Regenda residents offered free weight loss sessions

A housing association has thrown its weight behind a new project to encourage residents to become fitter and healthier.

Almost 40 neighbours from Fleetwood’s West View housing estate have signed up for a free 12 week weight management programme.

The Regenda Group is supporting the initiative as part of its regeneration of the local area.

Community development manager, Tracey McNamara, said: “Poor lifestyle issues are sometimes magnified on estates like West View where improving the general wellbeing of local people is central to regeneration. This isn’t just about losing weight, this is about empowering our residents to help themselves.”

So many residents turned up to enrol for the weight management programme that it has already been extended from one to two weekly sessions at the West View Children’s Centre.

Among those taking part are Regenda residents Julie Winterbottom, 43, who put on weight after she quit smoking, Ted Hargreaves, 59, who needs to shed a couple of stones before undergoing a hospital operation, and 33 year-old Debbie Craft who has set herself a target to lose seven stones.

“I know that I eat too much, the wrong kind of things at the wrong time of the day and that I don’t do enough exercise. I need to change all that before my health suffers and this is a great way of me taking a bit of control and starting to look after myself,” said Debbie.

The weight management programme, called Y:Weight, is run by the YMCA with funding from Lancashire County Council and support from partners including Regenda.

“The fact that these sessions are free of charge makes a big difference to residents who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. This is a carefully structured programme and hopefully, over the coming weeks and months, we’ll see them losing weight at a steady rate, keeping it off and starting to feel much healthier,” added Tracey.

Big result as employability course graduates reach their goals

Skills, better health, qualifications, life saving knowledge, and crucially jobs have all been gained by the impressive graduates from a football-inspired employability course.

United 4 Employment is run jointly by the Newcastle United Foundation charity and social landlord Isos Housing.

In October 2014, the 11 participants met up as strangers on a Tuesday morning at St James Park, all nervous and wary of what the coming weeks would bring.

But now in January 2015, those 11 strangers have become friends, and bonded over their shared determination to learn new skills, get fit and healthy, and find the jobs they need to succeed in life.

They have enjoyed sessions on fitness and health; nutrition and healthy eating; first aid, and cooking on a budget, all aimed at making a difference to their lifestyle for the long term.

And vitally two of them have already found work, when the course has only just finished.

For all the participants, they not only benefit from the 10 week course, but also get another 10 weeks of support from the Newcastle United Foundation to help them find work.

Taking inspiration from the winning mentality needed to succeed in Premier League football, the U4E participants all put in the hours improving their skills ? and getting their mentality right.

This was reflected in an impressive attendance rate fo- the course of 89%.

The United 4 Employment course provides:

  • Qualifications
  • A work placement for each participant, to get real experience
  • Mock interviews, to help participants prepare for the real thing
  • Sport and nutrition sessions, to get participants fit for life and work

Not only did the course get the participants on the road to a job, but everyone also received a pair of tickets to a home Newcastle United match and a home shirt as a reward for their efforts.

In total, the 11 participants in the United 4 Employment course have gained around 70 qualifications between them.

They came from across Tyneside, County Durham and Northumberland, from Newcastle, Elswick, Wallsend, North Shields, Bedlington, Widdrington, Birtley, and Consett.

Richie Mitchell, community investment manager at Isos, said: “I never grow tired of hearing the fantastic stories from our courses with the Newcastle United Foundation.

“Some of the feedback has been fantastic. This is a chance to affirm our commitment to this course, and to endorse the foundation staff who do a fantastic job.

“Congratulations to David and Ian for securing work – and for all the graduates, this is not the end of the course, but the beginning of some new skills and the confidence to get the job they want.”

Sarah Brown, course tutor from the Newcastle United Foundation, said: “United 4 Employment is not just about the content of the sessions. The participants have all made friends, learnt skills, gained qualifications, learnt about interviews, met employers who could employ them in the future, and in two cases, got jobs.

“There is nothing they can’t achieve. They came here as strangers, but now they’ve got a network of people they can rely on when they need them.”

Case studies:

David Taws, 35, has been hired by Newcastle City Council to work in its CityBuild department after a successful work placement during United 4 Employment.

He will be working towards a Construction and Civil Engineering qualification, with two years of training, and the council says it has previously sponsored staff like David right through to degree level.

He said: “I will work on all council buildings and some owned by Your Homes Newcastle, learning about quantity surveying, and electrical and mechanical engineering, and I will attend Newcastle College on a Monday.

“I’ve been two years unemployed, including a period not being well. I got a lot of confidence from the United 4 Employment course. It made me realise that all the hard work I had done, was worth it.

“The job has taken a while to sink in, but now I feel quite proud. It’s a good feeling.”


Ian Watt, 52, has picked up two new roles – firstly as a team leader with catering company Sodexo, where he will work at St James’ Park on match days.

And secondly, like David, he will be working with Newcastle City Council, where he will be shadowing tradesmen on repairs and refurbishment work.

He said: “I will be shadowing, helping out with smaller jobs, fixing door handles, unblocking pipes, etc. I will be an extra pair of hands for them.

“This course has meant I’ve got back in the routine, getting up at a regular time, and now hopefully I will also be upgrading my skills.”

Before the course, Ian had been unemployed for three years having previously worked as a safety technician on cranes.

He said: “I took time out to look after my father, who was dying of cancer, and during that time my industry really changed. Suddenly you had to have a ‘ticket’ to say you could work at height – a CSCS construction card.

“This course has upgraded my health and safety knowledge, environmental awareness, first aid.

“I’m grateful for the experience, for the chance. It’s given me refreshed hope that with all the skills I have, I can prove myself to an employer, and I have a much better chance of getting gainful employment.”

Very soon after completing the first aid element of United 4 Employment, Ian was called upon to put his first aid training into use. He was riding a 21 bus into Newcastle, when an elderly lady had a seizure, and the bus driver asked if there was a first aider on board.

He said: “I was in the right place at the right time. The training just kicked in. We made sure she was OK, put her in the recovery position, got her temperature down, and sat with her til the ambulance arrived.”

Regenda’s extreme green housing scheme

The first families have moved into a small development of energy efficient homes where they can expect to make big savings on their bills.

The Regenda Group housing association’s new ‘extreme green housing scheme’ at Scarisbrick in rural West Lancashire features the latest power-saving technologies and materials.

Residents will now begin closely monitoring their electricity use and costs to help Regenda study the performance of the new equipment.

Barry Dawson and his partner Lauren Jones were among the first to move in, saying they were looking forward to taking part in the energy-saving experiment.

“Although neither of us is particularly ‘green’ or save-the-planet types, nobody enjoys wasting money. We’ll now be keeping a check on how much electricity we use for heating, lighting and power. We’ll then compare new bills with our old ones and hopefully we should see a big difference,” said Barry.

Because gas is not available on the site at Heatons Bridge Road and other fuels like oil are expensive, Regenda began exploring greener solutions.

Each of the properties is fitted with solar photovoltaic roof panels, triple glazing, a special heat recovery system which recycles warm air, has a sophisticated hot water system, low energy lighting, and is extensively insulated.

Regenda’s director of development, Martin Davies, hopes the low running costs of housing schemes like this will significantly reduce household bills and help their residents to avoid fuel poverty.

“This is one of our greenest developments so far. What we learn at Scarisbrick will help us to identify which energy-saving technologies have a greater or lesser impact on reducing electricity use. The results will then influence what we introduce in our future housing developments across the North West,” said Martin.

The four, three bedroom properties were developed in partnership with West Lancashire Borough Council to provide much needed affordable rented accommodation. Residents with a local connection to Scarisbrick were given priority.

“My mum lives in Scarisbrick and me and Barry have been living in nearby Burscough, so obviously we are delighted to have a brand new house where the children can grow up in an area we all know and love,” said Lauren. “If the electricity bills are cheaper, then that’s a bonus.”

Feedback sought for Rental Income Optimisation framework

We would like to keep you up to date and involved with all procurement related Northern Housing Consortium activities, including new framework development.

Consortium Procurement, in light of both Universal Credits and Welfare Reforms, is currently developing a new framework for Rental Income Optimisation. Our aim is to have it in place and available to our members and affiliates later this year.

We want this to be right for your organisation, so would be delighted if you would let us know your views on what you might like from it (obviously, this places you under no obligation to use the framework).

In order to ensure the framework covers as many of our member requirements we have a number of ways for you to feedback to us:

Member and Supplier Engagement Sessions

The aim of each session is to engage with members of the Northern Housing Consortium and potential suppliers to the framework, future sessions will be advised in due course via our monthly newsletter ezine.

Telephone/Email Feedback

If you would like a copy of the DRAFT framework specification to consider, please request one as soon as possible. Pending the announcement of future sessions we would welcome your comments via email – please contact Mark Cant if you have any views.

Food bank receives critical cash boost

Social landlord Isos has committed to supporting the crucial work of the West Northumberland Food Bank (WNFB) for a second year to help feed those in need.

The £7,850 investment will help support the food bank’s staffing costs and provide advice and support to people currently using the service.

The WNFB provides a three day emergency food supply to anybody experiencing poverty throughout West Northumberland. The organisation uses 33 distribution centres across the area to provide food to people who need it most.

Those struggling to put food on the table can receive help from the WNFB via local churches, community centres, children’s centres, domestic violence and homeless projects, libraries, and even from the back of youth workers’ cars.

The WNFB has organised a series of new healthy eating ‘Eat Well for Less’ workshops, to help people make the most of their food and learn new skills.

The workshops will take place over the next year to teach people how to cook nutritious meals on a budget. The sessions will provide hands-on cooking workshops and demonstrations.

The first ‘Eat Well for Less’ workshop was successfully trialled last month. Over a dozen people attended the workshop at the WNFB base, close to the Isos office on Burn Lane, Hexham.

Richard Mitchell, Community Investment Manager at Isos said: “This is the second year we have supported the West Northumberland Food Bank. During the first 12 months, the bank distributed over 1,700 bags of food to at least 262 homes ? that equates to over 500 people.

“While it’s great that people are getting the food they desperately need, these figures are bitter-sweet. The growing demand for food banks means we need to continue signposting advice services across West Northumberland.”

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group awarded the prestigious ‘Investors in People Gold’

Wythenshawe’s Community Housing Group (WCHG) is delighted to announce they have been awarded the prestigious ‘Investors in People Gold’ accreditation.

The Group was immensely proud to receive this accreditation in December 2014, which is a fitting tribute to all the hard work of colleagues since it was formed in April 2013.

The ‘Gold Award’ is the pinnacle of Investors in People accreditation and successful companies must demonstrate values and objectives are cascaded throughout the organisation.

The award is a credit to all employees across the Group driving change for the benefit of its stakeholders, employees, customers, and suppliers.

‘Investors in People’ makes people management excellence count. They exist to help businesses realise the potential of their people, improve standards and gain the accreditation to prove it. The accolade is the highest national standard that recognises good practice in engaging, developing and involving an organisations employees.

Achieving the Gold standard is recognition of WCHG’s commitment to staff and their desire to give even better services to their tenants and residents.

IIP Assessor Carol Davidson said: “Gaining Investors in People makes a statement about the kind of organisation Wythenshawe Community Housing Group is and the way in which it operates and the values that drive the organisation.”

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group Chair Eddy Newman said: “This is a fantastic achievement and a huge compliment to be recognised for all the hard work that?s gone on to achieve this accreditation!”

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group Chief Executive Nigel Wilson said: “The Investors in People Gold awards is a clear recognition of the investment we continue to make in all our colleagues across the new Group and our desire to equip everyone with the ability to deliver the best services that we can for all our customers and the communities we serve.? “IIP shows to customers that we are 100% committed to people development.”

For more information about Investors in People please visit www.investorsinpeople.co.uk.

NHC launches dementia design competition

The Northern Housing Consortium is encouraging Northumbria University students to think about dementia friendly design in their neighbourhoods with the launch of a new competition.

Designed for Life: Dementia Friendly Design in Housing is a collaborative project which is being contested by second year Design for Industry and third year Fashion Marketing students, with two £1000 prizes on offer for the winners.

Students will be tasked with creating a dementia-friendly product, service, or space – with the possibility of seeing their designs implemented by some of the NHC’s 450-plus members.

An Expert Reference Group briefed the students, as well as outlining the challenges organisations face when it comes to housing people with dementia. The students also learned about the issues people living with dementia face, as well as those faced by carers.

The competition is split into two categories: ‘Little Ideas for Now’ and ‘Big Ideas for Later’. The former will focus on solutions that are functional in terms of the technology and materials already available today, while the latter will address broader task or activity-based areas, targeting those issues that pose the greatest challenge to people living with dementia.

Entries must be submitted by March, and they will then be judged by a panel, including Dame Esther Rantzen, Chief Executive for Hanover Housing Association Dame Clare Tickell, Chair of Age UK North Tyneside Jim Coulter, and the Founder and Executive Director of Age UK Tim Lloyd-Yeates, with the winners announced at a Northern Housing Consortium event later this year.

The competition’s prizes are sponsored by Appello, the UK’s largest careline monitoring service which has been created following the merger of Cirrus, CarelineUK, and Appello Telehealth.

The NHC has been actively involved in addressing the problem of an ageing population in the UK for a number of years, and Designed for Life is the latest in a long line of activity around the subject.

Throughout the creative process students will be tasked with uploading pictures and blogs detailing their thought processes and the challenges they have encountered along the way. This learning will be made publicly available for the benefit of NHC members, as the students will have to answer all the questions housing providers face when attempting to create dementia-friendly design.

Charlotte Harrison, Executive Director (Policy and Public Affairs) at the Northern Housing Consortium, said: “We are delighted to once again be working with Northumbria University for the Designed for Life competition.

“Social intervention is currently the only means to improve the quality of life for those with dementia, and well-designed surroundings can make a real difference to sufferers’ lives – as well as sometimes increasing their life expectancy.

“The Northern Housing Consortium is committed to helping our members address the challenges faced by an ageing population, and we are sure that the work done by the design students will be able to be implemented and make a real difference to the lives of dementia sufferers across the North.”

Consortium Procurement, the NHC’s national procurement service, currently offers an Assisted Living Framework which is used by 120 housing organisations. This framework is due to end in autumn 2015 and is in the process of being renewed – both the launch of the new framework and the winners of Designed for Life will be announced later this year. As the only national framework of its kind, this framework plays a major role in improving the lives of residents across the UK.

Tracy Harrison, Commercial Director at the Northern Housing Consortium, said: “The students at Northumbria University have a real opportunity to make a difference across the country with this competition as any one of their designs could be on offer to our members.

“The most recent government statistics show there are more than 10 million over 65-year olds in the UK. This statistic, coupled with the fact that 29% of social housing tenants are over 65 compared with only 8% of private tenants, show why the Northern Housing Consortium?s attention is being focused on assisted living services.

“An estimated 850,000 people in the UK are also now living with dementia, and by 2051 that number is predicted to increase to two million. The number of people under 65 suffering from dementia accounts for 1 in 20 of that total, so it?s important that our communities are well-designed to help accommodate these increasing numbers.”

Simon Scott-Harden, Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University, said: “I’m over the moon that the Northern Housing Consortium have asked us to be part of this year’s Designed for Life competition.

“Working with outside organisations gives our students valuable experience which will help them in the future, as well as hopefully helping to improve the quality of life for dementia sufferers.”

NEW Consortium Procurement framework

We would like to keep you up to date and involved with all procurement-related Northern Housing Consortium activities, including new framework development.

Consortium Procurement is currently developing, in partnership with the LHC, a new framework for Legionella – The Control of the Legionella Bacteria in Water Systems. Our aim is to have it in place and available to our Members and Affiliates later this year.

We want this to be right for your organisation, so would be delighted if you would let us know your views on what you might like from it (this places you under no obligation to use the framework).

In order to ensure the framework covers as many of our member requirements as possible we have a number of ways for you to feedback to us:

Member and Supplier Engagement Sessions

The aim of each session is to engage with members of the Northern Housing Consortium and potential suppliers to the framework. Future sessions will be advised in due course via Ezine.

Telephone/Email Feedback

If you would like a copy of the DRAFT framework specification to consider, please let us know no later than 13th February 2015.

For expedience, and pending announcement of future sessions we will welcome your input using email. You are able to submit this to mark.cant@consortiumprocurement.org.uk.

Passenger Lifts framework evaluation completed

The evaluation of our up and coming Passenger Lifts framework has now been completed. We will be entering into the standstill period within the next few weeks and the framework will be live at the end of February 2015.

The works and services of this framework are covered by three separate ‘Lots’.

Lot 1: Installation and Refurbishment

  • Sub lot 1.1 – Passenger Lifts
  • Sub lot 1.2 – Stairlifts including Ceiling Hoists
  • Sub lot 1.3 – Escalators

Lot 2: Maintenance, Servicing and Repair

  • Sub lot 2.1 – Passenger Lifts
  • Sub lot 2.2 – Stairlifts including Ceiling Hoists
  • Sub lot 2.3 – Escalators

Lot 3: Consultancy (incorporating all of the below)

  • New installations/major refurbishment of lifts, escalators and stairlifts
  • Survey and Reports
  • Commissioning and Witness Testing
  • Project Management

If you would like further information on the framework please contact a member of the Consortium Procurement Team on 0191 566 1000.

NHC members sceptical on Autumn Statement, but believe devolution offers opportunities

Northern Housing Consortium members have responded sceptically to December’s Autumn Statement. Responding to the NHC’s policy panel survey, 57% of respondents said they felt the Autumn Statement would not benefit housing in the North. A further 33% said they did not know, with just 10% of respondents believing the package contained measures which would benefit housing in the North.

There was a warmer welcome for reforms to Stamp Duty, with 62% of respondents welcoming the changes made to the transaction tax, which would have resulted in 99.9% of Northern property moves paying the same or less in Stamp Duty had the amended scheme been in operation during 2014. Overall, respondents felt the scheme would make property purchase easier for northerners, though a minority (19%) cautioned that they expected the reformed scheme to push up house prices in their area.

Charlotte Harrison, Executive Director at the Northern Housing Consortium, said: “These results show there is still some way to go before national housing policy reflects the needs of our Northern communities. While the stamp duty changes are welcome, we wonder if the investment could have been made in a more focussed and tailored manner, which would respond to local housing markets. We would have liked to see targeted investment in exemptions for specific groups of buyers like downsizers, or in designated housing growth zones.”

The big opportunity foreseen by our policy panel this quarter was around devolution: 81% of panel members felt that Manchester-style city devolution offered a new opportunity for the North, with one respondent commenting that it made “the future look brighter”. However, other panel members expressed some concern that financial pressures may blunt its impact. The extension of devolution beyond Sheffield and Manchester was a pressing concern, with members anxious to hear firm proposals for devolution to Leeds, Liverpool and the North East in particular. The NHC is currently working on a member briefing which will analyse the scale and scope of devolution announcements to date.

Policy Panel is open to any employee of a full NHC member. We send out up to four online surveys each year and use the results to shape our policy work and directly in influencing activity such as consultation responses. For any queries relating to Policy Panel, or the results referred to above, please contact Charlotte Harrison (Executive Director – Policy & Public Affairs) on 0191 566 1000 or email charlotte.harrison@northern-consortium.org.uk.