Shine Magazine Winter 2024
Welcome to your Winter edition of Shine Magazine, where we're sharing stories about you and your community, and how to get involved with Eastlight.
We are increasing your rent from 1 April 2024.
If you are an Eastlight tenant, your rent will increase by 7.7%. If you're a shared owner, your rent will change based on your lease agreement with Eastlight. You will soon receive full details of your rent and service charges in your annual rent letter.
News in brief
Happy LGBT+ history month!
This February marks LGBT+ History Month, and we’re delighted to celebrate the significant milestones achieved by the LGBT+ community. All our homes and communities should be places where you can freely express your sexual orientation and gender identity without fear or prejudice.
At Eastlight, we’re committed to building better relationships with our LGBT+ residents, and you can find more about what we’re doing via our website. If you need to speak to someone or need support, then please contact us.
Alternatively, our partners at The OutHouse provide support and information in Essex. Click here for their website.
Are you All In?
The All In Alliances have been continuing to work their magic in your communities across Braintree, Halstead, Witham and Colchester. From plans to create a community hub, to improving parking and more, the alliances are making a positive difference to your local areas. The next meetings are taking place this spring. Join an Alliance near you here.
Plus, Grow With the Flow, a project created during our All In community programme, recently received £10,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to continue their mission of tackling period poverty and education in Halstead – well done ladies!
Your gas repairs reminder
Since September 2023, two new gas contractors, Axis Europe and Gas Call, have begun carrying out all gas and oil services and repairs in your homes. Axis Europe are servicing homes with postcodes beginning with CO, IP and NR. If your postcode begins with CM, CB or SS, then Gas Call Services are supporting you.
Share your experiences
If you’re a disabled resident, we would like to hear from you. We are working with disability organisation Purple to create accessible and sustainable homes and services that residents want and need. Our Disability Inclusion project aims to understand the challenges faced by Eastlight residents who live with a range of disabilities. These conversations will then support the vital accessibility improvements we can make to your homes and services. If you would like to share your experiences, please register your interest by Friday, 29 March.
Please call us, visit us or email firstname.lastname@example.org, leaving your name, contact details and preferred method of communication.
£96,000 has been gifted to 10 fantastic community organisations! The Braintree District and Eastlight Community Fund, a joint fund between Braintree District Council and Eastlight, has awarded £1 million to local causes since 2015. Funded organisations include Halstead Community Shed, Heads2Minds, the Salvation Army Housing Association, Home-Start Essex, the Empire Theatre Trust, Braintree Youth Project Charity (left), Majendie Trinity Explorer, 4th Braintree Scout Group, Tabor Centre and Ferriers Barn.
"A huge difference to my life"
We’re excited to have completed our milestone 1000th new home at our fully-affordable Eastlight-led development in Halstead.
The high quality and energy efficient home – a wheelchair accessible bungalow – belongs to the 71-home Mount Hill development.
Amanda Hayward, who moved into the landmark home with her partner and son, said:
"We’ve been on the housing waiting list, so long, it’s like a weight that’s lifted. This home is going to make a huge difference to my life.”
"My obsession with living"
Surrounded by friends and laughter, Martin Reeves is the life and soul of Beaumont House, an Eastlight older person's scheme in Coggeshall. It's difficult to imagine that when he first moved into the scheme a decade ago, he spent the first two years barely speaking to a soul.
Our new repairs pledge sets out the repairs service you should expect to receive from Eastlight.
Our Head of Repairs and Maintenance, Daniel Miller, says:
“It has been created by a group of Eastlight staff and residents, who worked together to identify what matters to you when you need a repair and how we can meet your expectations.
“Our teams are proud of the service we provide. However, we recognise that we don’t get it right all of the time. Your feedback helps us identify where we should be doing better, so please get in touch if something isn’t right.”
Our repairs pledge outlines that:
When I request a repair…
- I will receive a friendly and professional response from Eastlight’s Customer Service Team.
- We will clearly communicate when we will visit your home to carry out the repair.
- We will explain the priority level of your repair, and if you are not happy we will find an alternative solution, where possible.
On the day of my repair…
- Eastlight will contact you before your appointment to double check you still require the repair.
- If we have to postpone your repair, if at all possible we will contact you in advance to rearrange it.
- Our tradesperson will be polite, professional and complete your repair to a high standard.
When further repairs are required…
- Eastlight will keep you updated about progress, letting you know as soon as
possible when we can complete the repair.
- If there are issues which will delay your repair, we will keep you posted.
- Wherever possible, we will send the same tradesperson to carry out the work.
After the repair is completed…
- Our tradespeople will tidy up after themselves and leave your home in the condition they found it in.
- If there are any issues with your repair, please let us know and we will investigate and put it right.
- We will listen to your feedback and use it to make improvements to your repairs service.
Damp and mould
If you are experiencing damp or mould in your home, please contact us. As your landlord, it is our responsibility to make sure you are safe in your home.
We will arrange an appointment for our Healthy Homes team to visit you, usually within two weeks. They will check the levels of damp, moisture and humidity in your home before cleaning affected areas. They will also complete minor repairs and book any they cannot do on the spot.
If you are struggling to afford heating, they will refer you to our Tenancy Sustainment Team for support.
If your heating system develops a fault, please contact us to repair it. However, some minor fixes can be completed at home by yourself, if you’re comfortable doing them. That way there’s no need to wait for us to send someone out to you.
These fixes include:
- Resetting your boiler
- Repressuring your boiler
- Unfreezing outdoor condensate pipes.
And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable doing these yourself or the fix simply doesn’t work, then please contact us. We’re here to help.
The Resident Academy Returns
The Resident Academy has been created so you can bring your passion and experience to ensure we deliver the best possible homes and services for you. Last year, 33 residents took part in one of two Resident Academy boot camps and are already working alongside Eastlight staff to improve your services. Now you can join them! The Resident Academy returns on 9–10 March 2024.
Shaping Eastlight for the future
Eastlight's Chief Executive says: "We’ve lived through a pandemic. We’re living through the cost-of-living crisis and rising homelessness, and new laws governing the homes and services you receive will be introduced this spring.
The world has changed, and we want to change the way we deliver many of the services that matter to you.
In April, we will launch our new Corporate Strategy. This document, which we’ll publish on our website, outlines the direction in which we plan to move during the coming three years, and how we are going to further develop our services to meet your needs.
We’ve listened to the feedback you have given us – through the compliments you send, the complaints you’ve needed to make, and via the surveys we ask you to complete. And we’ve built the strategy around doing more of what matters most to you: delivering high quality, safe, decent, and well-maintained homes and neighbourhoods.
A big part of this will be the changes we’re making through our Better Ways of Working project, which is being led by our Executive Director of Customer Services, Jane Goodley. The project focuses on the way Eastlight’s teams communicate with you, giving you more information about the decisions we make and why we make them.
You should start noticing the changes later this year. In the meantime, watch this space for much more information about our Corporate Strategy and how it will lead to us better meeting your needs."
Behind the scenes with Eastlight resident and Customer Influence Committee Member, Craig Clackett
In recent months, our dedicated Customer Influence Committee (CIC), led by residents like me, has been actively supporting teams at Eastlight. In doing so, we’ve ensured that your voice is not just heard but sparks real change. More exciting changes are afoot this year. Stay tuned for updates!
Our latest activity includes:
- Complaints handling
We know that you aren’t always happy with the service you receive from Eastlight. We’ve recently scrutinised Eastlight’s complaints process to better understand your experiences, reducing average wait times and ensuring you receive timely updates along the way.
- Damp and mould
To support residents, we’ve been working with the Assets and new Healthy Homes teams to ensure the organisation is providing essential advice and guidance around damp and mould, offering speedier appointments and critical support for those who need it.
- Resident Engagement
Our Resident Design & Engagement Team has joined forces with the CIC to enhance resident involvement in various task groups, identifying further opportunities for you to get involved in 2024.
What happens when I call Eastlight with an issue?
Receiving an average of 450 calls a day, our Customer Services Team are you first point of call when you call in to report an issue.
You've told us you want to know more about what happens when you’ve made your request and put the phone down.
Here’s one example of the work that goes on behind the scenes to provide you with the services that matter to you – and what happens when something goes wrong.
Hannah calls into our Customer Services Team and speaks to Stephanie, who asks how she can help.
Hannah has an appointment for her fencing to be fixed later in the week, but is unable to be at home to give the fencers access. Hannah asks Stephanie if she can rearrange the appointment.
Stephanie says she’s happy to help.
However, looking at fencers’ diaries, Stephanie can see there may be a wait.
This repair will take two hours, and she can’t find this space in their diary over the next month.
Stephanie tells Hannah that she’ll need to pass this onto our Repairs Schedulers to rearrange the appointment. Hannah will receive a text when this has been scheduled.
Hannah is happy with this and ends the call.
The following day, Ryan, the Repairs Scheduler sees the request.
He looks at the fencers’ diaries and can see that with a small tweak, he can fit this appointment in for an afternoon next month.
Hannah receives a text with her appointment.
The day of Hannah’s appointment, she receives a text informing her that it has been delayed a week.
Hannah is annoyed – she’s been waiting for this repair for a while.
Hannah rings our Customer Services Team and speaks to Liam, who apologises and investigates.
Liam learns that the fencers had to be sent to an emergency appointment following a storm, and lets Hannah know.
The following week, fencers, Danny and Lee, arrive and fix Hannah’s fence.
Hannah rings Customer Services and speaks to Jane.
Hannah says that even though it took longer than she’d hoped, the fencers did a really good job and she’s really pleased with the repaired fence.
Gould’s Landscapes are Eastlight’s new grounds maintenance contractor.
They’re a friendly bunch and you’ll see them out and about shortly. Previously, we provided a different service depending on who your landlord was when Eastlight formed in 2020. We now offer one service to all estates, which aims to offer value for money while meeting the standards you expect.
A garden on your windowsill
Top tips form Eastlight Resident and Halstead in Bloom Champ, Chris Howard.
If 2024 is the year you want to create a beautiful garden, whatever space you have, then Eastlight resident Chris Howard is here for you.
Chris, a wheelchair user, plants low-maintenance, ornamental flowers in his garden which can survive on their own. He also invests in easy and cost-effective indoor gardening to satisfy his love of growing.
Winner of Halstead in Bloom’s competition for Best Back Garden in 2022 and two runner-up prizes in 2023, we asked Chris to share some of his expertise.
“If you’re a beginner, windowsill gardening may feel intimidating,” says Chris. “But by choosing the right windowsill and plant, anyone can successfully grow their first garden. Here’s some fool-proof steps on how you can grow something easily in your own home.”
Here's Chris' top tips:
- Check the windowsill to ensure that it’s strong and sturdy, and make sure temperatures near the window remain consistently warm to help your plants grow.
- Choose your plants and containers carefully. Leafy greens and herbs are best for windowsills as they’re able to adjust to varying sunlight.
- Fill your pots with potting soil and make sure each container has at least one hole for drainage. Don’t forget to put a saucer underneath to prevent spillage.
- Once the pots have been filled with soil, transplant the plant or directly sow the seeds into the container. For herbs, keep the seeds roughly 3cm apart and cover with a thin layer of compost. Water the plant well and place it onto the windowsill.
- Watering: for plants, water weekly, or as needed, by checking the upper 2.5 cm of the soil. If the container is dry, gently water the base of each plant until the potting mix is well saturated. Avoid overwatering. For herbs, water every other day to keep the seeds moist.
- Rotate the containers on the windowsill to promote full growth. Within a week you should see your herbs growing. You can start to pick the plants in about six weeks’ time, but wait until you see at least six leaves on each plant, otherwise the herb will be unable to keep producing.
- In the warmer months, you can start to grow lettuce, radishes and pea shoots for your summer salads. Good luck!
Aclose-knit community of older Eastlight residents are seeing the fruits (and veg) of their labour after uniting to transform the community garden. Residents of the Woodlands Housing for Older People Scheme, spearheaded by Ian Chapman, 62, and Richard Smith, 79, have been working with Eastlight to create a community allotment.