One year on and our partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council is going from strength to strength
Our partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council has a shared goal. Improving people’s lives. That’s what drives us.
It is now a year since we took on management of the council’s 5,500 homes in Ellesmere Port, Neston and Winsford.
Thanks to our strategic partnership with the council and many other local partners, we have hit our performance targets and made some great progress.
We have delivered over £2.5m of Council funded investment. Hundreds of new bathrooms and kitchens have been fitted and many properties have been made more energy efficient with new boilers, doors and windows. In addition, all flats in the high rise blocks now have sprinklers installed.
We are now working with the council to develop a scheme to further invest in improving energy efficiency in homes to enable tenants to keep warm and reduce their energy bills.
Getting repairs right first time for tenants is important to us. That’s why we have made improvements to the repairs and maintenance service. These include creating an online platform for tenants to report repairs and providing operatives with personal digital assistants to help them work smarter.
We’re really proud that 91% of tenants told us they were satisfied with the repairs service and we strive to increase this.
We asked tenants what is important to them and have taken feedback on board to improve services. For example, by conducting a survey and a Facebook Q&A session we heard from tenants about what support they needed on universal credit as it rolled out in December.
Our income management team used this insight and their expertise to help keep more people in their homes. The team’s support and advice reduced evictions by a third, secured close to £630,000 in extra income for tenants and reduced rent arrears by £53,000 more than the previous year.
Our new wellbeing team has played a key role in supporting tenants too, linking them into training and employment advice and any health and wellbeing support they might need to live independently.
We have launched a social prescribing initiative; Passport to Wellbeing is currently being piloted on the Westminster estate in partnership with the local GP surgery. Social prescribing links local residents to non-clinical sources of support, ranging from cookery classes and yoga to employment support and debt advice, to help tackle issues such as loneliness and isolation and to drive positive lifestyle changes.
Outcomes can lead to tenants maintaining successful tenancies, building healthy, thriving communities and reducing health inequalities and the need for medical treatments.
The launch of forfutures in April has seen our partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council grow further. Forfutures is the new homeless support service being delivered across the borough over the next nine years. We aim to improve access to both temporary and permanent accommodation, provide emergency beds for people who find themselves sleeping rough, and support people to help prevent them from becoming homeless. We are focused on tackling the causes of homelessness by supporting people into safe, secure housing and providing them with opportunities to build a more positive and sustainable future. The team are currently engaging with over 500 people who are currently homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
A stand out moment from this year so far has to be when the forfutures’ Women’s Group met the Queen and the Duchess of Sussex at the Storyhouse in Chester in June. The group gives women the chance to meet up each week in a friendly, supportive environment, currently the majority of the group are refugees who are keen to build friendships and improve on their English language.
We have come far in the past year but we know there is much more to be done to achieve our vision.
Our plans for the future are exciting.
These include work on the redevelopment of the Sutton Way corridor in Ellesmere Port, increasing opportunities for young people to gain new skills to secure work, creating Neighbourhood Promises with tenants and a new funding pot with Cheshire Community Foundation to support vital local projects.
Continuous improvement and partnership working will always be at the heart of our approach.
Together we can deliver our shared goal to create new opportunities that improve people’s lives and enable communities to thrive.