Author Archives: Sarah Thomas

Furniture recycling charity gets cash boost from Hertfordshire housing association

A furniture recycling charity has been given a cash boost by a Hertfordshire-based housing association.

Thrive Homes has donated £500 from its small grants fund to Fresch (Furniture Recycling Scheme for Hertfordshire), which is based in Welwyn Garden City.

Fresch collects donated furniture and electrical goods to reduce the amount going to landfill, then sells it at an affordable price to people in need such as those on low incomes or women fleeing domestic abuse.

The Thrive grant will help the not-for-profit social enterprise continue running its services across Hertfordshire.

Manager Michael Gadeke said: “All the money we make on selling the furniture enables us to operate, and we try as much as possible to be self-sustaining. But a grant like this is a welcome boost and very much appreciated.”

In 2016/17, Fresch saved 40 tonnes of furniture from going to landfill, received 1,100 donated items which helped 900 customers, and clocked up 8,500 hours of volunteering to provide the service.

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “We are always keen to build strong links with the communities in which we operate and support local organisations doing great work to improve people’s lives.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

Community charity spreads the word to improve quality of life for Dacorum residents

A community support charity is being helped to spread the word about its work to improve Dacorum residents’ quality of life.

Hertfordshire housing association Thrive Homes has awarded £500 from its small grants fund to Community Action Dacorum, based in Hemel Hempstead.

Community Action Dacorum provides a range of support to the local community, bringing people together to achieve through voluntary service, strengthening communities and enhancing people’s lives.

The charity – which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year – supports voluntary organisations and community groups at the early stages of their development, provides services to help them grow and flourish, and runs various projects that support local individuals, businesses and community groups.

Thrive’s grant will be used to promote the charity’s Support4Dacorum project, which helps community organisations in the borough with matters such as funding advice, governance support, volunteer recruitment and networking.

Community Development Officer Loretta Anderson said: “We are very thankful to Thrive for this contribution to our work, as we are always keen to get the word out to promote what we can do for groups in the voluntary sector.”

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “Community Action Dacorum runs a multitude of projects and services, aimed at improving communities and making a real difference to people’s lives, so we are pleased to support their latest venture.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

Thrive cash boost launches flagship homeless project appeal in Aylesbury

Young homeless people in Aylesbury will be offered a lifeline thanks to the launch of a new flagship project which has been kick-started by housing association Thrive Homes.

Thrive, a housing provider which manages a number of affordable homes in Aylesbury Vale, has awarded £750 from its small grants fund to Youth Concern in Aylesbury.

On the back of the cash injection, the local charity is launching a fundraising drive to bring in a total of £250,000 which will fund a new service they say is desperately needed to support the area’s growing number of young homeless people.

‘The Next Step’ project will provide accommodation for up to a year for 10 young people at a time, along with intensive, tailored support around health, skills and employment.

The idea behind the scheme is to give individuals longer term support to help them get back on their feet, build their confidence, develop their practical skills and boost their job prospects so they can eventually gain employment and live independently in their own home.

Fran Borg-Wheeler, Chief Executive Officer of Youth Concern, said: “We are thrilled to receive this grant from Thrive Homes as it will kick-start our campaign to raise funds for our exciting new youth homeless accommodation project, The Next Step.
“The number of young homeless people is growing but there is not enough sustained support for them in this area, so such a project is desperately needed to empower and enable our young people to rebuild their lives after homelessness.

“As a community, we need to pull together to respond to the issue of homelessness and help young people cope with the increasingly complex challenges they face.”

Youth Concern currently runs the Aylesbury Nightstop project, which provides emergency short-term accommodation for 17-25-year-olds facing homelessness, as well as a drop-in centre and counselling services for young people aged 13-25.

The small independent charity, which is based in Whitehill Lane and celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, supported 565 young people in the last financial year alone, between April 2017 and March 2018.

Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive Homes, said: “We manage a number of affordable homes – for rent and for shared ownership – in Aylesbury, including a number that we have built as part of wider developments in recent years.

“As a social landlord, we are always keen to play our part and contribute to the local community, so we are pleased to be able to support Youth Concern and help them launch this exciting new project which looks set to transform many young people’s lives in the years to come.”

Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

  • To find out more about the Next Step project or contribute to the appeal, please contact Fran on fran@youthconcern.org.uk
  • Volunteers ‘speed matching’ event to help charities in Welwyn Hatfield

    Aspiring charity volunteers will be matched to their ideal job at a ‘speed matching’ event in Hatfield, with the help of a local housing association’s support.

    Welwyn Hatfield Community & Voluntary Service (WHCVS) has received a £500 grant from social landlord Thrive Homes to run the event and other activities at its base, The Volunteer Centre, on Thursday 7th June.

    Representatves of up to 20 local charities or voluntary organisations will have three minutes to ‘sell’ themselves to each individual interested in volunteering.

    Carmen Dillon, Chief Officer at WHCVS, said: “It’s a fun and effective way of recruiting volunteers to local groups, which rely on people giving up time for free in order to carry out their work.

    “People interested in doing some voluntary work come along and move from table to table, getting a flavour of each organisation, and the charities get to know a little about that person too. If it’s a match, they can organise having a further chat later on.”

    She added: “We rely on grants like Thrive’s to run our activities, so we are very grateful for their support.”
    The Volunteer Speed Matching event will take place at Hatfield Connect, 1st Floor, The Triangle, Beaconsfield Court, Hatfield, AL10 8YE, from 10am to 1pm. Anyone interested in going along is asked to contact Carmen on 01707 274861 or email her on c.dillon@whcvs.org.uk

    WHCVS works to develop and promote local voluntary and community groups, helping them to set up, fundraise, recruit volunteers and train their teams. It also provides a community car scheme to transport people with mobility or other issues to medical or other appointments.

    In addition, the charity has recently launched a new club which runs social activities for 7-12-year-olds with autism, and the Let’s Chat telephone support service which provides regular calls and a friendly chat to people who are isolated or lonely.

    In 2016/17, WHCVS attracted 213 volunteers who applied for opportunities with local charities and community groups – and its community car scheme made over 2,000 trips, covering more than 75,000 miles.

    Daryl Pereira, Engagement Business Partner at Thrive, said: “WHCVS is dedicated to supporting groups which improve the quality of life of individuals, groups and communities.

    “Here at Thrive we are keen to promote thriving communities where people have life chances and opportunities, so we are delighted to be able to support this charity in its vital work.”

    Thrive’s small grants fund awards sums of around £500 each to good causes in need of support, including charities, organisations and projects within the communities where Thrive operates.

    The fund is part of the housing provider’s ‘Thrive GIVE’ initiative which aims to benefit communities and worthy schemes, bringing social value in a variety of ways.

    Thrive GIVE (Generating Income for Voluntary Enterprises) includes the ‘Give Grants’ community fund, ‘Give your Time’ staff volunteering programme, ‘Give Support’ scheme which links charities with private sector support and ‘Give a Voice’ campaign to ensure customers have their say.

    Valuing our greatest resource results in ‘Best Companies’ milestone

    In her latest blog, Thrive Homes Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie reflects on how a self-conscious focus on people management has helped Thrive on its journey to becoming a great place to work.

    Here at Thrive we recently celebrated being recognised as one of the country’s best places to work.

    We were ranked among The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Companies To Work For and named ‘Best Improver’. This was great news for us and represents a milestone in the journey our organisation is on.

    For us, these rankings are the measure we use to determine how effectively we are engaging our people and we are passionate about the role our managers play, because the way employees feel about a business isn’t something that just happens – they look to their managers for truth and leadership.

    The reason we have improved so much is that we have worked to ensure we have a real focus on our people, reflecting the value we place on them. This is rooted in our strategic framework, of which a key aspiration is being a good place to work.

    In so doing, we will not only attract the right talent, but customers will get a good service as our people will have the right capability for us to run the business well. During a period of significant change at Thrive and in an environment where we are trying to operate as efficiently as possible, this is imperative because, more than ever, every person counts.

    One particularly pleasing aspect of the Best Companies ranking is the fact that we were rated 25th overall for the regard people have for our learning and development programme, which is something we are continuing to develop. It helps our business, improves our offer and enables us to identify and nurture talent, equipping people to be the best they can be and to evolve during the course of their careers.

    Changing our approach

    In terms of people management, part of our approach has been to focus on areas where we don’t think traditional ways of operating serve us well – for instance, the annual round of staff appraisals which can become just a paper chase and box ticking exercise.

    So, instead, we have replaced the process with Chin Wag – a system based on the premise that you know what your job is and generally get on with doing it. An organisation’s over-riding objectives and focus for the year might influence the emphasis on different aspects of your job description but, fundamentally, you are just getting on with your job.

    On that basis, your conversations with your manager should be around how well the job is going, with new objectives only being set if it’s not going well or you are looking for career development.

    The other aspect of these conversations is around how your behaviour is impacting on your achievements and the achievements of others. For instance, here at Thrive, we have specific values which we need to behave in accordance with in order to work well as a team.

    The underlying principle of Chin Wag is the relationship between you and your manager, so the final element is the need to give your manager feedback. We recognised that this part of the conversation often wasn’t happening as people were unsure how to tackle it. As a result, we decided we had to equip them to do so.

    In response, we developed our Managers’ Compact. We began by asking our staff to list what was important to them in their manager and what things they most appreciated in the best manager they’d ever had, such as showing a personal interest in them as individuals. We then conducted a workshop with our managers, listing and discussing their best experiences in their role.

    When we married these two lists up, we found a lot of common ground – and our findings form the basis of our new Managers’ Compact, which sets out what we should be expecting of them.

    This compact acknowledges the different motivations that drive us and promotes recognition of people performing well. It is also permissive, enabling people to hold their manager to account and giving them a basis to flag up issues they want to address.

    It is already working well by giving everyone a reference point for how they manage or are managed – and it makes clear that being a good manager is not about being a subject expert, but about getting the best out of people.

    Looking ahead, we are developing individual Employee Compacts so that people coming into the business have a clear view of what the Thrive culture is. With that clarity, we want our people to take responsibility for themselves and have an open relationship with their manager.

    Evolving culture

    Over the last year we have also focused on our emphasis on being ‘Positive Resilient People’, clarifying our commitment to providing an open, supportive and creative environment which enables employees to deliver our vision and values but also to make grown-up decisions affecting their work.

    This is the culture we are trying to evolve and, as part of this, our Positive Resilient People Steering Group helps us identify how employees are feeling and responding to things going on within the business.

    The powerful message behind this is that the issue is so important to us – and the success of our business – that we have invested people’s time in it by creating a dedicated group looking at what is or isn’t going well, to ensure our teams are suitably supported. This allows us to gain an overview of where difficulties are and the opportunity to address them.

    At the heart of all this work we have carried out, self-consciously conducting this exercise, is the recognition that people are any organisation’s greatest resource and must be valued accordingly.

    Closure Order secured on a property in Three Rivers

    Three Rivers District Council has been successful in securing a Closure Order at an address in South Oxhey under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.

    Three Rivers worked in partnership with Hertfordshire Police and Thrive Homes to gather evidence in support of the Closure Order. The council, police and Thrive Homes had received numerous calls from members of the public reporting arguments at the address, noisy visitors, domestic abuse, suspected drug use and drug dealing.

    The Closure Order was granted at St Albans Magistrates’ Court on Thursday April 5 2018 on a property in Ballater Close, South Oxhey, Watford, Hertfordshire. No-one is allowed to enter the property for three months and anyone who breaks the terms of the Closure Order will face arrest.

    The court was satisfied that all the necessary criteria for a Closure Order had been met, including:

  • that a person has engaged, or (if the order is not made) is likely to engage, in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour on the premises, or
  • that the use of the premises has resulted, or (if the order is not made) is likely to result, in serious nuisance to members of the public, or
  • that there has been, or (if the order is not made) is likely to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises,
  • Three Rivers urge their residents to help them in the fight against drugs and associated Anti-social Behaviour (ASB). They are working closely with partner agencies to put a permanent stop to these crimes. Securing the Closure Order is a significant part of helping them achieve that.

    Dr Steven Halls, Chief Executive of Three Rivers said: “We very much value our close working relationship with the police and Thrive Homes. By taking this action to close the address, we hope to and improve the quality of life for our local communities and provide some respite from the behaviour that causes such misery for neighbours.

    “Three Rivers want local residents to continue to report anything of concern via the non-emergency number 101 or, if a crime or ASB is in progress, dial 999.”

    Thrive acquires large development site in Watford

    Thrive Homes has today completed the purchase of a large site for residential development at 16-18 St Albans Road in Watford, securing more new-build homes for the organisation’s ever-growing development programme.

    The site is currently occupied by a car dealership. The showroom and car park, on each side of St John’s Road, will be replaced by a total of 90 one and two-bedroom apartments across an eight-story and 10-storey block.

    The current planning permission requires 30 of the proposed homes to be provided as affordable housing but Thrive intends to provide double this number as affordable (subject to funding), with a further 30 homes being provided as shared ownership properties for households who would otherwise be priced out of the local housing market.

    The completed development will include landscaping, gardens, communal outdoor areas, paved courtyards, balconies and secure cycle storage.

    A contractor is likely to be appointed on what will be Thrive’s largest development to date in early 2019, with the first completed units being ready for people to move into in late 2020.

    Jack Burnham, Development Director at Thrive Homes, said: “We are delighted to have been able to acquire this site, which will be our largest development to date.

    “These apartments will be in a prime position, with excellent public transport links and access to Watford town centre. Our intention is to provide double the number of affordable homes that would have been built on the site by increasing the number of shared ownership properties available to people who would otherwise be priced out of the local housing market.

    “We plan to start construction on the site in 2019, with the first homes being ready in 2020”.

    Thrive, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has an active development programme of over 500 homes across a range of developments in Hertfordshire, Bedfiordshire and Buckinghamshire. The organisation’s forward strategy aims to double its housing stock (currently 4,650 homes) over the next 10 years.

    Thrive Homes scoops national award as top place to work

    Staff at Thrive Homes celebrate being one of the country’s best places to work.

    Thrive was named Best Improver overall and ranked 73rd in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies To Work For 2018, in the ‘not-for-profit organisations’ category.

    The annual rankings – based on the views of staff – recognise the UK’s best employers, those who go the extra mile to create a thriving workplace where their employees can flourish.

    Thrive Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie said: “We are thrilled to have won this award and be placed in the ‘Top 100’ for the first time. At Thrive we take pride in our staff pulling together as one team, focused on our social purpose of providing good quality affordable homes.”

    Closure order granted for property in South Oxhey

    A closure order has been successfully granted for a property in South Oxhey following numerous complaints from local residents concerning anti-social behaviour and drug activity at the address.

    The three month order for the property in Muirfield Road was granted at St Albans Magistrates on Monday, March 5 under the Anti-Social Behaviour and Policing Act 2014.

    Hertfordshire Constabulary worked in partnership with Three Rivers District Council and Thrive Homes to gather evidence in support of the closure order which prevents anyone from entering the property for three months. Anyone who breaches the order can be arrested.

    Community Safety Sergeant Luke Mitchell said: “This operation has been a well-coordinated approach by members of the Three Rivers Community Safety Partnership and sends out a strong message that this kind of activity will not be tolerated in South Oxhey. This type of behaviour can have a hugely detrimental effect on others living in the area and we will continue to do everything in our power to tackle it.

    “Anyone with information about anti-social behaviour or drug activity in their neighbourhood is urged to please report the details to us so that we can take action to make your community safer. Your calls can make a real difference.”

    Roger Seabourne, Three Rivers District Council’s Lead Member for Community Safety said: “This case was escalating out of control and becoming a real concern to members of the community. It involved a lot of evidence gathering and partnership work. It’s the result the partnership and community thoroughly deserved.”

    For a closure order to be granted the court must be satisfied that the following criteria has been met:
    • that a person has engaged, or (if the order is not made) is likely to engage, in disorderly, offensive or criminal behavior on the premises, or

    • that the use of the premises has resulted, or (if the order is not made) is likely to result, in serious nuisance to members of the public, or

    • that there has been, or (if the order is not made) is likely to be, disorder near those premises associated with the use of those premises,

    Timely debate presents unique opportunity

    In her latest blog, Thrive Homes Chief Executive Elspeth Mackenzie reflects on the need for a considered approach to defining the future shape of our sector.

    With social housing issues grabbing their share of national headlines in recent months, it seems timely that we should turn the spotlight on what the sector will look like in years to come.

    The Future Shape of the Sector Commission – supported by Clarion Housing Group, L&Q and Network Homes – is looking at that very question, and it is interesting that it should be posed by the sector itself.

    With a Social Housing Green paper in the offing, this debate chimes with some of the work being done by the National Housing Federation around identity, the messages we need to convey, how we respond to views expressed by our politicians and the implications of the Grenfell tragedy.

    We have a unique moment of opportunity to discuss these issues – times are changing, and we have to ask some tough questions to remain credible and relevant in the new environment.

    Reflecting diversity
    At Thrive, we have been asking ourselves what the future of the sector – and our own organisation – will look like.

    A key subject of discussion is how we ensure we hear what our customers are saying so that we manage our responsibilities while recognising that we need to take the organisation in a direction that meets the needs of future customers.

    Of course, these are questions which all providers – big and small – should be asking themselves.

    Although it is commendable that these three large, well-established associations have initiated and promoted this particular debate on a national scale, we must be careful that the commission’s findings and recommendations reflect the diversity of our sector.

    Surely we don’t want to see smaller or niche providers, those at varying stages of their organisational development, becoming defined by a single vision of what a housing association should be and how it should operate?

    The need for housing at different price points is increasing, so we may need different partners or the ability to work differently with funders to deliver this in a market where unregulated organisations may encroach.

    Taking control
    It is good news that these questions are originating from the sector itself, so that we can truly be drivers and influencers of our own destiny.

    We do have to take charge of our own future – but acknowledge that there is not just one ‘shape’ that will deliver the desired outcomes for society.

    So it is essential that each association speaks up, to ensure our diversity of views is heard, as this debate will shape the new normality – and we will all need to feel comfortable within this.