From 1st April 2013, we are offering a new service called Housing Solutions Service – bringing together Private Sector Housing and the Housing Options and Support Service
What support does Housing Solutions offer?
The service’s main focus is on assisting people to find, keep, maintain and live independently in quality, affordable homes.
Customers can access advice and support which includes:-
Access to housing information and guidance
Advice on a range of housing options
Assessment of housing need including the prevention of and assessment of homelessness
Information and advice to private sector landlords and tenants and some home owners
Housing related support to enable vulnerable people to maintain their accommodation.
The service adopts a person centred, creative early intervention / prevention approach to solving housing problems, only turning to compliance action as a last resort.
Where can people access the service?
The service will continue to be provided from the Customer Service Centres, currently Civic Centre 1 in Huddersfield and the Walsh Building in Dewsbury. The service will move to the new Huddersfield Customer Service Centre when it opens in late Spring.
For further information please contact:
Operations Managers: .
Cath McGurk – Access to Housing
Steve Cale – Quality Homes
Lynne Mitchell – Young People and Support
John Marsden – Advice and Assessment
Lisa Allan/Carina Kemp – Access to Housing Solutions Services
Peter Halpenny – Temporary Accommodation
Jeremy Maguire – Access to Private Rented and Compliance
All can be contacted by phoning 221000 or internal 860 1000 and asking for them by name.
Vote on Tenant Led Budget Schemes Given to Kirklees Councillors
In a shock announcement at the Huddersfield North Area Forum on Friday 01/02/13 a KNH Officer announced that it ‘had been decided’ that Kirklees Councillors would in future be able to vote on schemes for the Tenant Led Budget.
KNH have said that the £1 Million + Tenant Led Budget was at risk of being lost unless Kirklees Councillors were allowed to vote on the schemes put forward.
The four Tenant Committee’s were asked last year whether they would object to this proposal. The two North Kirklees Tenant Committees voted to allow Cllrs to have a vote and the two Huddersfield ones were totally opposed to the only budget controlled by Tenants being removed from their control.
KFTRA have not been consulted or even informed about this decision and will be discussing the implications of this at their next Delegates Meeting on Monday 11th February, 10.30am, Dewsbury Town Hall
Further information will be added when known.
Contact Your Councillor
If you wish to let your local Kirklees Ward Councillor know your views on this issue, follow the link below for their contact details
At a well attended KFTRA Delegates meeting held this month at Cleckheaton Town Hall, tenants took the opportunity to raise their questions and concerns with KNH Senior Managers, Simon Rogers and Paul Buckley.
Please note that The next KFTRA Delegates meeting will be held in Huddersfield Town Hall on Wednesday 12th December from 10.00am – 2.00pm. Lunch will be provided.
Below is a summary of the Questions asked and the replies that were given.
BELOW IS A SUMMARY OF THE QUESTIONS ASKED AND THE REPLIES THAT WERE GIVEN.
1. Do you think it’s about time the Police worked with the housing officers to let them know of troublesome gangs hanging around on KNH property?
Paul replied that neighbourhood teams and the Police have very good relationships, and meet at Neighbourhood Management Groups with other agencies to discuss problems on the estates and their joint response. Issues do sometimes arise when communication breaks down.
2. With the introduction of Universal Credit, what guarantees can the senior management team give that OAPs and full-time working council tenants on mid incomes will not suffer?
Simon responded that Universal Credit will be phased in from October 2013 until 2017. KNH will be working with tenants to keep them well informed, to make them aware of benefits advice and how to manage and maximise their finances. Pensioners will not be affected by these changes, although there may be an impact. This is Government legislation, and KNH can’t give any guarantees, as it is not within their power.
3. Welfare Reform – what steps are KNH taking to help soften the blow to tenants, and to keep them informed?
Simon said the first phase will impact in April 2013 when those who ‘underoccupy’ and claim Housing Benefit, will lose a percentage of that benefit. 2422 tenants, that is 10% of all KNH tenants will be affected. KNH are visiting to offer advice, and are running an information pilot in Dalton, to see how best to involve tenants. Around 1500 will be affected by the non-dependant charge. By October 2013, Universal Credit will be introduced, and again, it is about keeping tenants well informed. However, it is a changing picture, and new information keeps coming to light.
4. Is it true that when Universal Credit comes in, all council tenants will have to set up a direct debit to pay their rent? What about people who don’t have a bank account, or who are refused a bank account?
This is true, said Paul. Direct debit will be mandatory for all tenants, it is much the most effective way to collect rent, and if rent is not collected, services will be affected.
Currently £76 million comes through Housing Benefit or is paid directly to KNH. There is around £33 million in jeopardy, if money is paid directly to tenants and not to KNH. While he believes the majority will pay, there will be a small minority who don’t.
The other side of this is that to receive Universal Credit, residents will need a bank account. The Government is talking to Banks about offering a basic bank account, and there will only be a small minority who cannot have that account, because of bankruptcy etc.
One tenant complained he liked to pay his rent in cash at the Post Office, and liked that freedom. Cora replied that we have the freedom to live in council homes, and as tenants we need that money paid. Cora suggested as this was Government legislation, if people didn’t like it, they should complain to their MP.
5. One of the changes to Choose n Move is that if someone refuses three ‘reasonable offers’ in a 12 month period than their application to the housing register will be cancelled. Who decides what constitutes a ‘reasonable offer’?
Paul said the office where the allocation would decide along the lines of suitability and reasonableness of offer. An appeal can go to the Housing Manager, and there is an appeal process in place.
6. When discussing the Tenant-Led Budget in Area Forums, Tenant Committees etc, why do we so frequently hear from KNH officers, that a proposal from a tenant is not allowed? Is it really a Tenant-Led budget?
KNH are trying to widen the number of people who can put forward ideas, and Paul said they are always willing to listen to anyone with ideas for the tenant-led budget. There isn’t a huge amount of money, so then it comes down to prioritising at Tenant Committees.
7. If you were the Housing Minister, how would you solve the current housing crisis?
Simon said in Europe, spending on social housing does not count as public borrowing, whereas in Britain, councils are restricted on their borrowing and that constrains new build.
There is a debate about changing the rules so councils and public organisations can borrow to build.
Kirklees Council estimates it needs 1,500 new affordable homes every year, not just council homes, but those at a reasonable rent, or shared ownership. Last year only 250 were built, so Kirklees if falling further and further behind.
If Simon was the Housing Minister, he would need to convince the Treasury, increasing the supply of new affordable homes could stimulate the economy.
Paul added if he was Minister, he would instruct the Banks in public ownership, to pay their bankers’ bonuses into investing in building homes.
8. What has happened to the ‘In Living’ mobile phone game?
Simon explained this was a mobile phone game to help young tenants settled into their new homes. KNH sold around £36,000 of the games which they invested into housing services.
Unfortunately, the company who developed the game, have gone bust. The technology is now outdated, and smart phone ‘apps’ are now the new way forward. KNH are investigating whether they should spend money reinvigorating the game as an application for a smart phone.
9. How many people have got sustainable employment through the KNH educational outreach team? How do KNH monitor value for money from this team?
Between January and August 2012, the team have seen 1100 people, Simon explained. As a result, 79 have gone into training, and 14 into permanent work, there could be others, that KNH are not aware of. In the days of Universal Credit, Simon believes the best thing they can do, is to help residents back into work. They also receive funding from the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), so it isn’t just rent money. It also helps KNH to reach parts of the community they perhaps wouldn’t do otherwise. It is not easy, helping people into work, but they have had positive outcomes, and have offered opportunities, that otherwise would not have been available.
10. Could EMOs keep in touch with TRAs more often? Some TRAs say their EMO has not been in contact with them for up to three months.
Without specific examples, this is difficult to follow up. Paul reminded Delegates that if their Housing Officer did not respond, they should complain to their Area Housing Manager. In turn that could be escalated to the NOM ( Neighbourhood Operations Manager), and if no joy, to Christine Gummerson.
Christine had given a detailed presentation to Delegates on how to complain , and Paul urged TRA reps to follow that procedure.
Cora said within South Kirklees, Housing Officers and TRAs, had drawn up an agreement on how often they would like to be contacted, and in what format.
11. KNH tell us we cannot put doormats or furnishings in communal areas, which are not part of our homes. Why then do we have to pay for these areas to be cleaned?
This question was reiterated by Steve Potter of Soothill, who is a member of the Living in Flats working group. He asked why tenants should pay for something ( ie cleaning charge) that is not theirs ( ie communal area).
Paul said this was a contentious issue. KNH encourage residents to look after their communal area, and they are required to look after the communal area as part of their tenancy agreement.
Some don’t look after it, and then KNH have to employ a cleaning service to keep it tidy. Residents have a right to a clean and safe communal area.
As for doormats, they are fine as long as they are not a trip hazard.
Tenants can have certain items in the communal areas, depending upon whether it is a low rise or high rise building.
There is an option to opt out of the cleaning service, and tenants would need to talk to their Housing Officer, in the first instance.
Three questions regarding leaseholders:
12 I have two leaseholders in the blocks of flats where I live. A light bulb went out and the leaseholders were charged £9 each to replace it. This works out at a cost of £36 ( for the block) for replacing one light bulb. Can we please have an explanation as to why these costs are charged and a breakdown of them?
There is a banding scheme for charges to leaseholders. Any cost between 1p and £105, is charged to leaseholders at a rate of £36 and this covers labour, materials and overheads.
13 The floor covering in the communal areas has developed some bubbling, two patches 41” x 35” and 39” x 31”. The leaseholders were charged £73 each for the flooring to be put down in the four flats. This equates to a total of £292.
The worker was only there for four hours. This charge appears to be excessive, and could we have a breakdown.`
Paul said the amount was charged in error, and has now been refunded. Diane asked if when people became leaseholders, all these costs were made clear to them. Paul replied that all the costs and responsibilities were made clear, and none of it should come as a shock.
14 As a leaseholder, if I want to have any work done to the external fabric of the building: ie, a Sky dish, a TV arial, outside light, removal of about 20m of privet hedge, and the removal of concrete posts which define the boundary of the property, plus any particular type of work to the inside of the building, I must get permission in writing from KNH, before I begin.
This does not seem to apply to tenants. How is it they are not governed by the same rules? Why do you run a two tiered service? Why two sets of rules?
Cora replied that this rules DID apply to tenants in exactly the same way.
15 When homes become vacant and locks are changed, what happens to those locks and keys?
Simon said if they are in good condition, they are recycled. They are not thrown away.
16 Tenant-led budgets and car parks. Why is the TLB funding going to be stopped for extending car parks. Most tenants pay rent, so the most valuable and treasured item to them is the car. They need to be comfortable in the knowledge that they have somewhere to park their car safely.
Again this is a contentious issue, said Paul. KNH recognise that car parking is not always Value for Money. It is very expensive, for what few spaces are created, plus there is the long-term maintenance costs.
KNH are currently consulting and will return to Tenant Committees to report back.
Cora said in years gone by, tenants had not been allowed spending on car parking, as it was felt, as ratepayers, Highways should be providing this.
Chris Jenkinson said Highways wouldn’t listen to tenants, whereas KNH will. Even if it means just two spaces at a time, he thinks it is worth while. Their estate has 22 car parking spaces and 105 properties.
Paul said tenants are saying parking is a number one priority, and therefore KNH are prepared to listen.
Diane suggested that if dropping the kerb came in at a cheaper cost, this would be more effective at getting cars off the road, than providing parking. Kevin wondered if tenants could have a dropped kerb, and pay for the cost in with their weekly rent payment.
Simon reminded Delegates that all KNH expenditure comes under scrutiny, so they had to be confident they were making the best of limited resources in each case.
Terry suggested tenants should attend Area Committees and plead their case for dropped kerb funding.
17 It was said that you would not sell bungalows under the Right To Buy, as you needed them for the elderly and disabled due to the stock reducing and people getting older. But now you may be putting them on the market for open age! Plus the flats!
The people who attended the last Delegates meeting when this was debated, probably half of them live in houses. The people who should be voting on these issues are the people who live in bungalows and flats.
Properties designated for older people are generally exempt from the Right To Buy, particularly bungalows which are in high demand, explained Simon. There is a consultation at the moment, but he doesn’t expect much change.
Diane pointed out that if a downstairs flat, for example, was designated ‘open age’ rather than restricted to older folk, it would then be subject to the Right to Buy. Simon agreed this was a problem, but said that is why everything is being carefully looked at.
18 When I have been visiting friends who live in KNH property in different areas of Kirklees, I see that services are run differently in North Kirklees and South Kirklees. In our area ( South Kirklees) tenants complain but rarely get feedback.
Again, without specific examples it is hard to be sure what services are different. Simon said there should be the same quality of service across Kirklees, and there is no intention to provide different services. He asked the author of the question to get back to him with examples.
19 Some tenants have been told that if their children are studying away at college, they will not be able to claim for them, living in a KNH property.
Paul said Revenue and Benefits had confirmed that families with children at college will not be penalised. For benefit purposes they will be treated as though the children remain at home, otherwise it gets too complicated, taking into account holidays and weekends.
20 Are there different ways of having Area Forums carried out, in light of the new tenant involvement legislation. It seems to me they are too officer-led, and tenants need support to challenge. When I challenge, I feel I am kept out of the loop and I don’t receive paperwork.
If your Area Forum is not working for you, we need a conversation, Simon said. Some Area Forums work extremely well, and it is a case of learning what makes them successful. We are committed to make them work.
21 We used to be able to call KNH Senior Managers directly, as a Chair of a TRA. Now our emails are not answered.
Simon said he was puzzled by this question. Unfortunately the author was not present at the meeting to ask for clarity. Simon felt they tried to be as accountable and transparent as possible, and that was one of the reasons they were attending Delegates. He felt that it was important to have the conversations and to keep the dialogue going.
22 Do KNH think the Scrutiny Panel worked well, as it was only for a trial period?
Paul said it had worked well, and they were trying to find the funding and resources to keep it going. Diane pointed out scrutiny was a Government requirement, and so funding must be found. Paul said they would be reviewing how much energy and resources they put into scrutiny, with diminishing resources. Chris Jenkinson, who sat on one of the scrutiny panels said scrutiny didn’t necessarily have to be organised in the way the pilot project had been, however, it should be tenant-led.
23 Why have so many Excel panels been cancelled ( since staff left), and why was there no consultation when support grant amounts were changed?
When there are no agenda items, and no applications for a grant, meetings are cancelled, so as not to waste volunteer panel members’ time. A consultation on the support grant did happen.
24 Do KNH want to close town centre offices since more staff are working from home. How is this trial going? Are there plans to limit how many times a housing officer can visit an estate each month?
Paul responded they were trying to reduce back office staff from town centre offices, and get them located elsewhere. Diane said there was a rumour that New Street, Huddersfield was to close. Paul explained that there was an option to use Civic Centre 3, and be part of a multi agency team, which would be a one-stop shop for information. Diane felt this was ironic, since originally when it was set up, the ALMO wanted to keep a distance from the Council.
The trial to allow staff to work more flexibly, whether from home, or using another partners’ office, was working well. By using new technology to access information, officers could go into tenants’ homes and give advice there and then.
We are talking to KFTRA about how we use our resources, and how some estates need more support than others. I know this may upset some people, but there is an issue of limited resources, and having to use them as efficiently as possible.
Chris Harrison said he found that his Housing Officer could reply to his calls after she had put her children to bed, and this suited both parties. Simon said flexible arrangements were to offer a better service, rather than to suit staff needs, however, it was helpful, when it did both.
25 Do KNH Managers have the time to keep up with all the new Government guidelines?
Simon said they couldn’t afford to let things slip through the net, and different officers had different specialisms, and looked out for particular information, such as Dave Bennett, specialising in Welfare reform.
26 Do we know if the Armed Forces will be allowed a home after doing their service?
Members of the Armed Forces do get priority, and would go into Band A. A query about whether the family of a solder killed in action, would get housing priority, came from the floor. Paul said he didn’t know, but would get back with an answer.
27 How much has poor communication delayed the completion of Windybank Community Centre?
The project to refurbish the Community Centre was led by the Council, assisted by KNH. The refurbishment took longer than anticipated and Robert Scott, the Neighbourhood Operations manager for the area, offered his apologies, and said he was happy to meet the TRA.
Kevin Hirst, chair of Windybank TRA, said it had taken one year for the refurb. Asbestos had been discovered at six months, and the TRA had advised about securing the building to prevent vandalism, but their advice had not been followed. This resulted in further delays, when the premises were vandalised. Paul said they couldn’t turn the clock back, but they could learn from what had gone wrong.
There will be four workshops at this years conference – Future KNH Investment – Welfare Reform – Housing Strategy – Tenant Empowerment
These will be run twice so that you can choose to attend two workshops.
I can particularly recommend the Tenant Empowerment Workshop (details below) because l am taking part in it!
At Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing we recognise that our greatest asset is our tenants. The Tenant Movement, which has provided a powerful force over the last 25 years, has ensured that tenants have been at the forefront in improving council housing and have had a real say in decisions that affect them.
But do tenants and residents fully realise the achievements that they have been able to make in Kirklees? Whilst tenant involvement is well established in Kirklees just how ‘empowered’ and well equipped are our tenants and residents to meet the current and future challenges ahead: forging a movement that is inclusive of all sections of the community and responding to changing economic and social circumstances?
In this highly interactive workshop led by KFTRA fieldworker and experienced community activist Graham Simpson, delegates will be able to discuss the incredible achievements made by Kirklees tenants over the years, identify the challenges that lie ahead and debate what today’s tenant activist needs to be genuinely empowered.
Annual Community Engagement and Tenant Participation Reports 2011/ 2012
Why is it coming here?
INFORMATION / CONSULTATION
BACKGROUND:This is the annual presentation of community engagement/ tenant participation activity undertaken by the KNH Community Engagement Team and KFTRA Field workers. This covering report is intended to provide an overview of our joined approach to developing the communities in which we work and empowering the individuals who want to engage. It has a Kirklees wide focus and is accompanied by separate reports from the community engagement officer and KFTRA fieldworker responsible for each neighbourhood. These neighbourhood focussed reports are meant to give an overview of the variety of activities that are taking place in that neighbourhood.
`KFTRA – The key focus is on the development and support of existing tenant and resident associations (TRAs), the identification and nurturing of potential newTRAs and the development of alternative opportunities for tenants and residents to contribute to the tenant and resident movement in Kirklees. KFTRA play a critical role in building the capacity of groups of tenants and residents and individuals to: exercise a responsible influence over the delivery of public services in their communities, provide community leadership and contribute to the development of vibrant, socially inclusive communities. The accompanying field officer report provides illustrations of how this is done on a neighbourhood level.
KNH Community Engagement Team (CET) – Whilst the team works towards the same outcomes and work alongside Field Workers to support TRA activities, their work is shaped and their priorities determined, largely by the needs of the KNH Neighbourhood Teams and by the priorities from the Charter Action Plan. The Community Engagement Officers work across the Kirklees area working with Council, NHS, Police and voluntary sector partners on community engagement and development projects. A large part the team’s work involves planning and delivering a summer programme of activities and events in partnership with YPS, CUP and Kirklees Council. The Team’s work enables KNH to contribute to meeting the priorities that have been set out in the Kirklees Community Strategy within KNH estates including themes such as community cohesion, improved health and wellbeing and social inclusion.
KEY POINTS:The Community Engagement Team and KFTRA field workers have worked extremely hard over the course of the last year to ensure that KNH estates are vibrant places to live with lots of opportunities for people to become involved in community activities and events. They have also worked alongside KNH Neighbourhood and Investment Team staff to enable tenants and residents to influence how public services are delivered in their area and how their estates are regenerated – e.g. Fieldhead and the Narrowing the Gap areas.
Help for community groups to obtain funding – During 2011- 12 The CET helped community groups across Kirklees to access small to medium sized grants totalling over £23,000 in support of community activities and premises development. Excel Community Grants accounted for £7800 of this money with both Community Engagement Officers and KTRA fieldworkers supporting the16 successful grant applicants.
Health and wellbeing initiatives – The CET developed and delivered a number of healthy eating and growing initiatives, as well as sport and exercise activities across Kirklees. The Team has developed partnerships with KNH Neighbourhood staff, KFTRA, Communities United Project (CUP), KC Community work team and the Young People Services (YPS) to make this happen.
Tackling Social exclusion – KFTRA and the Community Engagement Team have continued to work with TRAs who manage community premises to support them in promoting the use of their buildings to the community and increasing the range of activities taking place. Both teams have supported TRAs in the organisation of community events. The CET have worked closely with Carly Webster (Older Persons’ Activity Coordinator) to deliver activities and events aimed at involving older people in their communities who might otherwise be at risk of isolation and exclusion.
Young People – Whilst KFTRA have been supporting TRAs to boost the numbers of young people involved in TRAs and the tenant movement through initiatives such as Junior TRAs, KNH have been working with CUP and YPS to plan and deliver summer schools and to organise new youth clubs on KNH estates.
Community Cohesion – KFTRA and KNH have supported inter-generational activities across Kirklees helping to form links between TRAs and local young people, schools and older people’s granges using activities such as planting to do so.
WHAT I AM ASKING FROM TENANT AND RESIDENT COMMITTEES:The reports are designed to achieve the following outcomes:
Members will have a clear idea of what, how and why KNH and KFTRA deliver to engage community members both Kirklees wide and within their own neighbourhood.
Members will be able to use the information (examples of events, key priorities) to help identify future opportunities in their area that KFTRA fieldworkers and the KNH Community Engagement Team can assist them with.
An opportunity for TRC delegates to discuss:
· Whether we are achieving quality outcomes in their neighbourhood and how they think KNH and KFTRA could do things differently to make an even bigger difference.
· Whether tenant participation and community engagement are being delivered in a complementary way that meets the needs of TRAs.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:Members’ feedback on how successfully KNH and KFTRA are performing their respective community engagement roles will be taken into account when planning and evaluating future work.
CONTACT OFFICER AND RELEVANT PAPERS:Darren Wilson (Community Engagement Manager)
Please note that any changes proposed by the Council will only affect new tenancies and not existing ones.
Kirklees Council are consulting council housing tenants and their representatives on their views over the future of council housing tenancies.
At present the vast majority of council housing tenants enjoy ‘secure tenancies’. This means that as long as they pay their rent and abide by their tenancy agreement their tenancy is ‘secure’ for as long as they want it.
The government has passed legislation that allows local councils to offer different tenancies to ‘secure’ ones.
The options include,
Stay as we are with no change to secure tenancies.
Fixed term tenancies that may or may not be renewed
A mixture of the above
There will be a drop in consultation session at Huddersfield Town Hall on Thursday June 14th between 10.00am and 3.00pm for you to learn more about the proposals and make your views known.
The three most common grants available for TRA’s are,
Annual Support Grant – this is paid yearly on adhering to the partnership agreement and having the TRA accounts audited. Groups can have up to £70 left and still claim the full grant, any more left and the amount will be deducted from the grant before it is paid. The amount of grant is based on the number of properties and an extra amount is paid to TRA’s who run their own premises.
Extra Support Grant – This is available for groups who have an unexpected expense that could not realistically be met from their grant and can also be applied to if the group wish to put on additional activities to involve residents on their estate. An example would be a small estate who have to pay for meeting venues, that their support grant does not cover. This grant is only paid as ‘one off’ funding and will not be paid as a supplement to the annual support grant. If it is paid to cover a regular expense then it allows TRA’s a breathing space to arrange fund raising or seek additional support to cover the expense.
Excel Grants – grants for community involvement activities can be applied for online from the KNH website. The maximum amount available was £500 but this is currently under review and likely to be reduced. Ideas for involving hard to reach groups or wider numbers of estate residents by innovative means have been popular applications for the grant in the past.
Other Funding – there are a wide range of funds and grants available! which are constantly changing. As information on new funding opportunities emerges, they will receive there own post on this site.
If you know of any grant or funding opportunities that may benefit other TRA’s please email the details to firstname.lastname@example.org or add details at the end of this post