Published 28 June 2021
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Introduction from Councillor Gail Harris
Welcome to the summer issue of TLC magazine.
I’m so pleased to be able to introduce this summer issue of tlc, after what has been such a challenging time for so many of our residents.
I’d like to take this opportunity once again to say thank you for your understanding while we’ve adapted to the most recent lockdown. At time of writing, restrictions are beginning to lift, which allows us to return to delivering normal housing services, however, it may take a while to get back on track and we appreciate your patience – read more on page four.
The pandemic has affected everyone differently, but it’s clear that many people are really struggling with their finances – read about the money and benefit advice we can offer tenants on page five.
A focus of this issue is the social housing white paper, a government report which was published in November 2020 – as a result of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. It is a residents’ charter, which sets out the seven commitments social landlords (in this case, us) must make to their residents to prevent such an awful event happening again. We explain more about the white paper on pages six and seven.
At the heart of all our work should be ensuring our residents’voices are heard, and that we listen and learn from feedback. If you fancy getting involved with shaping our housing service turn to pages eight and nine where we feature some of the opportunities on offer, as well as hear from two people who are already championing the needs and rights of residents. We also set out all the ways you can give feedback on your homes and neighbourhoods on page ten – don’t forget, we love hearing your compliments too!
I do hope you find this issue useful and please let us know if there are other topics that you’d like us to feature in the future. Enjoy the summer.
Councillor Gail Harris, deputy leader and cabinet member for social housing
Supporting residents in our council housing has continued to be central to our work during the last lockdown. Teams adapted once again to do this in a safe and efficient way, such as contacting residents by phone or video call where a visit was not an option.
Posters have been put up in the tower block communal areas to remind residents and visitors of the need for continued safety – and we really appreciate everyone following this guidance until we hear otherwise.
Our repairs service is now operating as usual, but please be patient as we work through the backlog which has accumulated over the most recent lockdown.
Gasway engineers have also been continuing their essential visits, so if you are due a gas check, please make sure this can be done.
We know that the pandemic has affected residents in many ways, such as forcing people to claim benefits who might not have done so before or dealing with debt. Our housing team has continued to provide tailored financial advice over the phone on issues such as claiming benefits and accessing local support schemes – more information on how we can provide support can be found below.
Information for leaseholders
As a leaseholder you are responsible for looking after the inside of your flat or maisonette, and any service pipes and cables that serve the flat only. This includes items such as internal doors, pipe work, decoration, electrics and heating.
The council is responsible for maintaining the external fabric of the building and any internal common parts. This includes roofs, drains, windows, external doors, communal lighting and shared paths.
For more information on leaseholder and landlord responsibilities, please visit our website www.norwich.gov. uk/leaseholders
If you believe the council is responsible for a repair that is required, please report this via our website or by calling 0344 980 3333
100 years of council housing
We tracked down some of the trees we planted two years ago across the city to celebrate a century of providing social housing.
Here’s one of our sheltered housing residents with one of the trees just coming into bud.
Budgeting and money advice team
If you are worried about debt or wondering how to make your money go that little bit further, we have a specialist team of budgeting and money advisors. This is a dedicated free service for our tenants that can help with:
- General budgeting
- Income maximisation
- Expense reduction
- Multiple debt management
- Local grant applications
- Food/energy vouchers and more.
You can request a referral via:
Positive outcomes include:
- A money advisor was assigned a case where the gas had been capped. Liaison with the utility provider, tenancy management officer and other organisations resulted in the account being credited and the gas being uncapped within a week.
- Rent verification for universal credit can be a challenge.A budgeting advisor was assigned a case with concerns over incorrect entitlement.Thanks to liaison with the income officer and the Department of Work and Pensions, the entitlement was corrected and backdated making a substantial reduction to debts held.
The charter for social housing residents
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the serious failings identified by the enquiry that followed, the government has published a report - known as the social housing white paper. The aim of the charter is to ensure nothing like Grenfell ever happens again, as well as improve the standard of social housing by ensuring residents are listened to - and know what to expect from their landlord - in this case, Norwich City Council.
The charter sets out what every social housing resident should be able to expect.
- To be safe in your home
- To know how your landlord is performing
- To have your complaints dealt with promptly and fairly
- To be treated with respect, backed by a strong consumer regulator for tenants
- To have your voice heard by your landlord
- To have a good quality home and neighbourhood to live in
- To be supported to take your first step to ownership
Our response to the social housing white paper
There are many recommendations set out in the charter. The good news is that we are already doing many of them, but there are areas where we can improve.
Our work so far:
- Undertaken a programme of fire safety works in our tower blocks, including replacement of all entrance doors, as well as doors to sheds in communal areas. We’ve also installed new hard wired smoke detectors where necessary.
- Revised the questions in our satisfaction survey
- to find out your views on whether your homes are safe and secure (see page 11 for the first set of results).
- Substantial investment in planned upgrades and improvements to council homes, over and above the Government’s Decent Homes Standard to a higher ‘Norwich Standard*’.
- Significantly increased the budget to spend on improvements to our estates and neighbourhoods.
- Completed our self-assessment against the Housing Ombudsman’s Complaints Handling code. Refreshed our complaints policy and information on our website.
We are working on:
- Including even more information in our annual report to increase transparency.
- Making it even easier for tenants to have their say. We already provide a range of involvement opportunities, such as our Tenant Involvement Panel, but we need to do more.
- Improving how we measure and report on our performance in areas that are important to you. We already collect a wide range of data, but we are looking at how we can collect more using tenant satisfaction surveys and performance information from across our housing department.
Many of the recommendations set up in the white paper will require further government consultations, and some may require changes to the law.
We will continue to respond to government guidance and keep you updated.
Read the full report: www.gov.uk – search for ‘charter for social housing’.
*The Norwich Standard means all kitchens are less than 20 years old, all bathrooms are less than 30 years old and all boilers are less than 15 years.
Have your say on where you live!
Social housing landlords need to listen to residents, be more open about how housing services are run, and provide opportunities to get involved - these were some of the key learnings to come out of the social housing white paper, a report which was commissioned to address the failings which led to the Grenfell Tower disaster.
We pride ourselves in putting our residents at the heart of housing matters. Check out some of the ways that you can get involved.
Tenant Involvement Panel (TIP)
Tenant involvement meetings offer you the opportunity to carefully examine our performance as a landlord and recommend improvements.
Although serious issues are covered, TIP is also a sociable event and often attended by senior housing staff, as well as Norwich City Council cabinet member, Cllr Harris– who are always keen to hear your views.
ARCH (Association of Retained Council Housing)
These meetings provide an opportunity to meet council tenants from across the country, discuss relevant issues and share ideas, which are then shared with the wider TIP group. Each year, a few residents attend the ARCH conference, which has a wide variety of speakers on relevant matters.
Talk back to us!
The Talkback panel is an easy and informal way of influencing your housing services by sharing your views with us on a variety of topics. This feedback will be used to help develop and improve services.
Each survey is very quick and can be completed by SMS text, online or by post. We will limit the number of surveys and you are free to opt-out at any time. You can find out more about opportunities to get involved by visiting our website www.norwich.gov.uk/CouncilHomes or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Two residents tell us about their experience of making their voices heard and influencing the way our housing service is delivered.
Peter Jones has been a member of TIP for three years, we asked him a few questions about his experience.
Why did you choose to join TIP?
I find it rewarding being able to put forward a point of view from the position of a tenant.
Why should tenants consider joining the panel?
It is a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to put forward a point of view about the daily life of the tenants in Norwich and take part in decisions made by the council.
What are the benefits of being on the panel?
Having an influence on council decisions that affect the lives of all its tenants.
As a TIP member, what are you most proud of?
I have been proud to meet and work with tenants from all over Norwich.
Chris Gould has been a member of TIP for around five years. He also sits on the ARCH tenants’ group.
As a TIP member, I have the opportunity to learn about what the council is doing as a housing landlord. I can try and hold them to account by asking them to clarify their decisions and challenge things I don’t like, as well as bring to their notice any shortcomings and problems.
The meetings are very varied indeed. Recent topics have included measures taken to improve fire safety and how they are performing on service delivery and handling complaints. We also have meetings when there is a proposed rent rise – and I took the opportunity recently to remind the council of problems people might have in meeting payments due to Covid.
Panel membership has allowed me to learn a little about a lot of large subjects, however we also keep an eye on ‘smaller’ topics, but which are front page news for tenants, like overgrown gardens or fly tipping.
Housing affects us all. Like all birds we must have our nest, so if you like nosing, arguing – but not too loudly, and learning, please give membership of our panel your consideration.
Complaints or compliments - we need your feedback
Your feedback is important to us as it tells us what we’re doing well, but also what we can do to improve. Whatever
your experience, good or bad, we need to hear from you so we can improve and take action to put things right. If you have any suggestions on how we could do things differently or make improvements, please
let us know.
There are several ways you can give us feedback:
- Online: www.norwich.gov.uk/ complaints • www.norwich. gov.uk/compliments
- Email: email@example.com
- In writing: Norwich City Council, City Hall, St Peter’s Street, Norwich, NR2 1NH
- Phone: 0344 980 3333
- In person to a member of staff or contractors, or by completing and returning satisfaction surveys.
Compliments – tell us when things have gone well
Please let us know when you have been happy with something we have done, this tells us what parts of our service are working well, for example:
- When a service we provide has improved things for you
- When a repair or property improvement has been done well
- Compliment a member of staff or one of our contractors who has gone the extra mile to get things done.
Complaints – let us know when you are unhappy with our service
It is also important that we know as soon as possible when things have not gone so well. This is so we can investigate what has happened and take action to put things right if needed. Your feedback also allows us to continually learn and improve. Please get in touch using any of the methods above.
Housing Ombudsman service
Recently the Housing Ombudsman (an independent public body that looks at complaints within the social housing sector) introduced
a new code of conduct to ensure that all complaints from leaseholders and tenants are handled effectively and fairly. We have looked carefully at our complaints procedure and can confirm that as a landlord we comply with the new code, but we are always looking for ways to improve.
More information on making a complaint
The Government’s Make Things Right campaign aims to inform residents on how to raise complaints if they are unhappy with the service from their social housing provider.
We also have lots of information on our website, including how to contact the Ombudsman
A big thank you to the 250 residents who have taken the time to respond to our satisfaction survey, so far.
We are working towards getting 1,000 responses to be certain they are more representative and will be publishing the results on our website.
Out of the 250 respondents so far:
- 80% are satisfied with their neighbourhood as a place to live
- 86%are satisfied that Norwich City Council provides a home that is safe and secure
- 76% are satisfied that Norwich City Council is easy to deal with
- 79% are satisfied with the overall service provided by Norwich City Council
Help us improve
If you get a phone call from Viewpoint, who conduct our survey, please do answer their questions – your feedback helps us make improvements to the way we work.
Thanks to everyone who has taken part so far.
If you do not wish to be contacted for this survey, you can opt out at www.norwich.gov.uk/starsurvey
Report online repairs
To report non-urgent repairs (and for a chance to win £50) go to:
- Click 'report a non-urgent repair'
- Enter your details and let the repair software guide you through the rest...
Available 24/7 and works on PCs, tablets and smartphones.
- Quick and easy to do
- Request your preferred time
- No waiting in phone queues
- Save the cosy of a call
Contacting Norwich City Council
- You can report repairs, access council services and make online payments.
- Register for ‘My Account’ to check your rent and council tax balance. Take a look at ‘My Norwich’ to see what services are available in your area.
Norwich City Council, City Hall, Norwich NR2 1NH.
0344 980 3333. Lines open 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
Out of hours emergencies:
Free phone payment hotline:
0800 021 7784 (a 24/7 service).
0344 980 3333 or email budgetingandmoneyadvice@ norwich.gov.uk
Text relay users only:
18001 0344 980 3333 (9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday).
For help and advice on your rights and responsibilities, contact the home ownership team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Norwich Leaseholders’ Association
If so, why not get involved in Norwich Leaseholders’ Association which meets to discuss issues that affect you. For further information call 01603 615132.
Loss of gas or electricity?
If you have lost your gas or electricity supply you should contact your energy supplier directly in the first instance.