sound as a Pound’, and a special event The day was a great chance for people to learn was organised to celebrate its launch. simple ways to save money in the home and get the latest information on debt advice. It also Objectives highlighted the hazards of doorstep lending Raise awareness of financially excluded tenants. and how easy it is to succumb to illegal money lenders. To give tenants access to the most appropriate services, which they may not have been aware This event will now be incorporated into RCT were available to them. Homes’ annual Tenants’ Family Fun Day to enable even more tenants to benefit. To maximise tenants’ income and reduce expenditure to assist them to sustain their Second Opinion tenancies. Mr and Mrs Stapleton from Blaenrhondda said: What we did “We put the date of the event on our notice As well as RCT Homes, outside agencies were board as soon as we heard about it because invited to attend the event, which was promoted anything to save money helps these days. We are widely through the local media. Various pensioners and we do okay with money, but we workshops were set up at RCT Homes’ Ty ˆ can always learn new ways to save. Pennant offices, based on money-saving ideas for tenants. The workshops included: “We were only going to come for a couple of hours but we ended up staying for the whole Credit Union advice on affordable savings and day – we wanted to get our money’s worth! I “ low interest borrowing. would give the event ten out of ten.” Tips on how to cook for less. Furnishing your home for less with second-hand I would give the event “ Money-saving advice... The furniture from ‘Too Good To Waste’. ten out of ten event was an ideal way for staff to start to talk to tenants about A play about door step lending written, directed the sensitive issue of money by and starring RCT Homes’ Sheltered Housing Team Leader Brian Meadows. How to save money by using online resources. Housing Benefit advice from RCT Council. As well as benefiting from the workshops, everyone who attended entered competitions to win prizes donated by RCT Homes’ partners. Result Staff and tenants alike were amazed at the impact of tenants taking a few simple money- saving steps. Tenants who attended the event Warm as toast Overview have traditionally used expensive coin-in-the- The sun has got his hat on... Solar With more than 95 per cent of RCT Homes slot electricity and gas meters – are shown how to use online resources to find the cheapest panels have been fitted to five tenants living below the widely-accepted definition of the ‘poverty line’, the costs of available energy supplier. RCT Homes also helps sheltered housing complexes heating the family home can be a major concern. tenants to set up bank accounts so that they can RCT Homes has been determined to ensure that take advantage of further savings by paying their tenants can afford to heat their homes, with energy bills by Direct Debit. particular attention paid to the needs of older tenants. Results It is estimated that RCT Homes tenants saved Objectives a total of £800,000 on their fuel bills in the To reduce energy costs for tenants. first two years of the programme alone. As the programme progresses, it is expected that To reduce carbon emissions from RCT Homes the total annual savings for tenants will run to properties. millions of pounds. To empower tenants to manage their fuel bills. Second Opinion Ron Denton, RCT Homes tenant: What we did RCT Homes is leading the UK in its approach “Anything that can help me save money is to reducing fuel poverty. The use of carbon great. It will make a real difference in the cold reduction technologies, renewable energy and weather when I need to use the heating all day. advice to help tenants cut their energy costs are key planks of RCT Homes’ initiatives. “I have six grandchildren and great- grandchildren and it is lovely to have the heating Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has been on when they visit.” installed in five sheltered housing complexes “ in the Heads of the Valleys area, following an investment of close to £1 million. This initiative is the largest solar PV scheme on a domestic It will make a real level across the whole of the UK and provides a significant contribution to the energy provision for these complexes. “ difference in the cold In addition, RCT Homes is in the throes of a weather project to ensure that all loft spaces in its 10,000- plus properties are fitted with insulation and, where possible, that cavity walls are insulated. Where this is impossible (e.g. where properties have only single-skin external walls) an innovative programme of external wall insulation has begun. Nearly 6,000 energy-efficient boilers will be installed in properties before the end of 2012 and all tenants’ homes have been fitted with double glazing. Meanwhile, the RCT Homes ‘Sound as a Pound’ financial inclusion initiative has laid great stress on empowering tenants to manage their energy spending more wisely. Tenants – many of whom Wii love it Overview Benefits The Nintendo Wii is a games console that Sue Dancey, Scheme Manager of Gellihirion provides an excellent “low-impact” fitness Sheltered Complex said: benefit. It can be learned within minutes and it is great fun for groups of people to both watch “Gellihirion Close is a very active sheltered and take part in. RCT Homes’ Sheltered Housing housing complex and we are always looking Team identified this as technology that would for new activities and ways to get involved in be a great addition to any sheltered housing the community. When RCT Homes bought complex’s communal area. Gellihirion Close its own Wii, it created a buzz around the complex.” Objectives To encourage low-impact exercise for tenants Second Opinion living in sheltered accommodation. Grace Wicks, a tenant at Gellihirion Close: To encourage group activities within sheltered “Residents thoroughly enjoy the Wii complexes. competitions. Even the tenants who don’t participate in it still like to watch the action as it To have fun takes place. What we did “It’s a great form of exercise and I feel quite RCT Homes agreed to supply each of the fit afterwards. Some of the men here get very organisation’s 27 sheltered housing complexes competitive – but it’s good fun!” “ with a Nintendo Wii. This would be for use by tenants in the schemes’ communal areas. Tenants and scheme managers at each scheme received training in how to play with the Wii console and It’s a great form of the activities included. Sometimes, as in the case of Gellihirion Sheltered Housing Complex in exercise and I feel quite “ Rhydyfelin, the funding was supported by local Communities First organisations. fit afterwards Result Competitive edge... The Wii All 27 RCT Homes’ sheltered complexes have has proved a popular focal now been provided with Wiis by the organisation and, as part of the program of intergenerational point for activities at the events that RCT Homes is hosting, local school schemes children have been invited into the complexes to show tenants the range of games. Of all of the games on the console, Wii bowling appears to be the most popular, with tenants of all ages and abilities able to participate – whether from the comfort of their chair or by standing up and throwing themselves into it! A league is due to be launched amongst all the sheltered complexes throughout Rhondda Cynon Taff to create an even larger social event for the residents to compete in or simply sit back and enjoy watching. Word on the Street Overview Result RCT Homes wanted to engage with young The competition attracted widespread publicity people living in our communities – potential and proved a great success with the groups of future tenants – to understand their needs. A young people getting friends on board to help different approach was needed to the usual them make their videos. Young Wales offered working groups. Word on the Street was a all the technical advice and support to ensure competition that gave RCT Homes a unique that the end product was a really good quality insight into what young people really want in short film. The films communicated the priorities Red carpet treatment... The their communities. young people have for their communities. boys enjoyed the premiere The young people enjoyed the red carpet Objectives premiere and it helped RCT Homes’ staff to Understand the priorities of local young people. engage with them more. Develop an alternative way to communicate and Benefits engage with young people. RCT Homes was able to communicate with Provide great work experience for those young people in a way that was informal, on involved. their terms and through a new medium that allowed them to express themselves – giving What we did RCT Homes a great start to its Youth Engagement The competition was launched to give young Strategy. people between the ages of 12 and 21 a chance to shout about their street or neighbourhood and All five young people involved in making the film let everyone know why they love living there. also completed an ASDAN short qualification. A media partnership was established with local After featuring the finalists’ videos, the RCT newspapers and other publicity included leaflet Homes Facebook group saw a rise in members drops encouraging young people to send in and active participation from young people. mobile phone clips saying why they loved their communities. Second Opinion Leigh Gunter, Word on the Street finalist from Each mobile phone clip was reviewed and Mountain Ash finalists from Cymmer and Mountain Ash were trained by Young Wales – a social enterprise “We got a lot out of the Word on the Street specialising in vocational training for young competition and would love to do something people – to make their own short film about like this again. We are proud of Mountain Ash where they live, directing and presenting it with and wanted people to know what we love about support, equipment and technical advice at a it.” “ residential weekend with RCT Homes and Young Wales. The competition culminated with a Hollywood- The films really style premiere where the young people were chauffeured down to walk the red carpet and helped communicate watch their films with friends, family, RCT what priorities young Homes staff, local councillors and members of the press. At the premiere the applause resounded around the building for a job well people have for their “ done by two teams of youngsters of whom their communities communities can be justifiably proud.
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