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Your Housing Group: One Year On
Over the past 12 months there have been many changes to the social housing landscape, and with the ever growing demand for housing, providers are under more pressure than ever before. For Your Housing Group it has been a year of change. This has brought some challenges but also many successes, since the Group formed in April 2012. Since its inception Your Housing Group has completed 244 new homes, invested £23m towards the regeneration of Anfield Village in Liverpool, and been short listed for five prestigious industry awards including UK Housing Award for ‘Business Transformation of the Year’. It is also currently on site building 873 units spanning from Cumbria to Staffordshire Moorlands, including five extra care developments for people over 55. Brian Cronin, Chief Executive of Your Housing Group, said: “When we formed Your Housing Group the objective was to bring together two well established housing groups so that we could combine their strengths and create an organisation that was in a stronger position to develop new housing solutions and provide enhanced services for our residents. One year on and I can say with confidence that we are fulfilling those objectives, but that doesn’t mean that we think we’re there yet, we have great ambitions for the future of Your Housing Group.” Over the next 12 months Your Housing Group will start on a further 148 properties across 15 sites, and is due to complete 70 homes in Anfield as part of the Group’s commitment to the wider regeneration of Anfield Village. These impressive figures demonstrate the Group’s significant progress towards delivering its target of 1,457 new homes as part of the HCA’s affordable homes programmes. As well as investing heavily in the regeneration of Anfield Village, Your Housing Group has also taken significant steps to stimulate employment and training in Anfield. The Group is leading a local hospitality training initiative – The Oakfield Project, working with Liverpool Community College and Liverpool Hoteliers Association to provide high quality employer led hospitality training for local people. It is hoped that this project will help boost the local economy and assist people to flourish in the sector. People and communities are a key driver for the Group, and this commitment is underpinned by its vision of ‘transforming your lives and your communities’. This is partly achieved through working in partnership with local services to better support residents. Support services including Money Advice Workers and Older People Services were both highlighted as key areas of focus during the merger process. Over the past 12 months Your Housing Group has employed an additional four full time Money Advice Workers providing additional, and much needed, support to residents, particularly with the introduction of the Government’s Welfare Reform. Your Housing Group is also leading the way in services for older residents. In 2012 the Group opened a pioneering extra care village, Brookside in Ormskirk. At Brookside, Your Housing Group successfully brought together housing and health under one roof through partnership working with local and national partners, including the NHS, Age UK and The Alzheimer’s Society. The state-ofthe-art extra care scheme offers 111 apartments, including integrated health care services specifically for people living with dementia. The Group is passionate about breaking down some of the misconceptions that surround dementia and tackling the care inequalities faced by sufferers and their families. This approach echoes a report published by the National Housing Federation in May 2013 which highlighted for the first time how housing organisations play a crucial role in supporting people living with dementia. Working with local and national partners including Lancashire County Council, West Lancashire Borough Council and NHS Central Lancashire, Brookside offers enhanced housing and integrated services for people with a range of needs and specifically for people with dementia. The specialist facilities at Brookside include an onsite pain clinic as research shows that symptoms of dementia can lessen within six weeks once patients are treated for pain. In April Esther Rantzen visited Brookside as part of her SilverLine project. During her visit Esther had the opportunity to join in with activities including Singing for the Brain and card-making. She was highly impressed with the scheme, commenting how SilverLine receives many sad stories from lonely and isolated older people, and how lovely it was to see a cheerful, thriving community. Mike Watson, Director of Older People Services for Your Housing Group, said: “We are immensely proud with what we have achieved with Brookside. Working with key partners we have brought housing and health together and made an innovative step forward in the delivery of care and housing for older adults and supporting those living with dementia. This is a service we plan to replicate across the Group in the future.” Looking forward to the next 12 months Your Housing Group will continue to focus on the impact of Welfare Reform and how, as housing providers, the Group must respond to best support residents. Paul Seymour Group Director of Your Response, for Your Housing Group, said; “Across the Group we have been working hard to ensure that all our residents are informed about the changes and the options available to them. We are starting to see the real impact of these changes and how they affect our residents, and with the introduction of the under occupation charge, benefit cap and universal credit we must ensure that our residents are well informed and supported.” The Group has found that many residents have opted to stay in their homes and pay the extra rent. Where this is the case Your Housing Group has provided access to dedicated Money Advice Workers to help people with their household budget and to make sure they are getting all the benefits they are entitled to. For residents who want to downsize as they are unable to pay the extra rent, Your Housing Group is doing its utmost to help find suitable properties and has signed up to the mutual exchange scheme HomeSwapper that is free to residents. The problem, and one that has been experienced by housing providers across the country, is the lack of available accommodation for people to move into as demand for housing is already so high. Looking to the future Your Housing Group has continued cementing its position as an organisation. The head office roots are now firmly set in Warrington after the Group confirmed its plans for a new head office at Birchwood Park, which is due to be completed mid 2014. Your Housing Group has also started to strengthen its brand exposure across the Group. Local rebranding started in April this year and over the next 12 months Your Housing Group will continue to integrate the new Group identity on a local level. As part of this process Your Housing Group has recently launched its new customer focused website which includes a dedicated customer section, self-service portal and community area. The Group’s award winning customer service centre Your Response has also been rolled out to residents across Your Housing Group. Moving forward, a key focus will be growth; continuing to progress the affordable housing programme, but also building non-social housing and creating a stronger presence for the Group across the North, Yorkshire and Staffordshire. Stephen Haigh, Group Director for Growth, said: “The key focus and drivers for us as a Group is combining social purpose and commercial strength. We are exploring new opportunities primarily in market rent sector and looking to expand our portfolio of retirement living facilities geographically and within our key areas.” At the heart of all of its achievements and future aspirations Your Housing Group is still firmly founded on people, an ethos that is driven through the Group by Chief Executive Brian Cronin, who added: “From the beginning Your Housing Group has been about people, both our staff and our residents, and people are the key to our future. It is their hard work and commitment to driving positive change that has enabled Your Housing Group to build such a strong foundation in our first year and enabled us to meet the challenges and deliver the best for our customers.” This strong foundation was underpinned during the Group’s first staff conference which was held in April at EventCity in Manchester. The conference provided an opportunity for staff to come together and reflect on the last year and recognise its achievements, and to look forward and inspire staff on the future direction of Your Housing Group. Feedback from the conference showed a positive shift in staff confidence, with ‘I feel positive’ up 16% and the vast majority of staff believing that the merger is working and we are stronger together. Overall 83.8% of staff would recommend Your Housing Group as a great place to work. Brian continued, “I am immensely proud of everyone who has been involved, and we look forward to building on this success and continuing to work hard to improve your lives and your communities.”