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Ocean Housing Group Staff Conference 2020 held virtually

The Ocean Housing Group came together virtually on Friday December 11, to reflect and celebrate achievements of the past year.

Like many events in 2020, our annual staff conference had to be held online. This however did not prevent around 200 colleagues, engaged tenants and board members getting involved and marking the occasion in style.

Determined to make sure that the event – originally due to be held in the spring – went ahead before the year ended, we decided that hosting it via video-conferencing was the only solution.

“At Ocean, our staff conference is very important to us,” said Mark Gardner, chief executive.

“It gives us the opportunity to come together with colleagues from all across the Ocean Group, Ocean Housing and Gilbert and Goode.”

He added: “We were delighted to be able to host it, albeit in a different form, this year. It was fantastic to see everyone engaging and championing their colleague’s achievements.”

“Working remotely may mean teams are apart, but it has done nothing to affect the team spirit and togetherness of the Ocean Group, or our motivation to serve our tenants.”

Participation packs, which included details of how to get involved as well as refreshments, arrived at the homes of Ocean staff all across Cornwall beforehand, to ensure everyone could join in comfort.

“Working remotely may mean teams are apart, but it has done nothing to affect the team spirit and togetherness of the Ocean Group, or our motivation to serve our tenants.” – Mark Gardner, Ocean Group chief executive.

Those who tuned in slightly earlier were greeted by welcome music. Colleagues shared their dance moves from their homes, creating a celebratory atmosphere from the start.

As part of the conference, awards of achievement were given to staff who have demonstrated core characteristics of the Ocean Group’s values.

The Ocean Group ‘Going the Extra Mile’ (GEM) Awards recognise themes including exceptional teamwork, enthusiasm, innovation, and passion for customer service.

Special golden tickets were placed in the participation packs of all those shortlisted, just to add to the excitement and congratulate them on their hard work.

Jill Hughes, who works on the reception desk, won the ‘Tenant’s Choice’ award and was also voted overall ‘Winner of Winners’ by her colleagues.

She said: “It was a really nice feeling to be voted for by my colleagues, and also tenants, I’m really grateful. Coming together and seeing everyone virtually during the conference was a brilliant way to end a testing year, especially when we’ve all been apart, working from home.”

The ‘Tenant GEM’ award celebrated Ocean tenants. Brenda Edwards won the award for her dedicated community work.

She said: “I was very pleased to receive this award. I think it’s really good that Ocean recognise the efforts of tenants, there was a really strong shortlist of people who have worked hard for their communities.”

Mark Gardner concluded the conference by wishing both staff and tenants alike the very best for the Christmas break and 2021.

As the date coincided with Save the Children’s National Christmas Jumper Day, conference attendees wore festive attire and donated to the charity.

Grant funding secured for Polgrean redevelopment

Ocean Housing has recently secured £3 million of funding to help provide high quality, affordable homes for people in St Blazey.

The grants have been awarded by Cornwall Council and Homes England, and will help to fund future phases of Ocean’s multi-million-pound project at Polgrean Place, including nine properties for rent, five for shared ownership, and a bespoke block of 16 flats for older people.

Managing director of Ocean Housing, Frances Turner, said: “We are so grateful for the support of our grant funding partners, which along with our own significant investment, has enabled us to undertake this large and complex redevelopment project.

“We have worked closely with our partners in ensuring we deliver a new lease of life for this community in St Blazey.”

Overall, the scheme will provide a total of 60 new homes for rent and shared ownership, as well as two commercial units and a community space which are already in progress. The first phase of ten two and three-bedroomed homes for rent is also underway, and will be ready for families to move into by summer 2021.

“We have worked closely with our partners in ensuring we deliver a new lease of life for this community in St Blazey.” – Frances Turner, Managing Director of Ocean Housing.

Our sister company, Gilbert & Goode, is the main building contractor for the development. It is the Ocean Group’s biggest project to date, and has been widely welcomed by the community.

Frances added: “We have a shortage of high quality accommodation suitable for older people in Cornwall, particularly in the St Austell area, so we are really pleased to be able to provide a bespoke block of flats for them at Polgrean.

“It will be built to national design standards for older people, and will include facilities such as internal mobility scooter storage, a communal social space with kitchenette, and a landscaped communal garden exclusively for the older residents.

“Our project is also providing our very first homes to be available for shared ownership in St Blazey. These homes will be exclusively available to people who have a connection to the local area, and we are looking forward to speaking with those who are interested in getting their foot on the housing ladder.”

Help and advice for a warmer winter

We all feel the cold in the winter. But for some people, cold weather can cause serious health problems.

Many people are tempted to turn their heating off to save money, but in some circumstances this can end up being even more costly, as it takes extra energy to reheat your home.

Top tips this winter for staying warm and healthy:

  • Keep warm and set your heating between 18°C and 21°C in living areas and 16°c in bedrooms.
  • Eat well and have regular hot meals and drinks.
  • Wrap up warm and keep active.
  • Look out for older friends and neighbours.
  • Avoid common winter illness and get your flu jab (speak to your GP or visit a pharmacist for more information).
  • Consider weather conditions before you leave your home.
  • Switching energy providers could save you money.

If you would like advice about getting the best out of your heating system and saving energy, you can call and speak with one of our Asset Management Team. Also, they can visit your home to carry out an energy audit (social distancing rules applied).

More information about keeping your home warm this winter can be found here.

Did you know?

Community Energy Plus is a local charity, that delivers local solutions to fuel poverty, energy efficiency and sustainable energy. They can help by:

  • Offering practical advice on understanding and reducing your energy bills and combating condensation and mould.
  • Giving details of heating and insulation grants.
  • Providing access to cheap energy tariffs through their collective energy switching initiative.
  • Giving information on free membership to their community oil buying club.
  • Providing support for families with children if they have additional needs.
  • Giving referrals to other trusted service providers where appropriate.
  • Information on emergency energy key “top ups”.

If you want to find out more, you can give them a call on 0800 954 1956. Also, you can email advice@cep.org.uk.

Other agencies that could help are:

  • Let’s Talk offers a range of schemes to help those with utility debt. Some of their schemes also offer energy efficient white goods. Visit www.lets-talk.online/
  • Turn to Us helps people in financial need gain access to welfare benefits, charitable grants and other financial help. Visit www.turn2us.org.uk/

If you are unable to contact any of these organisations or would rather speak to one of our welfare advisors please call 01726 874450 or email help@oceanhousing.com

Ocean Group Virtual Remembrance Event 2020

Ocean remembers them.

Remembrance is important to us all at the Ocean Group.

Each year we gather, together with Housing and Gilbert and Goode colleagues, to pay our respects in the office on Armistice Day (November 11).

Due to social distancing restrictions, things have had to be a little different in 2020. But this did not stop us coming together to take part in a collective two-minute silence at 11am.

Staff from across the Group, board members and engaged tenants gathered virtually, and watched a video together before falling silent and reflecting on those who gave their today for our tomorrow.

“It is very important that, even in lockdown, we come together to share our respects for the fallen.” – Mark Gardner, chief executive.

“The Ocean Housing Group remembrance event is very important to us all,” said Mark Gardner, chief executive of the Ocean Group.

“This year we couldn’t be together. So, staff from across the Group made the effort to put together a virtual event, so that we could all continue to mark the occasion.

“We watched a video of team members reciting Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’, our very own Scott Allen played the last post and then we fell silent, before the reveille sounded and drew the event to a close.”

Mark added: “It’s very important that, even in lockdown, we come together to share our respects for the fallen. Thank you to everyone involved in contributing to the event and all who accepted our invitation to join us. Lest we forget.”

You can watch the video, played during the virtual event, below.

IFF Research will be calling Ocean Housing tenants

Starting this month, Ocean Housing tenants may receive a call from a company called IFF Research.

This is to get your feedback about Ocean Housing, how you feel about your home, neighbourhood and the services we provide. It is also an opportunity to update the details we hold about you so that they are accurate and correct.

Your views are vital when it comes to what we do and how we do it. Hearing your experiences and feedback will help us to improve the services we provide and how we communicate to Ocean tenants.

IFF Research: What you can expect

Starting later than we first hoped, due to COVID-19, IFF Research will contact a number of tenants by telephone to update the details we hold for you & ask you a number of questions.

This company has been selected to complete this research on our behalf, as they are independent housing research specialists.

We know that cold calling can be a worrying issue for our tenants. So, to be confident that you know the call you receive is genuine, please note the following:

  • Interviewers will introduce themselves as calling from IFF Research.
  • The number which will appear on customer’s phones will be 0800 077 3572 or 0808 169 9378.
  • Calls will be made between 10am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm on a Saturday.
  • IFF Research are registered with the Market Research Society and bound by their code of conduct, So, they will never pass a customer’s details to any third party.

If you have any concerns or queries please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to discuss. Thank you!

NHF statement: Supporting tenants affected by the coronavirus crisis

Ocean Housing fully supports the recent statement from the National Housing Federation (NHF) detailing housing associations’ response in supporting residents struggling due to the impact of COVID-19. 

“Housing associations are not-for-profit landlords to more than six million people in England,” said the statement.

“They are working closely with residents, local government, the NHS and others to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

“They are keeping residents safe, keeping vital services running, and helping communities to cope and recover. They know many residents are worried about jobs and getting into debt. Any resident worried about paying their rent should contact their housing association, who will help.”

The statement goes on to highlight three important areas that housing associations, including Ocean Housing, are committed to. They are:

Keeping people secure at home

No one will be evicted from a housing association home as a result of financial hardship caused by coronavirus, where they are working (or engaging) with their housing association to get their payments back on track.’

Helping people to get the support they need

Housing associations are helping residents to access benefits and other support to alleviate financial hardship, including supporting people to get work where possible.’

Acting compassionately and quickly where people are struggling

‘Housing associations will work with any resident who is struggling to find arrangements to pay rent that is manageable for them in the long term. Legal action will only be taken in serious circumstances – for example, as a last resort where a resident will not agree a plan with their landlord to help them pay their rent, or where it is needed urgently in cases of domestic abuse or of anti-social behaviour that is putting other residents or communities at risk.’

You can read the full statement here

Ocean’s response to the statement:

Mark Gardner, chief executive of the Ocean Housing Group, has confirmed Ocean’s support for the NHF statement.

“At Ocean we are proud of our response following the coronavirus outbreak, especially the support our teams have shown to those impacted by it,” he said.

“We have been focussed on making sure we act with all three of the areas covered in the statement in mind. Keeping people secure at home, helping people to get the support they need, and acting compassionately and quickly where people are struggling are themes that have been at the heart of our response.

He added: “Our teams have made just under 1,000 calls to vulnerable tenants, simply to check whether they’re ok. We have also set up the £50K Ocean Housing Hardship Fund, designed to support local charities, families and individuals who are affected by the pandemic.”

“Although our offices currently remain closed to the public for the moment, it does not mean that we are not here for you. Please reach out to us if you are struggling and we can support.”

If you’re financially impacted due to coronavirus please reach out to our team – we’re here to help.

If a tenant finds themselves struggling financially and is having difficulty with rent payments it is important that they contact us with their concerns as soon as possible, and discuss the situation with our Welfare Advisors.

Our team are here to help tenants through this, they will be able to offer specialist advice and agree a reasonable rent plan that reflects the tenant’s circumstances.

To discuss rent accounts or payments tenants can contact their Customer Accounts Advisor on 01726 874450 or email help@oceanhousing.com

Further information about Ocean Housing’s COVID-19 response, and details of how we can support you in times of hardship, can be found at www.oceanhousing.com/coronavirus

New chapter for Polgrean Place redevelopment

Demolition of Polgrean Place is complete, making way for the construction of a multi-million pound social housing redevelopment in St Blazey, Cornwall.

The ambitious scheme from Ocean Housing will provide 60 new homes for rent and shared ownership, two commercial units, and a community space.

Gilbert & Goode, our sister company and the principal building contractor for the development, began work on the demolition in January, before the impact of COVID-19 meant the building site was temporarily closed.

Alice Maffey, development manager at Ocean Housing, said: “Coronavirus has understandably caused slight delays to our programme. For the safety of staff and the local community, we made the informed decision to shut down the site at the end of March.

“However, revised guidance meant demolition works restarted in April with a reduced workforce adhering to strict social distancing guidelines. The team has worked really hard throughout the last few months to get everything cleared ready for new construction.”

Building will begin in September with a collection of 10 two and three-bedroomed homes, which will be available for affordable rent through Homechoice, and will be ready for families to move in by the end of summer 2021.

Mark Gardner, chief executive of Ocean Housing Group, said: “Completing this demolition is a big milestone for us. I am so proud of our team for pulling together over the last few months to safely move forward with the redevelopment of Polgrean Place.

“It is our biggest project to date, and will provide much needed high quality, affordable homes for families and older people in the St Blazey community.

“We have kept in touch with local residents throughout lockdown, making sure they are up to date with everything going on at the site. I would like to thank them for their ongoing support and vigilance, and I look forward to being able to welcome the first families into their brand-new homes around this time next year.”

The first homes are expected to be finished by summer 2021, with the whole redevelopment anticipated to take around two and a half years to complete.

Statement: At Ocean Housing we will never tolerate racism

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Following recent events in the US and the UK, we have been watching, listening and reflecting. 

The overarching message we have heard from the black and wider BAME community is that it is not ok to remain silent.

Simply saying we are not racist or we uphold equality and won’t tolerate discrimination is no longer enough.  We must do more to understand racism and tackle it in all its forms.

At Ocean, we have always been proud of our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion and ensuring we create a fair place to work and do business with.

However, we know we can do more and we are committed to continue to support and enable diversity for our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic colleagues, tenants and customers and in the wider Housing sector.

We need to show our actions are as important as our words, we have strategies in place to improve diversity across our business, but we can do better and we will take action to do so.

This video, shared by the Australian State of Victoria, is useful to remind us that we can all take action and ‘stand up’ to racism, in any form.

Devon and Cornwall Police have zero tolerance towards hate crime. A hate crime is behaviour that is harmful, abusive, traumatising and excluding. Cornwall Council has also published further information and resources.

To report a hate crime you can call 101, email 101@dc.police.uk or visit www.dc.police.uk/reportcrime

Knowing your neighbours: Meet George Aston, 102 years young with plenty of stories to tell!

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At the beginning of this year, before lockdown restrictions were imposed, we had the pleasure of meeting one of our most senior residents – and we were captivated by his life stories!

“It’s hard to believe that it ever happened,” says George, as he reflects on his former working life.

The 102-year-old – thought to be our oldest resident – served in intelligence at Bletchley Park, the historic centre of Allied code-breaking during the Second World War.

It was there that Alan Turing and his team famously cracked the German Enigma code, greatly helping the Allies secure victory. This remarkable feat was brought to life in an Oscar nominated film, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Speaking to us 80 years on from his time there (while stressing that he has signed many an Official Secrets Act!), George described it as ‘surreal’.

His dedication has been commemorated in the form of medals and inclusion on the Codebreaker’s Wall at Bletchley.

“I still remember when the brown envelope arrived and told me that I was being conscripted,” he added.

“More is being understood about Bletchley now, all these years on. It’s incredible to think that 9,000 operatives passed through in that time.”

Jessica's homework, including an old photograph of George during service.

Another brown envelope arrived for Mr Aston recently, but its contents provoked an entirely different reaction.

“An eight year old girl named Jessica – who is my great, great niece – recently wrote to me. She has based her school project on Bletchley and my service.”

“That’s the best letter I’ve received in a long time. She is taking my medals in to show her classmates!”

George, originally from Dorset, moved to St Austell after meeting his second wife, Betty, while on

holiday to the Isles of Scilly. They had both lost their first partners to illness and found love again with each other.

His first marriage lasted for 40 years, as did his second. Betty passed away last August, aged 99.

George’s advice for people growing up in 2020 is simply to ‘slow down’. “There’s a terrible pace to everything,” he adds.

“The world today has a lot going for it, but it’s lost a lot on the way. We’ve gone from having horse and carts to putting a man on the moon, but basic principles and manners have gone.”

‘Good, old-fashioned and honest food’ is what George puts his good health and longevity down to. Tripe, onions and dumplings are regular favourites and he makes sure to fast every Saturday.

With a cheeky smile George gestures to his pile of completed puzzle pull-outs and adds: “See, I’m a crazy man for crosswords”, as he continues to carry on codebreaking.

We hope you enjoyed our short interview with George. To find out more, and read the special stories of other residents, follow our StreetTalk residents and tenants magazine.

Celebrate VE Day 75th Anniversary with activity packs

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Ocean Housing is helping residents and staff celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day – even in lockdown.

To make sure that people can still mark the milestone in style, we’re pleased to offer a number of downloadable packs and worksheets here on our website.

VE (or Victory in Europe) Day is seen as the end of fighting in Europe, in the final days of the Second World War.

Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made a radio announcement on May 8 1945 to confirm conflict had ceased. It was the emotional day that millions had waited for. Big celebrations and street parties were held to mark the moment.

The 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day on Friday May 8, 2020 was set to be a significant occasion. The May bank holiday was moved and large-scale events were planned to commemorate it.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many events have been forced into cancellation.

Nevertheless, we’re hoping people can still observe the anniversary from their homes. Especially thanks to a brilliant partnership with the Royal British Legion, National Memorial Arboretum and Citizen.

Packs, for children and adults, have been created. This means that you can read all about VE Day and also take part in a range of activities.

Activities include puzzles, recipes, extracts from Churchill speeches, lyrics to war songs and much more.

How to get involved and celebrate VE Day

You can download the packs from the National Memorial Arboretum website. Or you can click below to directly download each one:

VE Day 75th Anniversary Activity Pack

Download Worksheet Key Stage 2

Download Worksheet Key Stage 3 & Key Stage 4

Be sure to let us know how you or your young ones get on with the activities. We would love to see some pictures on social media!

Your Ocean Housing rent statement explained

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All tenants and residents will receive their annual rent statement in the coming months.

If your rent account is in credit or if you are paying off arrears in line with an agreement, you will not need to contact us.

Full Housing Benefit claimants do also not need to call in. Housing Benefit queries should be directed to Cornwall Council Housing Benefit.

Are you claiming Universal Credit?

Due to technical difficulties experienced during the COVID-19 outbreak, we are currently unable to allocate payments received from your Universal Credit to your rent account.

Your rent account may therefore show a larger arrears balance than it should. All payments received by Ocean Housing will be allocated accordingly as soon as possible.

If you are concerned about this , you can email screenshots of your Universal Credit statement showing your two most recent payments to help@oceanhousing.com – please include your name and address on the email.

It is your responsibility to check your Universal Credit statement every month to ensure that your rent is covered in full by the direct payments. If your Universal Credit does not cover the rent in full or payments stop, you must contact your Customer Accounts advisor to discuss payments.

Also, because of technical difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak, we are currently unable to allocate payments received from DWP third party payments for rent arrears.

The picture below shows how the rent statement is broken down and explains if you are in credit, arrears, have an agreement set up, pay a service charge or have any other monies owed other than rent.

To view your rent statements online go to My Ocean, or download the Ocean Housing App via the Play Store or the Apple App Store (You must be registered and signed in to My Ocean while using the app).

Should you have any further questions regarding your rent statement, please contact us by emailing help@oceanhousing.com or by calling 01726 874450.

Every time that rent statements are sent out we do notice some recurring questions.

So, we have put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers to help you better understand your rent statement.

You can find the Rent Statement FAQs here.

Ocean supports the National Housing Federation’s COVID-19 commitments

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The National Housing Federation, which Ocean Housing Group is a proud and committed member of, has released the attached statement today, regarding housing associations’ response to COVID-19 coronavirus.

Ocean Housing Group supports this completely and would like to reassure tenants that we will continue to put them at the heart of our COVID-19 response.

Our team is delivering services, albeit on a slightly reduced scale, in-line with the latest Government guidelines.

As the National Housing Federation states, we are committed to keeping people secure at home, helping people get the support they need, and acting compassionately and quickly where people are struggling.

“Everyone at Ocean Housing Group supports the commitments explained in the National Housing Federation’s statement,” said Mark Gardner, our chief executive.

“We want to thank all of our tenants and staff for their patience and understanding during this difficult period.

“We will continue to keep our website updated with the latest information and advice, and will be sharing useful links via social media.”

He added: “Finally, I want to reassure our tenants that if government advice is escalated we will still be available to help and support them through these challenging times.”

National Housing Federation’s ‘COVID-19 commitments’ statement:

For more details please visit: housing.org.uk/responsetocoronavirus

Further information on what Ocean Housing Group is doing in response to the impact of COVID-19 can be found here; www.oceanhousing.com/coronavirus/

Regular updates and useful information can also be found on our social media pages, especially Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Just because our reception is now closed to the public, it does not mean that we are not here for our residents.

You can continue to contact our Customer Service Team by;

✅ Calling 01726 874450
✅ Emailing enquiries@oceanhousing.com
✅ Using LiveChat
✅ Downloading the Ocean app
✅ And more – please visit Contact Us for details

Thank you, and stay safe.

Ocean retains gold at Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Healthy Workplace Awards

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We were delighted to win gold and another special accolade at the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Healthy Workplace Awards 2020 last month!

The awards, held on March 10 at the region’s Healthy Workplace Annual Conference, recognise good practice in the workplace. The county-wide scheme acts as a toolkit to encourage employers to think about ways to improve the health and wellbeing of their employees.

Following a final assessment, Ocean scored well across all nine areas of award criteria – including health and safety, recruitment and retention, and creating a healthy workplace – achieving 92 points out of 100.

Heather Taylor is part of Ocean Housing Group’s HR team. She said: “We are very proud to have maintained our gold standard for the second consecutive year. Having put a lot of effort into coming up with creative initiatives to make Ocean a great place to work, it’s fantastic to be acknowledged for the high level of support we provide to our staff.”

As Ocean’s health champions, Heather and head of HR Nikki Forward, are responsible for promoting health and wellbeing in the organisation. They were praised by assessors for their pioneering approach to improving staff welfare, with a big focus on mental health and creating a culture for open communication.

Ocean was one of only five businesses to be presented with an award for mentoring

During the awards ceremony, Ocean Housing Group was also presented with an award for mentoring, providing recognition that it is maintaining a healthy workplace, and is now able to mentor other businesses on the programme with its ideas and experience. Ocean was one of only five businesses at the event to achieve this accolade.

Heather added: “The additional mentoring award was very unexpected. It was something we were aiming for in the next few years, so it’s great to think we are ahead of the game, and can start to support other businesses in creating a better working environment.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-ZT7b8ndST/

Ocean Housing Group’s chief executive, Mark Gardner, added: “I’d like to thank Heather and Nikki for everything they do to make Ocean such a supportive place to work. They’ve established an excellent health and wellbeing strategy which has been adopted throughout the whole organisation.

“We have big ambitions for the next year. We are aiming to collaborate with other inspirational businesses to develop new initiatives, and provide training to raise awareness in important areas, such as the menopause, suicide support, and wellbeing in the construction industry.”

Our reception is now closed until further notice

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We feel that the time is right to close our offices to the public from today (23/03/20).

This decision comes as we all continue to monitor the ever evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, and governmental advice on social-distancing.

The safety of our residents, colleagues and visitors is incredibly important to us, and why we must take this next step.

Although our doors may now be closed, we are still here for you. You can continue to contact our Customer Service Team by;

Calling 01726 874450
Emailing enquiries@oceanhousing.com
Using LiveChat
Downloading the Ocean app
 And more – please visit our website for details

Further information about our response to COVID-19 and changes to our usual services can be found at www.oceanhousing.com/coronavirus/ where we have been posting regular updates.

Last week our chief executive, Mark Gardner, also published a message on our website.

He said: “We want to thank all our tenants and staff for their patience and understanding during this difficult period.

“We will continue to keep our website updated with the latest information. I want to reassure our tenants that we will still be available to help and support them through these challenging times.”

A message from the chief executive – supporting tenants the priority at Ocean Housing

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As the situation around COVID-19 continues to develop, our chief executive is reassuring tenants and staff alike that Ocean continues to put them at the heart of everything.

Health and safety and tenant services continue to be the priority of all at Ocean Housing, despite the coronavirus outbreak. Our team is committed to delivering services, albeit on a slightly reduced scale, in-line with the latest Government guidelines to limit potential exposure to the virus.

“We have been following the government’s advice, and are monitoring the situation very closely to ensure that we keep both our residents and staff safe”, said Mark Gardner, Ocean Housing Group’s chief executive.

“We have a number of staff working remotely, and on a rotational working policy, but our robust systems are working well, which means we can continue to deliver services to our tenants.”

Visits to tenants are continuing as usual, with prior screening questions for the benefit of staff and tenants, and with all the appropriate health, safety, and hygiene practices in place.

In addition to standard advice and support services, we are offering intensive support to tenants who find themselves in rent arrears or who are worried about paying their rent.

Mark continued: “We will not seek to evict any tenant for rent arrears due to coronavirus, but tenants still have to pay their rent. However, tenants have two rent free weeks at this time of year.

“We would urge tenants to use the Ocean app, their AllPay card or direct debit to pay their rent. If any of our tenants have concerns then I would ask them to get in contact with us as soon as possible.”

Ocean introduced its new app at the start of the year, which has become more useful than ever over the last few weeks. It can be downloaded for free via either the Google Play or Apple App stores by searching for ‘Ocean Housing’.

Our repair services are running at a reduced level, with priority being given to health and safety work and inspections, and emergencies such as water leaks and loss of utilities supply. These repairs can be reported on the app, along with functions such as paying rent, and accessing social media updates.

Loraine Hoar, Customer Accounts manager, added: “We know that this is a difficult time for many of our tenants, however we can support you to claim any benefits that you may be entitled to claim, if you have been effected by illness, self-isolation, school or work closures.

“We want to reassure our tenants that we will still be available to help and support them through these challenging times.” – Mark Gardner, Ocean Housing Group chief executive.

“If you have had a change of circumstances and you are already claiming universal credit or housing benefit, it’s important that you update them and continue to pay your rent as normal. We are here to help you through this and have specialist team members who can offer debt advice and complete benefit calculators to establish what you may be entitled to.”

With the community pulling together in this challenging time, Mark concluded: “We want to thank all our tenants and staff for their patience and understanding during this difficult period. We will continue to keep our website updated with the latest information, and will be sharing useful links via our social media.”

“Finally, I want to reassure our tenants that if government advice is escalated we will still be available to help and support our tenants through these challenging times.”

For up-to-date information and advice from Ocean Housing about the coronavirus, visit oceanhousing.com/coronavirus.

First Ocean Community Action Day of 2020 a sunny success in Newquay

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Ocean Housing hosted its first community action day of 2020 in fine weather.

Our ‘Spring into Action’ event was held at Hawkins Road in Newquay on Wednesday March 11. It was an opportunity for residents to meet the Ocean Housing team, spring clean their homes, and gain some free advice from other local services.

Abigail Vercoe, Tenant Involvement coordinator, organised the event.

“It was a great day, and we had some positive discussions with residents about ways to improve the community atmosphere,” she said.

“Community action days are really important for our team to gain a better understanding of the issues faced by residents in the area, as well as giving our tenants the chance to access free advice and useful tips for running their home.

“Whether our residents wanted to learn how to raise a repair request, discuss heating issues, or get further information on Universal Credit, Ocean Housing staff were on hand to provide assistance and answer any questions.”

Other local agencies offering advice on the day included Cornwall Council, Harbour Housing, Outset Cornwall, Devon and Cornwall Police, and South West Water.

“I was really impressed with Ocean Housing. It was a great example of how a successful modern housing association should interact with their tenants” – Olly Monk, Cornwall Councillor.

Ocean Housing also provided a skip, which gave tenants the chance to dispose of unwanted household items. It was returned full to capacity, with many residents taking the opportunity to clear some valuable space at home.

Newquay Treloggan and Mayfield councillor, Olly Monk, also attended the event. He said: “I was really impressed with Ocean Housing, and the organisation of the community action day. It was a great example of how a successful modern housing association should interact with their tenants.

“As Cornwall Councillor for the area, I know how much the residents appreciated the level of response by Ocean Housing’s team when addressing any concerns they had. Well done all.”

Abigail concluded: “We would like to thank everyone who turned up and played a part in the day. A special thanks to Maggie’s Mobile Barista for providing refreshments to keep everyone going.”

Plans to host further community actions days throughout the year in other locations are being made.

Further details on the ways to get involved in your community can be found here: https://bit.ly/2TLbaMg

Gardening success for Ocean Housing residents in St Columb

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Green-fingered residents from Ivydene House, St Columb

Ocean Housing tenants from St Columb, who were rewarded for their gardening success in 2019, are keen to keep up the good work this year.

Ivydene House, St Columb, is for residents over 55 and has 12 one-bedroomed flats. There is a grass/shrub area alongside a communal courtyard which is maintained by Ocean.

One resident, Eric, felt the courtyard could ‘do with being brought to life’. So, with Eric’s love of gardening and the help of his neighbours, a brilliant space of colourful pots and plants has been created.

“I love looking out of my window, it’s looking really beautiful,” said Greta, 90, who we spoke to last summer.

Eric added: “It’s been fantastic bringing the community together and we are all enjoying the outside space.”

Read more: ‘Meet Clive, a true Ocean Housing community champion‘.

The newfound space was put to good use in no time. Residents enjoy many tea parties, while toasting and enjoying the fruits of their labour.

Their work and commitment did not go unnoticed. Delivery and bus drivers, and even customers from a nearby pub, came to investigate and pay compliments.

Soon the word was out. It was not too long before, thanks to so many comments from residents and visitors, the team decided to enter the Newquay in Bloom Competition.

When the results were announced in August they were delighted to win First Prize for Best Courtyard/Small Garden.

“All of us were very delighted to win something,” added Irene, Eric’s wife. “We didn’t expect to win – we didn’t enter to win.

“We entered it, just to bring people together really.”

With such a successful summer the green-fingered residents could perhaps have been forgiven for taking it easy in the winter. But no, they kept up the good work throughout and are already planning to do the same in spring and summer.

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Would you like to bring some colour to your courtyard or communal area or organise an event for your neighbours to enjoy?

Then why not apply to the treasure chest!?

The Tenants and Residents Panel can grant up to £400 per application each year, for more information contact the Tenant Involvement Team on 01726 874450 or visit www.oceanhousing.com/treasure-chest

Ocean celebrates 20th Birthday!

This month all at Ocean Housing are reflecting on two decades worth of achievement and £240m of investment in Cornwall.

Employees, stakeholders and tenants came together at a special event held at Ocean Housing’s head office on February 7 – twenty years to the day that the Group began work in 2000.

“We’ve come a long way over the last 20 years,” said Mark Gardner, group chief executive, while speaking at the event.

“The transfer of council housing stock to the trust was the biggest ever investment in improving homes in the area.

“At that time, we made a pledge to improve the quality and standards of housing, and £28.5 million was invested to make social housing a better place to live.”

Over the last 20 years, the company has built 1,406 properties, including more than 1,000 houses, nearly 300 flats, and 36 bungalows.

“Our vision is to be an innovative provider of quality homes and services, with residents and staff at the heart of Ocean, and Ocean at the heart of the community.”

Established as Restormel Housing Trust (RHT), the company rebranded to Ocean Housing in 2003, and relocated to its current offices. In 2004, The Ocean Group structure was introduced as the parent company of Ocean Housing, and Gilbert & Goode, which joined the group a year later.

Gilbert & Goode was established in 1972, and is now one of the largest construction businesses in the region. It was acquired by Ocean Housing in 2005 to construct the group’s social housing developments, as well as expand the portfolio of traditional building and contracting work. Its profits are gift-aided back into Ocean to invest in social housing.

Since the takeover, the company has seen considerable growth. The number of employees has grown from 149 to 233, and the housing stock has increased from 3,502 to 4,642 properties, many of which have been built by sister company Gilbert & Goode.

It has also completed 247,784 day-to-day repairs, installed 4,286 kitchens, 3,473 bathrooms, and 2,063 central heating systems.

Judy Sturtridge lives in St Austell, and has been a tenant since the 1970s, formerly through Restormel Borough Council. She has seen many improvements to her home under the ownership of Ocean Housing.

She said: “I’ve always lived on the same estate. The area used to be quite run down, but Ocean has put in new double glazing and central heating, and replaced kitchens and bathrooms throughout many of the houses here.

“There has been a complete transformation to the area, and I’m proud to call it home. It has been a great place to raise a family, and there’s a real sense of community. Ocean has played an important role in this, being involved with the resident’s association, organising events such as coach trips and Christmas parties for us all to get involved in.

“There has been a complete transformation to the area (…) Ocean has played an important role in this” – Judy Sturtridge, St Austell resident.

“Everyone at Ocean is so approachable, they’re very easy to deal with. You often see members of the team visiting the area, and if I’ve ever needed something repaired then they are very responsive.”

During the celebrations, 16 members of staff were recognised for long service, having worked with the company since it took over the social housing stock from Restormel Borough Council in 2000.

Nile’s Bakery provided much appreciated sustenance, as guests shared their fond memories and took part in a quiz of the last 20 years.

Staff have had a 20 day countdown on their computer monitors leading up to the day, showing pictures and facts from each year. Screens around the building were also fill of pictures from over last 20 years – including some big blasts from the past!

Ocean has ambitious plans for the future, aiming to build over 2,000 new homes by 2030.

Mr Gardner adds: “Since 2000, Ocean Housing has invested more than £240 million within Cornwall, through community involvement, property development, jobs, and apprenticeships.

“Our vision is to be an innovative provider of quality homes and services, with residents and staff at the heart of Ocean, and Ocean at the heart of the community.”

More information about Ocean Group can be found here.

National Apprenticeship Week: Why an Ocean Housing apprenticeship could be perfect for you!

Have you ever considered an apprenticeship? At Ocean we recruit in a range of areas, and have a proud record of supporting our local community and education.

Towards the end of last year we were delighted to recruit four new apprentices to join our growing team. Now, coinciding with National Apprenticeship Week 2020 (Feb 3-7) we are looking forward to finding our next wave of recruits!

Ocean offers vocational training in a variety of trades and business services. Our latest cohort of apprentices studied electrics, heating, and plumbing. This year’s apprentice vacancies will include Business Administration, Plumbing & Heating and a Mason role.

“We have a strong reputation for our apprenticeship scheme,” said Mark Gardner, Ocean Housing Group’s chief executive. “And I think this is reflected in the quality of applications.

“We offer a competitive salary, paying the national minimum wage rather than the standard apprentice rate, and provide good job prospects for the apprentices once they have finished training.

“This has helped us to attract a wide range of candidates, not just school leavers, but also those looking for a change in career.”

Video – Hear from a former Ocean apprentice

Emelye explains why a placement with Ocean Housing was the perfect choice for her:

Ocean recently won an award for outstanding commitment to training at the Excellence in Business Training Awards 2019, and was also recognised as the runner-up in the outstanding commitment to apprenticeships category.

33-year old Mike Barnard has joined Ocean as an apprentice electrician. He said: “I always thought apprenticeships were for teenagers, but this is definitely not the case. I really enjoy being tested and learning a new trade.

“Apprenticeships are not just for teenagers

“I worked in leisure for 12 years, then moved to retail as a deputy manager of a supermarket. But I wanted a better work-life balance, so when I saw Ocean was recruiting for apprentices, I started to do my research. Having purchased a shared ownership home with Ocean, I was already aware of the company. I also have friends who work here and gave it a good recommendation.

“The career change is definitely working for me, as I have already seen my children more in the past six weeks, compared to the last six months. Ocean has been fantastic – they put a lot of effort into looking after their staff, and I even met the CEO on my first day.”

Ocean Housing Group actively promotes the construction and social housing sector as a career of choice. Through links with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), we have been involved in a series of school visits to talk about careers in construction.

An apprenticeship at Ocean Housing could be perfect for you

Looking for an apprenticeship? Brandan Crocker and Mike Barnard are two of Ocean’s most recent apprentices.

Heather Taylor, HR coordinator at Ocean Housing Group added: “It’s well known that there is a skills shortage in the construction sector and we are always trying to attract more women in construction, which is why we work so closely with local schools to try and improve the perception of the industry, and the jobs available.

“Our apprenticeship scheme is helping to build a pipeline of qualified trade and admin staff, which will help to address the increasing housing demand within our sector.”

For more information on the jobs and apprenticeships available visit: oceanhousing.com/home/about-us/jobs

Ocean Housing launch new app for 2020

New Year, new app! Ocean Housing has launched a new platform, so that tenants can manage a range of tasks within just a few clicks, all from the comfort of their mobile.

Whether a resident is looking to pay their rent, report a repair or even read up on Ocean’s latest news – they can now do so with less effort than ever before.

The Ocean Housing app, launched in January 2020, pulls together a variety of options and opportunities. It is now free to download from the Apple App Store and can also be found on Google Play. Simply search ‘Ocean Housing’ and you’re away!.

“We are delighted to finally be launching our new app,” said David Jory, customer experience manager. “It’s something that we’ve been looking into for a while. Now that it’s launched we are sure residents will enjoy all the benefits it brings.”

“LiveChat can be reached in just two clicks, connecting residents directly with the Customer Service team. You can also email, report a repair, pay rent and have access to a variety of other options all from the app, saving most people having to make a call.”

Key Features:

Home Screen: This far-reaching menu, presented in a clear and accessible way, allows users to get to where they need to be within seconds. From here you can pay rent, report repairs, log in to the tenant portal, access Live Chat and much more. You will also be able to jump directly to our social media pages and our News section.

Side menu: If you require something more specific, you will be able to access a broader range of options from the side menu. This includes organising an Estate Inspection, and being able to find a home to buy or rent with Ocean Housing.

Live Chat: Sometimes it’s not always possible for tenants to pick up the phone, with access to LiveChat directly from the app they can speak with a member of our team in a chatroom format, where you can also send images.

Direct contact: As well as Live Chat, the home screen also has a direct link to our email address and phone number – so if the details are not in the front of your mind, they will now at least be always in your hands. Our About Us section also contains these details, as well as opening hours and company story.

For further information about the Ocean Housing app, and the chance to download today, please visit the relevant application store:

Apple App Store

Google Play store

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