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.”

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.

Isos goes green to win silver

Social landlord Isos Housing has received a prestigious commendation for its efforts to go green and reduce the impact on the environment on its work.

The SHIFT awards measure how well housing associations are doing when it comes to sustainability.

The awards are recognised by the government and housing bodies including the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Isos has been a member of SHIFT since 2009 – and every year since joining, the landlord has achieved a bronze award for its efforts.

Now SHIFT (Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow) has measured how well Isos has performed over the past year and decided on a silver award.

Kari Best, Isos Strategy and Performance Manager, said: “SHIFT is an independent benchmark of how environmentally sustainable all aspects of our business operations are. It measures our overall strategy and management, energy use in our buildings, including homes and offices, the practices we have in place in our offices and the impact of building new homes.

“It’s great news that we have achieved a silver award two years ahead of our target date of 2016. It shows the steps we have taken to reduce our energy use and carbon footprint and make our policies and practices more sustainable.

“Crucially, being more sustainable doesn’t just help the environment. By reducing energy use and using resources more efficiently we are also able to reduce costs – and our customers can save too by cutting their energy bills, for example.”

Isos recently held a series of information events as part of Big Energy Saving Week which is run by the Energy Saving Trust and Citizens Advice Bureau. Isos staff took part in the awareness raising sessions and have since passed on the energy saving hints and tips they learned to family, friends and Isos customers.

The Isos business plan now has a target date set of 2020 to achieve the highest gold award from SHIFT.

Other steps Isos has taken to boost its sustainability performance include:

  • Produced a Green Guide for customers to help them reduce energy use.
  • Reduced the carbon footprint of Isos offices by, for example, encouraging staff to switch off lights and computers.
  • Improved the energy efficiency of its housing stock.
  • Reduced waste and encouraged recycling.

Andrew Eagles, Managing Director of Sustainable Homes, which administers the scheme, said: “These awards are all about recognising progress and achievement in improving the quality of residents’ homes. Isos should be proud of the strides they are taking to improve – especially at the moment when cash from the government is so limited.

“It’s important to remember that when we talk about ‘environmental performance’, it’s not some abstract ‘nice-to-have’ badge. For residents, investing in this stuff means lower bills – as well as a higher quality of life. SHIFT members are at the forefront of sustainability. They have committed to independent assessment and are working to reduce their impacts.”

Regenda turns old public house into new homes

New homes are rising from the ashes of a derelict, fire-bombed pub.

The former Cygnet public house in Birkenhead, once a popular hostelry in the 1970s and 1980s, is being transformed into stylish flats for rent.

The Regenda Group housing association says their newly named Cygnet Court development will offer much needed affordable housing and help to regenerate the local area.

After rescuing the landmark building on Watson Street, Regenda also saved the pub’s distinctive cygnet tile mosaic, which has since been incorporated inside the new building.

“Local people are already telling us how delighted they are that the eyesore has gone and the old pub is getting a new lease of life. Pubs are located in the heart of our communities and, when a development opportunity like this arises, they can really help us to regenerate local neighbourhoods,” said Martin Davies, Regenda’s director of development.

The Cygnet once stood in the shadow of high rise flats and was part of a thriving local community. More recently the building stood empty and derelict and in 2013 it was targeted by arsonists who caused extensive damage.

Once the site was acquired by Regenda, in partnership with Wirral Council and local building contractor Price Street Developments Ltd, work began to convert it into 14 one and two bedroom flats.

Cygnet Court is expected to be completed by New Year, with the first residents moving in early January.

So, if you have always wanted to live in a pub you will need to hurry before the last orders are taken!

Leeds City Council hands over keys to new council houses

Tenants have been officially handed the keys to their newly built council homes which are just some of the 1,000 properties being delivered as part of an ambitious drive to provide new council homes in the city.

Leeds City Council leader Councillor Keith Wakefield had the honour this month of meeting a number of tenants at the new homes, which are located in Beeston Hill.

Overall, the council plans to build 1,000 new council homes across the city by 2018/19, with 275 of these properties being built in Beeston Hill and Holbeck.

Another 113 new homes are in progress in Little London, and senior councillors and council staff recently visited the area to see these and some of the properties currently benefitting from extensive refurbishment. In total, 1,300 homes are being refurbished across all three areas to revitalise the communities as part of the housing regeneration project.

Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“Being able to present tenants with the keys to their brand new council home has given me a real sense of pride in what we’ve been able to achieve on their behalf.

“This is not just about bricks and mortar; by investing in council housing on this scale we are improving the quality of life for residents who move into these homes and helping them create a community they can be proud to live in.

“With the housing regeneration project we have tangible proof of our vision of Leeds as the best city to live, the best city for health and well-being and the best city for children.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, executive member for neighbourhoods, planning and personnel, said: “With innovation, determination and partnership working, we’ve achieved really positive results.

“It’s our great pleasure to give tenants a very warm welcome to their new and refurbished homes in Little London, Beeston and Holbeck.

“We want to provide 1,000 new council homes by 2018/19 and we haven’t seen this level of council house building for 30 years. With more properties being completed in the coming months and with more sites being prepared for new council homes across the city we are definitely delivering on our ambitions.”

Jon Hinchliff, sc4L General Manager, said: “The entire sc4L team are pleased with the progress being made in delivering great new homes for people in Leeds, and working with the council to make sure that we give work opportunities to local people too.

“As we hand over homes to tenants, our long-term commitment to the community in Little London, Beeston Hill and Holbeck is being further strengthened as we’re proud to be at the heart of the wider regeneration of the area.”

Free gadget helps Regenda residents wipe out condensation

The Regenda Group has become one of the first housing associations in the country to arm its residents with a simple gadget to help wipe out condensation.

Hygrometer-thermometers, which measure the amount of moisture in the air and room temperature, are being given out free to residents who have problems with condensation and damp.

By controlling ventilation and heat, residents can achieve the ideal conditions which keep condensation at bay. Regenda’s asset manager, Graham Minton, says the portable devices cost only £1.79 each, are the size of a small clock and easy to use.

“The separate hygrometer and temperature gauges both have green sections. Providing the percentage of humidity detected and the room temperature stays in the green, condensation won’t be a problem. Once humidity and temperature levels change, residents can easily get the balance right simply by adjusting their heat and ventilation,” said Graham.

Dampness caused by condensation can lead to wall staining and wood rotting, a higher number of dust mites and an increased risk of illnesses such as asthma and bronchitis.

Bathrooms and kitchens, where a large amount of moisture is produced, are particularly vulnerable rooms.

“Nobody wants the problems associated with condensation but one resident’s idea of what is a well ventilated room set at the right temperature can be very different to another person’s opinion. The great thing about a hygrometer-thermometer is that it removes all the guess work and shows you just how close or far off the mark you really are,” added Graham.

Regenda spends at least £60,000 a year inspecting and treating the results of condensation and damp, so a little gadget which allows residents to control and avoid it should help to make some big savings too.

“The main difference between condensation and other forms of damp is that residents have the ability to reduce and solve the problem. The hygrometer-thermometers will make it easier for them to take positive actions themselves,” said Graham.

Leeds City Council offering 30% towards costs of capital developments in city

Leeds City Council is offering up to 30% towards the costs of capital developments for new social housing for rent in the city.

The grant funding from the Right to Buy replacement programme is part of their wider housing growth programme. Successful providers will be responsible for the remaining 70%. Preferred schemes include housing to meet the needs of: older people (particularly Extra Care); small households; larger families; and families with a disabled family member.

Proposed schemes for affordable housing, bringing long term empty homes back into use or co-investment with other developers (including mixed tenure developments) would be welcome.

Designs should support the delivery of the Leeds Standard through being innovative, suitable for modern living, and meet high standards of energy efficiency.

The Council open to suggestions for using land it has identified as suitable for development but is keen to hear from providers who already have land available.

For further information email james.kilroy@leeds.gov.uk.