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The Network – CHS Newsletter Winter Edition 21/22

Nigel’s Message

In the run up to Christmas with the emergence of the Omicron variant, we had real concerns about our ability to maintain services, particularly in social care. It’s been an incredibly difficult and demanding time for all of our care colleagues to support our residents while so many people were ill or self-isolating. In other services we’ve seen less impact than we feared in terms of colleagues being able to work. Hopefully we have reached the peak of Omicron and the risk to services not being available will start to decline.

However as I write this the Covid rates in Cambridgeshire remain high so take whatever precautions you need to keep yourselves, your families and your friends safe. CHS regularly reviews the position across our services to see whether we need to take any further action. This newsletter contains our annual report to you and you’ll see that we haven’t met some of our service targets. Much of this is due to Covid, for example we haven’t built as many new affordable homes as we planned, mostly because developers stopped building their and our new homes for parts of the pandemic. But we have taken action where services were weak for other reasons, for example we have appointed a new grounds maintenance contractor.

We are going through the process at the moment of agreeing a budget for the next financial year starting in April. Like all of us, CHS is facing high cost increases, including with building materials and energy costs. It is also getting harder to recruit colleagues with the skills we need to provide the services you want.

Nigel Howlet Chief Executive CHS GroupOver the next year we will be working hard in a number of areas including further costing and planning to reduce carbon emissions from your homes and our services and also implementing the new requirements on building safety.

Nigel Howlett

Chief Executive

In this issue

  1. Nigel’s message
  2. Contractor access arrangements
  3. Mark Walker grounds maintenance
  4. A note about rent levels
  5. A word from the Chair of the Tenant Committee Jacquie Taylor
  6. Customer Annual Report

      Additional Articles

  1. CHS appoints a new Chair of the Board
  2. Garden competition winners
  3. New Horizons coaching
  4. How to get the most from your heating
  5. Cambridge Water’s Assure Tariff
  6. Preventing condensation
  7. Increase in energy costs
  8. Message from Arthur’s Shed
  9. Looking for work?
  10. Scrutiny Panel reviews the role of Housing Officers
  11. Neighbourhood grant
  12. Household Support Fund
  13. Are you struggling with your finances?
  14. Smart devices to help support older people
  15. What is Net zero carbon?
  16. Railway House residents learn new cooking skills
  17. Car chargers at new CHS homes in Haverhill

COVID 19 update

Due to changes in the guidance from the Government, you do not need to let us know if you or any member of your household has COVID 19. Our contractors will arrange appointments directly with you as before, and attend to these appointments. If you do need to cancel your appointment, please let them know as soon as possible, so that they can re-arrange.

CHS has a new grounds maintenance contractor

CHS has appointed Mark Walker Grounds Maintenance Ltd (MWGM) as the new grounds maintenance contractor. They started working with us on 1st November 2021. The contract will last until November 2025.

MWGM has been established since 1984 and are based in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. They have extensive experience of managing multi-site contracts and currently deliver to other Housing Associations, Essex & Kent Police, The NHS Foundation Trust, and other large organisations in the East of England. The company is a member of the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) and has won a National Principal Award in Grounds Maintenance.

MWGM are committed to continual improvement and have highly experienced grounds maintenance teams who will deliver these services to CHS sites. The schedule of site visits is available on their website – and on the CHS website Gardening – information about the service CHS Group delivers. This schedule is being regularly updated by MWGM to reflect any changes.

MWGM have been carrying out a winter works programme to bring sites back to standard before the growing season starts. They have identified some areas that need additional work over this period, and this is included in their schedule.

The current feedback mechanisms remain in place, so that we can monitor satisfaction with the new service. In the first two months of the contract, customer satisfaction has improved from 54% to 83% – a very promising start and CHS will continue to work with MWGM to make sure this is maintained and improved. There will be some increases in service charges for the new contract – for many sites, this will bring the costs back to previous levels from 4 years ago – though with a much improved delivery of service.Gardener cutting the grass

You can report any issues with the delivery of this service directly to MWGM:
• By phone to 0333 220 5485
• By e-mail to a shared in-box –
• Live chat –


MWGM will respond to queries they receive within 24 hours either with a proposed resolution or a timescale to give you an update. Any issues or complaints reported to the grounds maintenance team while they are working onsite will be reported to their Contracts Manager by mobile phone. The Contracts Manager will assess the situation and issue instructions on the best course of action and update CHS accordingly.

Further updates will be provided through the CHS website and Newsletter – please continue to provide feedback so that we can continue to monitor satisfaction and make changes /improvements to service delivery when required.

A note about rent levels

As you probably know CHS rents change in April each year. Our rent levels are set in line with a clear framework set by the government’s social housing regulator, and this includes the maximum amount by which rents can increase each year. After four years of reducing rents by 1% per year from 2016, CHS rents began to increase each year from April 2020, and the rate of increase was the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus an additional 1%. In April 2022 the same formula will lead to a maximum rent increase of 4.1% as the rate of CPI in September 2021 was 3.1%.

CHS is very conscious of the financial pressures on households in general and especially this year; we thought hard about whether to apply the permitted rent increase of 4.1% in full this April. We know that many of you have struggled financially during the pandemic, and that living costs including energy and national insurance are increasing at the same time as the Universal Credit uplift has been scrapped.

CHS tenant checking their rent statement

After four years of reducing rents CHS’ rent levels are now at around the same level as they were in April 2015. This has led to significant pressure on our ability to maintain current services and invest in your homes. We are also facing very significant cost increases for a range of things including building materials and energy. Therefore we have reluctantly decided that we need to apply the rent increase of 4.1% in full this April to help meet these current and future costs.

If you claim Universal Credit we will remind you this March to update your Journal with the new rent figures, so that your Universal Credit can be re-calculated. As always our Money Matters team are on hand to advise you if you’re struggling financially or need some guidance on claiming what you are entitled to – just contact our Customer Services team.

Jackie Taylor chair of CHS Tenant Committee

A word from Jacquie Taylor, the Chair of the Tenant Committee

Covid has changed all our lives and learning to use more technology such as Zoom, Teams and FaceTime for virtual meetings has been challenging, but keeping in touch with friends and colleagues has been essential to us all. I was pleased to have been involved with the appointment of a new CHS Board Chair, Heidi Allen, and our new gardening contractors, Mark Walker Grounds Maintenance. I have been in meetings with some of our contractors like Fosters and Gasway, attended meetings with other Housing Associations, engaged with a number of CHS staff and built up a very strong relationship with the Chairs of both Scrutiny Panel (Jane Bird) and Complaints Panel (Trish Laver). Thank you ladies for your continued support.

You can find out more about becoming a CHS Tenant Volunteer and meet myself, Jane and Trish by watching this video

If, like me, you have an interest in where and how we live and are keen to be involved in helping shape CHS, then we would love to hear from you. Volunteering is an opportunity to engage with others who share a common goal, have fun, gain lots of useful information and make friends along the way. For more information or a brief chat please contact Laura Papanikolaou, 07540 122624 or email

Customer Annual Report

To access our 2020/21 Customer Annual Report which includes customer satisfaction measures, our Value for Money performance and service achievements and targets for all our services, visit our Customer Annual Report page

More articles

CHS Group appoints a new Chair of the Board

Heidi Allen, former Member of Parliament for South Cambridgeshire and a Trustee of the charity Feeding Britain and a policy committee member for the Child Poverty Action Group, brings a range of expertise to CHS. With her strong local and national networks, Heidi is a valuable asset in supporting the organisation’s mission to provide affordable housing and community support services across Cambridgeshire. As the new Chair, Heidi Allen will oversee the CHS Group Board and its responsibility to its residents and to meet the standards of the Regulator of Social Housing, while being transparent and accountable for the delivery of the organisation’s social housing objectives. Heidi is highly regarded in Cambridgeshire for her public policy work, notably her campaigning against the £20 Universal Credit cut this autumn.

Heidi comments: “I am extremely proud to have been chosen as the next Chair of CHS Group’s Board. The services that CHS Group delivers day in day out make the most incredible difference to so many lives and, working with Nigel Howlett, the Chief Executive, the rest of the Board and the team at CHS, I will do everything I can to support CHS Group with its ongoing efforts.”

Heidi took over from Nicola Scrivings, who had been Chair of CHS Group since 2013. Nicola has contributed greatly to CHS Group’s growth and vision over the past eight years.

CHS Board Chair Heidi Allen cutting ribbon to open new homes

Garden competition winners

This year’s first prize goes to a group of residents at St Andrews Glebe who have looked after the flowerpots at the front of their building to create a welcoming display as people approach the residence. They have won a £50 gardening voucher to spend on plants and tools.

Winning garden of gardening competition with floral display

Second prize of a £30 voucher goes to Mr Simons and Ms King from Barnabas Court for their lovingly tended garden. Photo kindly provided by Colin Duff.

We wanted to acknowledge two sets of keen gardeners for 3rd prize as we couldn’t choose between them and we felt they both deserved a prize so a £20 voucher goes to Mr and Mrs Walsh from Barnabas Court for their neat garden and attractive flowerpots. Photo kindly provided by Colin Duff.

And a £20 voucher goes to Mr and Mrs Houston from Barnabas Court for their colourful display. Photo kindly provided by Colin Duff.

New Horizons provides coaching around money, employment and digital skills

Community Fund lottery and New Horizon logoSix million people have been affected by the removal of the Universal Credit £20 uplift in October 2021. The effect of these changes has been compounded by the weather getting colder, higher energy charges and rising living costs, all of which have left many of us struggling to make ends meet.

At CHS, we have been running the New Horizons Project for 5 years now, helping people make their money go further, reduce their outgoings and ensuring that they are receiving all the financial support they are entitled to.

The project provides one to one coaching around money, employment and digital skills – adapting the coaching to what is important to each individual.

New Horizon coach giving support to CHS customerOur coaches have helped people get the confidence to challenge their bills and negotiate reductions. They have sat alongside people to help them address unopened bills and get things sorted. The project can cover expenses like applying for a debt relief order (DROs) or requesting a copy of a birth certificate to help people get back on track.

Coaches provide support in your home or somewhere local to you and can pay for travel expenses and any childcare costs you may spend in order to meet with them. We can also arrange some virtual and over the phone contact if this better suits you.

New Horizons coaching is available to anyone living in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and West Norfolk who are not currently in paid work.

We welcome anyone who is not working, struggling with money and would like to meet with a coach to get things sorted, to get in touch using the online form  or by calling CHS on 0300 111 3555 to arrange a call back.

New Horizons is part of the Building Better Opportunities Project funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund

The New Horizons project was “Life Saving”

“When you’re depressed and someone offers you help, it was like a bright light at the end of the tunnel, my life has turned around, I have a purpose for my life for the help being offered by Amanda” “I have pounds in my pocket and a smile on my face – my wellbeing has improved 100%.”

How to get the most from your heating

Gas or oil central heatingPicture of heating control panel

Using your central heating system efficiently means that you can get the best out of the system for the least cost. To do this you need to know how to work the heating controls. Your heating system will have some or all of the following controls:
1. Boiler thermostat:
Found on the boiler itself. Controls the temperature of the hot water flowing around the pipes to the radiators. Thermostat should be ¾ to max. This may be on a number scale, or temperature of around 70°C.
2. Room thermostat:
Found in the hallway or living room. It controls the temperature of the whole of the home based on the room it is in. Correct setting is 21°C – 23°C for pensioners and families with young children, between 18°C – 21°C for everyone else. Note – turning up the room thermostat will not heat the room up faster, it will eventually make the room hotter. Every degree that you turn it down could save you around £65 a year on your heating bill.
3. Cylinder thermostat:
Found on the hot water tank, it controls the temperature of the hot water coming out of the taps. Correct setting is 60°C or 140°F. The tank needs to heat to at least 55°C once a day to kill any bacteria in the water (Legionella).
4. Radiator thermostat:
Found on the radiator itself, it allows you to have different temperatures in each room. Start off at a middle setting and turn down a notch if too warm and up a notch if too cool.
5. Programmer:
Controls the times you want the heating and hot water to switch on and off. Tip – set it to come on half an hour before you get up or come in and switch off half hour before you go out or go to bed.
Frequently asked questions:
Q: Is it best if I have my gas/oil central heating on low all over the home or high in the rooms I am using?
A. It is best to have the heating on low all over the house AND high in the rooms you are using but you will need to read your meters and check your consumption regularly so you know how much fuel you are using.
Q. What does the OVERRIDE/ADVANCE button do on my programmer?
A. If you come in at 2pm feeling chilly, pressing the override button will bring the heating on and it will go off at its normal time set in the evening. If the heating is on, pressing the override will switch it off and it will come back on at the next time set. The same applies for hot water.
Q. What does the ‘ONCE’ button do on my programmer?
A. Your heating/hot water will come on for one period in the day – coming on at the first time set and switching off at the last time set.
Q. Why does the boiler keep firing on and off?
A. The boiler will only fire up when your heating and/or hot water is on. The ‘flaring up’ will stop when your home is warm enough.
Q. Should I keep the heating on all the time?
A. If you leave your heating on 24/7, you will typically end up using more fuel than programming your system to come on at certain times of the day. When you use your boiler timer and room thermostat in combination with radiator temperature controls (TRVs), you really do have the most energy-efficient approach to heating your home.
Top tip – During the summer the boiler will generally be used for hot water only, the heating system sits there dormant, and some parts can seize through lack of use. To prevent the “breakdown” at the first cold weekend of the autumn, try running the heating for an hour every third week. This keeps everything lubricated and less prone to failure.

How to get the most from your air source (heat pump) central heating

Air Source heating works at a lower temperature than gas/oil systems. The fluid in the pipework and radiators is around 45˚C (as opposed to 70˚C). The systems are designed with larger output radiators to reflect this. Air Source heating is not as responsive as gas/oil heating and so keeping the home at a constant temperature suits these systems better. Aim for 15˚C room temperature when not in use, lifting to 18 to 21˚C for when the rooms are in use. The rest of the information for gas/oil then applies.

How to get the most from your electric heating

Storage heaters might have just one control or separate input and output controls. The Input/Charge control sets the amount of heat that can be stored in the heater. The heater is charged overnight and stores heat in heat-retaining bricks, which is then released slowly over the day. The input dial controls the charging of the bricks. If the dial is marked 1-9 and you set it at 3, 30% of the bricks will be charged. The higher the setting (normally 1-9), the greater the amount of heat stored, and the more energy you’ll use. We recommend that you set the Input control at a level that gives you enough heat to keep you comfortable and helps keep control of your costs. The Output/Boost control lets you manage the amount of heat that the heater gives out during the day. There are several good guides on YouTube on how to set the controls of storage heaters.
Electric panel heaters don’t just charge during periods when electricity is cheaper. To keep costs as low as possible, always try to heat your home when it’s cheaper for you. Be aware of the power rating of your heaters – the higher the rating the higher the cost to use. Use any timer or thermostatic controls supplied with your system.

Cambridge & South Staffs Water’s ‘Assure’ Tariff

If your total household income is less than £16,480 per year, you may qualify for the assure tariff, a discount on your water charge. If you are eligible and your application is successful, your charges will be discounted for two years, in the first year by 60% and the second year by 40%. If you have a dependent child living at your address, an additional allowance of £1,500 per child may be added to the household income threshold amount of £16,480 per year.

We do not take into consideration income received from the following benefits:Cambridge water logo
•Attendance Allowance
•Personal Independence Payment
•Carer’s Allowance
•The disabled child or severely disabled child element of Child Tax Credit
•Disability Living Allowance
•Housing Benefit or Housing Element of Universal Credit
•Council Tax Benefit

If someone in your household receives pension credit guarantee element, you will qualify for the assure tariff.
Please contact Simon Pearce, Community engagement coordinator for Cambridge Water, on 07425425855 or email for more information. Postcodes covered by Cambridge & South Staffs Water: CB1 to CB5 (city of Cambridge), CB21, CB22, CB23, CB24, PE26, PE27, PE28, SG8, SG19

Preventing condensation and mould growth

photo of condensation on windowWhy condensation occurs: Condensation occurs when warm moist air meets a cold surface. The risk of condensation depends on how moist the air is, and how cold the surfaces in the rooms are. Both depend to some extent on how the building is used.

When condensation occurs: Condensation usually occurs in winter because the building structure is cold and because windows are opened less often, and warmer moist air cannot escape.

Where condensation occurs: Condensation often occurs for short periods in bathrooms and kitchens because of the steamy atmosphere, and quite frequently for long periods in unheated bedrooms, in cupboards or corners of the room; or behind large items of furniture, where movement of air is restricted. Besides condensation on visible surfaces, damage can occur in areas which are out of sight, for example under suspended timber floors and in roofs.


1. Reduce the moisture content of room air

After bathing, keep the bathroom window open, and shut the door for long enough to dry the room.

2. Provide some ventilation

All that is needed is a slightly opened window or ventilator (where there is a choice), open the upper part of a window – a 10mm gap will be sufficient.

3. Provide reasonable heating

During cold weather maintain all rooms at not less than 10ºC to avoid condensation. When rooms are in use, their temperature should be raised to about 20ºC.

Any sign of mould growth is an indication of the presence of moisture, and if caused by condensation, this gives warning that heating, structural insulation or ventilation may require improvement.


If you notice mould forming in an area, treat the area with an ant-fungal solution, available from most supermarkets or DIY stores. Follow the directions on the container. Follow this up by wiping the area every few days to remove any condensation that has formed, this is best done with paper towels which should then be removed from the home to a bin (removing the moisture from the property).

Increase in energy costs

Engineer carrying out a gas boiler checkDo you pay a service charge to CHS for your heating and hot water? This charge will be for the cost of the gas supply. As gas prices have soared over the past few months, CHS has been working to obtain the best deal possible from 1 April 2022. Unfortunately, our existing supplier went out of business in November, so a new supply contract was put in place from 1 December 2021 on the best available contract rate at that time. This contract guarantees the same rate for the next three years – though it does mean an increase of approx. 80% on the previous rates. The alternative options were more expensive, and the non-contract rate would have been an increase of over 200% which would not have been fixed.

Message from Arthur’s Shed

Photo of participants at Arthur's Shed activity sessionArthur’s Shed is a community hub based in the grounds of the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge. The activities are open to all and are led by volunteers. Arthur’s Shed is now up and running again and we warmly welcome you to attend our sessions which are free of charge and open to the public. These include Astronomy, Card Making and Paper Crafts and are run by skilled volunteers. The Shed is wheelchair accessible, and we encourage you to share any adaptions you may require to support your needs in advance, both physical and emotional. To find out more or contact us please head to , email or call 01223 675871.

Looking for work or know of someone who is?

We have a number of different vacancies across our services:

Care homes – Cambridge and MelbournCHS carer supporting elder resident in care home

  • Day & Night care assistants – permanent and casual
  • Housekeepers
  • Team Leaders

Nurseries – Cambridge and Cambourne

  • Early Years Educators
  • Nursery assistants

Support Services – Cambridge and Wisbech

  • Night concierge
  • Casual support worker

Check out Our Vacancies page for more details and to apply online

Scrutiny Panel reviews the role of Housing Officers

CHS values the work of the Tenant Scrutiny Panel, whose work on previous projects has helped to identify savings and free up resources for other things, and to improve our services to you.

Recently the Tenant Scrutiny Panel did a review of the Housing Officer role. The members interviewed the Housing Team and the Customer Services Manager. Job descriptions were compared to those at other organisations. The report found that the Housing team had experienced a significant rise in anti-social behaviour cases and domestic abuse cases since the start of the pandemic. The report recommended improving communication between departments and consistent recording of information on the housing management IT system so that any staff helping customers have the relevant information. Other recommendations included updating job descriptions and providing further support and training for Housing Officers on dealing with anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse, which can be very challenging for both the staff and customers involved. The Tenant Scrutiny Panel intend to follow up this work by going out on site visits with Housing Officers, for example on estate inspections, once the easing of the pandemic allows. The Chair of the committee Jane Bird thanked the staff for their openness and cooperation in talking to panel members during a very unusual time.

In December Scrutiny members were invited to a Christmas dinner to thank them for their volunteering work.Photo of Scrutiny Panel members at Christmas meal

How you can get involved
Would you like to review an aspect of CHS services with the Tenant Scrutiny Panel to identify potential improvements? You could help make services to tenants better. If you would like to attend a meeting to find out more, or you have a suggestion for an area that needs investigation, please contact the Customer Involvement Officer, Laura Papanikolaou,, 07540 122624. Panel Chair Jane Bird is also always willing to chat to tenants who are interested in getting involved, and there is training available.

Neighbourhood grant brings festive cheer to St Andrews Glebe residents

Residents at St Andrews GlebeThe St Andrews Glebe social committee received a neighbourhood grant for a Christmas party. The residents enjoyed Christmas food and entertainment from a singer, John Woodhouse and they all had a lovely time. Barnabas Court and Ellis House also received grants for Christmas parties but they decided to postpone them until the situation with the pandemic improves.

Household Support Fund

The Household Support Fund has been created to help people experiencing immediate financial hardship to pay for food, household energy or other essential items. The scheme will run until 31 March 2022.

Support with food, household energy and other essentials for individuals and families

You are eligible to access this support through the Household Support Fund if you earn less than £17,940 per year or are in receipt of one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit

You may be able to access practical support with:

  • Food and essential supplies
  • Paying for gas, electricity, oil or water in your home
  • Other essential supplies, such as repairs to your boiler to help keep you and your family warm
    How to get help from the fund?

You can apply directly to the fund by completing the online application form.

Household Support Fund Application Form

Apply using the application form above is the quickest and most direct route to access support through the Household Support Fund.

Please note:

  • A applicant will only be allowed to apply to the fund once. So if you have already had an award you will not be eligible for a further award
  • However, if there are two adults in a household then each adult can make a separate application.
  • White goods are not included in the fund

Household Support Fund Information Pack


Are you struggling with your finances?

• Has your Universal Credit gone down by £20 a week?Pile of bills
• Have your gas and electricity costs gone up?
• Are you worried about your food bills?
• Do you need help with filling in your benefit forms (DLA, PIP, AA, ESA 50, UC 50)?
• Do you need a Benefit check?

The CHS Money Matters team can help with:

• Checking your Benefits
• Filling in Disability Benefit forms (home visits)
• Increasing income and reducing expenditure
• Dealing with Debt
• Applying for Charity grants
• The Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS)
• Food Banks in Cambridgeshire
• Access to re-cycled furniture and white goods

For further information please contact the Money Matters Team:
Phone: 0300 111 3555

or visit our Support and Advice page

Useful websites for self-help:

Food Banks & Food Hubs:

The Trussell Trust
Cambridge Sustainable Food

Benefit checker and charity finder:


Citizens Advice:

National website:
Cambridge & South Cambs:
Fenland, Hunts & East Cambs:

Information on Money and Finances:
Making Money Count
The Money and Pensions Service
Money Saving Expert

Article – Smart home devices to enable older people to stay safe and healthy in their own home

Over 150,000 people aged 65Elderly man using a smart device and over live in Cambridgeshire with that figure set to rise to 224,929 by 2043. Mobility issues, the fear of falling, and the inability to perform daily activities safely and comfortably most often cause older people to move into assisted living facilities. Although health does decline with age, plenty of people remain healthy, active, and independent long into their later years. Fortunately, a range of smart devices are now making it possible for older people to stay safe and healthy in their homes.

Smart sensors

Smart sensors can be placed anywhere and everywhere around the home to monitor older people living independently. They’re tiny, low-powered, and far less obtrusive than cameras, but work effectively to track movement and activities in order to pick up on the pattern of daily living and then alert caregivers of any anomalies (such as, lack of movement or a slip or fall). A smart sensor installed on a medicine cabinet can also inform a caregiver when it’s accessed along with how many times it’s accessed in a day. Hive, for example, recently launched Hive Link, a system using smart plugs and sensors throughout the home to learn the inhabitant’s daily routine and detect any changes before automatically sending notifications to relatives. Since this system is professionally installed by British Gas engineers, there’s no need for older people to go through the hassle of setting it up themselves.

Smart medication reminders 

Medication scheduling is often a difficulty for older people living independently. Older adults experience medication delays around 85% of the time and forget medication 46% of the time. Fortunately, smart medication pill boxes are available to remind older adults to take their pills on schedule by providing either visual or audible cues. For example, the TabTime Timer is a handheld timer designed to help older people who often forget to stick to their medication timetable. It’s very small (with a just over three-inch diameter) and can fit into a pocket or bag no problem. The smart device features eight different alarms that go off when it’s time to take your medication. Most smart pill boxes are also able to alert relatives or caregivers when an older person retrieves medication therefore providing reassurance and peace of mind.

Motion-activated monitors and reminders 

With motion-activated monitors and reminders, older people can live safely and comfortably. Motion-activated lights, for example, are triggered when you enter a room, therefore putting an end to fumbling for light switches, stumbling around in the dark, and potentially falling. Motion-activated reminders can also be tailored to daily routines. For instance, a motion-sensitive sensor placed in the hallway can remind a older people to lock the door or check the identity of someone knocking before answering. In fact, smart home security systems can automatically lock doors and notify caregivers of any issues.

Smart devices make it possible for older people to age at home. Smart sensors, medication reminders, and motion-activated monitors are just some of the innovative devices facilitating independent living.

Written by Jackie Edwards

What is ‘Net Zero’ carbon and what does it mean for our housing?

drawing to illustrate renewable energy sourcesWhat is ‘Net Zero’?

World leaders met at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow to try to come up with a plan to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees to avoid catastrophic climate change. In fact the outcome from the COP26 promises is forecast to be a 2.4 degree rise and that is only if promises are delivered.  Countries will have to drastically cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases like methane. ‘Net zero’ refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas you put into the air and the amount you take out.  The UK government has set a target to become ‘net zero’ by 2050.

How does housing come into this?

Energy used to heat homes accounts for 14% of the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions. The UK will not meet it’s 2050 net zero target without “the near-complete elimination of greenhouse gas emissions from UK buildings” – Climate Change Committee. There are currently 29 million homes in the UK, and almost all will need retrofitting by adding insulation. New heating sources will also be needed as 85% of homes currently use gas boilers. One of the technologies set to replace gas boilers are heat pumps. They are powered by electricity and use pumps to extract heat from one place and move it to another. The government has a target to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.  However the cost of electricity to run heat pumps is much greater than the cost of gas.  So homes will need to be much better insulated if heat pumps are to be affordable for people on lower incomes.  Electricity use in homes accounts for 4% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and considerably more electricity from renewables will be needed as people switch to electric cars and electric heating.

What is CHS doing about this?

CHS will have to assess what work needs to be done, what the most effective work is and how much it will cost across all of our housing stock to try and achieve a net zero carbon target. At present we are working out what it is going to cost us over the next thirty years so we will have a more accurate long term financial business plan. Based on figures from other housing associations we think it will cost CHS an additional £60m over 30 years.  We are not planning to commence the work in the near future as a great deal of planning and preparation needs to be done first to get it right. We need to find the most cost effective way of achieving the greatest improvements.  The government hasn’t yet set out a strategy to fund this work so we are waiting for further guidance and announcements on this. An interim target is that rented homes need to achieve energy rating of C by 2030.  Most of our properties are C or better but some of them aren’t and we will need to do some work over the next ten years to improve those.

Railway House residents learn new cooking skills

Resident with bowl of spaghetti BologneseRailway House provides accommodation and support for young people aged 16-25 who would otherwise be homeless.  We were very fortunate to have been awarded a grant from Mills and Reeve (via the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation) to deliver a cooking course to our residents. Each resident was provided with a complete set of equipment needed for cooking, the opportunity to complete a basic food hygiene certificate, and 6 cooking sessions.  They made a range of cheap, nutritious and filling meals that could be batch-cooked and frozen, such as spaghetti Bolognese, curry, and cottage pie. Residents have reported feeling more confident in the kitchen and we have certainly noticed fewer take-aways being delivered!

Car chargers at new CHS homes in Haverhill

Photo of electric car chargers outside CHS development in HaverhillCHS has built our first site in Haverhill, Suffolk and it is also the first development to have electrical car chargers – you can see them at the front of the building in the picture. The block of flats houses nine flats to rent, which are a mixture of one & two bedrooms.  Each flat comes with either a Juliet balcony or larger balcony.  There are no private gardens but there is a communal garden, which will be used as a drying area for clothes. ​

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