Housing Matters – January 2024
Monday, 29 January 2024
Read the latest edition of Housing Matters – January 2024
Welcome to Housing Matters. In this issue, read about:
- New government legislation around XL Bullies
- We're taking photos of all our properties
- Communal lighting in buildings with shared entrances
- Help us tackle tenancy fraud
- Bedfordshire Employment and Skills Academy skills workshops
- Upcoming dates to meet the Tenant Involvement and Engagement team
- Are you entitled to more support with your childcare costs?
- HIV Testing Week is in February
New government legislation around XL Bullies
As you may be aware, there is new UK government legislation surrounding the ownership of XL Bullies. As of 31 December 2023, it is now illegal to sell, breed, rehome or abandon an XL Bully. Find out more about the government's guidance.
From 1 February 2024 all owners of dogs fitting the XL Bully criteria must obtain an exemption certificate to legally keep their dog. To gain exemption, dogs must be neutered, microchipped and third-party liability insurance must be taken out.
All XL Bullies must be kept on a lead and muzzled when they are in a public space and must be kept in a secure environment where they cannot escape.
We understand that this may be a distressing time for our residents who own XL Bullies, and we would like to confirm our position:
- If you are a housing tenant and own a dog that meets the criteria of XL Bully, you must be able to show us a copy of your exemption certificate to be able to keep your dog
- You must also complete a Pet Permission form if you have not done so already. You can get one by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you live in a flat with communal areas, you must ensure that your dog is on a lead and muzzled whenever it leaves your own front door and enters any area shared with others
- If a resident cannot prove exemption for their dog and it is breaching the law and our tenancy or we receive complaints about XL Bully dogs, we will have no option but to refer the matter to the Police for investigation and guidance. We may also revoke any permission to keep the dog
We're taking photos of all our properties
If you’re a council tenant, you may notice a man in a hi-vis jacket taking photographs of the outside of your home.
The photographer is working on our behalf to take pictures of properties. The images will be used to upgrade My Home Central, the bidding portal, to give potential new tenants an idea of what a property looks like if it becomes available for bidding. Alongside the images will be floor plans, which will help potential bidders understand the layout of the property and whether it will suit them and/or their family before bidding.
Will this affect you?
No. The images will only be taken from the outside. The photographer will not enter your home or access your garden.
How do you know this person is our photographer?
Our photographer will be carrying identification, so if you are at all concerned, you can ask to see it. If you are still concerned, email: email@example.com
Will your home be identified?
The images will be taken to show the front of the property, like you would see in an estate agents window. Although it is not always possible to hide the exact property location, we will make sure that the number is blurred and that any obvious forms of personal identification are not visible.
Will everyone see these images?
No. Only potential new tenants who have an active application to allow them to bid will see the images. If you need to move home and apply to the housing register, you will benefit from seeing what your new home looks like.
When will this take place?
The photographer is expected to be taking images from January 2024 through to the end of March 2024.
Communal lighting in buildings with shared entrances
If you live in a building with a shared entrance, you will know how important it is for the lighting to be on. With bulbs that go out and to keep up with safety regulations, we are changing the way we monitor emergency lighting in communal corridors to make sure you are not without lighting for long.
Our electrical surveyors recently completed a thorough emergency lighting check across all communal areas, to identify areas that need the lighting fixed or changed to meet current regulations and make the areas bright and safe for those who live within the building. Our contractor, MK City, will be responsible for repairing and replacing the damaged emergency lights identified, and will check the non-emergency lights.
Shaun, one of the surveyors who is working on this project said:
Moving forward, once the initial work is completed, we plan to establish a monthly program to help us maintain a safe and compliant environment for everyone.
Help us tackle tenancy fraud
With such housing in such high demand, we take tenancy fraud very seriously.
Tenancy fraud can include:
- tenants subletting to someone else and acting as their landlord
- the tenant not living in the property as their main home
Committing tenancy fraud means that the property is not available for the housing register, affecting those who have completed applications and need social housing. It also has an impact on public funds and local communities.
If you think that something is not right at one of our properties and believe someone is committing tenancy fraud, let us know by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you believe that benefit fraud is being committed, you can report it on the government's website. Reports can be made anonymously and though we will not be able to update you on the outcome each case is fully investigated.
Bedfordshire Employment and Skills Academy skills workshops
The Bedfordshire Employment and Skills Academy (BESA) is running a number of skills workshops recently for residents:
- Cutting Costs in the Kitchen, a four-week course. Starting on Thursday 29 February at Kingsland Employment and Skills Hub (LU5 5PY), from 9:30am until 11:30am
- Repair What You Wear, a three week sewing skills course. Starting on Wednesday 21 February at Houghton Hall Park (in partnership with Time2Connect), from 1pm until 3pm
- Origami - a paper craft workshop on Thursday 18 April at at Kingsland Employment and Skills Hub (LU5 5PY), from 9:30am until 11:30am
- Repair What You Wear, a three week sewing skills course. Starting on Thursday 1 February at Dunstable Community Halls, from 1pm to 3pm
- Origami - a paper craft workshop on Tuesday 13 February at Dunstable Library from 12:30pm until 2:30pm
- Various sessions at Leighton Buzzard Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am until midday, including:
- Sew your own draft excluder
- Crafts including origami and macrame
- Money management support
- Getting savvy with supermarket and retail shopping
- Cutting costs in the kitchen
- Make a macrame knot keyring, a two-hour workshop on Wednesday 27 March at Recovery College, The Lighthouse Whicellos Wharf, from 1pm to 3pm
To keep up to date with the latest news from the Bedfordshire Employment and Skills Academy by subscribing to email alerts.
Upcoming dates to meet the Tenant Involvement and Engagement team
Have a housing query? We have set up hubs in where you can chat face to face with housing officers ranging from engagement and involvement, repairs, income management, neighbourhood management and tenancy support.
At some hubs we will also be joined by Bedfordshire Police and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, as well as teams from within the Council including Public Health, Community Safety, Domestic Abuse and Active Streets.
The next drop in sessions, where you can speak to a member of the team about our services and give your feedback, are:
- Tuesday 30 January 2024, from 1pm to 3pm at Dunstable Library
- Wednesday 7 February 2024, from 10am to midday at Houghton Regis Library
- Tuesday 5 March 2024, from 10am to midday at Leighton Buzzard Library
To find out more about the team, upcoming face-to-face engagement sessions and partners who will be attending, follow us on Facebook or email: email@example.com.
Are you entitled to more support with your childcare costs?
There are changes on the way in 2024 which could help you save money on your childcare costs.
The government already has support available through schemes like Tax-Free Childcare, 30 Hours Childcare, or Universal Credit Childcare. Some families might be eligible to use more than one of these schemes together and get the most out of it.
The government has announced that even more help is on the way. From:
- April 2024, eligible working parents in England with children aged 2 will have access to 15 hours childcare
- September 2024, the 15 hours childcare offer will be expanded to eligible working parents in England with children between 9 and 23 months old
- September 2025, eligible working parents in England with children between 9 months up to school age will have access to 30 hours childcare
The website includes an online childcare support checker so parents can find out how much money they can save, and an explainer summarising how entitlements are changing. You can also sign up for the Childcare Choices newsletter to receive updates about the changes coming from April 2024.
HIV Testing Week is in February
HIV Testing Week starts on Monday 5 February. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus which attacks the immune system – the body's defence against diseases.
That is why it is so important to get tested and know your status, as with early diagnosis, free and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not develop any AIDS-related illnesses and are likely to live a normal lifespan.
If you are HIV positive, you can access free and confidential NHS HIV care and treatment in Bedfordshire or Milton Keynes, depending on where you live.
For further information, please text or call your local clinic:
- iCaSH Kings Brook, Bedford, HIV Nurse on 07912 478569
- Milton Keynes Blood Borne Virus clinic on 07770 643214
Give us your feedback
Do you like the news bulletin? What would you like to see included? If you have anything you would like to see on these bulletins, email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know.