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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.”

View this post on Instagram

𝗢𝗰𝗲𝗮𝗻 𝗿𝗲𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀 𝗚𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗛𝗲𝗮𝗹𝘁𝗵𝘆 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗸𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲 🍎🏆 At the start of this month we were delighted to win gold at the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Healthy Workplace Awards 2020. Ocean was assessed across nine areas – including health and safety, recruitment and retention, and creating a healthy workplace – and achieved 92 points out of 100. 😁👍🏼 “We are very proud to have maintained our gold standard for the second consecutive year,” said Heather Taylor, part of our HR team. “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." During the awards ceremony, Ocean was also presented with an award for mentoring, and is now able to mentor other businesses on the programme with ideas and experience. We were one of only five businesses at the event to achieve this. “The additional mentoring award was very unexpected,” added Heather. 💬 “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.” #Healthy #Health #HealthAtWork #HealthyWorkplace #LoveWhereYouWork #GreatPlaceToWork #Gold #Award #Proud

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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.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Supporting local families in need at Christmas and beyond

The St Austell foodbank, which helps support local families in crisis, has seen more than 4,200kg of food collected by volunteers.

Staff from Ocean Housing are proud to have been part of this achievement. We have been fundraising and hosting food collection points in our offices, as well as taking part in food drives at nearby supermarkets.

“The foodbank team do such a fantastic job and we are proud to support where we can,” said Louise Brown, welfare adviser at Ocean Housing, who has been leading the initiative.

“We run monthly dress down days on the last Friday of each month, collecting £1 from anyone who wants to take part. So far the team has raised more than £330 since June, and we take this money to the Foodbank, which is then used to top up people’s electric keys.

“We have a number of food collection points around the office, which we donate three times a year. The last drop in September totalled 55.4kg, and the Christmas collection will be even bigger.”

Staff from Ocean Housing also took part in a food drive in St Austell Tesco at the end of November, helping to collect a total of 2,592.43kg of food across three days. This involved the team greeting shoppers on their way into the store, encouraging customers to buy an extra item of food whilst shopping, and donating it at the collection point on their way out.

A second food drive also took place at St Austell Asda, where some Ocean Housing staff helped to collect a further 1,675kg of food over two days.

Statistics from the Foodbank show one in five of the UK population live below the poverty line. The charity, run entirely by volunteers, gives a lifeline to families in need, by providing food packages with three days’ worth of nutritionally balanced meals to people in need.

“The team at Ocean are a glowing example of volunteers, donating not just food, but also their time and money,” – Jon Langford, St Austell Foodbank manager.

Jon Langford is St Austell’s Foodbank manager, which also covers areas around Roche and St Stephens. He has praised Ocean Housing for its support, saying: “The team at Ocean are a glowing example of volunteers, donating not just food, but also their time and money.

“They are stable and reliable supporters of the Foodbank, and an incredible group of people to work with. We have seen demand increase by around 15-20% this year, so their help has been very much appreciated.

“We are on track to deliver 4,000 food packages by the end of this year, which will positively impact around 1,200 children.”

Ocean Housing works closely with the Foodbank and other support organisations, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, Citizens Advice, and credit unions to help tenants who find themselves in financial crisis get back on track.

Plans for Polgrean to go ahead

Plans to build 60 affordable homes in St Blazey have been approved by Cornwall Council.

Polgrean Place is an ambitious £12 million affordable housing scheme from Ocean Housing, providing 51 units for rent, nine for shared ownership, two commercial units, and a community space. It will replace existing flats, Cornish units, and six commercial buildings.

In November, Ocean Housing is to stage an event for previous residents and the wider community, to say farewell to the estate, and share memories of living there.

Mark Gardner, chief executive of Ocean Housing Group, said: “Ocean Housing is committed to investing in its existing homes and communities. It is time for the area to be rejuvenated, yet we should remember that many families have fond memories of growing up and living in the area, so we would like to invite them to share their memories, and commemorate an end of an era.”

There will be a memory board for photographs to be shared at the event on 22 November 2019, which Ocean Housing would like to use to decorate hoardings around the site during its redevelopment.

“We look forward to being able to start the development and provide quality affordable homes to people in and around St Blazey.” – Mark Gardner, Chief Executive of Ocean Housing Group.

Demolition is scheduled to start in January 2020, and it is anticipated the whole redevelopment will take around two and a half years to complete. Gilbert & Goode, Ocean’s sister company, will be undertaking the build which is to be of traditional design, including pitched roofs, and an external finish using a combination of stone and render.

The scheme will be carried out across several phases and comprises a selection of one, two, and three-bedroomed affordable flats and houses. It will incorporate parking, gardens and landscaping, with a small community hub to be used by local businesses and community groups.

Mark Gardner continued: “Polgrean Place is Ocean Housing’s largest scheme to date and we would like to thank the local councillors, which have been very supportive of this project.

“Our thanks also extend to the local community which has positively supported the re-development and provided constructive feedback during the consultation period. We look forward to being able to start the development and provide quality affordable homes to people in and around St Blazey.”

The first family homes are expected to be completed and ready for occupation by spring 2021.

New welfare advisers to help tenants navigate Universal Credit

We have appointed two new welfare advisers to assist tenants with claiming Universal Credit, managing monthly income, getting back to work and applying for grants.

Louise Brown has formerly worked with Caradon, Winchester and Test Valley councils as a housing benefits adviser and housing officer, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the role.

Simon Griffiths joins the Welfare Advisory team from our property services. He has also worked for the Department of Work and Pensions as an adviser.

As well as offering advice to tenants, Simon and Louise will work closely with voluntary agencies and statutory organisations to help tenants find appropriate support.

Their appointments come at a time where tenants face the transition to Universal Credit. The new benefit reform represents a big change for those receiving benefits, and combines jobseekers’ allowance, child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, working tax credit, and employment and support allowance into one monthly payment.

Mark Gardner, group chief executive for Ocean Group, predicts that changes to the welfare system may affect housing affordability.

He said: “Generally, it is people who are already near financial crisis that have experienced issues with the transition to Universal Credit. Delays in the initial payment, a cap on benefits, and stricter rules for getting back to work mean that some families could find themselves worse off under Universal Credit.”

A report from the Affordable Housing Commission, (AHC), highlighted that housing affordability becomes critical where housing costs represent more than 40 percent of household income. The tipping point tends to be highest amongst first time buyers, families with dependent children, and those in private rented accommodation.

Mark Gardner said: “Cornwall has a high proportion of workers on minimum wage and zero-hours contracts due to seasonal work. Unexpected bills, reduction in income and changes to personal circumstances can all push tenants towards, or beyond, the 40 percent tipping point.”

Ocean Housing is working in partnership with the local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Citizens Advice, credit unions and support organisations such as the local food bank, to help tenants manage debt and get finances back on track.

Gina Cutler, head of neighbourhood services at Ocean Housing, said: “People can fall on hard times for any number of reasons. By working as a collaborative team, we help tenants cut through the red tape and alleviate financial stress so that tenants can reach the end of the month with greater peace of mind.”

For those finding it difficult to make ends meet, Ocean Housing has put together a quick checklist:

  • Plan ahead financially to create a cushion for unexpected costs.
  • Find out whether you qualify for benefits.
  • Avoid financial sanctions by actively seeking employment.
  • Shop around for the best deals with utility companies.
  • Talk to creditors and support organisations if you are experiencing financial difficulties.
  • Credit unions may provide a more affordable debt management plan to start tackling debt.

For those looking for help with Universal Credit claims, we recommend contacting Citizens Advice. They have launched a Help to Claim service, providing support in the early stages of a Universal Credit claim, including guidance on the verification process which currently is holding up many Universal Credit claims.

A day in the life of a Neighbourhood Services Officer

Being a Neighbourhood Services Officer (NSO) is a busy job.

But it’s also incredibly rewarding, as our very own Susie explains.

Susie has worked for Ocean for four years, and is currently managing properties in Newquay and St Columb Minor as a NSO.

At Ocean, we currently have six NSOs in total, taking care of over 4,200 properties across Cornwall. On average, an officer manages between 700-1000 properties. The team also assist the management of around 700 shared ownership and leaseholder properties.

“No one day is ever the same in this role, which makes it really interesting,” says Susie. “On a typical day I start by checking my emails and ensuring there have been no emergency housing issues overnight, such as fire/flood or a criminal offence involving a tenant or property.”

After that, Susie then heads off to her patch to carry out visits. These can range from:

  • Meeting a new tenant who has recently moved in to their property
  • Boundary and parking issues
  • Inspecting the condition of a garden or property
  • Reports of anti-social behaviour
  • Welfare visits
  • Estate walkabouts
  • Safeguarding – protecting our tenants from possible abuse, harm or neglect.

“I also attend multi agency meetings with the police, social services and other organisations,” continues Susie.

“This is for specific cases where the experience of many teams are necessary involving the care of children, vulnerable adults and serious levels of crime.”

She added: “In amongst the various appointments of the day, I try and fit in a quick lunch break and type up any notes or referrals that need to be made.

“Obviously, my mobile is on should anyone from the office need to get hold of me, the world of housing never stops!”

At the end of the day, Susie types up her many notes. She also logs any referrals that need to be made.

“As busy and challenging as this job is, it can also be incredibly rewarding,” she said.

“Especially when you see the difference you can make to a person or family’s life, no matter how small this may be.

She added: “The best thing about my job is when a tenant picks up the phone or sends a card to say thank you for my help or support.

“I’m lucky to say that I am part of a resilient team who work well together and provide support both emotionally and practically when needed.”

Being a Neighbourhood Services Officer is an important role. Is there anything else that you want to know about their responsibilities?

Or, do you fancy joining the team? We currently have a very exciting role – Neighbourhood Services Manager – advertised.

If you’re looking for a new challenge in your Housing Management career, we would love to hear from you!

More details here.

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