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Policy update

Policy developments

Public health white paper

HM Government has issued a consultation paper called Healthy Lives, Healthy People which sets out the government’s agenda for public health in England. The paper responds to the Marmot Review of health. It set out an approach which will:

  • protect the population from health threats – led by central government, with a strong system to the frontline
  • empower local leadership and encourage wide responsibility across society to improve everyone’s health and wellbeing, and tackle the wider factors that influence it
  • focus on key outcomes, doing what works to deliver them, with transparency of outcomes to enable accountability through a proposed new public health outcomes framework
  • reflect the Government’s core values of freedom, fairness and responsibility by strengthening self-esteem, confidence and personal responsibility; positively promoting healthy behaviours and lifestyles; and adapting the environment to make healthy choices easier, and
  • balance the freedoms of individuals and organisations with the need to avoid harm to others, use a ‘ladder’ of interventions to determine the least intrusive approach necessary to achieve the desired effect and aim to make voluntary approaches work before resorting to regulation

The key points set out in the paper include:

  • a clear role and resources for local government linked to the localism agenda
  • a new integrated public health service
  • ring-fenced public health funding from within the overall NHS budget

Housing features in the document in relation to the design and quality of homes, energy efficiency and being recognised as ‘a wider support service.’

The core elements of the new system will be set out in a Health and Social Care Bill.

The document is online at www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publichealth/Healthyliveshealthypeople/index.htm

A call to end violence against girls and women

HM Government has published a strategy to end violence against girls and women. It is based on the vision for a society in which no woman or girl has to live in fear of violence. To achieve this vision, society needs to:

  • prevent such violence from happening by challenging the attitudes and behaviours which foster it and intervening early where possible to prevent it
  • provide adequate levels of support where violence does occur
  • work in partnership to obtain the best outcome for victims and their families, and
  • take action to reduce the risk to women and girls who are victims of these crimes and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice

The document is online at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime/violence-against-women-girls/strategic-vision


Building affordable housing

The New Economics Foundation report One Million homes sets out measures that the organisation considers will enable a million homes to be built at a time of cuts in levels of public investment. The approach involves:

  • measures to reduce the cost of land: changes to capital gains tax and planning rules that help ensure more of the value created by planning decisions benefits taxpayers and tenants
  • measures to reduce the cost of capital for new homes: bonds with returns linked to the retail price index, and designed to allow housing benefit to be paid directly to bond holders, combined with new financial structures
  • measures to increase landlords’ operating margin: a tier of housing between existing social housing and the private sector, with somewhat higher rents and lower operating costs than at present

The report is online at www.neweconomics.org/publications/one-million-homes

The Policy Exchange has also produced a report on the future of affordable housing.

Housing people financing housing draws inspiration from other successful organisations and outlines three different structures for ‘social enterprise housing organisations’:

  • a ‘BUPA’ style model
  • a ‘John Lewis Partnership’ style model, and
  • a ‘Co-Op’ style model

which would enable alternative ways to bring equity into housing associations.

The report is online at www.policyexchange.org.uk

Where next for ALMOs?

A new report by DouglasWood and HouseMark has revealed that, despite ten years of success and many local authorities acknowledging that ALMOs have generally delivered, or are on track to deliver their decent homes programmes, some local authorities are nevertheless considering not renewing their contracts when current management agreements end. However, the report warns local authorities ‘not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.’

It notes that local authorities will now be carrying out options appraisals on their future approach to stock investment. When doing this, authorities are aware that the stock is theirs, but should ensure that tenants interests are at the heart of their decision making and think through what option will give them the best chance of
delivering for their tenants and residents.

The report is online at www.housemark.co.uk

CIH publications

Since the last issue of WHQ, the Chartered Institute of Housing has published:

  • Running a business from home – providing housing organisations with guidance about how they can appropriately support tenants who wish to run a business from home
  • Greening your organisation – providing advice on reducing the use of energy and making better use of resources, through minimising or recycling waste, limiting staff travel or installing solar panels and how this can reduce costs for housing organisations in the longer term

CIH publications are available online at www.cih.org/policy/free-publications.htm

JRF publications

Recently published research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation includes:

  • Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2010
  • A review of benefit sanctions
  • Young people and housing in 2020: identifying key drivers for change
  • A young people’s charter on housing
  • The UK private rented sector as a source of affordable housing

JRF publications are online at www.jrf.org.uk


Welsh housing measure

The proposed Housing Measure to make changes to support the more effective delivery of affordable housing in Wales has been laid. The Measure includes two elements:

  • to take forward the commitment made in the One Wales coalition document enabling the Welsh Ministers, on application from a Local Housing Authority, to suspend the Right to Buy in areas of housing pressure
  • to provide the Welsh Ministers with enhanced enforcement and intervention powers concerning the provision of housing by RSLs as part of the new regulatory framework

Introducing the Measure was made possible after the Housing and Local Government LCO gained Royal Assent in July this year.

The Measure is online at www.assemblywales.org

Delivery against One Wales target

The Welsh Assembly Government has exceeded its target of delivering 6,500 new affordable homes during the term of this government, one year ahead of schedule, according to official statistics released recently.

2,472 additional affordable homes were provided between April 2009 and March 2010, making a total of 6,707 in just the first three years of the term of this government.

The statistical release is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk

Private rented sector committee inquiry

The National Assembly for Wales Communities and Culture Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the private rented sector in Wales:

  • examining whether the private rented sector can be used more effectively to ease pressure on social housing waiting lists and provide accommodation for those unable to buy a home
  • identifying strategic changes that could raise standards within the sector
  • examining perceived barriers preventing access to the private rented sector such as affordability and security of tenure and identify any potential for reform
  • examining the potential for more empty homes to be brought back into occupation as rented accommodation

The submissions to the inquiry are online at www.assemblywales.org

Empty homes guidance

The Welsh Assembly Government has launched a good practice guide on empty homes which was produced in partnership with Shelter Cymru. The guide aims to enable local authorities to develop empty homes strategies that fit in with the aims and objectives contained in Sustainable Homes – A National Housing Strategy for Wales, the Essex Review and One Wales. It highlights the powers and measures local authorities can use to deal with empty homes. It also provides examples of good practice and effective strategies to help them to develop and maintain their own strategies.

The guide is online at http://new.wales.gov.uk


Ombudsman case book

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales publishes a quarterly case book of summaries of complaints that it investigates including housing issues. On housing, investigations were undertaken in relation to repairs and maintenance, neighbour disputes and anti-social behaviour and allocations.

The case book and other Ombudsman publications are available online at www.ombudsman-wales.org.uk

Welsh success at UK Housing Awards

Cadwyn’s Calon Lettings was set up in 2007 and aims to reduce homelessness by providing high quality homes from the private sector to people in need of housing. The project has grown significantly in the past 3 years and now manages over 200 properties in the Cardiff area. Calon Lettings won the UK Housing Award for Delivering Innovation and Efficiency.

The outstanding achievement in housing in Wales award went to Melin Homes for its Getting Connected digital inclusion initiative.

Information about the winners of the 2010 Welsh Housing Awards are included in the CIH Cymru feature on p50-51.

Pat Chown Award

Community Housing Cymru\’s Pat Chown Award winner was announced at the 2010 CHC Housing Partnership conference. – Solas Cymru for its H2H (Homeless to Help) project which is a partnership project including Bron Afon Housing Association and the Community Safety Partnership.

The project was set up in response to anti-social behaviour problems in the local community and is centred on project staff working with agencies to provide workshops/training sessions on tenancy issues and being a good citizen. It is based on a rewards system where clients earn points for each session they attend. Certificates and household goods are awarded and clients who received gold awards are invited to volunteer and run the project.

Japanese visit to Seren

Housing and support provider, Seren Group were delighted to welcome three members of a research team from Hokkaido University, Japan, to South Wales for a two day visit. The research team, funded through the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, visited some of the Group’s projects based in Newport to learn how successful employment and supporting independence initiatives help people move from benefit dependency into employment.

Jobs through energy efficiency

Valleys to Coast Housing is working in partnership with the Construction Training Centre in Maesteg and Wetherby, an insulation system manufacturer, to create jobs and training in one of the county’s most disadvantaged areas.

Starting with a multi-million pound investment to improve the energy efficiency of homes in the Llynfi and Ogmore valleys, the partnership identified a skills gap for the fast-growing sector of energy-efficiency, and developed a solution that will give an economic boost to the county borough.

The partners have created a new training course, to be run from the centre in Maesteg, which will be the starting point for all trainees of the project. The investment will provide over 700 weeks worth of training over the next six months, along with NVQ Level 1 & 2 Construction qualifications for many of the trainees benefitting from the project.

Taff making a difference

Volunteers from Taff Housing Association helped brighten up the surroundings at the Riverside Play Centre, Cardiff, as part of Taff’s contribution to the CSV Make a Difference Day, the UK\’s biggest day of volunteering. Staff from Taff’s maintenance and tenant services teams donned their overalls and joined together to transform the shutters at the Riverside Play Centre on Ninian Park Road into a bright and colourful work of art.

Rhondda Housing Association lottery success

Rhondda Housing Association has been awarded a grant of more than £200,000 from the Big Lottery Fund to help improve tenants’ financial awareness and prevent personal debt.

The grant will help fund the three-year Count me in project, which provides support for tenants, residents and their families to improve financial literacy skills and helps protect those most at risk of encountering hardship through lack of financial understanding and awareness.

Housing associations take on employees from Connaught and Rok

Newport City Homes have taken on seven former Connaught employees in order to safeguard jobs and ensure the continued delivery of the gas servicing programme in tenants’ homes. And North Wales Housing have taken on a team of seven former Rok employees to carry out specialist heating and plumbing work across its portfolio of over 2,300 homes.

The entire work force of Cardiff Community Housing Association (CCHA) Cardiff Community working for communities

The entire work force of Cardiff Community Housing Association (CCHA) swapped a day in the meeting room for a hands-on session working at various city projects. The 80-strong team from CCHA picked up shovels and paint brushes, and gave their day to gardening, decorating and DIY at Baden Powell Primary School, Splott Play Centre, St Germans Church and Garden, and Trowbridge Community Centre. And contractors who work for CCHA gave their time and materials to help out as well. The initiative was supported by Business in the Community, who gave eight CCHA staff training to help them organise the volunteering effort and also helped link them to various community projects on their behalf.

Shaun JamiesonNew partner at Hugh James

Hugh James has appointed public sector and projects (PFI and PPP) specialist Shaun Jamieson as a partner in the property division. Shaun has previously worked with Gwent and South Glamorgan County Councils.

Carmarthenshire Council has been busy!

The Carmarthenshire Homes Standard programme is having a big impact across the county. The £200 million project to improve Carmarthenshire’s 9,200 council homes has created a jobs bonanza. Jobs have been created for local companies, and more than 100 apprentices have secured work placements during difficult economic times. Research shows that the Homes Standard scheme injects around £25 million a year into the industry and local economy.

Carmarthenshire Homes Standard programmeThe council is planning a detailed health impact assessment of the housing improvements. Working with Cardiff and Swansea Universities, it will assess what impact the improvement programme is having on tenants’ health.

Carmarthenshire is also undertaking significant work to improve energy efficiency across the county. It has secured £500,000 from the Arbed programme for energy efficiency works in the Glanymor ward to 62 homes that are unsuitable for cavity wall works. In addition, new central heating boilers will be installed in 111 privately owned homes in the area.

The council is also planning roadshows to give advice on ways to save money, and targeted promotions will be staged in areas hardest hit by fuel poverty. A Home Energy Advice Pack is available, which is full of energy saving tips and information and a dedicated energy efficiency advisor is on hand to support residents.

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