Jump on Board!

***C O M P E T I T I O N **** T I M E **** ! ****

A report from the APPG for the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing highlights creative hobbies as being beneficial for our mental and emotional health.  The Almshouse Association has been working with Hornby, who are a keen supporter of positive mental health and the almshouse movement, and between us we wanted to encourage hobbies amongst almshouse staff, trustees and residents – seems it’s good for us all ….

So why not jump on board and enter our new competition to win a Hornby almshouse model, Hornby train set, centenary mug and pen, all gifted by Hornby!

To enter this competition, in no more than 500 words, please tell us all about your hobby or hobbies! Include what inspired you to take them up, how they have supported your mental health and if they have encouraged family and friends to get involved or helped engagement with your local community.

We would love to see some photos too!

The Winner will receive a wonderful Hornby almshouse model, a Hornby train set, centenary mug and pen!

The Runner up will receive a Hornby almshouse model and Hornby centenary mug and pen

The Winner and Runner Up will be announced the week commencing the 16th May 2022 and will be featured on our website, in the Almshouses Gazette and through our social media channels.

So, climb on board and send us your entries by the 30th April 2022 to   gerryharmon@almshouses.org.

Please read our terms and conditions here.

Posted 18 January 2022


Policy & Governance: 17.01.22

The Almshouse Association regularly posts a news summary of the latest Policy and Governance legislation that could impact / requires action from our member charities, with links to further information where applicable.

Please find below our latest summary:

Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

  • New building safety measures announced – The government has announced a new £4bn fund for 11-18m buildings to cover the costs of remediating unsafe cladding. The fund will be made up of contributions from developers. More information can be found here.
  • Commencement of the Fire Safety Act – The Secretary of State confirmed that the Fire Safety Act will commence shortly. When the act comes into force, it will extend fire safety responsibilities to cover all external walls and common parts, including doors to individual flats, in any multi-occupied building regardless of height.

Wales

  • Moving to alert level zero – The Welsh Government has announced the steps it will take to remove restricts put in place in response to the rise of the omicron variant of coronavirus. Measures include the removal of restrictions on outdoor activities. More information can be found here.

Coronavirus

  • Changes to isolation period in England – From Monday 17th January people with coronavirus can end their isolation after 5 full days as long as they test negative on days 5 and 6. 
  • Under the new rules, those who test positive can leave isolation after two consecutive negative lateral flow tests taken 24 hours apart. Should you not receive a negative test of day 5 and 6 you can continue to test until you get two consecutive negative tests or until you have isolated for 10 days, whichever occurs first. For example, if you test negative on days 6 and 7 you can leave isolation. More information can be found here.

Posted 17 Jan 22


Research Project

The Almshouse Association has commissioned The Smith Institute to carry out a research project looking into how almshouse charities functioned during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some members may have or may soon receive invitations to participate in interviews as part of this project. Should you receive a request from The Smith Institute, please rest assure that this is a legitimate request as part of this important piece of research.

If you have any queries regarding our research, please get in touch with Jack Baldan via jackbaldan@almshouses.org .

Posted 31 Jan 21


Clerking Services

Do you need help?

At The Almshouse Association we are always looking at how we can provide new services for our members.

For some time, we have been approached by members asking if we could provide a link to clerking services to help relieve some of the administrative burden from trustees.

There are a number of ways that the Association could seek to introduce this service but in the first instance we are simply looking to gauge interest.

We would, therefore, be most grateful if you could answer our very short survey which is accessed by clicking on the button below.

Deadline for responses is Friday 11th February 2022.

Thank you for helping us to improve our services to you.

Posted 6 Jan 22


EPCs – Association’s Statement on EPCs

Over recent years The Almshouse Association has received a number of enquiries on the subject of EPCs and their requirement with regards to almshouses.

We have sought expert opinion in order to offer best guidance. Our ability to offer guidance has been complicated by contradictory opinions from government and independent experts.

In guidance we published on our website in 2019 we stated that, for almshouse charities with existing residents, a new EPC is not required but, since 2008, an EPC is required for new occupations/residents and, whilst these laws do not specifically mention almshouses, consistent advice from the (then) Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government stated that almshouses would be required to follow this legislation.

There has been some confusion with regards to the legislation which is relevant in this situation.

  • The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 relates to the requirement of a private rented property needing to achieve an EPC of E or above.

    Since almshouse accommodation is not ‘rented’ accommodation, we believe there is scope for almshouses to be excluded from the regulation. This is in line with the majority of Housing Associations and local authorities who are also exempt.
  • There is, however, a requirement to obtain an EPC when introducing a new resident as covered by The Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007.

    Although almshouses are not specifically mentioned, independent advice suggests that almshouse do need to follow this guidance when introducing a new resident. The Association does not believe that trustees must provide a copy of the EPC as standard, rather that it should be provided if requested.
  • The Government’s recent White Paper regarding the transition to net zero made a number of suggestions regarding the requirement for social housing landlords to reach EPC C by 2030 and banning the installation of new gas boilers. Specific confirmation of these policies, however, is yet to be made.

    At this present time, it is not the opinion of The Almshouse Association that members will be required to reach EPC C by 2030.
  • If a member is managing a Listed Building the situation is much less clear. The Association will continue to push for firm guidance on this issue.

In summary, the situation is frustrating in that Government has not provided the necessary clarity for us to reassure our members. What is clear, however, is the general direction of travel when it comes to the wider green agenda.

As such, The Almshouse Association would recommend that members do get an EPC for their dwellings as this is likely to be a useful tool in meeting the requirement of trustees to ensure the long term viability of the buildings you manage. The EPC will also allow members to make long term plans for your charity when it comes to implementing suitable energy efficiency measures.

Posted 13 December 21


Christmas Fund 2021

Over 70 years ago, Major Allnatt, a successful businessman and philanthropist who worked closely with and supported our founding General Secretary, Leonard Hackett, left a Christmas legacy to the Association.

Residents at Saffron Walden almshouses receive their Christmas vouchers – 2020

The Almshouse Association invested the money to support his wish that every Christmas, gifts were given to almshouse residents over 90 years old.

He wished his name to remain a secret until his death, many years ago now, but his legacy has lived on and it gives the Association great pleasure to continue to honour his wishes every Christmas.

It is fair to say that when The Almshouse Association Christmas Fund* began over 70 years ago there were a lot less 90 year olds in almshouses; this year we have a wonderful, record number of almshouse residents over 90 who will shortly be receiving their Christmas gift.

Member Support Officers (and part-time Christmas elves), Susan and Danielle (pictured above) have been busy collecting all the names and posting out 688 Christmas gifts to the delivery elves at 135 almshouse charities!

Residents at Philipot’s almshouses receive their Christmas vouchers – 2020

*We hope to be able to continue this tradition for many years to come, however this year for the first time, the Association has needed to top up the fund to ensure that as many 90+ year old residents as possible receive a Christmas gift. If you would like to support the Christmas Fund or you are thinking about leaving a legacy in your will, please do get in touch.

Posted 7 December 21


Policy & Governance: 29.11.21 update

The Almshouse Association regularly posts a news summary of the latest Policy and Governance legislation that could impact / requires action from our member charities, with links to further information where applicable.

Please find below our latest summary:

Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

  • Committee opens Call for Evidence on regulation in social housing – The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee which looks into issues relating to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has opened an inquiry on the quality of social housing and effectiveness of the regulatory regime. The Almshouse Association will be submitting a response to the Committee and would welcome input from our members.
    • Details on the questions being asked by the Committee can be found here.
    • The proposed submission from The Almshouse Association can be found here.
    • Members’ comments to our proposed response to be sent to JackBaldan@almshouses.org by 15th December 2021.
  • Smoke alarms to become mandatory for all social rented homes – The Government has confirmed that it will proceed with changes to the law which would require social landlords to have at least one smoke alarm installed on each storey of a home.

    Other changes would also require social and private landlords to install carbon monoxide alarms in rooms with a fixed combustion appliance, such as a gas boiler or fire, excluding gas cookers. Landlords would be legally obliged to repair and replace alarms once informed that they are faulty.

    This requirement is limited to members who are Registered Providers of Social Housing. However, it may be appropriate to review current installation and operation of alarms. The Association will continue to monitor developments for implementation dates.

Wales

  • Welsh Government Fund Community Asset Loan Fund – Charities in Wales will be able to borrow up to £300,000 to take over local assets under a new scheme. The Community Asset Loan Fund (CALF) is funded by the Welsh government and managed by the Welsh Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA). Interested charities have been advised to contact WCVA directly.

    More information can be found here.

Coronavirus

Coronavirus remains with us and The Almshouse Association would encourage all members to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions as part of their risk assessments.

Government guidance can be found here:

2021 Policy and Governance updates:
Policy & Governance update: 01.11.21 | (almshouses.org)
Policy & Governance update: 15.10.21 | (almshouses.org)
Policy & Governance update: 20.09.21 | (almshouses.org)
Policy & Governance: 31.08.21 update | (almshouses.org)
Policy & Governance update: 16.08.21 | (almshouses.org)
Policy & Governance: 02.08.21 update – 2 August 2021 Summary
Policy & Governance update – 19 July 21 Summary
Policy & Governance update: 5 July 21
Policy and Governance update – June 2021 Summary
Policy and Governance update – May 2021 Summary
Policy and Governance update – April 2021 Summary
Policy and Governance update – March 2021 Summary
Policy & Governance update – February 2021 Summary
Policy and Governance update – January 2021 Summary

Posted 29 November 21


Sector Risk Profile 2021: Almshouse Association Briefing Note

The Regulator of Social Housing has published the main risks facing the social housing sector and some of the actions registered providers should be taking to manage those risks.

Whilst the focus is on larger Housing Associations, almshouse charities, especially those that are Registered Providers, should find the information below useful as a starting point for discussion.

It sets out the Regulators view of the most significant sources of risk to providers’ ongoing compliance with their regulatory standards. The Regulator acknowledges that the focus over the past year was inevitably dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic and that providers responded well to the unprecedented challenges they face.


Risks are grouped into four sections:

  • Strategic risks
  • Operational risks – existing stock and service delivery
  • Operational risks – development
  • Financial and treasury management risks

These risks have the potential to threaten the successful delivery of providers’ strategic objectives, providers’ viability, or the safety of resident. The Sector Risk Profile describes both risks that most providers are likely to face and also those that may only affect a minority of providers.

These risks are further broken down below:

A. Strategic Risks

  • Diversification. This is where an Almshouse Charity may have additional revenue streams, such as non-almshouse housing or seek to establish new ones. Almshouse charities must have regard to charity law and their Governing Document when undertaking diverse activity. In addition failure to appropriately manage these can damage an almshouse charities reputation and be detrimental financially, putting the almshouse housing at risk.
  • Access to labour and skills. Ongoing skills shortages, made worse by current disruption to the labour market, may threaten the ability to deliver routine and emergency maintenance. Boards will need to ensure that they have robust systems to manage risks from emerging and longer-term labour and skills shortages
  • Delivering against expectations. Almshouses, because of their charitable status, could well be scrutinised by a number of stakeholders. Instances of poor quality and performance may reach the public domain quickly.
  • Counterparty risk. Almshouses enter into contracts with a wide range of third parties, including insurers and maintenance contractors. Whilst this is an effective way to deliver a service it does increase the third party risk
  • Value for Money. The Almshouse Association has produced a webinar on this topic https://www.almshouses.org/training-seminars/ .

B. Operational risks – existing stock and service delivery

  • Existing stock quality. Failure to ensure quality almshouse provision, will affect the resident and could lead to deterioration of stock, potentially leading to greater expense at a later date. Boards must ensure that their organisations provide a repairs and maintenance service to homes and communal areas that represents value for money and which ensures residents homes meet minimum standard
  • Delivering services to residents. The provision of good quality housing services to residents is core of the role of a registered provider. As well as breaching consumer standards, failure to deliver these services or to engage effectively with residents could lead to a breakdown in trust in the relationship almshouses have with their beneficiaries
  • Health and Safety. Ensuring that tenants are safe in their homes is a fundamental responsibility of all landlords. Providers must ensure that they comply with statutory health and safety obligations
  • Costs and inflation. Providers’ costs are expected to rise over the next few years, in part due to spending previously delayed by COVID-19 restrictions alongside planned remedial safety works and energy efficiency improvements to existing stock.
  • WMC income and arrears. WMC income accounts for the large majority of the sectors income. Frequently the WMC is supported by government benefits such as Housing Benefit or the housing element of Universal Credit. Changes to benefits policy and the administration of benefits can have implications for providers’ WMC collection. The potential for high CPI inflation in the 12 months to September 2021 may represent a significant increase in providers’ maximum permitted rent inflation for 2022/23, and Boards will need to consider a wide range of factors in reaching decisions on rent increases charged to tenants.
  • Data Security. Almshouses gather many types of data and need to ensure they protect this data against a backdrop of increasing data security risks.

C. Operational Risks – Development

  • Construction process risks. Ongoing disruption to supply chains and labour markets and increased input costs may risk delays to developments.

D. Finance and treasury management

  • Existing Debt. Failure to manage relationships with lenders or compliance with covenants can threaten financial viability and undermine the achievement of strategic objectives. Boards must ensure appropriate treasury management and governance processes are in place to effectively monitor existing loan covenants to mitigate the risk of breaches.
  • New debt. Strategic purposes, objectives and risk appetites differ, and therefore suitable funding options also vary. Almshouse charities should seek specialist external advice as appropriate, and that Boards are able to effectively understand and challenge this.
  • Fraud. Almshouses are exposed to the risk of fraud through their procurement and provision of services. Where fraud occurs, it is reputationally damaging and can have significant implications for providers’ financial viability. Boards must ensure that they have robust internal control procedures in place.

More detailed information can be found here Sector risk profile 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Posted 17 November 21


Association releases new research on financial benefits of almshouses

The Almshouse Association is excited to publish a new report, produced by Housing LIN, on the financial benefits of almshouses.

This report represents the first significant investigation into the financial benefits almshouses provide to society and creates a strong foundation for further investigation.

The key findings of the report are:

  • £43m total financial benefit per year
  • Almshouse residents are less likely to use domiciliary care
  • Residents make less GP appointments and are less likely to visit A&E
  • Almshouse contribute to local economies through their staff and volunteers with an estimated value of £56m.

We would like to thank Housing LIN for producing such a detailed and insightful report. We hope that you enjoy reading it!

The full report can be found here.

Photograph courtesy of Whiteley Homes Trust

Posted 15 November 21