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.
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.”
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.
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 ofVictory 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.
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.
Join us from home on Fri 8 May as we come together to commemorate #VEDay75. Note down these special events & help us pay tribute to the entire #WW2 generation from British, Commonwealth and Allied Forces, to evacuees and those who served on the home front. https://t.co/gnKjbgSb3Kpic.twitter.com/SASw4abSPd
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.”
We are so proud that Ocean was awarded Gold at today's @behealthyatwork Healthy Workplace Conference! 🎉
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.”
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.”
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.
𝗜𝗻𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗺𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 & 𝗮𝗱𝘃𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗼𝗻𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗿𝘂𝘀 (𝗖𝗢𝗩𝗜𝗗-𝟭𝟵)
Ocean is closely monitoring the status of the #COVID19 outbreak, and any impact this could have on our services.
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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: