This December, we bid a very fond farewell to our Group Chair, Dennis Spilsbury.
There isn’t much Dennis doesn’t know about housing after spending the last 55 years of his career in the industry starting at Plymouth City Council back in 1962. Dennis joined Ocean Housing in 2002 as a Neighbourhood Services Officer. At that time, he was told his time with us was just for a few weeks; little did he realise it would turn into nearly 16 years.
“The best part of the role was getting out and about, meeting and helping residents. No day has ever been the same in my job and that’s why I’ve loved it,” says Dennis.
From Neighbourhood Services, Dennis then joined the Ocean Board back in 2006 and took up the Deputy Group Chair role in 2009 followed by Group Chair in 2011.
Mark Gardner, Ocean Group’s Chief Executive said “Dennis demonstrates everything that’s good about Ocean Group. His commitment to us and especially the promotion of tenant and resident involvement is second to none. He will be greatly missed.”
Everyone at Ocean Group would like to thank Dennis for his long service and commitment to continually improving the service we provide. We wish him and his wife Gloria, a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Katrina is thrilled with her new home thanks to a mutual exchange;
“The swap was very easy to arrange and it has made a huge difference to our lives. My son Kian can now walk to school and spend more time with his friends.”
A home swap or mutual exchange happens when tenants of Registered Social Landlords such as Ocean Housing, swap properties with each other. This can only happen if both tenants have their landlords’ consent and meet the mutual exchange criteria.
You can register free of charge with Home Swapper which is a national database of social housing tenants looking to swap their home. As a tenant, you can register whether you wish to find a swap locally or nationally should you wish to move outside the area. Once you register with Home Swapper, we check your eligibility to make sure your tenancy allows you to swap. Once you find a swap, you need to contact us and ask for a mutual exchange application form. We will then need to carry out checks, such as inspect your home and check your rent account. You cannot move if you have rent arrears.
We all know that here in Cornwall our homes need regular maintenance to ward off that weathered look the traditional Cornish weather can bring!
Ocean ensures that the outside walls of all our homes are given a wash down or fresh coat of paint on a rolling basis, as part of our routine £4million annual investment in property maintenance.
In August, 83 year old Ocean tenant and Scrutiny Panel member Ron Deacle turned his attention to Ocean’s external decorations service and threw down the gauntlet to Nick Reeks (Planned Maintenance Co-ordinator) claiming “I can do it quicker” …and so the challenge was set… Continue reading →
From December 2017, Universal Credit will be phased in, affecting residents in Cornwall.
….It is not a choice.
….You will have to switch.
But don’t worry help is at hand!
What is Universal Credit?
It’s the new way that welfare benefits are going to be paid.
All benefits will be rolled into one and paid to you once a month.
There can be a delay of up to 6 weeks whilst the changeover of Universal Credit takes place, during which you may get no money.
We have therefore put together this simple flowchart to help you understand.
Take it step by step:
Step 1 – Are you of Working Age?
Yes – go to 2 No – Universal Credit should not affect you
Step 2 – Do you receive one or more of the following six benefits?
Working Tax Credits
Child Tax Credits
ESA (income related)
JSA (income related)
Yes – go to 3 No – Universal Credit should not affect you
Step 3 – Are you able to access the Internet?
Yes – go to 4 No – Ocean can help by offering advice. Continue to 4 and contact Ocean at the end.
Step 4 – Can you cope with 1 large monthly payment coming in?
Yes – go to 5 No – Ocean can help by offering advice. Continue to 5 and contact Ocean at the end.
Step 5 – Do you have a bank account?
Yes – Great you are almost ready! Go to 6! No – You will need a bank account so that your Universal Credit can be paid. Continue to 6 and remember to set up a bank account when you have finished reading this.
Step 6 – Don’t delay, prepare today!
Make extra payments to your rent (eg. set up a Hi-£5 buffer account)
Top up your prepayment card for gas/electric or switch to direct debit to spread the costs
Seek help budgeting – Contact Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) or Ocean’s Customer Accounts Team
Ocean has trebled its in-house collections for the local food bank, in response to growing demand for the service, which supplies food parcels to local families in need.
Missing those free school dinners
As the school holidays get underway, parents on a tight budget are having to make funds stretch even further, explained Ocean Housing’s Welfare Advisor Gemma Aldin:
“Children who would normally enjoy a free hot school dinner in term-time will of course need to eat at home in the holidays, which often puts parents under extra pressure financially.”
This in turn increases demand at the local food banks, with the St Austell branch reporting shortages of larder essentials that many of us take for granted, such as instant mashed potato, pasta sauce, long life milk and fruit juice.
Last year St Austell Food Bank supplied food parcels for 2,617 people, 890 of which were children.
“I wanted to find a simple way for us all to help,” added Susan McKnight, Ocean’s New Tenant Support Adviser, who began co-ordinating the collections at Ocean in 2015, which to date have raised over 200 kilos of shopping for the food bank.
Ocean can be contacted by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We understand how tough it can be when you have money worries, especially if you are struggling to find a job. That’s why Susan, who was previously part of our Welfare Advice Team, is now working on a new SMART Tenant Project:
“I am really excited about helping tenants in different ways – from sorting out money problems to finding employment.”
Sometimes it may be as simple as re-writing a CV, helping with a job application and practicing interview techniques.
“We may also be able to arrange for training that could help residents back into work and support with childcare during the training.”
The SMART project is for new tenants who are unemployed and have the right to live and work in the U.K.
If you are not a new tenant and you think you could benefit from this kind of support, Susan is still very keen to hear from you:
“Please contact me so we can talk about other ways of helping you.”
Susan is working on this project with an organisation called the Penwith Community Development Trust and it is funded by the European Social Fund.
A local family were celebrating after sharing their views in Ocean’s latest customer survey led to winning the prize draw for a brand new Smart TV.
As part of the plan to help the organisation and its customers get ready for Universal Credit and improved digital customer service, Ocean Housing contacted all tenants and residents to seek their feedback.
“Filling out the survey only took a few minutes over a cup of tea,” shared local mum Karin, from St Agnes. “Ocean’s Customer Accounts team have always been very helpful when we’ve been in touch with them, as has our patch officer, James. So we didn’t mind at all helping to update Ocean via this survey. We never dreamed we’d actually win the TV though!”
Ocean’s Quality and Performance Manager, Anna Pascoe, led the project and explained Ocean’s perspective:
“Welfare reforms have been coming thick and fast over recent years and this survey was one of the many methods we are using at Ocean to help customers prepare for and understand current and coming changes, such as the digital-only Universal Credit system. We were delighted with the response to the survey and look forward to taking on board the comments shared.”
Customer Service Manager, David Jory, added:
“We are keen to be responsive to customers across new as well as traditional communications, and it was great to see over 150 survey respondents sign up to our online account service My Ocean.”
If you are an Ocean customer you can raise any issues and get assistance via the new LiveChat web tool. Simply follow the pop-up instructions when you visit www.oceanhousing.com.
We held two workshops, presenting our existing set of standards and outlining planned improvements, including changes to wording as well as the design and style of the documents. Everyone was given the opportunity to discuss, question and challenge the standards.
Laura Dowton, the Tenant Involvement and Social Inclusion Manager said,
“The turnout was great – there were some new faces as well as some of our dedicated panel members.
The enthusiasm level was high – everyone was really interested and I have arranged to follow up with a couple of attendees as they asked about getting more involved.
The people I spoke to gave positive feedback and seemed relaxed and comfortable. Many said they would be happy to come along to future events.”
Where there were alterations required, the managers now have the task of making appropriate changes before we publish the final versions.
We will publish final versions on the Service Standards pages.
It was the end of an era this Autumn as we waved goodbye and wished outgoing Group Chief Executive, David Renwick all the best for his retirement. But as the saying goes when one door closes, another door opens and with this Ocean are thrilled to welcome our new Chief Executive Mark Gardner to the Group.
Mark has been busy settling in, meeting staff and customers too. Having been in the housing sector from the age of 18, it’s fair to say he brings a wealth of experience with him to Ocean.
“I am delighted to be joining a great organisation that is delivering excellent results, has a track record of success along with staff who are committed to providing homes and services of the highest quality” says Mark. “I’ll be looking to build upon David’s great work and bring my own experiences and leadership to help Ocean evolve”.
There will be plenty of opportunities to meet Mark in the coming months, but for now we hope you will join us in wishing him every success for his future here at Ocean.
Every day, our Customer Services team receive calls from customers asking for their rent balance. Did you know you can check your rent balance online?
My Ocean – your personalised online service
My Ocean is a personalised online service – an area of our website where you can securely log in and view your balance and transactions from the last 3 months as well as your repairs and planned upgrades, 24/7, without having to wait in the phone queue!
Our friendly and helpful Welfare Advice Team have been helping tenants get to grips with these upcoming changes to the benefits system and what they need to do to be prepared for Universal Credit and the lowered Benefits Cap.
It’s really important that you tell Ocean when you have or are going to sign up to Universal Credit.
Our Tenancy Sustainment Service has been up and running for 2 years, overseeing Ocean’s work safeguarding our residents and high-level antisocial behaviour.
Providing a person-centred approach to dealing with various issues concerned with domestic abuse and vulnerable cases, Stephen Williams, our Tenancy Sustainment Co-ordinator, is committed to providing the best possible service for our residents who need us most.
“Working with other agencies including the Police, Probation Service, and Social Services we aim to support our tenants to the best of our ability, prioritising their safety is our main purpose,” explains Stephen.
“We seek, as far as we can, to address the needs of vulnerable people while at the same time using appropriate tenancy enforcement action where, unfortunately, we need to,” continues Stephen.
If you have any concerns regarding a vulnerable resident or see anything that sets off alarm bells in your mind, visit the ‘Keeping Safe’ section of our website for advice (click on ‘Safe’ below) or contact Stephen Williams directly.
After what seems like a long, cold and wet Winter our Grounds Maintenance crew are getting ready to fuel up their mowers in preparation for the warmer weather.
Our hardworking grounds staff are responsible for looking after areas which include grass cutting, hedge trimming and maintaining pathways on approximately 160 of our estates.
It’s definitely a challenge for the team battling the Cornish inclement weather but the team are extremely vigilant when it comes to maintaining the areas where our tenants live. The dedicated team have been praised for providing the best standard of service which offers great value for money for Ocean tenants. Continue reading →