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The Network – The CHS Newsletter Summer 2021

We’re well into the second year of the Covid pandemic now. It has been a difficult time for many people so thank you for bearing with us when our services were affected. While many of these services have now returned to a ‘new normal’ we are still seeing big impacts in other areas. Our repairs and maintenance services are running as usual and the backlogs of work that built up over the 2 lockdowns are shrinking. However, some work is still taking longer than it used to. Key reasons for this are Covid itself with staff off ill or self-isolating but also shortages of building materials. A combination of Covid, Brexit and a rush of construction work due to the ending of the Government’s stamp duty holiday means that there are now significant shortages and price increases for a whole range of building materials. This problem is getting worse at the moment and is affecting both our repair work and slowing the construction of our new affordable homes. So, while you may now be less worried about Covid these wider national issues look likely to continue to have an impact.

Nigel Howlett Chief Executive

In this Issue

  1. Nigel’s Message
  2. Summer is here
  3. Diversity discussions at Russell Street
  4. Difficulties with Neighbours
  5. Accessing your rent statement
  6. National Day of Reflection
  7. Shop at Alex Wood House
  8. New Chair of Customer Committee
  9. Money advice available
  10. Mary celebrates her 100th Birthday
  11. Festival of Colour; Neighbourhood Grant
  12. Visiting Booth at Langdon House
  13. Alison House
  14. Universal Credit
  15. Mutual Exchange
  16. Complaints Policy
  17. Prize Draw Winners and Garden Competition
  18. Getting Online

Summer is here

Warm blue skies, the Euros, Wimbledon and Cricket. We at CHS are celebrating the new season with a range of activities across
our nurseries, care homes and community support services – from hatching chicken and duck eggs to creating bird feeders and enjoying a singalong and dance in the garden.

Sunflower Nurseries – Cambridge & Cambourne – Children at our Sunflower Nursery in Cambourne have been exploring nature and looking out for different animals, including ducks at the local lake and rabbits in the surrounding woodland. At the Cambridge nursery, staff members have recently reintroduced the ‘Living Eggs’ experience for the children, a two-week educational programme that provides nurseries with everything they need to hatch chicks. Over the past few weeks, children have been waiting patiently for the eggs to hatch and now have an unmissable opportunity to look after the baby chicks for two weeks at the nursery, gaining a better understanding of the life cycle of a chicken. We also have caterpillars at the nursery – they arrived as tiny little things and are growing fat and long, eating nectar in their jars. In time they will turn into chrysalis and then into beautiful butterflies.

Our Cambridge Care homes – At both Langdon House and Alex Wood House care homes, residents and staff have enjoyed welcoming back visitors and being reunited with family members, thanks to the easing of restrictions. Residents at Langdon House made the most of the milder weather recently and enjoyed some garden entertainment including a sing and dance with The Entertainment Providers’ Rock Around the Clock show. Residents at both care homes have been keeping busy with lots of cooking, painting and gardening activities, and, as more springtime birds come out to sing, they have also been handmaking bird feeders which will hang outside the lounge window, creating an attractive bird watching spot. Langdon House has also introduced the ‘Living Eggs’ experience with residents welcoming 5 ducklings to the care home.

Russell Street service – During the inaugural National Day of Reflection in March, which marked a year since the first UK lockdown, residents and staff at our Russell Street service, which supports adults with learning disabilities or autism, put together and buried a time capsule that captured both their individual and shared experiences over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Railway House service – Our Railway House service, which supports young people who would otherwise be homeless ensured residents did not miss out on Easter celebrations, thanks to supporters donating £176 to ensure every young person received an Easter egg and they were even treated to a lockdown takeaway too.

Diversity discussions at Russell Street

Following on from the article by our Board member Tendai in the last newsletter which received a very positive response by readers, we wanted to continue the discussions on equality and diversity. This is a subject which has been widely talked about over the past year, and at Russell Street (our scheme for adults with a learning disability) staff and residents have held a number of discussion group meetings to encourage some difficult and important conversations. The hope is that our residents can feel empowered to speak their mind in a safe space. As one resident pointed out “open discussions are important because it’s how we learn and grow as individuals”. There have been several group discussions on topics from LGBTQ+ matters to islamophobia and following the killing of George Floyd a number of residents approached staff voicing the need to get everyone together to discuss the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. One resident told staff that change needed to happen now as what he saw on the news brought him to tears.

Some may think it might be difficult to approach a subject like Black Lives Matter with people with autism and learning difficulties, but staff were pleasantly surprised. After the first Black Lives Matter session staff left with six pages of material that residents gave them and left the discussion feeling proud of the residents they support. One resident shared “did you know the man who wrote the three musketeers was black?” another said “don’t forget the black trans community”. Due to the overwhelming success of the discussion group, staff and residents are planning more educational group sessions throughout the year. Our residents show that no matter what your background or disability, kindness and love is what’s important, so don’t be afraid to go out there and have these difficult conversations in order to make the world a better place.

Difficulties with neighbours?

At CHS we regularly speak to people who are finding the relationship with their neighbours difficult, and we know if you’re affected it can be very stressful. The pressures of the last year and being at home much more seem to have increased some of these challenges.

It’s not always easy to have a positive relationship with neighbours – perhaps they have a very different lifestyle or personality, or there may be events in the past that have upset one or both of you. If you call us to say there’s a problem with your neighbour, we’ll ask if you’ve tried to talk to them about it – sometimes they’re just not aware of the impact they have on those around them, and getting a call from CHS about it (rather than hearing from you) can aggravate the situation instead of helping.

There are some issues that CHS won’t be able to help with directly, including personal disputes, unpleasantness on social media, normal domestic noises, disagreements about parking, normal noise from children. Unless someone is breaking their tenancy conditions, it really is best to resolve any problems with your neighbour in person and CHS will not get involved. We do acknowledge the history between people may make this seem impossible or daunting, so do talk to us if you need advice. It may help reduce the tension in long running issues by entering independent mediation if both parties are willing, and we may help arrange this. There have been some surprisingly good outcomes from mediation between neighbours who really couldn’t get on at all before it began.

Sometimes neighbours make allegations to CHS about each other and it’s really not clear to us who, if anyone, is ‘in the wrong’. We listen objectively to both parties; if they are the sort of issues we won’t get involved in, we’ll give advice but not take formal action. If there is anti-social behaviour, many issues can be resolved by talking to your neighbour e.g. about noise levels. If that doesn’t work and the issue is causing you a lot of disturbance, your Housing Officer might help explain to your neighbour what needs to change (e.g. less loud noise late at night). Quite often this may be all that is needed.

In a small minority of cases if significant anti-social behaviour continues or if someone is found to be personally harassing a neighbour, we may need to look at more formal action. Your Housing Officer will agree an action plan with you depending on what the problem is. This can be frustrating as it takes time to resolve, even where the evidence of anti-social behaviour is strong.

Your Housing Officer would advise you on the options available and the powers CHS can use. We may give written warnings; and where the evidence confirms serious allegations, we may serve pre-court legal notices which may lead to court action if breaches of tenancy conditions continue. Sometimes it is very difficult to gather the evidence required to take formal action; for example, the smell of cannabis is unpleasant to many people however it’s also difficult to prove its source. For other criminal behaviour we may need to ask the police to provide evidence, which takes time.

In very rare cases we may apply to the county court to end a tenancy. This would be at the court’s discretion if it could be proved that tenancy conditions had been breached and that it was reasonable to end the tenancy as a result. Such action takes a long time and is often a stressful process for those involved, for example in having to give evidence in court and being cross-examined. Every tenant has the right to a fair hearing, and it is a Judge in court that decides whether we can take the drastic step of ending their tenancy. This would be a last resort and we will always persist with other attempts to resolve the situation. For other criminal behaviour we may rely on the police taking action and sometimes providing us with evidence.

Accessing your rent statement

Just a reminder that you can look up your rent statement online 24 hours a day using the CHS customer portal. Just click on this link to the MyCHS portal or visit our home page and click on the ‘login / register’ button at the top of the page. To register you’ll just need to provide a few details including your date of birth and your tenancy number – please e-mail our Customer Service Team if you are unsure of your tenancy number.

More articles

National Day of Reflection

In recognition of the inaugural National Day of Reflection on 23rd March, CHS Group, organised a series of activities to show support and say thank you to its staff and customers for all they have done throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Day of Reflection was launched by the Marie Curie charity to recognise the anniversary of the first UK lockdown and provided the nation with an opportunity to reflect on their collective loss and support those who have been bereaved and provide hope for a brighter future. Staff members and customers from all corners of the organisation were given the opportunity to take part in the activities and to reflect on the past 12 months.

At our two Sunflower Nurseries in Cambridge and Cambourne, staff members and children planted seeds to symbolise hope and took time to talk about their similarities and differences. In our care homes and extra care services for older people, residents and staff also planted seeds during their gardening club and staff wore yellow throughout the day. Residents at Alex Wood House Care Home in Cambridge also spent time reflecting on what they have missed the most over the past year and sharing their thoughts on posters, and took part in some arts and crafts activities, creating special reflection boards.

All CHS Group staff members have access at all times to an Employee Assistance Programme and mental health support, and on 23 March staff were encouraged to join virtual coffee breaks to connect with colleagues on Microsoft Teams.

Shop at Alex Wood House

Amy & Bernie, staff at our Alex Wood House care home have been working hard creating an inhouse shop for the residents to enjoy. Over the past 12 months it has been very difficult for residents to get out to the shops, so staff came up with the great idea of bringing the shop to them! We would like to thank Homebase Cambridge for kindly donating most of the materials, the kind and generous community on Facebook for donating various items to us and also our handyman for helping us to put it together. Our residents are thrilled with the shop and said – Resident P.G: “It’s very, very good. It’s very handy and convenient. It’s the best thing ever done.” Resident R.R: “It’s good. It’s serving a good purpose.”

Customer Committee – A welcome for the new Chair

We asked the new Chair of Customer Committee, Jacquie Taylor to write a few words about how she is finding her new role. It is hard to believe that it is nearly 6 months ago that I became Chair of CHS Customer Committee, the time has flown by. I have to say that initially, the thought of stepping into the big shoes left by my predecessor, Jane Bird, seemed like a daunting challenge but, having shadowed Jane for a year beforehand and discovering that we are very alike in both wanting the same successes for CHS tenants, the transition into the role was much easier than I had anticipated. I will always be grateful to Jane for her guidance, patience and the genuine friendship that she continues to share with me even now. Good job we both have the same sense of humour too! Most of my working life has been focused on Adult Education, which I have to say is something I am passionate about and it is great now that I am retired, to be involved with such a friendly and caring organisation that has its customer needs at its heart. Taking over a role in the middle of a pandemic is probably not the smartest move I have ever made but I am glad that I took the plunge and my challenge now is to work with as many customers and CHS staff as I possibly can during my time as Chair. I was lucky enough before lockdown to visit a number of number of CHS schemes – Alex Wood House, (Care Home) Ellis House (Sheltered Housing) 120 Mill Road (Young Peoples Accommodation) Sunflower Nursery (Cambourne) and An Lac (Vietnamese Assisted Living Facilities). I had no idea that CHS had so many different areas in which they operate, other than the General Needs housing that I live in. It is well worth looking at the CHS website ( sometime and check out for yourselves all the projects and Community Involvement that CHS is involved in. I think we need to let more of our friends and neighbours into what this surprisingly diverse organisation can offer its customers. The Customer Committee, is open to all CHS tenants. We meet four times a year, usually in a face to face environment, but we are currently meeting virtually. We also have other customer panels, including a Complaints Panel, Scrutiny Panel and several ad hoc working groups. We are always looking to expand the groups, so if you would like to find out more about what’s involved and how we operate please do get in touch with our very friendly Customer Involvement Officer, Melanie Johnson by email to or by phone on 07540 122624. All stay safe & keep well – Jacquie.

Do you need Money Advice?

The pandemic has had a big impact on many people’s finances over the past year and many households are struggling to make ends meet.  Our Money Matters team of advisers may be able to help so please get in touch by calling 0300 1113555, email or via our online contact form (link).  If you would prefer to get support from services outside of CHS below is a list of organisations that may be able to help including a new provider, Income Max, who can offer customers  help with benefits checks and looking at reducing spending on utility supplies.

Cambridge & District Citizens Advice (Cambridge & South Cambs)

Email for advice via the website.

Phone the Advice Line on: 0808 278 7808


Citizens Advice Rural Cambs. (Fenland, Huntingdon. Limited advice for East Cambs)

Email for advice via the website.

Phone the Advice Line on: 0808 278 7807

For ‘Universal Credit Help To Claim’ phone 0800 144 8444


Cambridge Money Advice Centre (debt advice)


Phone: 01223 727455


Huntingdon Money Advice Centre (debt advice)


Phone: 01480  418866


Christians Against Poverty (CAP) – for Debt help

0800 328 0006

Local centres in Cambridge & Fenland


Stepchange Debt Charity

On-line debt advice tool

Phone 0800 138 1111


National Debt Line

Webchat and online debt advice tool

Phone: 0808 808 4000


Income Max


Phone: 0300 777 7772

Mary celebrates her 100th birthday

We want to tell you about one of our tenants Mary, and to wish her a very happy 100th birthday. Mary lives in Moorlands Court, our purpose built Housing with Care scheme which opened in April 2008 and is located in the village of Melbourn, South Cambridgeshire. Her son Barry told us her story. Mary Longbottom (née Fallas) was born on March 14th 1921 in Selby, Yorkshire. She was christened in Selby Abbey where her parents Nellie and Robbie were married. At the age of 14 Mary left school and started work as a weaver near Heckmondwike, Yorkshire, At the outbreak of WW2 she joined the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) as a teleprinter operator and in 1943 Mary married Arthur Longbottom, who was serving in the Coldstream Guards, and their daughter Margaret was born a year later. After the war Arthur joined the Prison Service and the family moved to Wakefield where Mary and Arthur had 2 more children,
Barry and Keith. Mary and Arthur moved back to Yorkshire in 1973 and it was there that Mary learned to make bobbin lace a skill she later passed on when she moved to Norfolk to be near family and started a lace group. She also shared her skills with a group of ladies whist visiting her son in Canada, some of whom are still making lace and passing on their skills. Sadly Mary was widowed in 1986, and moved to Harston to live with her son and his wife Shirley. Here Mary made friends at the quilting group and through her gardening interests. During these years Mary regularly travelled including visits to the Isle of Wight and Canada to visit her daughter and son. Mary moved into her own flat at Moorlands Court in Melbourn in 2017 where she lives happily receiving the additional help and care that she needs.

“The family thank all the staff at Moorlands for their continuing care for Mary. Happy 100th birthday” – Barry Longbottom.

Festival of Colour 2021 comes to Cambourne

Holi, also known as the Festival of Colour, symbolises the start of spring and is a festival of love. A Hindu festival originating in India, it’s since spread to Nepal and western countries. It is a time for family to get together, eat, drink, dance, play music and paint each other with coloured powder and water. Every year the Festival of Colours in Cambourne brings people together strengthening friendship and bonds in the community and despite the pandemic, this year CamCare UK held the festival in an innovative way to ensure the festival went ahead. Founder and chair of CamCareUK, Cllr Shrobona Bhattacharya invited the local community to celebrate the festival by offering a wide selection of sweets, packaged in an assortment of colours, outside her home that people come and enjoy Local residents were also invited to display different colours in their gardens and music was played for residents to dance to. 300 free packets of sweets, paid for by CHS Neighbourhood Grant, were given out to residents of Cambourne and the nearby villages from lots of different communities and faiths to help celebrate the Festival of Colour. Covid may have prevented a lot of our usual community activities over the past 12 months but thankfully, CamCare UK found a way to hold this day of fun and celebration!

Neighbourhood Grant – how CHS supports community events

CHS Neighbourhood grants support residents in helping themselves, and this year we supported CamCare UK who promote equality, diversity and racial harmony for the public benefit by promoting activities to foster understanding between people from diverse backgrounds.

Visiting booth at Langdon House

Over the past year visits to our care homes have been limited due to Covid restrictions but thanks to the lovely people at Go Glass Design, our Langdon House care home received a custom made visiting booth so that residents and visitors could meet in a safe and secure space. It made a huge difference to our residents during the last lockdown allowing them to see family and friends and although restrictions have eased, the booth will continue to be used for visitors who are unable to have an indoor visit.


Alison House – There is a new project providing accommodation with support on the scene!

Alison House is our new supported housing project at Mill Road in Cambridge which is just a stone’s throw away from our Railway House project for young people. The new service is named after Alison Booth, our Corporate Services Manager who passed away in June 2020 from cancer and who played an invaluable role in promoting the organisation to the local community. She had worked for CHS in various key roles for 15 years covering governance, communications, Board support and as the Chief Executive’s Assistant. Alison cared deeply about all the services CHS provides and was a champion for those who need our support. We all miss her no-nonsense, witty and fun personality and our thanks go to her partner Sandy and family for allowing us to remember her in this way. Alison House is an extension of our Russell Street service for people with learning disabilities or autism for which we receive many applications. When a building became available, we thought it would be an exciting opportunity to open a sibling project. Residents at Alison House can grow, thrive and flourish together under one roof learning new skills before they move on to independent living. All residents are independent, and the project is not staffed 24/7. The team at Russell Street drop in regularly to pop the kettle on for a cuppa, and to see how the residents are doing. You will often find many of them in the garden attending the vegetable patch and we are already looking forward to hosting BBQ’s in the spacious garden come summer.

If you claim Universal Credit…

Just a reminder that if you claim Universal Credit, you should have updated your online journal with the new rent and service charges that applied from 5th April. Most charges increased a little, and you won’t receive extra benefit to cover the increase unless you update your journal.

Mutual Exchanges in South Cambridgeshire villages

If you live in one of our homes in a South Cambridgeshire village, you may be aware that there are usually rules in planning agreements that require us to offer these homes to people with a local connection to the village. When we let these homes through HomeLink and are unable to find someone with a close connection, we are able to look more widely to neighbouring parishes and beyond. In the past this ‘cascade’ principle has not operated for mutual exchanges, which had been frustrating for those who need to move but are finding it difficult to find someone to exchange their home with. We’ve discussed this over a long period with South Cambridgeshire District Council, and we’re pleased that the Council has reviewed the position so that we can now use the ‘cascade’ principle for mutual exchanges. If you’re looking for an exchange and can show your efforts to find someone with local connection aren’t helping, then we can consider exchanges with people from other areas within South Cambridgeshire. Do give us a call if you’d like to discuss this.

Complaints policy updated

Last November we updated our Complaints Policy (you can find it on our website). It takes into account guidance from The Housing Ombudsman Service (, which is set up by law to look at complaints made about housing organisations. We assessed our policy against the Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Code and adjusted our policy in line with it – for example reducing the number of formal complaint stages to two. We continue to work with our Customer Complaints Panel to improve the way we handle all complaints. The Panel, consisting of CHS customer volunteers, will often review complaints at the final stage of our complaints process and you can approach them for help at any stage of a complaint. The Panel also helps us to learn from complaints and to monitor the number and types of complaint.

Congratulations to our Prize Drawer competition winners

Congratulations to Mr E of Little Paxton; Miss S of Balsham & Mrs C of Barnabus Court on winning a £250 voucher each. Anyone who completes a feedback questionnaire is entered into our quarterly free prize draw and is in with a chance of winning.

Getting online could save you money

When we talk to people about getting online, a barrier often mentioned is how much it costs. This is often because people are paying too much for internet connection and don’t realise that they can save a lot of money buying their internet and mobile phone together. This means you could actually have more money in your pocket by being online, not less. The Lloyds Bank Digital Index 2020 calculated that savvy online households earning under £20,000 per year can save around £400 per year by finding good deals online for their utilities. There are also lots of savings to be found online on everyday items as well as things like insurance, mobiles, even loans if you need one. A basic unlimited internet connection is available to anyone for between around
£10- £20 per month (with faster options for larger households for under £30), so with savings of £720 per year predicted in the Lloyds report, you can expect to have up to £40-50 more in your pocket each month on average, maybe even more for hardened bargain-hunters! Our Digital Inclusion Officer, funded by Cambridge City Council, James Lewis, says “People can be worried about online safety, but a few pretty simple steps can make it a much safer experience – has free and very short, easy-to-follow courses on how to shop online and staying safe”. If you live in Cambridge city and would like help from CHS on anything discussed here, contact James Lewis on 07919 552112 or

Enter the garden competition

The annual Residents’ Garden Competition is open to gardeners of all levels. Whether you have a big garden, a veg patch or just a few hanging baskets, why not enter, you might win a prize! Please send photo entries to Melanie Johnson on or to CHS Group, Endurance House, Chivers Way Cambridge CB24 9ZR. Closing date for entries is 20th August 2021.

Contacting CHS

Please note that our head office in Histon remains closed to visitors and we expect this to last until the end of 2021

We will continue to answer phone calls on 0300 1113555 however you may find things take a little longer – if possible please contact us on Livechat (accessed via between 9.00am and 5.00pm on weekdays or email us at We will reply to e-mails as quickly as possible. If you are a ‘myCHS‘ portal subscriber you can contact us, for example to report a new repair.

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