We know that, given the chance, a strong and connected community can change lives for the better. That’s why our community engagement work is so important to us. We support the good things our tenants and local organisations do, and provide you with the chance to influence the work we do for you and your community.
It’s really important to us that our tenants are able to get involved with how we’re run and the services we provide. This year, we launched an ‘Involvement Menu’, which outlines all the ways you can work with us to help shape what we do.
The menu lists a range of 15 different volunteering opportunities, which are flexible so that everyone can get involved. We help you decide which option to choose by inviting you to a skills mapping session, which identifies the types of volunteering that best fit you. As a result of our Involvement Menu, more tenants have engaged with us over the last year through a range of activities – including taking behind-the-scenes tours, volunteering with our community engagement team, working with us by email and giving us feedback through social media.
Our Community Options Studies surveys are a particularly easy way you can make a big difference to what happens in your area. The five areas we focused on this year were Mill End, Tudor, Garston, Foxhill and Edward Amey. By discussing what residents liked and didn’t like about their area, we were able to make some positive changes.
For example, we held a clean-up day in Garston, providing a skip for people to throw away bulky items easily, which helps to tackle fly-tipping. Additionally, we visited Edward Amey with Hertfordshire Constabulary and Watford Cycle Hub to advise cyclists about the dangers of cutting through certain areas.
Supporting incredible community work
Our Community Development Fund sets aside money each year for us to support a whole range of worthy causes in your community that help to improve people’s lives. We’ve supported a wide range of projects this year, including:
- events, meetings and training for our residents’ associations, which have continued to support and improve your local areas
- projects to support young people and improve their mental health and wellbeing through physical activity and learning
- a ‘tea dance’ for some of our independent living scheme residents, where they relived songs and dances from their youth
- a mental health champions project, One YMCA, which helps young people aged 12-16 gain tools for dealing with various emotional and social issues
- an event to celebrate the winners of our ‘hampers for heroes’ awards, which honoured the people in your community who you said deserved a ‘thank you’ for going out of their way for others.
Celebrating our birthday
Last year, we turned ten! To celebrate, we hosted a community festival on the Meriden, and everyone was invited. We wanted to make the day inclusive for everybody, as well as being an affordable way to have a fun day out. Thanks to sponsorship from many of our contractors, most of the rides and activities were free, including a bungee run, petting zoo and go-karts. A charity abseil down our Munden View tower block saw more than £12,000 raised for Watford-based Peace Hospice Care and we also had stalls from local organisations, such as Hertfordshire Constabulary, and performances from dancers, singers and even a Tae Kwon Do group!
We’re working to make sure the services we provide are as modern and accessible as possible. One of the ways we do this is to ensure you can manage your tenancy online with ease. Our new digital tenancy services have now launched, which allow you to view live rent account information, request repairs, send us messages and change your tenancy details quickly and easily.
However, we know that not everyone has the tools to get online, so we worked with ‘We Are Digital’ to provide computer skills classes to a group of tenants who were keen to get online. All the learners boosted their skills, with 70% of the group passing their final exams. As a result of the popularity of the course, we’ll be running more in the future in partnership with the Hertfordshire Family Learning Service.
Your community hubs
Our community hubs provide a vital focal point for a wide range of community activities, and this year we opened a new hub in Hillside. The former home of the Hillside Residents’ Association, this new community space will allow us to provide training and meeting rooms and host more local groups that we know benefit the lives of our tenants. Residents can also rent the space for private events, and the income we receive will be put back into our communities.
Up until 2017/18, our hubs received annual funding from Watford Borough Council as part of the deal we signed when we first took ownership of them. Although we no longer receive this funding, we have seen more people visiting the hubs to join in with the groups and events we offer. From coffee mornings and the Nifty Over 50 group to the Deaf Club, the variety of people coming along shows the importance of the hubs in the community.
Your voice in the community
The Gateway Membership Team (GMT), which represents tenants, continues to work hard to ensure your voice gets heard. As well as the scrutiny reviews, the GMT also commissioned an independent facilitator to host a series of Tenant Question Time events, where tenants could ask members of staff questions on important topics.
There were five Tenant Question Time events in total, on parking, asset management, anti-social behavior, new developments and repairs. The evenings were well attended by tenants, and many constructive ideas and important questions have been discussed as a result, meaning your voice has been heard clearly, and is contributing to the way we deliver our services. Following their success, the GMT will be hosting four more of these sessions in 2018/19.
Supporting diverse communities
In 2017/18 we carried out a significant customer profiling exercise to help us understand more about our tenants’ needs and backgrounds. We surveyed 1,000 of our residents and the results will help us to ensure we’re providing services that are tailored to you and that we’re communicating with you in a way you want and understand. If you were amongst those who responded to our survey, many thanks for taking the time to help us improve!
We also delivered a programme of initiatives across the year, all aimed at recognising and valuing the rich diversity of our communities, partners and employees. These included our continued sponsorship of Herts Pride last September, supporting the annual Watford Interfaith pilgrimage in November and celebrating LGBT month in February, and a number of events linked to mental health awareness and key religious festivals.
Coming up next year
- We’ll be holding diversity and inclusion sessions – raising awareness and offering advice to our residents on a variety of topics.
- We want to use our Involvement Menu to get more residents involved in our work and we’ll be doing ‘skills mapping’ exercises with volunteers to identify the best way for you to get involved.
- We’ll be focusing on providing adult learning courses in conjunction with the Hertfordshire Family Learning Service to residents who’d like to boost their skillset.