Help for Ukraine
Like many people, we at PCHA are horrified by the events in Ukraine. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) predicts that 18 million people will be affected by the escalating conflict in Ukraine, with 4 million people expected to flee their homes as the war continues. We know that some of our residents are looking for ways to offer help.
Here are some of the ways you can support Ukrainian people, and what you need to do if you’re hoping to be a Homes for Ukraine host.
One way to help is by making a donation to the DEC’s Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal – they work with many charities, including the British Red Cross, to provide food, water, shelter and healthcare to refugees and displaced families.
You can also donate items but please check you are donating to a registered charity. It's sad to say that fraudsters will use the situation in Ukraine to target people for fraud and probably via charitable donations. Therefore, make a few simple checks before giving:
Check the charity’s name and registration number at www.gov.uk/checkcharity. Most charities with an annual income of £5,000 or more must be registered, and you can use the advanced search function to identify charities working in specific regions and countries
Make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information
Be careful when responding to emails or clicking on links within them
Contact or find out more online about the charity that you’re seeking to donate to or work with to understand how they are spending their funds
Look out for the Fundraising Badge on charity fundraising materials. This is the logo which shows that a charity has committed to fundraise in line with the Code of Fundraising Practice.
Local organisations may also have volunteer opportunities, and invitations to donate clothes and other supplies. Your local voluntary action centre will be able to help you find any opportunities near you.
Hosting a Ukrainian refugee in your home
You may also wish to help by welcoming a Ukrainian person or family into your home. The Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme supports people to offer a spare room, or separate self-contained accommodation, to Ukrainian refugee(s) for at least six months.
We want to make sure that this is as easy as possible for you to do if you wish, BUT you MUST get our written permission in advance of registering with the scheme. We will get back to you with our decision no later than two weeks of receiving your request.
You should not request payment or charge to any individuals you host as part of this scheme.
We ask you to consider some things before you make this decision as part of your tenancy conditions, and expect that all residents wishing to offer rooms in your home have satisfactorily covered the following points:
The size of your home. There are strict guidelines on how many people can live within our properties to ensure that these are not considered ‘overcrowded’, which is set out in housing law. You can find this information in your tenancy agreement or please ask us. If you are in a bedsit or one-bed flat, YOU CANNOT offer your home.
Financial assistance with your rent. Having people living with you, even short-term, could affect any financial help you receive towards your rent or service charges. This could be a payment from your local authority (Housing Benefit) or as part of any Universal Credit payment. It would be best to enquire whether any hosting could affect any payment you receive, as you will be expected to make up any difference. You can find further information on the Government’s website relating to hosting and income.
Insurance arrangements. It is worth checking whether any insurance policies on your home or contents could be affected by hosting.
Please note you cannot sub-let (rent) your home to anyone.
Public consultation on Glenbar House
We are seeking to redevelop Glenbar House, 110 Croydon Road. We are keen to get feedback from nearby residents. We ran an online public consultation on the 7th March, which can be watched below.
If you wish to provide comments, please fill in the survey at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/2HZKH38.
We have won a 'We invest in people' Silver award!
We are proud to announce that PCHA has won an award from Investors® in People.
The ‘We invest in people’ accreditation assesses how well organisations invest in their people – meaning, primarily, their staff and those who work closely with the organisation. It looks at how well the organisation leads, supports and improves its people.
As well as being given a level to show where we are at now (in our case, Silver – can we say it again?), we have received a report with recommendations for how we can improve further over the next three years. We are getting a plan in place to achieve GOLD next time!
Investing in people doesn't only benefit staff and the organisation itself. It can result in better productivity levels and better service for customers too. This is because staff who are engaged and passionate about the work they do and the organisation they work for, are more likely to work better and go the extra mile.
Resident Satisfaction Survey Results
At PCHA we pride ourselves on the relationship we have with our residents. We aspire to deliver a high quality service. Listening to your views and comments helps us to do that and is really important to PCHA. Your feedback and suggestions make a real difference in shaping our services going forward.
Earlier this year we commissioned Acuity, an independent consultancy, to carry out a ‘STAR’ survey on our behalf. This was to help us understand what you think about your home and the services we provide, and what you would like us to do differently in the future.
The summary report from Acuity entitled 'Your Views' can be downloaded by clicking the image below.
We were delighted that so many residents responded (58%) and with the high levels of satisfaction recorded.
Over eight out of ten PCHA residents (84%) are happy with the service we provide. We were pleased with the higher ratings recorded for being easy to deal with, PCHA homes being safe and secure, the value for money of the rents we charge and PCHA staff being friendly and approachable and treating residents fairly.
We also noted the high levels of satisfaction in respect of our approach and communication during the pandemic.
The survey results were reported to PCHA’s Board and an action plan established which included contacting residents where possible to understand any concerns raised and to put things right. Key areas identified for focus and exploration included:
Planned works and property condition
We have listened to your feedback and already made changes to some of our procedures to address some of the concerns recorded.
Free energy advice
If you are struggling with energy bills or heating your home, you could be eligible for free advice and assessment from SHINE London.
You can access free support and advice from SHINE if any of the following apply:
You are over 60
You are on a low income
You have a disability or long-term illness
You have children.
Support provided can include a visit from an 'energy doctor' to review your energy bills, advice on energy saving, and help with comparing energy deals on the market.
Data Security Breach
We've recently contacted a small number of residents who may have been affected when Plentific, who are one of our repairs providers, suffered a data security breach following a cyber-attack on its systems. This means that an unauthorised person or organisation has been able to access some of the data it holds. In this case, it was email addresses, which we do not automatically provide to Plentific.
As a result of the breach, we understand that a handful of residents may have received an email that falsely claims to be from Plentific and/or PCHA – this is known as a phishing email. There are at least two versions of the email in circulation, both claiming that cryptocurrency (digital or virtual money, such as Bitcoin) should now be used to pay for repairs to your home.
PCHA does not use cryptocurrency as a form of currency or money transfer and have no plans to do so in the future. You should treat any communication of this kind as fraudulent and not from Plentific and/or PCHA.
PCHA and our partners will also never ask you to confirm your identity by asking for your bank details.
We are working with Plentific to fully investigate the incident and will share any updates with affected residents when they are available.
In the meantime, please contact us at email@example.com if you receive any request from or Plentific that you think may be fraudulent.
You can also report fraudulent communications of any kind to Action Fraud on www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You will find advice on how to spot fraudulent communication and staying safe online on the Government’s National Cyber Security Centre website.
The Cyber Helpline provide free, expert help for victims of cybercrime and online harm.
To protect yourself from scammers and cyber criminals it's important that you never give out personal information without being certain the person or organisation requesting it is genuine.
New Grounds Maintenance Service
We are pleased to announce that following a review of our grounds maintenance services we have appointed Acorn Environmental to provide services across our external communal areas.
Acorn Environmental has been trading for some 30 years and in addition to gardening and grounds maintenance, has wide experience across a vast number of different environmental services working with schools, local authorities, housing associations and NHS facilities.
We were delighted to have some residents on the selection panel and we are grateful to them for putting Acorn (and the other contractors) through their paces. Like PCHA, Acorn prides itself on its high standards of working and its mission statement is simple: “be the best, deliver the best, never be satisfied”. Given Acorn's alignment with our own values and service vision, we believe we’ve found the perfect partner!
Acorn has now taken over from our current contractor and therefore you may see Acorn vans on and around our sites over the coming weeks and months. Our dedicated Acorn team are Connie (Team Leader) and Arvydas, both pictured below so you will be able to recognise them.
The appointment of Acorn Environmental has enabled us to take a fresh look at the levels of service we provide and as a result, we have increased the number of visits throughout the year from 20 to 26. This will enable grass cutting and shrub maintenance to continue into December instead of finishing at the end of the summer months.
In addition to the grass cutting, included in the contract is litter picking, management of flower beds, trees, shrubs and hedges, and weed clearance. A full copy of the specification is available for residents upon request.
During the course of the contract, we will aim to provide you with further service details for your scheme.
At PCHA we continuously strive to provide the best possible service to all of our residents and we expect that this change in contractor will enable us to continue to do so. Meanwhile if you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us.
Resident Satisfaction Survey
Your chance to have your say!
Our residents' views are really important to PCHA and we need your feedback to help us shape our services going forward. PCHA has asked Acuity, an independent consultancy, to carry out a survey on our behalf. This survey will help us understand what you think about your home, the services we provide and what you would like us to do differently in the future.
Staff from Acuity will be ringing residents to complete the survey over the three weeks between 22nd March and 10th April (this includes Saturdays). We would be grateful if you could spare a few minutes to answer their questions as honestly as possible. The information you give will make a real difference to how we deliver services to you.
All the information you give will be kept strictly confidential and any information you provide in the survey will be given to PCHA anonymously, unless you give your permission at the end of the survey to share your name.
If you have any concerns/queries or you would rather complete an online survey, please contact one of the team in the usual way – by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 8659 3055.
Winter Weather and Gritting
The recent winter weather has come as no surprise and it’s likely there will be more on the way!
To cope with icy or snowy weather, we advise the following:
Stock up with non-perishable food in advance of any anticipated bad weather
Ensure that you have enough electricity/gas on your meters
Cancel any unnecessary journeys
STAY INDOORS where possible – indeed, with current lockdown restrictions in place, that goes without saying!
Ensure that you have snow boots or wellies if you do need to go out.
We provide gritting bins at some of our schemes for use by residents. We will check weekly to ensure these are kept topped up.
Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a gritting service ourselves. There are several reasons for this:
As a small housing association, we simply cannot guarantee that our staff could reach our schemes in severe weather due to issues with the roads and public transport. In extreme weather much of the country comes to a standstill and our staff are often stranded themselves. Therefore, we would not want to commit to providing a service we cannot guarantee to deliver.
We do not have the specialist equipment to cope with gritting in extreme weather.
Our services are predominantly 8am–5pm Monday to Friday, so we cannot guarantee to be able to carry out gritting when it would be most effective. Potentially, gritting too far in advance could make pathways and roads more hazardous. Effectively, the best time to grit is overnight when we’re not working.
Clearing snow can actually worsen the ice and make paths more hazardous.
Each scheme is individual, and many are off quiet local roads which may not be treated by the local authority. Consequently, even if we had gritted/cleared our paths, getting out and about would still be hazardous.
Therefore, it is even more important to take care when you are out and about around your property in icy or snowy weather.
Look out for your neighbours
Many people struggle with heating bills in winter, and latest figures show that around 1 million people aged over 60 in the UK live in fuel poverty, meaning they can't afford to heat their homes properly. Another reason why vulnerable people are at special risk over the winter months – and the need to check on our neighbours! If you or another resident are vulnerable or alone and struggling with the cold weather, please ring us and we will help if possible.
Don’t forget, for problems or faults with hot water or heating gas appliances, call our partner Clairglow for a speedy response on 0800 074 8055.
Housing in 2021 and Beyond
Karen Cooper, Chief Exec
2020 has been an interesting year to say the least and, let’s be honest, none of us really saw it coming! Covid-19 wasn’t on our radar and so we have all had to think on our feet and adapt quickly. At PCHA, we believe we have responded well and shown our true resilience. The pace of change has been dramatic as we have had to rethink the way we work, communicate, collaborate and deliver services. We like to think we have always been pretty light on our feet, but this has definitely tested us all.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, work, socialise, travel and communicate; and not all of this has been negative. If you had asked me in January if we could deliver a service from home, I would have said no. If you had told me that we would hold Board meetings by Zoom, I would have laughed! In some ways the pandemic has enabled us to create a lot of positive changes in a very condensed period, particularly in regard to digitalisation (e.g. new IT systems) and agile working (more flexible hours and working from home).
At PCHA we pride ourselves on being a community organisation with a strong relationship with our residents, but even we have seen an increased level of positive engagement with residents during lockdown, despite not being in the office! This has challenged our thinking about service delivery and ways of working and indeed what it means to be “local”. We have recognised that positive engagement does not need to be linked to a traditional office model and, in fact, in 2020 we have made contact with residents with whom we had limited contact previously. Therefore, we have a real opportunity to rethink how we work and deliver services to our residents. One thing is absolutely clear: we must be more agile and responsive in the way we work in 2021 and beyond.
In 2021 there are likely to be two keys challenges for the social housing sector: increasing poverty/unemployment and an escalation in mental health issues. Whilst these have always been a part of our work, I think all housing associations need to put additional resources into supporting residents in these two areas (and in the case of the mental health, staff too). The pandemic has refocused the sector as a whole on resident welfare. The White Paper on social housing recently released by the Government echoes this change. Of course, PCHA – like most small housing associations – has always had this focus, but that is not to say we should be complacent.
The White Paper, in the main, contains few surprises and the devil will be in the detail! However, this detail will take some time to emerge so we shall wait and see how some of this plays out. Clearly, building safety is one of the greatest challenges for the sector as a whole and whilst many smaller associations may not have an abundance of tall buildings, this does not let us off the hook! Keeping our residents safe must be our priority but the Government must recognise the price tag attached to this and the impact this may have on our ability to develop affordable homes.
2021 and beyond will present some real challenges for the social housing sector but it also presents a fantastic opportunity to review how we work with a view to making a real difference to our residents. Bring it on!
Clairglow's COVID-19 Servicing Safety Guide
Tuesday 11th August
With ongoing concerns about COVID-19, this can be a worrying time to let anyone into your home if you need repairs or other work to be done. Our partners Clairglow, who carry out PCHA's boiler repairs and essential gas servicing, have just published a new servicing safety guide for PCHA residents. This details the safety procedures Clairglow operatives will follow, and what they need residents to do, to ensure that everyone stays safe while the necessary work takes place. You can read the guide here or by clicking the icon to the right.
Homes at the Heart campaign
Friday 7th August
Having a safe, secure, comfortable home has become more important than ever, especially during the coronavirus crisis and lockdown.
Homes at the Heart is a national campaign calling for greater investment in social housing. The campaign is being run by five key social housing organisations, including the National Housing Federation and Crisis. The campaign includes six weeks of themed action highlighting how social housing is at the heart of recovery and a stronger economy. Week 2, starting on Monday 10th August, has the theme of ‘making ends meet’ – looking at housing affordability and supply, and how housing has impacted people’s lives during the lockdown.
To find out more about the Homes at the Heart campaign, click here.
To find out how you can get involved with Homes at the Heart as a resident, visit this page.
PAYING YOUR RENT DURING THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
We recognise that as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the way in which people work and carry out daily activities is changing overnight. This could have a direct impact on your personal finances and your ability to pay your rent. It may be that you are entitled to either additional Government support or an increased entitlement to existing benefits. You can find the very latest Government advice on this here.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the National Housing Federation which represents housing associations in England has issued a statement urging anyone living in a housing association home who is worried about financial difficulties to get in touch with their housing association. It has also said that no-one should face the threat of eviction as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak and at PCHA we strongly support that view. If you would like to read the full statement it can be found here.
If you find that you are struggling to pay your rent and are unable to make a claim yourself, please contact us as soon as possible at email@example.com. Our Resident Support Officer or another member of our team can assist you to make a claim for appropriate benefits and if necessary we will work with you to agree a suitable repayment arrangement should you fall into arrears. Please note, if you have existing rent arrears and are making payments under an arrangement or Court Order, you should continue to adhere to that arrangement. If you cannot for any reason you must contact us immediately.
Please note that our office is currently closed to visitors and therefore if you currently pay your rent by cash at the office you will need to make alternative arrangements. You can find a full list of alternative payment methods here.
PCHA's 50th birthday celebrations – drinks reception at the House of Commons
2019 was PCHA’s 50th birthday! We held two fantastic events to celebrate, both of which were a great success.
Most recently, we held a drinks reception at Portcullis House in Westminster for PCHA's shareholders, partners and friends. Our Chief Executive, Karen, gave a speech about PCHA's achievements over the last 50 years, as well as the impact of the ongoing housing crisis and PCHA's goals for future expansion to provide more and better social housing for the local community. MP Bob Neill and Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation Kate Henderson both spoke about the importance and impact of the work of small housing associations such as PCHA. We ended the speeches with a presentation of PCHA's specially made 50th anniversary video, which you can watch here.
Keep scrolling down to read about our residents' summer picnic – the first of our celebratory events.
PCHA's 50th birthday residents' picnic – we had a blast!
The first event for our 50th birthday was our residents' summer picnic held in Crystal Palace Park on Saturday 14th September.
It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a great turnout. Our residents and staff enjoyed plenty of food and drink, chatted and socialised. Kids and adults alike were kept entertained by Paul, our talented magician and circus skills performer, and had their faces and arms painted with pretty patterns by the lovely Francesca, our face painter! Feedback was great, and a similar event is in the pipeline for next year – keep an eye on our website and newsletters!
Together with Tenants – Revised Charter
Earlier this year we told you about the National Housing Federation's draft 'Together with Tenants' plan and charter. (See the article below from February 2019 for more details and the original draft charter.) Together with Tenants aims to strengthen the relationship between tenants, residents and housing associations. More specifically, the charter commitments aim to ensure tenants and residents know what they can expect from their landlord.
The draft plan and charter were subject to a two-month open consultation with residents and housing associations, and there were two main outcomes from the feedback. First, a need to ensure the charter commitments were meaningful and would lead to real positive change for tenants and residents. Second, it was clear that the charter commitments and the language used to describe them needed to be simplified.
The revised charter commitments are below. At PCHA we are adopting these commitments as part of our customer service standards. If you have any comments or views on these commitments, please get in touch with us. You can email Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office on 020 8659 3055.
The new Together with Tenants Charter commitments
1. Relationships – housing associations will treat all tenants and residents with respect in all of their interactions. Relationships between tenants, residents and housing associations will be based on openness, honesty and transparency.
2. Communication – tenants and residents will receive clear, accessible and timely information from their housing association on the issues that matter to them, including important information about their homes and local community, how the organisation is working to address problems, how the organisation is run, and information about performance on key issues.
3. Voice and influence – views from tenants and residents will be sought and valued and this information will be used to inform decisions. Every individual tenant and resident will feel listened to by their housing association on the issues that matter to them and can speak without fear.
4. Accountability – collectively, tenants and residents will work in partnership with their housing association to independently scrutinise and hold their housing association to account for the decisions that affect their homes and services and the quality of homes and services they provide.
5. Quality – tenants and residents can expect their homes to be good quality, well maintained, safe and well managed.
6. When things go wrong – tenants and residents will have simple and accessible routes for raising issues, making complaints and seeking redress. Tenants and residents will receive timely advice and support when things go wrong.
Together with Tenants
The National Housing Federation (NHF), the membership body for housing associations in England, has drawn up a plan called ‘Together with Tenants’. It was created in recognition that while housing associations have a strong commitment to engaging with tenants and residents, they don’t always get it right! ‘Together with Tenants’ aims to build a stronger, more balanced relationship between tenants and residents and their housing associations.
This plan includes a charter that housing associations can sign up to. It consists of 8 commitments that tenants and residents have told the NHF they have the right to expect, regardless of their landlord or where they live. We would like your feedback on this charter.
The 8 commitments are as follows:
Every resident has the right to be treated with respect.
Every resident has the right to a decent, safe home and quality service.
Every resident has the right to be listened to and have their view heard on decisions that affect their community, home and the services they receive.
Every resident has the right to know how the organisation is run, how decisions are made, and how they can get involved.
Collectively, residents have the right to influence decisions that affect their community, home and the services they receive.
Every resident will have simple, clear and accessible routes for raising issues, making complaints and seeking redress.
Every resident will receive support and advice when things go wrong or their expectations aren’t met.
Every resident will have access to the information they need to make informed decisions and hold their landlord to account.
At PCHA we aim to meet these commitments in any case and therefore we are happy to sign up to this charter. However, we want to know if you, our residents, feel this reflects your expectations. Please get in touch with your views. You can email Karen at email@example.com or call the office on 020 8659 3055.
The NHF are consulting on this charter and their Together with Tenants plan until 19th April. You can participate in their online questionnaire here: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/4849220/Together-with-Tenants-Consultation.