Today's Scottish news (October 24)

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Pilot scheme to prevent homelessness in Edinburgh

An innovative new pilot scheme to reduce homelessness has been launched by the City of Edinburgh Council.

Focusing on resolving and preventing homelessness, a range of specialist services will be delivered through a partnership with third sector organisations the Bethany Christian Trust, Edinburgh Cyrenian Trust, Foursquare and CHAI (Community Help and Advice Initiative).

The partnership has hailed the beginning of a new collaborative approach to supporting people in the Capital who are at risk of losing their homes.

It will see the council, providers and service users working in partnership to rebalance housing support services and place more emphasis on prevention, through mentoring, befriending, group work and visits from housing support staff.

It is claimed the approach will help resolve some of the crises that lead to homelessness and also deliver initial savings of £400,000, with potential further savings in the future.

The council’s Housing Leader, Councillor Cammy Day (pictured), said: “Taking early action is the best way to combat homelessness. It is vital that we act quickly so we can prevent more people from losing their homes and better protect their well-being.

“By working alongside our third sector partners, we can gain from their expertise and deliver the highest standard of support to those who need it across Edinburgh. This way we can tackle the root causes of homelessness and provide important advice on budgeting and tenancy issues, to build a better future for those at risk and help them to keep their homes.”

The pilot will provide:

  • Budgeting and debt advice (including rent, utility bills and fuel poverty)
  • Information about benefits, including changes due to welfare reform
  • Advice about tenancy issues and housing options
  • Links to employment, including volunteering, education and training
  • Help to avoid social isolation
People who are homeless and in temporary and insecure accommodation will also receive support to move into more sustainable accommodation, in both the public and private sectors.

Iain Gordon of SHAPE, the umbrella organisation representing the third sector partners, said: “Our hope is that this new way of working will help people who find themselves at risk of becoming homeless to be more secure in their homes, so that they can live active and productive lives.”

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Green light for Prestonpans High Street Local Lettings Plan

East Lothian Council has approved a Local Lettings Plan for Prestonpans High Street.
The move enables the council to make slight adjustments to its Housing Allocations Policy when letting council homes on Prestonpans High Street to meet specific local needs.
The Local Lettings Plan has been put in place to help reduce levels of antisocial behaviour and increase demand for council houses in the area, particularly from people with lower housing needs. It is hoped that the new Plan will introduce a more balanced profile to the area and promote greater sustainability.
It is the first of a series of lettings plans being drawn up in East Lothian. Council staff, tenants’ representatives and elected members have all been actively involved in this work.
East Lothian Council Housing spokesperson Councillor Norman Hampshire said: “Prestonpans is a great community with good schools, shops and community resources. We hope that the local lettings plan will bring new people to the area with fresh ideas and experiences to contribute to the community mix. The new Lettings Plan is designed to help Prestonpans flourish and I think it will be welcomed by the vast majority of people living in the town.”
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Increase in new home registrations greeted with caution

Homes for Scotland has greeted the 9 per cent increase in new home registrations north of the border with caution.
The figure for July-September, compared with the same period a year ago, was reported yesterday by NHBC. It also noted that UK house building has hit its highest level for seven years.
Philip Hogg, chief executive of Homes for Scotland (pictured), was keen to remind the industry that the increase in new homes followed a sustained period of falls in Scotland.
He said: “Whilst these statistics are encouraging, we believe this increase will be negatively impacted by this year’s funding for the Scottish Government’s Help to Buy (Scotland) shared equity scheme running out in July and that this will be reflected in future figures towards the end of the year and early 2015. 
“Given the scheme generated nearly 5000 reservations and sales in just ten months, this funding interruption resulted in significant business uncertainty as the industry awaited the Scottish Government’s next move.
“Even with the recently announced reduced price ceiling of £250,000, we still suspect that the £100 million budget for 2015/16 will be insufficient to last the full year. 
“We therefore hope that Help to Buy (Scotland) will benefit from some of the extra £125m housing investment announced in the draft Budget so that builders have the confidence to invest in more much needed housing development.”

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Wheatley launches new service to help deaf tenants get in touch

Deaf tenants can now communicate directly with their landlord thanks to a new service introduced by Wheatley Group.
SignVideo – a British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation service – is available to customers of GHA, Cube, Loretto and West Lothian Housing Partnership, which are all members of Wheatley Group.
It means deaf tenants can contact their landlord directly without having to get a friend or family member to do it for them.

GHA tenant Wendy Galloway, left, with BSL interpreter Janice Murdoch
If a deaf tenant needs to report a repair, for example, he or she clicks the SignVideo link on the relevant website which takes them to a live interpreter.
The tenant has a conversation with the interpreter, who informs Wheatley’s Customer Service Centre (CSC) advisor about the enquiry.
The advisor then relays the information – for example, the time of the repair – back to the tenant using sign language.
Wheatley is the first housing organisation to provide the service.
It’s just one initiative from the deaf forum Wheatley set up last year in partnership with the British Deaf Association.
Maureen Dowden, Wheatley’s community governance and compliance leader, said: “Our new ‘SignVideo’ means all our tenants and homeowners have equal access to our services.
“It also protects the customer’s confidentiality because only the CSC advisor has their personal details.
“We’ll still have face-to-face meetings where we’ll provide an interpreter, but this extra service will allow deaf tenants to contact us when it suits them.”
Mark Hudson, managing director of SignVideo, said: “We are proud to work in partnership with Wheatley Group to enable people to reach their full potential.
“Wheatley is at the forefront of making sure their services are accessible to existing and prospective deaf tenants. We look forward to a long friendship.”
The service is also available to customers of YourPlace Property Management.
The SignVideo link is on the ‘contact us’ page of all Wheatley Group partner organisations’ websites.
The service is available Monday to Friday, from 8am till 6pm.

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Thenue Housing’s REST team wins UK award

A group of tenants Thenue Housing tasked with scrutinising its work has won a major award.

The Association’s Resident Empowerment Scrutiny Team - set up just over a year ago - has triumphed at the Customer Scrutiny Inspection 2014 Awards.
Further success could lie ahead when the same group is up for a second prize in another category at the glittering Awards ceremony in Manchester at the end of this month.

Thenue's REST team

REST, as it is known, was created by the Association as part of its ongoing and deep-rooted commitment to transparency and to enable the team to look at its work in an impartial manner.

It is made up of tenants who, crucially, are not on the Management Committee. REST has been described as a “critical friend”, unafraid to examine and comment on the work of the Association.

In one of its early successes, REST has created a new and easy-to- understand booklet designed to help tenants who may encounter anti- social behaviour problems.

REST identified this as an area whereby it could effectively contribute to helping other tenants understand how Thenue tackles anti social behaviour and the processes and help available in tackling this often difficult issue.

As part of its commitment to scrutiny, Thenue enlisted the help of TIS – well known for its skill in helping tenants and housing association to work together.

Like Thenue, TIS believes scrutiny is high on the agenda of tenants’ organisations, the Scottish Housing Regulator and the Scottish Government and there is an increasing realisation among housing providers that this is a vital component of transparency.

Last month Thenue chief executive Charlie Turner told members at its AGM that they were the “eyes and ears” of the Association.

Charlie added: “We also regard REST as a critical friend - scrutinising our work and being unafraid to raise matters that are considered important to tenants. We greatly value the role of TIS who bring impartiality and expertise to the process. The creation of REST is a further example of Thenue’s commitment to transparency. The team is to be congratulated in achieving an Award so soon after it was created. And there is the potential for further success at the awards ceremony later this month. We wish them well.” 

REST has already been informed that it has won the Recognising Positive Practice in Scrutiny, Scotland category. The second Award which REST has been nominated for at this month’s Awards is in the category of Most Inspiring Newcomers and face a challenge from five other scrutiny panels from across the UK.

Ilene Campbell, director of TIS said: “The TIS Team are thrilled that the REST Team’s hard work is being recognised. The group has been really effective at working with Thenue to improve housing services. Being part of the TIS ‘Making it Happen’ national scrutiny programme has provided the group with a tailor-made support and training package and an opportunity to network and share good practice with scrutiny groups throughout Scotland and the UK.”

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West Dunbartonshire Council awards major housing refurbishment contract

Hanson Structherm has won a major contract to supply is structural external wall insulation (SEWI) system to a large housing refurbishment scheme for West Dunbartonshire Council.
The company is providing 10,800m2 of SEWI to renovate three 16-storey high rise blocks – Clyde Court, Park Court and West Court in Littleholm Place, Dalmuir. The SEWI system will be used on the first floors and above while Structherm’s Wonderwall real brick slip insulated cladding system will be applied to the ground floors.
Hanson Structherm said its SEWI system was specified for the refurbishment as it provides structural stability while greatly improving the thermal performance of the flats, reducing both CO2 emissions and on-going energy costs.
Hanson Structherm, marketing executive Damian Haigh, said: “It is fantastic to have won this contract to provide our SEWI system for the refurbishment of these flats.
“Our system offers a unique refurbishment solution and is the only one on the market which has BBA certification.”
The work is scheduled to start later this month and is expected to last 12 months.

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Irvine Housing Association marks Energy Saving Week at St Luke’s Primary

Irvine Housing Association visited St Luke’s Primary School in Pennyburn to celebrate Energy Saving Week.
Kathryn Morrison, the Association's Affordable Warmth Officer, told the primary 5's all about Energy Saving Week and delivered an interactive session on what IHA does to help save the environment, as well as tips on recycling, being energy efficient and little things everyone can all do around the home to reduce waste.

Kathryn presented to pupils the Association's aim to maximise value and minimise waste, the recycling and energy saving initiatives carried out by staff and staff involvement in initiatives such as Cyclescheme and Healthy Working Lives. She also covered how the Association makes its homes energy efficient. It reminds us of how easy it can be to help protect the environment and save money on our fuel bills.
The interactive session finished with a poster competition where the pupils were asked to design a poster for Energy Saving Week. All the pupils received an IHA goody bag and Energy Saving workbook full of information, tips and quizzes on being green.  A great day was had by all with fantastic pupils who were bursting with ideas and enthusiasm.

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Sanctuary Cumbernauld’s grant helps table-toppers look the part

A high-flying youth football team has been given a boost thanks to Sanctuary Cumbernauld’s £75 million high-rise regeneration project.
Cumbernauld Star FC under-15s received a £1,950 grant from Cruden Building & Renewals to pay for a trip to a tournament in Blackpool, plus a set of team tracksuits.  
Cruden is the main contractor for 49 flats being built by Sanctuary in Seafar at sites in Allanfauld Road and at Ochilview. These properties will complete in 2015 and see more high-rise residents move into modern, high quality homes.

Picture: Manager Ross Campbell (left) with assistant Gordon Gray.
Cumbernauld Star FC under-15s manager Ross Campbell said: “The trip to Blackpool was a great bonding experience for the boys and helped them make a flying start to this season. Playing in a different setting helped the team to grow and that’s been shown in our results.
“The tracksuits have also made a difference. It is smarter and means the boys no longer arrive on match days in their playing kit. Without Cruden and Sanctuary’s help, neither the trip nor the tracksuits would have been possible.”

Cumbernauld Star FC was formed in 2008. The under-15s play in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Youth League and are captained by left-back Kyle Campbell. The team remains unbeaten this season and currently tops its league. Home games are played on Cumbernauld’s Ravenswood playing fields, a stone’s throw from Sanctuary’s Seafar developments.
Gordon Laurie, director – Sanctuary in Scotland, said: “We work with our contractors to see how Sanctuary can help community groups in our areas of operation. Sanctuary strives to do more than merely provide quality, affordable housing and we are glad Cumbernauld Star FC has been able to benefit here.”
Raymond McCafferty, commercial director of Cruden, added: “This type of sponsorship opportunity allows us to support the development of local youths whilst also allowing us to give something back to the local communities where we work.
“I have been following the progress of Cumbernauld Star FC this season and I would like to congratulate the players and coaches for their achievements so far. Cruden Building & Renewals Ltd is delighted to offer our support to Ross and the team and wish them every success for the future.”

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Aberdeen travellers’ site plan set to be dropped

Plans for a new permanent halting site for travellers in Aberdeen are set to be dropped, BBC Scotland has reported.
Aberdeen City Council had identified Howes Road, between Northfield and Bucksburn, as the preferred location.
The site is included as a travellers camp in the local development plan which will be discussed next week.
The ruling Labour-run administration amendment will go to the communities, housing and infrastructure committee. It calls for the Howes Road proposals to be dropped.
Committee convenor Neil Cooney said people in the area had complained "bitterly" about the plan, and added no new permanent site could be identified until a by-law banning unauthorised encampments was introduced.
However, the SNP's Callum McCaig said the suggestion of a by-law had always been a "gimmick" and was not necessary.
Howes Road was last year chosen over three other possible sites at Blackdog, Scotstown Road recycling centre, and the former council depot at Springhill Road.

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