Paying your rent first helps everyone
The Council is adopting a Rent First approach to ensure that everyone understands that paying your rent should be a top priority for everyone.
Neighbourhoods and Housing City Manager Dave Richmond said, “We have lots of pressures on our expenditure which is why we are launching our Rent First campaign to stress the importance of paying your rent before all other spending. If you are having problems, get in touch with us. We offer a range of payment methods and our area tenancy teams are on hand to help.”
Look out for the Rent First campaign which launches in October 2018
Chat with the chair
Earlier this year we sat down with members of the national Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) to look at how we can work smarter and encourage more tenants to become more actively involved with housing services. Inevitably, the way forward is digital.
So, what are we doing?
We now have digital reporters who email their findings on the street environment and the cleaning standards in flats. They provide us with extra eyes and ears within our neighbourhoods and enable issues to be reported and resolved quickly. We are refreshing the administration of our Facebook site to ensure it is current and responsive, and in September held our first Facebook live session with our Head of Housing. We now deliver a smaller version of our quarterly news sheet, complementing it with a more in depth version online.
Not only are we expanding our involvement to enable a digital voice, we are helping people gain basic skills by our digital champions project, volunteers in the community who provide training and support.
With the assistance of our active volunteers, we are also looking at how we can expand traditional style involvement channels to include a digital aspect and help us work smarter.
The Tenants’ Forum, our monthly citywide involvement meeting, is looking at streaming part of its meeting via live webcam and developing a WhatsApp group to enable more tenants to be involved and stay connected. You can watch the Facebook Live session on the Hull City Council Housing page.
We are reducing paperwork at our meetings, having electronic agendas, photographing flipcharts and having action logs instead of minutes. Increasingly our correspondence with volunteers is via email, thereby saving postage and paper. However, we still offer to print documents for volunteers if requested, to save their printing costs.
Our independent Tenants’ Scrutiny Group is also going digital. Instead of having papers tabled, its next review will access all information via a laptop and they will also collect wider tenants’ views via an online survey.
The future is digital, we see it in all aspects of our daily lives, and it’s the same for tenant engagement too. We’ve only just started our digital journey but already we are seeing significant advantages in terms of expanding our volunteer base, better two way communications and overall smarter working.
Until next time,
Interested in what’s happening on your patch?
If you want to know more about what’s happening in your neighbourhood, why not pop along to one of the local area committee meetings?
The city is divided into seven areas. You can get involved in local decision making by taking part in area committee meetings, ward and neighbourhood forums.
Social housing Green Paper
The Government has published its Green Paper “A new deal for social housing”. Being a Green Paper, it is looking for feedback before finalising proposed legislation.
Responses must be submitted by Tuesday 6 November
Most of the proposals in the document are about tackling the stigma associated with social housing. It also seeks to increase tenants’ empowerment and improve the complaints procedure. Importantly, following the Grenfell tragedy it looks at ways of ensuring that homes are safe and decent.
To get to the Green Paper stage, tenants across the country were invited to events to express their views. A group of Hull tenants attended a meeting in York, and Ann Reekie and Darren Milner reinforced Hull’s viewpoints through their involvement in See the Person (formerly Benefit to Society)
Hull Tenants Forum Chair Nev Allison said “We will be making a response on behalf of the forum, and I would encourage Tenants and Residents Associations as well as individuals in the city response. This paper is a once in a generation opportunity to shape the future for social housing.”
Local consultations will be held to inform the forum’s response.
Universal Credit - What is it?
Universal Credit is being introduced across the UK in stages and will be introduced in Hull from December 2018 for almost everyone making a new benefit claim or reporting a change of circumstance. If you already claim benefits and your circumstances don’t change, then you won’t be asked to move to Universal Credit until at least 2019.
Universal Credit will replace -
- Housing Benefit
- income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
- income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA)
- Child Tax Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income Support
One major difference for tenants will be that instead of getting a separate Housing Benefit, your rent will usually be paid directly to you as part of your monthly Universal Credit payment.
How Universal Credit works
You'll usually get one monthly payment to cover your living costs. If you claim Universal Credit as a couple, you and your partner will get one payment between the two of you. The payment is made up of a basic 'standard allowance' and extra payments that might apply to you depending on your circumstances, ie some of the additional allowances include childcare, being a carer or if you have children.
You may be able to claim other benefits if you get Universal Credit, including Council Tax reduction and disability benefits.
Advice is available from the Citizens Advice by -
- calling 04444 111 444
- email - email@example.com
- drop into the Freedom Centre on Wednesday's 10 am – 12 noon
- call into The Wilson Centre
Alternativley visit the following websites -
Change to adaptations policy
The council has changed its housing allocations policy so that it can best meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities who live in its homes.
Currently, 24% of Hull council homes have a major adaptation, such as level access showers, extensions of vertical through floor lifts. Major adaptations are expensive.
Whilst the council will always seek to provide adaptations to meet people’s needs, in future we may refuse to make an offer of a non-adapted property to a tenant who is already suitably housed in council adapted accommodation.
Complaints - Did you know?
If you are not satisfied with the council’s response to a housing complaint and want to take it further to Level 3, you can opt to have it dealt with by the Tenants Designated Complaints Panel. This is an independent group of Hull tenants who aim to help tenants resolve their problems.
The Panel helps people through the complaints procedure, reassures them that their complaint will be looked into impartially, fairly and confidentially, and make its recommendations accordingly.
In the two years since the Tenant Complaints Panel has been in operation, its recommendations have had a significant impact, helping to resolve complex complaints and drive improvements in housing services.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fancy winning £250?
By now, one in five council tenants will have received the 2018 Tenant Satisfaction Survey. Those who complete and return it by the end of October will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win £250.
The returned survey forms are analysed by an external company KWEST on our behalf. All the forms are confidential and completely anonymous.
Dave Richmond, Neighbourhoods and Housing City Manager says, “Your involvement in the Tenant Satisfaction Survey is very important because your views help us to shape future services therefore the more people who complete the survey, the more representative a picture we get.”
The results of the survey will be reported in early 2019.
Preston Road Graffiti Jam
Over a sunny August weekend, street artists from all over the UK came to the Preston Road Estate where five pairs of homes awaiting demolition became blank canvases for their work.
It was the first time nationally that empty homes have been offered to street artists and the results were amazing. Even though the homes will be demolished in six months to make way for new homes for affordable rent and sale, the “Jam” brought a splash of colour and art into the community.
A day in the life of...
Luke Stepniak Tenancy Officer
Your local Tenancy Officer is one of the most well-known faces in the community. Luke Stepniak has worked as a Tenancy Officer in the Bilton Grange area for the past five years. He loves his job because he isn’t tied to a desk. He gets out and about and feels that he and fellow members of the area tenancy team can really make a difference to benefit local people.
For Luke, no two days are ever the same, whether it is completing home visits, dealing with untidy gardens and communal areas, completing flat inspections, co-ordinating and referring to partner agencies, carrying out void inspections and compiling direct let reports. These are just a few of the tasks a Tenancy Officer is involved in.
Luke lives about half an hour’s drive away from Bilton Grange Information Point where he is based, but before he can venture out of the house he must have a coffee (or two) to set him up for the journey.
This morning he didn’t go straight to the office, he diverted to the Saxby Road area where residents have complained that the trees and bushes are growing wildly out of control. Once he has taken photographs and it has been agreed by the manager that quotes can be sorted, Luke then arranges for the relevant quotes to be provided. Luke then presents this to the manager for approval and then arranges for the orders to be raised and the works to be carried out making sure all involved are aware of what is being done.
On arrival in the office Luke checks his emails using his new mobile device which he is piloting with other colleges at the Bilton Housing Office and prioritises his workload over another cup of coffee. Top of the list is rehousing a family who are currently in need of a priority move due to their current critical situation. A suitable home has been found via the allocations team so a viewing is arranged. In these cases a considerable amount of co-ordination is required by the Tenancy Officer to make sure the individuals circumstances are managed effectively and the move goes ahead with minimal disruption whilst maintain the families safety.
Just before his lunch break Luke gets a couple of phone calls. The first is confirmation that a 14 day removal notice can be served on the owner of an abandoned caravan which has been an eyesore in a nearby street for a number of weeks this notice would be served by the Environmental Crime Unit. The other is from a local resident complaining about fly-tipping. Although the resident could have reported it online or to the 300 300 call centre, Luke gets in touch with partner agencies to get quotes with a view to getting one of them approved so the fly tipping can be removed. Hopefully, the rubbish tipped will contain some evidence of who did the fly-tipping. If there is evidence, then the council may be able to take legal action against them. Lunch for Luke is usually a sandwich at his desk. Luke is fluent in five languages – German, French, Polish, Russian and English. Not surprisingly, Luke is passionate about travelling.
Back at work in the afternoon, he turns his attention to a succession of tenancy. This case involves a resident who lived with his mother and, sadly, she died recently. The tenancy was held in his mother’s name. Since he lived with her for longer than a year and there have been no previous changes to the tenancy he should be able to succeed to the tenancy. He cannot remain in the three bedroom family home, however, he can be allocated a one bedroom flat so Luke calls him to discuss the procedure and options available.
Checking the condition of empty properties when tenants have moved out is a key part of Luke’s role. If he knows there is damage or that alterations have been made without permission from the council, Luke would arrange for a surveyor to go with him. Together they can check if any unauthorised work is of an adequate standard and how much it will cost to carryout repairs. In this case, a small extension to the kitchen was authorised but the former tenants have left carpets down in every room. This means they must either return and take them up or pay the council’s costs to remove them. If the customer did not arrange for them to be removed the works would be carried out and a recoverable order for the costs would be raised against the customer.
On his way back to the office, Luke calls to see an elderly tenant who has asked for help with completing some forms he has received from the Council. Luke is happy to oblige. Whilst he is in the tenant’s home he realises the customer doesn’t seem too steady on his feet so he gives the customer some good advice with regards to a possible Occupational Health referral.
After a final check of his emails back at the office, Luke heads off to the gym. He enjoys a workout a couple of times a week but can easily be distracted if something else comes up! Tonight he heads into town and meets friends in one of his favourite restaurants.
Looking to get involved?
This month we have welcomed Charterhouse Tenants’ and Residents’ Association. This association is one of many across the city which give tenants a chance to have their say about their homes and the services they get from the council.
If you are interested in getting involved with a TARA or even setting on up, please contact the Tenant Involvement Team by emailing tenant.resident @hullcc.gov.uk
Upcoming Tenants Forum meetings
|Monday 22 October||2pm to 4pm||Workshop on Green Paper on social housing|
|Tuesday 20 November||1.30pm to 3.30pm||Andy Burton, Street Scene City Manager attending|
All Tenants’ Forum meetings are held in The Guildhall