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Oldham Council

Performance and Value for Money Scrutiny Committee


Meeting Date: 2 February 2016
David Smith (Customer First Director)/David Woods (Director of Homes)
Report Title: First Choice Homes Oldham
Recommendation: It is recommended that the Committee note the report and
comment on its content
1. Background to the Report
Since the stock transfer FCHO are required to deliver the 5 year Offer Document
promises that Oldham Council agreed with FCHO customers as part of the stock
transfer (2011-2016). FCHO routinely report back our progress on delivering these
Offer Document Promises to the Council every quarter. We have similarly been asked
twice to present to this Committee our progress on delivering on these Offer
Document Promises and on how we are delivering on other Oldham-wide corporate
priorities.
In March 2015 FCHO provided evidence to OMBC colleagues that we had completed
all 154 of the Offer Document Promises made 12 months earlier than promised. This
was agreed in principle and a process for presenting the evidence to customers and
Council members was agreed that would ensure this was endorsed by them. In June
and July FCHO consulted with our engaged customers involved in our Independent
Scrutiny Panel, our 2 Customer Scrutiny Forums and recognised Tenant Residents
Groups. A group of 30 customers scrutinised the Offer Document and the evidence of
progress made and recommended to the council that they considered the offer
document complete. The Council considered this in August and September and
agreed. At the FCHO Annual General Meeting in September the Offer Document was
officially signed off as complete by all parties. This was publicised locally through the
Oldham Chronicle and First4News (our customer newsletter).
The main highlights of the offer document work completed to April 2015 include to:
Our Homes

Total of 170m invested between 2011-16 into home improvements and


maintenance against a promise of 149m.
56% of which was spent locally within 10 miles of OL1 in 2014/15.
92 new homes and our new town centre HQ built with work to commence
shortly on new Property Care Depot which together are worth an additional
investment of c20m.
Work commenced to invest a further 27m into environmental improvements
on our estates from 2015-2020.
5882 new bathrooms fitted (target 5500).
6244 new kitchen fitted (target 5500).
6244 electrical rewires completed (target 5500).

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4332 new heating systems installed (target 4000).


1816 new doors/windows fitted (target 1585).
2047 homes with additional energy efficiency works completed.
5.4m of aids and adaptations works completed (target 5m) and FCHO now
have 2337 homes adapted (20% of stock).
10m of Eco funding attracted and a total of 20m invested into the BGreen
(St Marys/Coldhurst) Community Regeneration Project with a wide range of
partners covering over 1400 homes.
Our Communities

New Disability Living Service established to assess and support disabled and
infirm customers to be resettled into suitably adapted homes, have adaptations
completed and sustain independent living.
Pre-tenancy assessments, support, advice and training service introduced for
new tenants.
Continue to fund a tenancy support team (currently 20 FTEs) to deliver pretenancy, resettlement and on-going early help interventions and support to
c2500 households pa.
18 neighbourhood plans developed and being delivered in partnership with a
wide range of partners and communities across Oldham.
Specialist legal and enforcement team of 7 FTEs established to deal with ASB
and breaches of tenancy.
Respect Our Communities, New Innovations Funding and Tenant Participation
Grants of 150k pa provided to community groups for self-help initiatives and
15 community centres provided and supported.
Provision of specialist community engagement team of 8 officers working
across all Oldham neighbourhoods.
Corporate Sponsors of Oldham On The Map including Oldham Pride, Sports
and Business Awards and the Mayors Ball. Joint main sponsors of Oldham
Gardening Competition.
28 apprentices, 4 traineeships, 1 graduate trainee, 1 special need internship,
over 36 DWP work placement and over 60 work experiences provided. 43
customers helped into employment in 2015/16 to date.
Volunteering budget of 40k pa provided and over 70 volunteers pa recruited,
trained, placed and supported with c30% pa gaining employment.
Specialist energy officer employed to help customers reduce their energy bills
and combat fuel poverty.
56 Digital Champions recruited and trained to support local communities utilise
digital services, 6 digital hubs set up and/or supported and 75 PCs donated to
community groups.
Customer satisfaction improved with services to between 82-85%, with
neighbourhoods to 85% and with improvement works to over 87%.

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Performance and Value for Money Scrutiny Committee Issues


In February 2015 FCHO were asked to address some issues that members wanted
us to and also consider and scrutinise some other areas of FCHO services and
performance.
This report provides an update on the issues the Chair and Committee raised with us
in February 2015. These issues were:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Allocations
Anti-social behaviour
Environmental Improvements and Fencing
New Initiatives and Successes

2. Allocations
The Allocations Policy is an Oldham Council Policy which Council officers review,
consult and develop with registered housing providers and other stakeholders. This
determines, under the 2013 Common Allocations Framework, how all the Boroughs
registered providers part of the agreement (which is all the major RPs except Places
for People) will seek to allocate and let their homes using this allocations policy and
the choice based lettings system the council currently uses.
Oldham Housing Investment Partnership (OHIP) have an allocations sub group which
constantly monitor the policy and the outcomes it produces. This seeks to improve
both the policy and its operation to better achieve the agreed aims and objectives,
better meet housing needs and ensure a better use of the housing stock. Oldham
Council officers are key members of this sub group.
This group led a review in 2015 of the current choice based lettings system and how it
operates and recommended some major changes to Oldham Council to consider.
These recommendations were largely accepted and work is currently in progress
reviewing and changing the allocations policy to meet changes in Government policy
and legislation and to meet the requirements of the choice based lettings review. A
report is being presented to Oldham Council on the proposed allocations policy and
changed choice based lettings process in February 2016.
A number of changes are highlighted as part of this review. In particular, it is
proposed to change how social housing is advertised and allocated by:

Identifying those applicants who have a housing need and registering them
on a Housing Needs Register and
Holding a pool of properties for those customers with no housing need
which will operate on a first come first served basis. Households in housing
need would also be allowed to bid for these properties.

The new proposals will provide the Council and its partners with a clearer focus to
support households in housing need. It will also support co-operative principles in
encouraging households to take greater responsibility when making bids and will
encourage new customers to consider accessing social housing. The proposals will
encourage more WorkingXtra eligible households who are working, have a
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household member caring, in training or making a community contribution to access


social housing.
As part of these changes FCHO are investing in a new self-service allocations and
lettings IT system (Locata) for customers, colleagues and partners to use as part of
improving our services and delivering channel shift. This new IT system will cost over
200k and will be entirely paid for by FCHO (with a contribution from OHIP partners).
OMBC are not being required to make any financial contribution to the new system
which will deliver its allocations policy and administer its housing register.

2.1 FCHO Tenancy Eligibility Policy


In 2015 FCHO reviewed its Tenancy Eligibility Policy (which determines who we will
let a home to and on what conditions) again. This resulted in some changes to the
policy to ensure our eligibility is in line with the Governments policy changes and the
Councils Allocation Policy and to ensure new tenants can afford to sustain their
tenancy and run their home.
We have continued with the tightened rules we have on offering tenancies to
customers with poor previous tenancy histories of debts and anti-social behaviour
which they have not satisfactorily addressed. Customers who fail to meet these
criteria and/or do not address these former tenancy debts and behaviour issues
satisfactorily are made ineligible for an FCHO tenancy.
We also still require new tenants as a condition of their tenancy to:
- Have a bank account (this is required to receive benefits)
- Pay by electronic payment (ie direct debit)
- this is because housing benefit is paid to them and not the landlord and this
reduces the risk of non-payment of rent
- Pay 2 weeks rent in advance of moving in

We still require rehousing applicants being considered for an on offer of our


accommodation to:
- Undertake a Tenancy Sustainability Assessment to ensure they have a reasonable
credit history (from credit checks), can afford to rent a home from us and sustain
their tenancy, to identify any other vulnerabilities or tenancy issues they have
which may require additional help and support and to ensure we can help prepare
them to be a good tenant and to sustain their tenancy.
- From this assessment customers are assessed as either low, medium or high risk.
- Low risk applicants are offered help and advice as they want and need it
- Medium risk customers are offered pre-tenancy help, advice, training and support
tailored to their particular needs and usually just for the period of resettlement
- High risk customers may have a mandatory requirement to have advice and
support provided by us as a condition of being granted the tenancy or may in
extreme circumstances be deemed ineligible for a tenancy

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2.2

Providing support to new and vulnerable tenants

To undertake this process and to provide advice and support to these new
customers (and for those requiring it on an on-going basis) we have a specialist
Support and Well-Being Team (20 FTEs) within the Housing and Advice Service.
We similarly have a small team (2 FTEs) supporting homeless households in
temporary accommodation to be successfully rehoused and settled and to prevent
repeat homelessness
They are able to offer help and support covering welfare rights and benefits,
budgeting skills, setting up bank accounts and electronic payments, tenants
responsibilities and running a tenancy, setting up a new home (eg
furnishings/utilities), applying for discretionary housing payments and local welfare
provision, dealing with any safeguarding, health, education, training and
employment issues and to make appropriate referrals to other support services.
This is good practice and helps prepare applicants to be good tenants.
In addition we provide specialist Disability Living Services to help match, advise
and support those customers with disability needs who require adapted homes. It
provides a Common Access Point for those vulnerable customers requiring
residential supported accommodation or to move from residential supported homes
into supported general needs homes. In 2015 we advised and supported over 530
disabled customers including over 170 being rehoused into adapted homes and a
further 189 having homes adapted for them. From February 2016 FCHO will be
partners in the OHIP wide Aids and Adaptations Protocol. We also supported over
400 vulnerable customers requiring residential supported accommodation or to
move from it.
We also provide on-going Tenancy Support Service for those requiring continual
support to sustain their tenancy (eg many older or lower level vulnerability
customers). Over 350 customers received this service in 2015.
We currently have a contract with CAB to provide tenants in debt with advice and
support.
We complete a new tenancy visit to all new tenants within 4 weeks of them moving
in to ensure all the issues they have are identified and addressed. Over 85% of
these visits are successfully completed.
We currently have over 10000 applicants on the Oldham rehousing register with
about 4000 of them with a recognised priority housing need and 6000 without a
priority housing need. In 2015/16 to date (9 months) 925 homes have become
vacant, 2369 offers of accommodation been made and 1224 have been refused
(over 50%). Only in 17 of these refusals (0.01% of all refusals or 0.001% of all
applicants) has the applicant stated this was because they were unable or
unwilling to provide 2 weeks rent in advance. We have a process in place whereby
this requirement can be reviewed in urgent rehousing cases whereby individual
arrangements can and often are put in place.

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2.3 Outcomes to Date


To date these changes to the allocation policies and processes and to our Tenancy
Eligibility Policy have helped improve tenancy sustainability, reduced tenancy
turnover and ensured new tenants have the help and support they need. It has
helped ensure we have reduced our void levels from a peak of 361 voids in July
2014 to 74 as at December 2015 (0.6%). This is by far the lowest they have ever
been and shows we are actually helping more people to be successfully rehoused
across the borough and increasing the revenue we have available to pay for
essential services by an additional 1m pa.
Our void turnover has also reduced during this period of on-going change. Our void
turnover was over 12% pa in 2014/15 and has reduced to less than 10% pa in
2015/16. This is further evidence that our approach to being more robust in who
we let to and how we manage and support them is working. This helps to improve
stability and sustainability in our communities in the longer term and helps
communities develop so they become more independent and resilient.
Despite all the welfare reform challenges we have experienced over the last 3
years, these new policies and processes have contributed to maintaining our rent
collection levels at over 99.8% for the last financial year. This means we can
continue to invest in services, jobs, homes and communities and help to prevent
debt, eviction and homelessness.

3. Anti-Social Behaviour
FCHO have for a long time had an anti-social behaviour policy in place which has
been developed in consultation with customers and other stakeholders (including
the Council and Police) which meets all legal requirements and complements and
reinforces the Oldham Partnerships Community Safety policies and processes.
The policy was reviewed again to ensure we incorporate the legislative changes
introduced in the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour Act.
3.1 Anti-Social Behaviour Prevention and Mediation
In our policy we aim to prevent anti-social behaviour wherever possible by working
effectively with customers, communities and partners. Where it does occur we
investigate all reports of anti-social behaviour as early as possible to help nip any
problems in the bud and intervene early. Where appropriate we have a contract
with specialist mediation providers and other support services to help resolve
issues.

3.2 Anti-Social Behaviour Powers


However where this is not possible we investigate all reports of anti-social
behaviour. We promise to investigate all serious ASB incidents within 24 hours and
less serious cases within working 3 days. We aim to use all the legal tools we have
available to us and the powers other agencies (notably the police and council)
have available to them to resolve the problems. These include using:
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Acceptable Behaviour Contracts


Injunctions
Tenancy Notices and Possession Proceedings
ASBOs and CRASBOs (related to criminal convictions)
Community Protection Notices (Council and Police Only Powers)
Noise Abatement Notices and Proceedings (Council Only Powers)
Environmental Health Notices (Council Only Powers)
Dog Control Orders, Drink Ban Orders, Curfew Orders (Council Only
Powers)
- Crack House Closure Orders (Council and Police Only Powers)
Obviously the success of these legal remedies depends on the quality of the
evidence and witnesses we have available to us. Sometimes collecting evidence
can be difficult as we may have reluctant witnesses (often through fear of
intimidation) and/or a lack of real first hand direct evidence, we often get a lot of
reports of suspected perpetrators or third hand reports (eg I was told it was such a
person).
3.3 FCHO Tenancy Policy
In 2013 we introduced a tenancy policy which is reviewed annually. This means
that all new tenants:
-

Initially only granted a 12 month Introductory Shorthold Assured Tenancy


Continually assessed to ensure they are paying their rent and being a good
tenant
If they have a major breach of their tenancy conditions then we use quicker s21
processes to end the tenancy during this introductory tenancy period
If they have a minor breach of their tenancy (eg minor arrears or a minor
tenancy enforcement breach) at the end of the 12 month period then we may
extend their introductory tenancy by a further 6 months
Only if they successfully complete their introductory tenant are they then granted
what is now a renewable upon review fixed term tenancy (usually of 5 years but
can be as short as 2 years).
No new tenant is granted an indefinite tenancy anymore.

3.4 FCHO Anti-Social Behaviour Support Services


To support this work we engage the following services:
1. Low level ASB and neighbour disputes are dealt with by our team of 24
Neighbourhood Officers
2. 20 pre-tenancy, resettlement, tenancy support officers and assistants
supporting new rehousing applicants and tenants, homeless households,
disabled and those high medical needs, vulnerable and older customers
3. Higher level ASB cases are investigated and dealt with by our specialist team
of 4 community safety officers
4. Legal cases are led by our specialist team of 3 solicitors
5. We also offer mediation and victim support services.
3.5 Partnership Working

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FCHO cannot and does not work alone in resolving all or even most anti-social
behaviour problems within its tenants and neighbourhoods. Many of the problems
can be related to owner-occupiers, private renters, visitors to the neighbourhood,
criminality issues, substance abuse and mental health problems, other vulnerability
and parenting issues, domestic abuse etc where we have to work closely with a
wide range of other agencies.
As such FCHO are active partners and contributors in many inter-agency
partnerships including the Oldham Community Safety Partnership, the Community
Tensions Reporting and Management Group, hate crime, multi agency public
protection arrangements (MAPPA), multi-agency risk assessment compact
(MARAC), domestic violence, SPOTLIGHT, Troubled Families, Multi Agency
Safeguarding Hub (MASH), Child Sexual Exploitation (ROSE) partnerships. We
work with a wide variety of enforcement and support agencies to deliver on our
work to prevent, reduce and effectively deal with anti-social behaviour.

3.6 Notable Outcomes to Date


We dealt with and investigated over 500 reported ASB incidents in 2015. Of these
119 were more serious incidents responded to within 24 hours and 381 were less
serious incidents responded to within 5 working days. 126 incidents were related to
noise.
As a result of FCHO enforcement actions 36 injunctions were granted against the
perpetrators, 37 notices of seeking possession were issued, 12 possession orders
were gained resulting in perpetrators losing their homes, there were 2 property
closures and 5 perpetrators were sent for committal to prison.
FCHO worked in close partnership with the Challenger Group and the local
Authority to successfully obtain a Closure Order due to drug related problems at an
address in Coldhurst. 34 serious crime offenders have been arrested and charged
through the work of this group and a total of 72 years of imprisonment has resulted
to date (with more cases pending to go to court). There has been 1 crack house
closure order, 2 injunctions served, 4 have been evicted or left voluntarily, 5 have
possession proceedings pending and 8 have current notices of seeking possession
in force and as a result of this work.

4.

Environmental Improvements
Customers can report fencing repairs through our Service Centre on 0161 393
7117. If the repair is of a health and safety nature then an order will be placed with
our Property Care department to attend and carry out any necessary repairs.
Should the repair not be deemed as a Health and safety issue the details of the
repair requirements are recorded and where necessary an inspection is carried out
to establish the full extent of the work required. These jobs are then placed into
work packages which will be included in future planned programmes or delivered
by our Property Care Department in a programmed manner.
In 2015/16 we have already completed 3 pilot schemes on communal works
including new entrances and door entry phones systems, new flooring and wall
coverings, new lighting and signage, new rubbish disposal arrangements etc. Work

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has now commenced across most areas fo the borough including Alt, Roundthorn,
Sholver, Littlemoor, Derker, Coldhurst, St Marys, Burnley Street, Barker Street,
Failsworth, Hollinwood, Glodwick, Werneth, Busk, North Chadderton, Higginshaw,
Egerton Street, Royton, Shaw and Saddleworth. Works will be concluded in
2016/17 to these areas and all other areas not in the 2015/16 works will commence
and be concluded.
We are also currently delivering wider environmental improvements across several
FCHO estates including Coldhurst, St Marys, Barker Street, Alt, Roundthorn,
Derker, Waterhead and Central Chadderton. This programme will result in c28m
being invested in environmental work to our flats and houses over the next 5 years.
The programme includes improvements to boundary fencing, gates, and footpaths
to houses and communal spaces surrounding our flats and maisonettes.
5.

Other Notable FCHO Successes in 2015 to date


These include:
1. Over 350k has now granted to over 130 Community Projects in ROCA
funding realising over 1.5m in community benefits. A new round of rapid
ROCA is being held in February where a large number of smaller projects and
groups are funded up to 500 each
2. Over 23 Cash4Grants awarded in the BGreen area for small scale self-help
and community projects up to 250 and over 500 local residents engaged in
community activities.
3. 23 OMBC colleagues have been successfully TUPE transferred to FCHO to
work with our existing caretaking team in a new unified Neighbourhood Care
team delivering enhanced services of at least fortnightly grass cuts and
communal cleans. We are now enhancing the service by delivering an
extensive winter maintenance and enhancement programme and the
introduction of cut and collect services from March 2016.
4. Crossbank, Summervale and Rountree House concierge closed January 2016
and a new extensive CCTV system has been installed which will be monitored
under contract by OMBC First Response Service.
5. We have been shortlisted for 2 Housing Innovations Awards for our BGreen
Retrofit project in Coldhurst and St Marys, for the Most Innovative
Regeneration and Innovative Retrofit awards. We have also been shortlisted
for the national new office building awards.
6. Over 250k in New Innovation Funding has now been granted to new projects
delivering on employment and training, combatting poverty and energy
efficiency, health and well being and community development projects.
7. The improvement works on the 20m BGreen project are now almost complete
across the St Marys, Coldhurst, Barker St, Burnley St and Egerton St estates.
This includes developing a new energy efficient bio mass boiler house,
improvements in renewable energy use, energy efficiency improvements to
1400 homes, new kitchens and bathrooms, environmental improvements. We
are now delivering on our 6 locally agreed Co-Operative Pledges to BWarm,
BSafe (Community Safety), BProud (Good Neighbours), BHeard (Community
Engagement), BHealthy and Bready (Training and Employment) which are
already delivering significant improvements in customers lives and satisfaction
levels. The Centre of Local Economic Studies have recently produced a report
detailing the outcomes of the project which shows very promising
improvements in almost all indicators (eg housing, crime, health, employment,

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skills, engagement, community self help, public sector service demand


reduction). See below:
Figure 1: Average before/after score for key programme outcomes

8.
9.
10.
11.

12.

13.
14.

Plans are being developed to build c100 new homes in next 2 years and a
further c200 homes by 2020.
A new 2m town centre depot on the Meridian site is being planned and
tendered to be built and opened by 2017.
A new hospital discharge officer to be funded and employed. To commence
work at Royal Oldham Hospital in April 2016.
FCHO and our health work has been featured by the NHS Alliance at national
conferences an ITN DVD of this has been made and now features on NHS
Alliance website.
Investors in People Gold Award retained and improved and the related Health
and Well Being Award granted. Now 54 in the top 100 of the UK Best
Companies. We are an accredited Living Wage Employer.
Commenced new Get Oldham Working project to provide 20 paid 6 month
employment placements
Currently we have 14 apprentices currently working plus FCHO plus 9
apprentices with our main contractors. We also provided 28 Job Centre Plus
work placements and 8 student placements and 16 of these have since gained
employment. We have recruited, trained and placed another 66 volunteers of
which 32 have since gained employment over the last 12 months.

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