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The Network – The CHS Newsletter – Autumn 2020


We would like to thank all our customers, tenants, their families, staff, contractors and our community, during these unprecedented and challenging times in the fight against the Coronavirus. We are continuing to actively manage our response to the disease. As we go to press, there are clearly many more challenges ahead. Please check our Covid page for updates.

It was also lovely to receive so many moments of kindness, gratitude, generosity and community spirit and below are some comments we would like to share with you …

And we would also like to say a big thank you to all the organisations that donated

Besom • Lidl • Velocity • CCORRN • C3 Church Cambridge • Domino Pizza Fortnum & Mason • Wilko • Fish’n’chicken • Abel & Cole • AV Engineering Services Ltd. • Cecilia’s Flowers • and to Cambridgeshire Community Foundation who gave our supported housing services a £9260 grant.


COVID-19 Update and our continued services

No-one could have predicted how quickly life changed at the beginning of March, so we really appreciate your patience where we have not been able to provide our usual level of service. Sadly, many restrictions are still ongoing but CHS staff have continued to work hard to make sure we can still provide almost all our services as usual.

  • Our Head Office remains closed to visitors, but our staff continue to work remotely from home in accordance with government guidelines and are on hand if you need them
  • During lockdown our Housing Services team checked in with tenants we knew might find things challenging to offer support
  • We are continuing to run our emergency and non-emergency repair service; please contact the usual number 0300 111 3555 or report repairs using myCHS or Live Chat
    • Gas Safety checks are now being carried out as normal and you will be contacted to arrange a date for this
    • Repairs and servicing visits in communal areas will continue in the usual way to ensure safety and compliance
    • Internal cleaning of communal areas, window cleaning and handy person visits will also continue in the normal way
    • Gardening/Grounds Maintenance visits will continue in line with the agreed schedule. Our contractors have all been briefed on hygiene precautions

However, if you have a scheduled appointment for a repair and are self-isolating or do not want a contractor entering your property at this time, please contact them directly to cancel. If a contractor does attend your property, distance yourself and your family by at least two metres and ask them if they can wash their hands before and after the visit.

Business as usual at our other services

  • Our Care Homes and Housing with Care schemes continue to remain open with staff providing, as always, high-quality care and support to all our residents and tenants in very difficult circumstances
  • Our nurseries have remained open throughout the duration of the pandemic, offering child care to key workers during lockdown and since July staff have been welcoming all the children including some new ones back into the nurseries
  • Staff in our Community Support Services continue to offer support to their residents throughout lockdown helping them to adjust to all the changes
  • Our Money Advice team continued to offer their invaluable support during lockdown to tenants who needed it and are on hand to offer advice for as long as it is needed
  • Our Digital Inclusion team helped to get people online so they can keep connected with friends, family and work colleagues.
  • Our CLAS team distributed lots of vouchers to families who needed some extra support during lockdown and continue to help those when they need it

Lockdown and Fairies at Sunflower Nurseries

At the start of lockdown Sunflower Nursery in Cambourne decided to do something for the community and create some positivity and bring our community together during these unprecedented times. The children have been busy creating an enchanted forest of trees on the edge of the nursery, getting crafty making fairies and other decorations to sit in the trees alongside our caterpillar in which each child decorated a stone.

Staff members have also been adding motivational messages to the nursery’s positivity tree, which the Cambourne community has been invited to add their own contributions to as well. It’s been lovely to watch and listen to children and families talk about the fairies and read the positive quotes during this difficult time.

Older People’s Services

It has been a unique and surreal six months in the life of CHS’s Older People’s Services (OPS). The Covid 19 journey began for us on March 16th with the closure of our nine homes and schemes to visitors in all but exceptional circumstances.

At first it was difficult to get personal protective equipment (PPE) for our staff as our usual supplier quickly ran out of stock – we sourced new suppliers and have had a steady and reliable source since then.

The staff have been impacted in many ways; a handful have tested positive for the virus and had to isolate, one has been very poorly but now recovering. They have had a rollercoaster of emotions – frightened to come to work, scared they will infect their own families, sad to see residents becoming ill and in some cases suffering the loss of their own loved ones to the virus. Despite this they have shown true professionalism, boundless care and bravery.

Easter weekend was the peak of the outbreak in care homes when all residents were isolated in their rooms and have largely stayed there, except for daily exercising. Families can now meet with their loved one outside, but many are very cautious and happy that homes remain closed until July.

Support from families and friends of residents has really helped our staff cope and kept their morale up. CHS have not suffered as many deaths as other homes in Cambridgeshire. We had 4 deaths at Langdon House confirmed as Covid 19 with 5 more (unable to be tested) who were assumed to be affected, we had 4 deaths early on at Alex Wood and two in Extra Care (in March). There have been no further Covid related deaths in the last 3 months and so we feel confident that measures in place are working well and we are investigating to see if we can identify how the virus got into the homes so that we can learn from this.

All our care home residents and staff are tested regularly in line with the Government’s plan and of around 250 people only two residents have tested positive so this is very encouraging, and only a handful of our care home staff/family have tested positive and needed to isolate.

All of our sheltered schemes and Vera James House in Ely have remained free of the virus throughout. June brought a respite from Covid issues and staff were able to take some long awaited holiday and a well-earned rest before planning for reopening the homes in August.

Getting PPE is no longer as difficult but access to testing for some staff remains problematic and adds to our costs. Family visits have been carried out in CV19 secure conditions or outdoors, with the advent of 2nd wave of Covid 19 in September, the care homes returned to limited internal visiting unless for end-of-life visits. Each home has a designated area which is CV19 secure to allow some contact with families wearing PPE.

We have learnt a lot about how we can work effectively under these difficult circumstances, staff have appreciated each other’s skills and support and we have worked through it together. We have been especially grateful for the ongoing support of relatives, who have been so understanding while unable to see their loved ones.

A Personal Reflection from Tendai Kariwo

Tendai Kariwo is a CHS Board member and tenant, we asked her to give us some personal reflections during Black History month.

Imagine having to do a risk assessment of your movements/activities almost daily, because the colour of your skin. This is the reality of many Black people in the UK. As a Black African woman, there is no expectation to be intelligent, eloquent and I sometimes feel unwelcome when I am in spaces that I am not “expected” to be. I insist on a receipt each time I shop (a common practice amongst Black people); because I am automatically the number one suspect if that store alarm goes off. Black people make up just 3.3% of the UK population but face disproportionate levels of racial discrimination largely due to systems put in place in previous eras.

Black stories have been largely erased or left out of British history and I would add, general Western History, which is why I feel Black History Month is very important. Black History Month allows us to acknowledge, educate and most of all celebrate the achievements of Black people that are not always visible. I wish we did not need a Black History Month but we do. As a young black person growing up in UK, there is a struggle to find role models that look like you. You cannot aspire to be something you can’t see yourself in. Representation matters. It is also very important to continue to tell the dark history of how black people were PROPERTY and were not classified as human until fairly recently. Watching movies, documentaries and learning about this inhumane ugly history is educational for all but, it is also very traumatising for Black people. It is necessary to keep uncovering these stories as History has omitted or oversimplified very complex and tragic issues. Systematic racism stems from the fact that the structures of British and indeed Western societies and economies were not designed to benefit Black people or people of colour. It is important to remember that no one alive today was an architect of these systems; however, the structures are still being reinforced to this day. It requires all of us to pull together to dismantle anything that reinforces the unjust system that plagues the country that we all love.

At the peak of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests, I wrote to my fellow CHS Board members to express how the BLM was affecting me. I felt compelled to do so as I thought it was important for my colleagues to understand how this affected me personally. I knew and
understood that I was the only one in the group who has a unique understanding of these events due to my lived experience as a Black African woman. I am the only Black person and now the only person from a minority ethnic group on the Board, and that in itself is a significant challenge. However, I am lucky that the Board members and Executive at CHS have been incredibly supportive, and unconsciously created a safe environment that enabled me to raise the issue of racism. This still did not make it any easier to raise an issue about race or challenge the organisation to be intentionally antiracist. I am a lone voice and my experience (outside of CHS) over the years has been of microagressions, being gas lighted or asked to prove the racism exists. The fact that we are having the discussion means that racism still exists.

Black. Lives. Matter. The continued killing of Black people by the police in USA affects many Black people in the UK. This is because many of us resonate with the injustice faced by our American brothers and sisters and we all have family or friends in the US. Whilst there seems to be lesser instances of police brutality on Black people in the UK, we still face a lot of unjust treatment nearly every day. There is a metaphorical knee that suffocates us daily and many do not speak about it because we either do not feel safe doing so as this may impact your professional pathway, or we do not know how to articulate it.

A number of people have felt that BLM is too political and some have been irritated and looked to counter the increasingly visible campaign to get equity for Black people. I would encourage you to pause and say it slowly, Black Lives Matter. If you are still irritated or feel it is too political then insert the name of your Black friend or black person you know or mine i.e. Tendai’s life Matters. Does it still seem too political?

Racism is a human rights issue. Eradicating racism is not just for Black people or other minority ethnic groups; we need each other to defeat racism. It will not happen overnight but if we all work together, racism will be consigned to the past, where it belongs.

More articles

Nigel's message

Covid is having a huge effect on everybody. We have said a big thank you on the front page so here I just want to summarise the effect that Covid has had on CHS. It has sometimes been hard to deliver our services with either our staff, or our contractors’ staff, sick or self-isolating. Our team has worked hard supporting people with money problems but not surprisingly rent arrears have grown. If you need help with any money problems, please ask us. We have also had properties empty for longer when people move out as repair works are taking longer. Our residential care services have suffered with a drop in the number of elderly people wanting to move in as a result of the impact of the national publicity about care homes. Although we have had some extra funding from the Government this has not covered our extra costs. And we have not been able to build as many new affordable homes as we planned as so much building work stopped during the first lockdown. We had already borrowed money to build these homes so we are repaying the loans without having the rental income from them. Some of the new homes we build are for shared ownership but people can’t buy their share of a new home until it is built so we are short of income there too. Eight months after the start of the first lockdown we have had significantly fewer repairs requests than for the same time last year. We are worried that a larger backlog of work is building up. To manage these extra costs and reduced income we have frozen some spending and left some jobs vacant to make sure that CHS can manage the challenges in the winter ahead. Our top priority is to ensure that we can maintain the services you need and expect from us.

Nigel Howlett Chief Executive

120 closure

It was with great sadness that CHS Group closed its ‘120’ service in Cambridge in July.

The 120 facility offered accommodation and support to young people aged 16 and 17 who were leaving the care system. Unfortunately the county council was unable to make enough referrals to make it financially viable. Over the past five years, the team at 120 has worked tirelessly in helping young people through the difficult transition from social care to independent living and we thank all of the team for their hard work. We are pleased that all the residents were moved into alternative supported accommodation prior to its closure

Thank you to Jane & Customer Committee Chair Report

We would like to thank Jane Bird – Chair of Customer Committee – who is stepping down after 3 years of dedicated hard work and commitment. Jane was very involved in representing our customers for a much longer period before she became Chair of the Customer Committee, and we look forward to continuing to work with her. We are pleased to say that Jacquie Taylor will now take up this role. If you are interested in joining any of our customer panels, giving us your views, helping us make decisions that affect customers and ensure you get value for money, then please let us know. We have a Complaints Panel, Scrutiny Panel, and ad hoc working groups. You can learn new skills and meet other like-minded people. We offer Time Credits for your volunteer hours and we cover Travel expenses. If you would like to make a difference, please contact Melanie Johnson, Customer Involvement Officer on 07540 122624.

Customer Committee Chair Report

In September 2017 I wrote in the newsletter “There are many challenging times ahead for the CHS family,” little did any of us know how true those words have turned out to be 3 years down the road. In the August 2018 newsletter we told you about Customer Involvement and following discussions with other housing associations we formed The Social Housing Network Group. Following 2 successful workshops with the other groups where we had a training session in the morning and debated various topics in the afternoon, everybody agreed that it improved communication. Following these successes we decided to change the way we held our Customer Committee meetings and moved from a formal meeting at Endurance House to a workshop style meeting at Dunstan Court in January 2019 to improve the way we communicated. This has worked very well. 2020! and a very different challenge has hit us all – Covid 19. How are we going to maintain communication? Thanks to our I. T. department and the miracle of modern technology we have been introduced to “Teams” which has meant that all committees could meet virtually. After a few hiccups and some laughs along the way we have mastered this way of meeting. In March we sadly lost Marian who retired who was my rock and kept me well informed and was an integral member of our meetings. Then in August we lost Laura to maternity leave for 12 months. She has since had a son and we wish them all well. We have welcomed Melanie Johnson who has replaced Laura and I’m sure you will all give her all the help she may need. These past 3 years have been a huge learning curve for me and I would like to thank our Operations Director and all the Heads of Service for their time, patience and guidance over this time and to my fellow committee members for all their support. I’ve picked many of their brains for ideas which I have very much appreciated and made my job so much easier. Thank you all. I hope you will all give our new chair Jacquie Taylor the same support. I wish you all a “safe” winter and that we all come out unscathed in the spring with the hope that we can once again meet at Dunstan Court in 2021. Jane Bird (Retired Customer Committee Chair).

Christmas Shoe Box Appeal

Following on from last year’s great success, we are running the Shoe Box Appeal again this year for young people living in CHS Supported Housing Services.

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for the young people living in our services as some of them are no longer in contact with their family. The Shoe Box Appeal helps to enable us to provide our young people with the essentials they need, while showing them that there are people out there who care about them.

With the current pandemic, we appreciate it might be difficult for some people to get out to the shops to purchase items, so for this reason we have launched a JustGiving page where people can make a donation and we will then use the money raised to create shoe boxes on the donors behalf.

If you would like to take part, you will need to:

1. Wrap a box or use a gift bag

2. Fill it with a variety of items and a card

3. Label the box if gender specific, leaving the box unsealed

4. Drop the box off at any of our drop off loctions

Drop Off locations: From 16th November – 17th December only


  • Railway House, 128 Mill Road Cambridge CB1 2BQ
  • Ely: One Wheatsheaf Close, Ely CB6 3YJ
  • Histon: CHS Group. Endurance House, Chivers Way, Histon CB24 9ZR – Monday & Thursday – 9am-12pm only
  • Wisbech: The Staithe, Holmes Drive, Wisbech Cambridgeshire PE13 3TJ
  • All staff accepting the shoe boxes will be wearing PPE and we ask you to leave the box at the door and kindly step back before a member of staff collects the box.

A big ‘Thank you’ to everyone who donated a Shoe Box last year and to everyone who has supported our residents during the lockdown. You really have made a huge difference to the lives of our residents during this difficult year.

Changes to your Gas Safety Record

You may have noticed changes to the annual gas safety record if yours has been issued over the past couple of months. This is due to changes in the regulations and is known as MOT-style servicing. We are now able to carry out the service of your boiler up to two months before the expiry date of a certificate and retain the original expiry date. This means that if a certificate has an expiry date of 31st August 2020, a new service can be carried out from the 1st July 2020 and any certificate issued within that period will be given an expiry date of 31st August 2021. You may therefore notice on your certificate that the date your boiler is next due for a service is more than 12 months from the date it was serviced. Our normal process will still apply – we will contact you in advance of the new expiry date with an appointment and if this is not convenient please contact us to make a suitable appointment.

Decorating the outside of your home

CHS has made some changes to the frequency of the decorations to your external doors and windows. The information we have is that these are generally in good condition, so we now plan to carry out this work every eight years. Due the restrictions of the current pandemic, we are sorry that there has not been time to carry out any of these works this year. We hope to be able to plan these delayed works from next April.

Enter the competition

MyCHS logoHave you discovered ‘myCHS’ the online portal where you can check your account and request a repair or other service? Go to the CHS website to register – you will need your CHS tenancy number (it will be on a rent statement, contact Customer Services if you can’t find it). We are running a competition for the 700th person who signs up for myCHS. We currently have 595 subscribers. Sign up now for your chance of winning a £100 shopping voucher

The CHS Money Matters service

Our Money Matters service is open to all CHS customers. We provide advice and support over the phone, via email, texts and through home visits (Covid 19 permitting).

What Money Matters clients have said: “I used to be really worried about filling out forms. The help and support has reduced my anxiety” “I don’t panic, I’m far more rational. I budget far more carefully” “I can now get on with my life and not have to worry about the PIP & ESA decisions”

Money Matters can help with:

  • Welfare benefits and tax credits • Help you to understand the Benefits system • Check to see what you are entitled to • Help you to apply for benefits (including Universal Credit on-line applications) • Support you with filling in benefit forms such as DLA, PIP, AA, PC, ESA & UC
  • Budgeting and Debt • Work out your budget and create a Financial Statement • Identify how you can increase your income and reduce your expenditure • Explore priority and non-priority debts • Negotiate with creditors • Help you to consider all the options open to you such as debt management plans, Debt Relief Order, IVA, Bankruptcy etc.
  • Money Savers • Switching energy tariff or supplier to save money • Exploring social tariffs for Water bills and BT • Home Contents Insurance.
  • Financial assistance • Cambridgeshire Local Assistance Scheme (CLAS) • Local and national charities
  • Managing your money • Information on opening fee free basic bank accounts
  • Referral into other appropriate projects and support, if eligible • Support with finding training, volunteering and employment • Digital inclusion
  • Managing your budget If you are struggling to manage your household bills then there are a few ways you can try to help you feel more in control of your money. Completing a simple budget plan is the best way to do this.

    To contact the CHS Money Matters Team: Email: or Phone: 0300 111 3555

In a crisis - CHS can help!

A crisis can occur for lots of different reasons – benefit delays, losing a job, an unexpected bill or gradually things getting more difficult until no longer you feel you can cope. Covid-19 has made things harder for many households.

If you don’t have enough money to feed, clothe or keep warm you may be able to get support from the Cambridgeshire Local Assistant Scheme (CLAS), which CHS co-ordinates through local partners. CLAS can provide information, advice and practical support and assistance in times of exceptional pressure. Following an assessment, you may be eligible for a CLAS award which could be in the form supermarket vouchers, recycled furniture or new white goods.

In the first few weeks of lockdown requests for awards tripled as many people who were furloughed or lost their jobs were struggling to make ends meet. Demand is still high, and in the months from April to June, we saw a 66% increase in referrals compared to the same period last year.

If you are a CHS customer and are experiencing financial difficulty and would like to find out more about CLAS through our Money Matters service please contact:

Getting Online in Lockdown & Beyond

For many, lockdown is a completely new challenge, and the use of online communication for people with limited skills and access is hard. CHS have a Digital Inclusion Project which has been supporting people in Cambridge who were referred to them with various issues including not having a device, device breakdowns or software issues, and trouble getting online.

Project Officer James Lewis, says “We’ve seen quite a lot of people who are struggling with the costs of being online, and often because they are paying way too much, because they aren’t aware of all the options available. If you you would like help looking at this or other problems you are having with getting online, contact: James Lewis on 07919 552112 or

Full and part time job opportunities at CHS

Looking for work or know of someone who is?

We currently have positions for full-time and part-time permanent Housekeeping, Day and Night Care Assistant in our Residential Care Homes in Cambridge, mainly in the CB4 area. If you need more flexibility, we also have Casual Relief Day Care Assistants positions available.

If this sounds appealing, view our vacancies page for full details of all our current vacancies, benefits and how to apply. You will also be able to see interesting information about us and the various services we provide.

If you would like an informal chat about working for CHS, then please call Dawn Bozok, HR Advisor on 07921 234843 or e-mail and a member of our friendly HR Team will be happy to help you.

Please note applications are subject to a clear Enhanced DBS Disclosure. We very much look forward to hearing from you.

Gardening competition winners


1st Prize of a £50 voucher goes to Michelle Goody in Soham who made good use of containers with lots of colour, and created height in a small garden with the trees and shelving.

2nd Prize of a £30 voucher goes to Gail Lambert in Caxton with her well-cared for flower beds.

3rd Prize of a £20 voucher goes to Eddy and Ruby Houston at Barnabas Court for attractive flower pots. Photo kindly provided by Colin Duff

We are here to help

Domestic  abuse can ruin lives

We all know that this is a difficult and worrying time for everyone – particularly so for anyone living with abuse. The period of lockdown and other restrictions may mean your home feels even more unsafe than before. Your partner may have used social distancing and self-isolation to further control and abuse you, and to make you feel more isolated. They will want you to believe there is nobody to help you. That is not true.

Domestic abuse is one person taking control of another and using power over them. It may not be physical violence. It may involve coercive control (intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the threat of violence), financial control, harassment and stalking. Do you recognise any of these in your own life, or someone you know? You are not alone, and you can seek help.

If you think you are living in an abusive relationship, you can find help. Contact one of the organisations below, who will listen carefully to you. Or contact CHS – we can support you in finding the help you need, and help you to decide what you want to do, at your own pace. We know it can be hard to ask for help, we will listen to you without judgement.

If you need to talk to someone…

  • Cambridge Women’s Aid – Tel: 01223 460947 web:
  • National Domestic Abuse 24 hr Helpline – Tel: 0808 2000 247
  • National Victim Support – Tel: 0845 3030 900 web:
  • Men’s Advice Line – Tel: 0808 8010 237 web:

Mental Health Matters

CHS Group recognises the importance of promoting health and wellbeing and this is particularly so during these unprecedented times. Many people are facing increased or new challenges, and it is OK to say you are not OK.

If you are struggling with your mental health, please see the NHS mental health and wellbeing advice website for self-assessment, audio guides and tools that you can use. If you are still struggling and it is affecting your daily life, please contact NHS 111 online.

If you have no internet access, you should call NHS 111 or contact your GP.

Every Mind Matters provides simple tips and advice to start taking better care of your mental health.

Contacting CHS

Please note that our head office in Histon remains closed to visitors

During the current Covid lock down 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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