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									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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