Latest news from day 2 of Housing 21's Residents' Conference
David Grayson, Chairman, summed up by talking about the importance of lively courts initiative and what it represents. David wants people 'to feel it's a great thing to be a Housing 21 tenant' not just because we aspire to be a good landlord and service provider but also because we are a community.
He challenged residents that 'It is up to us to make later life a second summer'. He also announced that he is stepping down as chairman after his five-year term of office but will continue as a 'ambassador for the idea of a good later life'.
Pushpa paid tribute to David as an 'inspirational' chairman, citing the lively courts initiative as his legacy. She went on to say that she hoped that Housing 21 had demonstrated that it is listening and putting in place 'sustainable solutions'. Pushpa admitted, though, that her biggest challenge will be replacing David as chairman.
The best is yet to come
Kris Peach and Me-Mee Seal gave a lively presentation on the work of the Service Development Team, which was followed by an even livelier showing of residents' views from the video booth.
Kris and Me-Mee are keen to encourage residents to talk to them first when looking for additional services as the chances are that we are delivering or developing the same - or a similar service - elsewhere.
The video booth footage contained many great suggestions for services and the video will be posted on this website soon.
Help the Heroes
Residents raised £18,962 for Help the Heroes, our chosen charity for 2010-11. Housing 21 brought the total up to £20,000.
Housing 21's new charity for 2011-12 is Help the Hospices.
Mark Yates, Policy and Service Development Manager, spoke about the review of resident partnership and new ways of involving residents. Mark is currently looking at developing:
- residents' panels - who will have their input into different projects
- resident inspectors - who will be involved in court inspections and service inspections.
Residents can currently get make their views heard through:
- Resident associations
- Court Voice
- Area forums
- Service improvement projects
- Housing Services Committee
- The Residents' Conference
- The Resident Board Member
Building on this theme, Tim David, Head of Asset Management, outlined how Housing 21 is planning to keep residents better informed about changes to their courts by publishing court business plans.
Paul Tewkesbury, Head of Customer Services, spoke about progress made in:
- remodelling 120 bedsits in hard to let areas
- work underway in developing a new lettings policy
- clarifying the criteria and standards for flat redecoration.
Jane Hinde finished with an update on reviewing the role of court managers and ensuring that everyone understands this vital role.
Resident Board Member, Ken Jeffries, spoke about his role, which includes:
representing residents' views at board level, and
chairing the Housing Serviced Committee (HSC). The HSC scrutinises Housing 21 management, holding them to account. The committee receives reports from the area forums and Ken is looking to strengthen links between the committee and the forums.
Live Active Competition winners announced
David Grayson, Chair of Housing 21 announced the winners and runner-ups in Housing 21's Live Active Competition which recognises out liveliest courts.
Frank Howe Court, Milton Keynes
Residents organise a range of activities including:
- IT classes,
The highlight of the social calendar is the monthly Ritz-style tea.
One resident says: 'My son says he feels he had to book an appointment with me as I'm so busy!'
Ebbage Court, Woking
The average age is 83 and residents enjoy:
- theatre groups
- links to the local sports centre
- lunch club
- garden club.
Dennis Potter Court, Birmingham
The court offers:
- exercise classes
- craft workshops
- nostalgia evenings
- 'glee' evenings
Lawrence Hill Court, Gateshead
- Xmas parties
- Natty knitters
- links to a health trainer
- mobile library.
The court is used as a polling station.
Special innovation award
A special innovation award went to Field Marshall Slim Court, Bristol, where residents have built links with a nearby homelessness hostel. Hostel residents dig gardens and wash cars for court tenants.
Campaign to end loneliness
Laura Ferguson spoke about the factors that cause loneliness which include:
- health issues
- changes in technology
- changes in services.
There is a stigma attached to loneliness and people often don't wish to admit to feeling lonely.
Laura highlighted the fact that loneliness has been linked with poorer physical and mental health, an issue raised with health commissioners.
What can be done?
A number of things can be done which can make a difference including:
- Identifying people who are lonely and making sure that connections are maintained
- Government policies which tackle this issue
- Buildings and projects that incorporate opportunities to connect to others
Laura encouraged residents to talk to people who may be lonely and help them to access activities. This will include developing connections before people become older.
Get Digital was a government funded project helping older people to get online and gain digital skills. Suzanne Lewis spoke about how Alrewych Court in Walsall got connected.
The residents wanted an Internet Cafe, so put together a bid and raised £4,000. With the money they were able to set up Cafe and have lessons in how to use a computer. Getting online has had a positive impact on a number of residents' lives including:
- Cindy who uses Skype to talk to her son in the Dominican Republic
- Margaret, who comes to the day centre, has used the Internet to contact her MP on a planning issue
- Nials, was a reporter and has lost his sight. Voice recognition software means he can still write articles.
- Wii Fit classes - everyone can take part, even in a wheelchair or Zimmer frame.
The local community and schools have also been heavily involved in the project. Initiatives include:
- Workshops on mobile phones with school children showing residents how to make the most of their mobile.
- A local teacher runs classes in digital photography.
The court has become a recognised UK Online Centre, accessing Heritage Fund cash to develop new projects with the community.
Anthea Roussouw talked with huge enthusiasm about the Green Johanna project, which began at Walstead Court, and which has spread to 8 other courts.
The Green Johannas turn food waste into compost, which can then be used for gardens. There is no smell...or flies and pests.
Housing 21 residents have become leaders in recycling. Over the last six months, 360 residents in the 8 courts have recycled 1 tonne of waste. They have convinced the local authority and Environment Agency that Green Johannas are a great idea and have won national recognition and awards.
Anthea ended by asking; 'if 8 courts can recycle 1 tonne...what could we achieve if every court took it on?
The Live Active initiative has been looking at how customer well-being can be improved by social activities. The update focused on 5 tops tips for making courts lively:
- Keeping active - 'the best way of making the most of embracing your older years'. Linking in with other organisations, eg Learning for the fourth age.
- Community spirit - involving the wider community reduces isolation, for example by renting out the court lounge.
- Money, money, money! - Courts can get external grants and funding. Housing 21 has produced a useful guide on how to go about this. Kenneth Lauder Court has raised £15,000 in this way over the last few years.
- Bringing generations together - working with local schools, eg teaching children chess or presenting to schools on topics such as World War II. Housing 21 can give guidance on CRB checks.
- Technology - a silver suffers event is planned later this month in Bristol.
'You are never too old to learn. It just takes longer to pick it up...and it opens up a new world of info' Derek Bird, 75, McKenzie Court.