2020 has been a year like no other and this edition comes after some very difficult and challenging times.
The Covid 19 pandemic and the Spring lockdown meant that we couldn’t deliver services in the normal way. Instead, we had to look at how we could offer essential services whilst keeping our staff and communities safe, and protect and support our most vulnerable households.
During lockdown staff carried out a range of activities to ensure our communities were supported, including:
We also made sure that essential Gas Safety checks and other essential repairs were completed under government guidance and social distancing safeguards. We also responded to individuals and families with emergency housing needs.
The attack in Forbury Gardens in June shocked and saddened us all. The town came together to share the grief of the victims, their families and witnesses. We stood together as a community to support each other and to demonstrate the remarkable united spirit that exists across our town.
Life has not returned to how it was before coronavirus. As nationally the number of cases rise again it is more important than ever to maintain social distancing, wear face masks and wash our hands frequently. We still need to be vigilant to minimise the spread of the virus and avoid further restrictions. This has an impact on how we deliver our services and how we communicate with our tenants.
We continue to look at different ways we can keep you informed and up-to-date through texts, email and social media (Facebook and Twitter) and how you can communicate with us, through Love Clean Reading app and the report a street issue form.
Please tell us if you have changed your email address or phone number recently, so we can get information to you as quickly as possible.
Trauma can affect us in many ways so if you have been affected by the coronavirus or the Forbury Gardens attack there is help and support available.
Building maintenance service – COVID-19 update
Unless you have had the repairs team come out to your home recently, you may have wondered about what we have been up to and what we are currently doing following the continued easement of Spring lockdown.
We saw a significant drop in requests for repair work once lockdown started, with only gas servicing, emergency works of less than one hour and some work on empty properties taking place,
using safe working practices in all instances. We immediately redeployed some staff into various community schemes, helping distribute hot meals
and delivering food parcels across Berkshire – they did a tremendous job in helping people out in some very difficult circumstances.
Demand is now growing in most of our work areas and we are moving all trade teams back to normal workloads. With customer agreement and clear Covid 19 protocols, we are now carrying out all repairs and improvement works up to full kitchen and bathroom refurbishments. Whilst many staff are based from home, there is a marked increase in all activities and staff will be much more visible now we are working as normal.
If you have any concerns over Covid 19 and safe working practices, please speak with our Call Centre on 0118 9373757 or 0800 318296 or the team managing your work whose details should be included in your correspondence.
Ed King, Repairs and Maintenance Manager
Back in March, when the Prime Minister announced that everyone in the country were going to be placed under certain restrictions, he also announced that people with certain health conditions or older people needed to either ‘shield’ or ‘self-isolate’. This meant that many people were unable to leave their homes and go about their lives as they normally would.
One Reading Community Hub was set up in a very short space of time and the idea behind it was to offer help and assistance to residents affected by the Coronavirus.
From getting food delivered and prescriptions collected through to advice and help with benefits or a simple phone call from a befriending organisation. People could either call in or complete a form online and the triage team would look at each case and then help with a solution.
The Hexagon Theatre became the central store for all of the food that was then packaged up by the delivery drivers and delivered to people at their homes. Staff from the Hexagon, Leisure Centres, Housing, Legal, Complaints, Streetcare, Repairs and the Transformation Team came together to work as a team and support the
people of Reading. 115 members of staff were involved in this massive operation and over the last few months, 3,500 food parcels were delivered to people in need.
Reading Voluntary Action, Age Concern and Communicare also played a big role in supporting and helping people and hundreds of people were referred to those agencies over the last few months.
“Thank you all so much for all you have done. We would have been truly lost without this help.
Everyone has been amazing and we’ve been really well looked after. We’ve had prescriptions delivered and food parcels received so it’s been a tremendous help.
Just knowing that the hub is there has been a weight off my mind. Even when I haven’t had to use the services, the thought that someone is there to listen and help is comforting.”
The Hub in partnership with Reading Borough council, Reading University and Brighter Futures for Children also supported families facing severe hardship during half term by providing over 1000 meals over the course of the week either as food parcels or hot meals prepared and delivered by Reading University.
The One Community Hub is still available if you are facing hardship during this time. If you, or someone you know is in need of extra support:
We are a friendly team of trained debt advisors who can help you with any debt problem you have with free, confidential and impartial advice. Whatever the reasons for your debts, we are here to support you.
We are still helping hundreds of residents through the current crisis with telephone appointments that suit you and online support.
We can help and support you to:
The team is also responsible for managing and administrating the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme. This can provide people claiming Housing Benefit, the Housing Costs Element of Universal Credit or Council Tax Support extra financial support.
Between April to July 2020, we helped clients to:
We have helped residents to understand what needs to be paid first when difficult decision needs to be made. The main advice we have been giving is that paying your rent is still the priority as it always has been.
If you are struggling to pay your rent, contact your landlord straight away and let them know you are struggling. If they are aware of your situation, they can offer you help and let you know your options.
Landlords and tenants are expected to work together to make an affordable repayment
plan to repay any rent arrears you owe, and for you to take action to reduce the amount of any rent arrears by receiving debt advice and claiming benefits you are entitled to.
The sooner you get debt advice, the more options you will have to improve your situation and the sooner you can make applications for any benefits you could be receiving.
The Debt Advice Team can help you with any issues you might be experiencing no matter how big or small. We will never judge you but will help you to understand the options you have. We all struggle from time to time and need a little help.
We have helped clients to make sure they continue to have an income, energy and food throughout the national crisis. We have also given advice on longer term actions they can take to get ready for when recovery of debts that had been suspended start again in the future.
Many rules have changed to make it easier for people to get financial assistance during the coronavirus crisis. If your income has reduced, check your benefit entitlement and how to apply for benefits at: www.betteroffcalculator.co.uk/free.
If you already receive Housing Benefit or Council Tax Support remember to tell the Revenues and Benefit Team about any changes in your earnings or self-employed income especially if this is a result of Covid-19 as you might be able to receive more help with your rent and Council Tax. This includes if you receive a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme payment from the government or any other grant during this period.
Due to Covid-19, the government have announced a hardship fund to support all claimants in receipt of Council Tax Support.
If you are in receipt of Council Tax Support you will automatically receive a reduction of £150.00. There is no need to apply for this – it will be applied to your Council Tax account automatically in August 2020 and you will receive a revised Council Tax bill. This will show the reduction and new instalments. Where appropriate, a refund will be made if the reduction clears the remainder of the financial year and puts your account in credit.
If you are on a low income you may be entitled to a
reduction on your Council Tax bill. You can apply for a
Council Tax Reduction online at www.reading.gov.uk/claiming.
Remember: if you were receiving Council Tax Support and have since moved to Universal Credit, you need to reclaim Council Tax Support
You should also check the Entitledto website to see if you could claim any other benefits.
If you think you are entitled to any of the discounts listed below please continue to pay your Council Tax bill and contact
Customer Services on 0118 937 3727.
A full Council Tax bill is based on at least two adults living in a home. If you or someone you live with does not need to pay Council Tax then you may get a discount or exemption on your bill.
The following are not counted for Council Tax purposes:
* Both of the following must apply for someone who’s severely mentally impaired to qualify for the council tax discount/exemption:
If you use a wheelchair indoors or have an additional room to meet the needs of a disabled person you may be entitled to the disabled band reduction scheme.
We may need to inspect your property to confirm the adaptations meet the required criteria.
Have you considered moving from where you live now?
Maybe your home is now too big and you’re looking to downsize?
Would you like the option to have more contact with people and the reassurance of being able to speak to someone 24/7 if you have an emergency?
Have you thought about our Sheltered Independent Living Schemes and what they can offer?
Our Sheltered Independent Living Schemes, for those aged 55 and over, have a variety of generously sized studio & 1 bedroom flats. Our properties offer the best of both worlds.
You can socialise with your neighbours in the communal lounges and gardens or you can live your life as peacefully and quietly as you choose in the comfort of your own home.
There are many benefits to living in our sheltered accommodation, such as:
“We came to Sheltered housing because we were living in such awful conditions in a privately rented flat. As soon as we moved, we realised how lucky we were, we instantly felt safe and secure and living within this community setting gave us Peace.
We have been here for 3 years now and have made lots of friends and especially enjoyed attending the activities as we always have a great time. Our lives have improved 100%.
The staff are very lovely here and have been very helpful, we could not wish for better.”Tenant at Corwen Road
“I was living in a first floor flat and due to some health issues, it was becoming more difficult for me to get out and about. I was offered the opportunity to look at sheltered accommodation and a lady came to visit me to discuss what I was looking for. When I first saw the flat, I fell in love with it straight away. I now live nearer my family and have the bus stop, shops and church near-by for easier access. I am now more independent as it is easier to do things myself. It is also easier to get help here if I need it.
The other tenants in the block are all very friendly and helpful. I can say that moving to Sheltered Housing saved my life. If someone is offered the opportunity to move to sheltered housing, I think they should seriously consider it as I can honestly say all areas of my life are much better since moving here.”Tenant at Trinity Place
If you need support, Cedar Court is our Extra Care Sheltered Housing block. As well as the benefits of Sheltered Housing. Cedar Court includes a 24/7 onsite care team who are there to help you maintain your independence, and an onsite restaurant that provides a variety of freshly cooked meals daily. If you feel that you would benefit from extra care please contact Adult Social Care to discuss an assessment of your needs on 0118 937 3747.
Talk to us about Sheltered Housing
0118 937 2217
Alternatively, if you wish to use our online form to join the Housing Register or contact 0118 937 2172 for an application form.
What makes a home a home is not just the bricks and mortar but also who your neighbours are, the street you live in and your local community. Tenant Services are responsible for seeing that your estates are well managed by ensuring they are clean, tidy and trouble free. A variety of teams provide services to your estate and your Housing Officer oversees your estates and makes sure everyone is carrying out their responsibilities including the tenants. You can help by reporting issues on your estate through the Love Clean Reading App or by the website at loveclean.reading.gov.uk.
We have a pot of money that tenants can apply for to get small scale environmental improvements in their area. This money – the Tenant Improvement fund – has funded a wide variety of projects across our estates from cutting back hedging and improving pathways, installing external taps, improving signage, washing lines, bin stores and notice boards and improving play ground equipment. All bids are passed by a panel of trained tenants who check the suitability of the bid and that consultation has been carried out before they pass it.
We completed Tenant Improvement and Decent Neighbourhood Fund Projects at:
Having spent a lot of time on your estate during lock down you may have had the opportunity to see improvements you think would benefit where you live.
Work with your housing officer to arrange to submit a bid and improve your neighbourhood. You can now do this online at www.reading.gov.uk/tenantimprovementfund.
Tel: 0118 937 2730
As a landlord we know that if we want to provide good quality cost effective services we need to listen to our tenants and respond to their feedback. We provide a wide range of ways that we collect tenant’s views and use the information to improve our service delivery, from completing a satisfaction survey through to joining our tenant scrutiny panel.
Covid 19 and the lockdown has presented some big challenges for how we communicate with our tenants and keep them informed. Over the coming months we are looking at how we can make better use of digital engagement and which apps work best for tenants. Please make sure you keep your contact details up to date especially your mobile phone numbers and email addresses so that we can keep you up to date on our services, your estate and your home as quickly and efficiently as possible.
As part of the wider estate improvements that have taken place in the Orts road area over the last 18 months local people were in favour of relocating the existing play area to a more suitable location. Now an exciting new play zone has been opened located on the grassed area at the junction of Orts Road and Canal Way which includes modern new equipment and improvements to the surrounding area to create an attractive park for the whole community. Local school children were consulted about which equipment they would like to see in the new play area and the plans were presented at the community fun day last summer. George from our Parks team also got ideas and input from the Year 6 children at Newtown primary school.
The new play facilities include:
New benches have been provided and the play equipment sites on a synthetic rubber mulch safety surface which allows suitable access for all. There are further plans to incorporate natural play with mounds and boulders on the grassed area, where new trees have already been planted.
The 100K project has been funded entirely by Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which is made up of financial contributions from developers.
Tel: 0118 937 2161
We have a specialist Antisocial behaviour team who work with tenants and residents to tackle more serious forms of antisocial behaviour such as drug related activities, persistent noise and disruptive behaviour. We offer a range of services to help neighbours get along including advice and support, mediation, and we can take action for persistent offenders to remove them from their homes.
The welfare calls during Covid 19 lockdown gave the energy service Winterwatch an excellent opportunity to offer help and advice with energy related matters.
Self-isolating residents who would normally pay for their energy with Pay as you Go meters couldn’t to go to the shops to top up, leaving them in fear of running out of gas and electric.
Winterwatch helped residents to get preloaded energy cards which could be sent to their homes ready to be inserted into the meter. We also used this time to explain which appliances cost the most to operate and to provide an approximate calculation of how much energy the household uses in a day, to help residents to plan their energy use while at home under lockdown.
After giving the initial help, we contacted each resident again a few days later to find out how they were getting on and to get their feedback. Once it is safe to do so, we plan to visit some of the residents we contacted during lockdown at their homes to give further advice about how to stay warm during the winter.
If you are struggling with your energy bills or need advice about what you can do at home to save energy, the Winterwatch team is available all year round to help. You can contact the team on 0118 937 3747.
Last year we held our first Housing Information Day in the Council Chamber which over 100 tenants attended.
The event was run as a drop in to maximise the number of Council tenants attending, with services and teams showcasing their work to tenants via stalls covering repairs and maintenance, sheltered housing, allocations, universal credit/welfare reform, tenancy management, community involvement and new build housing in Reading. The format also offered tenants the chance to talk to officers and managers face to face about their concerns and provide valuable feedback about the services they receive which was used to improve our information to tenants, identify and resolve problems on our estates and provide greater clarity for people looking to move.
Thank you to everyone who turned up and then took time to fill in one of our event questionnaires. Results show that it was a success and of the 80 people who filled in one of our questionnaires:
It wasn’t all work though and one of the side rooms was set up for refreshments and chat. Here tenants were able to relax over a cup of tea or coffee and cake, enjoy a short video about Reading’s new Community Hubs and chat to housing staff in a more informal setting.
Thank you once again to everyone who turned up and gave us your views and a huge thank you to our tenant volunteers who worked with us on the day to make the event a success. Due to current circumstances we haven’t been able to repeat the event this year as planned but we are looking at how we can create other opportunities for tenants to give us their views on our services.
Please help us by sending your ideas to Tenant.Partication@reading.gov.uk and making sure your contact details are up to date.
It’s quick and easy – anonymously report over 100 different issues, including:
The Love Clean Reading App is a great way for you to have control over the issues on your estate. Download the app and you can report any issues that you find during your usual daily routine. It’s quick, easy and by directly reporting the problems you find, they can be resolved much quicker. You can see if someone else has already reported it and receive reports when the issue has been resolved.
The app is so easy to use and you can use it to report dumped rubbish, fly tipping, pot holes, broken street lights, graffiti and more.
Simply download the app or visit: www.loveclean.reading.gov.uk.
The recent lock down gave many households the opportunity to carry out improvements, have a big clear out and tidy up gardens. Unfortunately, this meant some selfish people cleaned up their hoes but littered the estate – dumping their rubbish rather than store it until the tip reopened and fly tipping across our neighbourhoods. This is unacceptable. It causes fire risks and attracts vermin, rats. We will take action on anyone we find carrying out this behaviour.
If you have taken the opportunity to have a clear out this is how you should get rid of your rubbish.
Between 30% and 40% of the household rubbish put into our grey bins in Reading is food waste. This often ends up in landfill where it rots and releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. When recycled, food waste can be turned into fertiliser for farming and energy. It’s also cheaper – every time we compost a lorry load of food instead of sending it to landfill it saves £100.
We’re introducing weekly kerbside food waste collections from October 2020. Over the coming year we’ll provide you with all the information and equipment you need to take part. For more information please see www.reading.gov.uk/waste.
If you are unsure what to put in your recycling bin the app re3cyclopedia wants you to help recycle more and right! You enter your postcode and the item you are looking to recycle and click ‘Look it up!’. The tool will show you the bin/box at home to use as well as list nearby recycling banks and any other relevant information to help recycle your item. The mobile app provides additional features such as:
The app can be found on both the App store or at Google play. For more information https://re3.fccenvironment.co.uk/recylo.
If you are no longer able to safely store your waste at home, you can now make a booking to attend one of the two re3 recycling centres in Reading or Bracknell which are both operating 8am – 6pm seven days a week.
Bookings are available seven days in advance and are released throughout the day. If you see ‘Booking Not Available’ it means that this time has not been made available yet. Only 1 booking per week please – be kind, lots of people want to get to the tip.
To book your space and for further information go to: re3.fccenvironment.co.uk/click-tip-services.
Please note that you will not be able to enter the recycling centre without a valid booking and ID, and bookings must be made online.
If you have a lot of garden waste, consider signing up to our garden waste collection service which restarted on Monday 27th April.
We collect green bins and reusable bags from households every two weeks except for a 2-week period at Christmas. The cost of the garden waste collection is:
We will collect a maximum of 2 containers per property. The charge covers the collection of both containers. If you don’t already have a green bin or bag, there will be a one off additional for the supply of the green bin (£51.10) or bag (£11.35). Find out more at on our garden waste page.
Unwanted items in good condition can be donated to a charity or advertised on a reuse website like Freecycle or Freegle.
If they are not in a usable condition, you can arrange for us to collect large items by calling 0118 937 3787. We do charge for this.
Items must be placed in your front garden for collection and we will collect a maximum of two fridge/freezers per collection.
|Number of items||Householders||Concessionary YRP holders|
|Up to 3 items||£50.00||£37.50|
If you have more than 5 items, built-in furniture or very large/heavy items, please call us for a quote.
Once the collection has been booked, you are unable to make changes to the list of items to be collected and we charge £11.20 if you cancel your collection with less than three working days’ notice.
You can see a list of the items we will collect on our bulky waste page.
We still have an issue with some people not rinsing out all bottles and containers for recycling, contaminating bins with non-recyclable waste, misusing the bin area by leaving loose bags on the floor or piling it up
until the bins are overflowing. This creates the perfect environment for rats.
Our colleagues in the waste and refuse team collect dumped rubbish on housing land, which is known as ‘fly tipping’ and is a crime. Anybody caught fly tipping or dumping rubbish could be issued with either a fixed penalty notice for £400, or an unlimited fine, and/or up to a five year custodial sentence if convicted.
Last year approximately 176 tonnes of fly tipped waste was collected from
Housing estates which cost approximately £33,000 to dispose of. This money could have been better spend on home or estate improvements.
In early April a team from Tenant Services was formed to make welfare telephone calls to more than three thousand Council tenants, including those over seventy years of age and residents living alone.
Our small team of four members of staff quickly grew in to a much larger group and we were joined by colleagues in the Call Centre, Sheltered Housing and Neighbourhood Initiatives in making hundreds of phone calls each week over a period of six weeks.
We asked residents if they needed help in collecting medication or doing shopping and how they thought they would cope during the lockdown if their friends, neighbours and families couldn’t continue help them. We asked them how they were feeling and if they were able to keep in touch with their friends
and families either by phone or on the internet. We promoted the One Reading Community Hub and we made referrals to our Debt Advice Team for residents who had seen their income drop as a result of being furloughed from their jobs. The phone calls also gave us the opportunity to help people who usually go to a shop to top up their utility cards but who didn’t know
how to seek help in changing how they pay for their gas and electricity at home.
The team worked with the Community Hub to arrange the delivery of emergency food parcels and medication and Housing Officers visited residents’ homes to check on them if we were unable to reach them by phone.
“Many of the residents I spoke to were coping really well, but some really appreciated just having a chat with someone different. The lockdown left some of our tenants without the support they needed and it was good to be able to talk to them and to let them know the Council was there to help them. I heard some amazing stories about Council tenants going above and beyond to support their neighbours and the community spirit was brilliant at what was quite a worrying time for everyone.”Antoinette Solera, Tenant Participation Officer