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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Midlands Awards a big success


The CIH Midlands Awards attracted significant support and interest from leading housing industry organisations and individuals.

What we were particularly delighted to see this year were entries that recognise collaboration across sectors.

The East and West Midlands CIH Regional Boards provide a great opportunity for housing professionals at a local level to share best practice, debate housing policy issues and to help expand our professional networks. We run a range of events which we would like to see you at as well as undertaking local research and policy projects.

The awards are our opportunity for the Midlands to show off what we are great at whether through excellence, innovation, collaboration and resilience. This year, we were grateful that Service Matters and Ark Consultancy brought their expertise, time and energy for free to the organising group to support us in delivering a refreshed and new look event.

Here are the full details on the winners:

The New Professional of the Year (CIH Member) sponsored by Celandine Strategic Housing

The finalists were:

• Jake Thorpe, The Wrekin Housing Trust

• Tom Piotrowski, Fortis Living

• Charlotte Welch, West Lindsey District Council

And the winner was Charlotte Welch, West Lindsey District Council

Charlotte was not always involved in housing. After being made redundant in the private sector where she worked for a steel manufacturing firm, she sought a new challenge in the public sector, and it is her proactive approach to developing her knowledge and expertise in the housing sector that really caught the judges’ eye. Described by her peers as emotionally intelligent, innovative in her approach, and committed to achieving the best outcomes for customers and the service, her dedication to her new career is evidenced by her proactively seeking opportunities to complete qualifications in CIH, HHSRS, and more. She has made a rapid and significant impact on the organisation, addressing key gaps in the organisation as a key officer in the implementation of a computer system and leading on the creation and delivery of a training programme designed to improve the nominations process of a registered provider. Charlotte started with almost no knowledge of the housing sector, yet through her hard work and determined effort she has quickly become a knowledgeable, innovative, and respected member of her organisation and the sector.

The Apprentice of the Year Award sponsored by Futures Housing Group

The finalists were:

• Chen Thompson, Wolverhampton Homes

• Beth Willars, EMH Homes

• Ruth Johnson, Longhurst Group

And the winner was Chen Thompson

In what was probably the toughest judging decision the panel had to make, Chen stands out from her highly accomplished peers by the sheer breadth of involvement and impact she has made as an apprentice. Working in repairs and maintenance, a traditionally ‘male’ profession, Chen boldly challenges that tradition as an electrical apprentice, studying for her NVQ in Electrical Installation – and passing every module with flying colours – all while working full-time. Her inspiring attitude is evidenced by her involvement in community initiatives – she is a member of Wolverhampton Homes’ LGBT network, ‘Proud To Be Me’, and also supports the skills development team by speaking at external events and to young people in schools promoting women working in the construction field. The decision was tough, and the competition fierce, but in the end the judges all agreed that Chen’s fearless and extraordinary example place her rightly as the winner of the Apprentice of the Year award.

The Development of the Year (East Midlands) award sponsored by Limehouse Developments Ltd.

The finalists were:

• South Derbyshire District Council and Woodhead Living

• Robert Woolston, rg+p Ltd

And the winner was South Derbyshire District Council and Woodhead Living

The first new council house building in a generation, the project comprises of two sites in South Derbyshire roughly four miles apart, a total of 22 houses and two bungalows, with both sites being delivered within the original tender budget. Demonstrating a successful collaboration between public and private sector interests between South Derbyshire District Council and Woodhead Living respectively, the project demonstrated excellent commitment to the local community, employing 10 apprentices and achieving a 91.85% spend within 20 miles of the project, thereby greatly supporting local labour, local suppliers, and the local economy. This is no ordinary council housing – an innovative approach has seen four of the properties designed with bedrooms on the ground floor and living space on the upper floor to maximise the views across the rural vernacular, while design development meetings identified that the foundation depths were excessive and could be engineered to reduce costs on the Pennine way site, saving the Council and taxpayers in the region of £20,000. Effective, efficient, and innovative, the judges were not only pleased to see that council housing was being built for an area that desperately needed it, but that every effort had been taken to ensure it was to the highest standards and incorporated innovative design.

The Development of the Year (West Midlands) award sponsored by Halo and Veka

The finalists were:

• Cardan Pointe, WHG

• City of Wolverhampton Council Housing Development Team

• Orbit Group

And the winner was Cardan Pointe, WHG

Cardan Pointe is WHG's first purpose built wellbeing scheme, and is aimed at customers over 55 years old. Walsall has a higher than national average number of older residents in the borough, in the 65-84 age group, and so this scheme is an excellent response to that local housing need. The scheme offers 44 one and two bedroom apartments, within the newly regenerated Walsall Waterfront development in the town centre.

All apartments are self-contained and are wheelchair accessible with level access bathrooms, containing walk-in showers, while a WHG wellbeing officer is based at Cardan Pointe to offer support to customers throughout the week. Constructed to meet Code Level 3, the development includes high levels of insulation, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery, low energy light fittings throughout and electric vehicle recharging points. Some apartments are ‘dementia friendly’, while all apartments are designed to be suitable for customers to access care and support services as required and will mean they will not need to relocate should care needs change - customers should be able to remain living at Cardan Pointe rather than having to move to ‘extra care’ facilities in the future, demonstrating a commitment to both the immediate and long-term needs of residents and the community. Attractive, well-built, and with a wellbeing service within, Cardan Pointe represents the very best in considered developments meeting local need.

The Excellence in Community Action award sponsored by EMH Group

The finalists were:

• Acis

• Sue Hughes, Wrekin Retirement Living, The Wrekin Housing Trust

• Salvation Army Way Ahead project, Orbit Group

And the winner was Acis

This award acknowledges the renovation and regeneration of the former Park Springs Community Centre. Identifying a lack of young people’s activities, Acis resolved to not only add more activities to the building, but redevelop the whole site – a bold move that would take longer to complete, but ultimately produce a much better outcome for the community. In a process that included consultation and partnership working with local schoolchildren and Lincolnshire Police, the centre opened in February 2016 with a host of new activities available based on what consultations had found the community wanted. With regular activities including employability training, yoga, karate, youth performances, bingo, mental health services, IT workshops, disability awareness sessions, dodgeball, and more, the project has brought together one of Gainsborough’s largest communities, providing local residents – not just Acis tenants – with a host of fantastic activities designed to help people ‘get on’ in life, and all evidence points to the new centre delivering even further community benefits in the future.

The Excellence in Youth Involvement award sponsored by Ark People and Communities

The finalists were:

• Fortis Living Youth on Board (YOBs), Fortis Living

• Witton Lodge Community Association

• Building Birmingham Scholarship, Birmingham City Council

• Sandwell Council Motiv8 Team, Sandwell Council

And the winner was Witton Lodge Community Association

Set up as part of our wider employment work and Flourishing Community Programme, the Youth Employment work focuses primarily on young people aged 16-29. Based in the Kingstanding ward of Birmingham, which sits within the top 9% most deprived areas in the country, the initiative has seen +100% increase in young people volunteering their time, with many of those the young people, especially NEETS, moving into paid employment. Working with local partners, they have demonstrated a host of proactive initiatives that have improved young people’s employability, skills, and engagement with the community, seeing local young people have pride and confidence in themselves and their community.

The Excellence in the Use of Technology award sponsored by Greenacre-Recruitment

The finalists were:

• Midland Heart

• Orbit

And the winner was Orbit

Putting the customer experience first and foremost, Orbit’s digital initiative, ‘Orbit Move’, speeds up the traditional tenancy sign-up process and helps tenants learn about their rights and responsibilities in a clear, efficient, and intuitive way. Working in partnership with digital development specialists, Prodo Digital, Orbit Move has reduced paperwork, made tenancy sign-up knowledge more accessible to customers, and has seen over £5,500 saved in printing costs in just the first 12 months. The judges were particularly impressed by the strong evidence of successful implementation. Orbit initially set a target for 70% of customers to complete their tenancy sign-up within the first year of launching Orbit Move. Since launch in January 2016, 2,172 of 2,395 applications have been completed by a customer – equivalent to 90.6% - demonstrating how well the solution has been received by customers and freeing up resources previously dedicated to manually processing sign-ups, allowing greater customer support and post sign-up service. A smoothly integrated initiative with an evidenced successful impact on customers and the organisation.

The Health, Housing, and Care – Innovative Partnerships award sponsored by Wrekin Housing Trust

The finalists were:

• Songs for you, Care Plus

• Healthy Futures, Derventio Housing Trust


• The Bromsgrove Sunrise Project, Bdht

And the winner was LILP

The LILP – or Lincs Independent Living Partnership - is a consortium of five local charitable organisations (Lincolnshire Home Independence Agency, Lace Housing, Age UK Lincoln, Boston Mayflower and St Barnabas Hospice) which works alongside health, care and housing commissioners to achieve better outcomes for an increasingly ageing population whilst relieving the pressure on an already overburdened public sector. The judges were impressed by the strong statistical evidence of successes; for example, where ambulance call outs and A&E attendance had been avoided.

In Year 1 60 instances were avoided, representing a saving of £20,940. In Year 2, there were 191 instances where ambulance call outs and A&E attendance were avoided, representing a saving of £66,659. An analysis of the service shows a social return of £4.15 each £1.00 invested in it - 10% above the national benchmark. Demonstrating strong partnership working and significant social and financial impact, LILP enables commissioners to achieve internal and external cost savings by working with just one local service provider who can muster the might of five local organisations. An exemplar of good practice and demonstrable benefits.

The Making a Difference through Volunteering award sponsored by Mears

The finalists were:

• Fortis Living - Communities Week, Fortis Living

• Staffordshire Housing Group

And the winner was Fortis Living

Communities Week was set up as an opportunity for all Fortis Living and Fortis Property Care staff to volunteer some of their time and make a positive difference in the communities where they operate. Ideas for projects are submitted by tenants and staff and agreed upon by the main working group, with the opportunity for staff from across the business to put themselves forward to be project leaders and take on the organising of one of the nominated projects, affording a great development opportunity for some staff who would not normally have such a chance to develop their leadership skills. One project in particular - a Pop-Up Shop that helped raised money to deliver activities for disabled children out of normal school hours - proved so popular that staff at New Hope decided to set up their own pop-up shop in the run up to Christmas, which itself led to an unoccupied FORTIS retail unit being developed as a second hand shop to help raise funds for the charity. The shop is still going strong – helping families on the local estate find very affordable clothes for their children and raising funds for local disabled children. Communities Week has now become an annual event for Fortis Living and as it grows we are able to build stronger bonds with other local businesses which can help benefit the whole community. The judging panel were really impressed with the enthusiasm and passion shared by both staff and the communities they worked with, a clear exemplar of the positive, transformative effects of volunteering.

The Exceptional Contribution by a CIH member within the Midlands Award sponsored by Jessup Brothers Ltd.

The finalists were:

• Dr Tim Brown, De Montford University

• Yvonne Leishman, The Community Housing Group

• Janet Storar MBE, Nottingham City Homes

• Vijay Jethwa, Blaby District Council/Homefinder

And the winner was Yvonne Leishman, The Community Housing Group

Yvonne has had a long career committed to providing an excellent service to customers, as well as inspiring those she comes into contact with and works alongside in the profession. The judges were particularly impressed with how she demonstrates a personal and professional commitment to the sector and the communities and individuals she supports by giving her time generously, mentoring and supporting others and is able to help others see what they are capable of achieving and inspiring self belief…..whilst at the same time striving for high results and high achievement to support the delivery of excellent services to customers. Over many years she has been instrumental in helping many people to develop themselves and in the time involved in the sector she has been involved in the development and implementation of a number of innovative projects including: reviewing of housing management, allocations, homelessness and ASB services, implementing integrated care and housing IT systems and major regeneration strategies. Her contribution to sharing the dissemination of good practice are evident in the joint working with other organisations and colleagues in the sector.

Yvonne is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and is a past President. Her commitment to professional standards and ethics embedded in the values of CIH are evident in everything she does, including supporting her customers, and examples of sharing her knowledge and expertise with colleagues and others that she works with.


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