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Housing Minister launches biggest ever refurbishment of Byker Wall

The Minister for Housing, Kris Hopkins MP, has today (March, 31 2014), officially launched a £9.5 million refurbishment project of Newcastle’s iconic Byker Wall and link blocks.

The Minister cut the ribbon to mark the start of work to the Grade II* listed building on the Byker Wall Estate, which is being undertaken by the Byker Community Trust (BCT).

The BCT owns and manages over 1,800 homes on the Byker estate after residents voted in favour of transfer in 2012. The current government wrote off the historic debt associated with the Estate which enabled BCT to secure the funding for the transfer. Since then, the BCT has worked quickly to deliver stock transfer promises and its five year planned capital investment programme of £26 million is well underway, which is making a real difference to people’s lives.

Keepmoat will be completing a full external fabric overhaul of the Byker Wall which will include a new roof, windows and doors to 400 flats and maisonettes. Improvements will also be made to communal stairwells and entrances, and a complete repaint in line with the original colour scheme.

In addition to the refurbishment works, Openview have also been appointed to install a new digital aerial system, including broadband to each property, as well as upgrading the door entry and CCTV systems that are delivered by a concierge service.

Residents have been consulted on the refurbishment works that will be undertaken to their homes and those living in Byker Crescent will be the first to receive the improvements.

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT, said: “Today marks a hugely significant milestone for the BCT and I would like to thank the Housing Minister for helping us to launch the Byker Wall refurbishment which will make a real difference to people living within the Wall.

“The refurbishment of the Wall was one of our key promises to the people of Byker when we transferred the estate to BCT from Newcastle City Council and it is the most significant investment made to the Byker Wall in its history.
“By working with our partners, Newcastle City Council, English Heritage, Your Homes Newcastle, Keepmoat and Openview, we are helping to restore the Byker Wall’s listed features in line with Ralph Erskine’s original plans and we will also include new additional services which will meet the lifestyle expectations of our customers.

“The improvements will be phased and are expected to take two years to complete, during which time, we are committed to creating ‘life change’ opportunities for local people. This will include opportunities for employment and training that will provide new skills, apprenticeships and jobs for people living in Byker, thus also helping to improve economic and social conditions within the estate”.

Minister for Housing, Kris Hopkins, MP said: “It’s a great a pleasure to be able to cut the ribbon and launch the £9.5 million refurbishment of the iconic Byker Wall.

“The ground-breaking design and Grade II* listed status of Byker Wall have ensured its place in the area’s history. By restoring the Wall to its former glory the Byker Community Trust are not just giving it a place in the community’s future but also making a real difference to the lives of the people who call the Byker Wall their home.”

David Ward, Keepmoat’s North Regional Managing Director, said: “We are pleased to partner with the BCT to help transform such an important landmark for the city. Not only will residents see the improvements made to restore the world-famous structure but we are also committed to providing employment and training opportunities for local people.”



Rapid Response Team for Byker Community Trust Residents

Initiative delivers local improvements and creates new jobs

A new neighbourhood Rapid Response Team has been created by the Byker Community Trust (BCT) in response to feedback from tenants on the Byker Wall Estate, dealing quickly and efficiently with everyday issues such as fly-tipping, graffiti, dog fowling and littering.

Managed in partnership with Newcastle City Council, the three-person Rapid Response Team has created two jobs for BCT tenants and safeguarded one further role, delivering on BCT’s commitment to create opportunities for local people. The team manager, Dan Thompson is supported by David Sleightholme and Kyle Patten, both Byker Estate residents.

Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT, commented: “We think Byker is a great place to live and we’re always looking for simple solutions in our quest to make it even better. The Rapid Response Team is a direct response to tenant feedback, which called for improvements to littering, graffiti, dog fowling and the general environment of the Byker Estate.

“It’s also great that we’ve been able to employ local people to make up two thirds of the team, who will be highly visible on the streets of Byker thanks to their branded vehicle and clothing. This is a unique service that will make a real difference to our residents on the estate.”

The new BCT Rapid Response Team will help to deliver improvements in services to the Byker Wall Estate in addition to the ongoing £24.5 million investment programme that is already underway. The latest phase of this work, the £7 million refurbishment of the Byker Wall starts in March.

“It’s great to be working on my home patch and making a difference for my neighbours and fellow Byker residents,” said David Sleightholme, who works on the Rapid Response Team. “I take great pride in the area where I live and my new role with the Rapid Response Team allows me to work on a daily basis to improve the local environment in Byker.”

Working through the Newcastle City Council Envirocall hotline on (0191) 278 7878 (Textphone: (0191) 211 4944), the team will react quickly to any requests for assistance. The service is available to homeowners on the Byker Wall Estate, as well as BCT tenants. To find out more about the Byker Wall Estate and the Byker Community Trust visit



Byker Renaissance:

Bedroom Tax Opens Up New Opportunities

While the government’s Bedroom Tax has caused misery for many, it has had one unexpected benefit for people in search of a larger home, as many tenants have been forced to downsize in order to meet the additional payments. This is particularly true on the Byker Wall Estate situated within walking distance of Newcastle City Centre, where the Byker Community Trust (BCT) has been actively supporting residents affected by the new tax.

The team at the BCT, which took over the Byker estate in 2012, have been liaising directly with tenants to offer short-term support with rent and rehoming them when smaller properties become available. This means that a number of larger properties are now becoming vacant, giving potential tenants an opportunity to share in Byker’s renaissance.

“With planned investment of up to £25 Million over the next five years our aim is to create jobs and training opportunities, Byker is going to become increasingly popular as a place to live and work, but one positive side effect of the Bedroom Tax is that we do have some three and four bedroom homes ready to move into,” said Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT. “There’s a huge amount going on here in Byker and whoever moves here now will get the chance to have their say in the future of the estate.”

In addition to the £8 Million refurbishment of the Byker Wall itself and £10 Million of improvements to the estate’s District Heating System, the BTC also has a Community Participatory Budget (CPB) programme. This unique £1 million fund is available for residents to bid for funding to support the environment and community on the estate. Anyone moving in will have a stake in the BCT and the future of the estate, including how the CPB funding should be spent.

“It’s because we’ve taken such a pro-active approach to the Bedroom Tax that we now have this opportunity for families in search of a larger home,” added Jill. “These are properties in good repair and many of them have been fully refurbished over the last 10 years. They will also be newly decorated, providing a blank canvas for tenants to transform into homes.”

Anyone wishing to find out about the current availability of home within the BCT estate can visit To find out more about the Byker Wall Estate and the Byker Community Trust visit



Byker Wall

Consultation Timeline



Top Position for Byker Community Trust Chief

Jill Haley Elected North East Chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing

The Chief Executive of the Byker Community Trust (BCT), which owns and manages the iconic Byker Wall Estate, has been named as the new Chair of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) North East. Jill Haley will now take charge of the regional board of the flagship organisation for the next three years.

CIH is the professional body for people who work in housing - the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards. The not-for-profit organisation, which has more than 22,000 members around the world, provides housing professionals with advice, support, knowledge, training and qualifications.

“I’ve been a member of the CIH for over 20 years and being elected to the role of North East Chair is a huge honour,” said Jill, who lives in Sunderland. “I’m hoping to use my three years in the role to maximise the profile of CIH in the North East, as well as promoting the important work done by the organisation nationally.”

Jill joined the BCT in March 2012, just months before it took over the ownership and management of the Grade 2*-listed Byker Estate. She had previously enjoyed a successful career with Gentoo, the North East-based housing group, Sunderland Council and Halifax Property Services.
CIH President Paul Tennant, who is also from Sunderland, said: “Having worked with Jill, I am delighted that she is taking on the role of North East Regional Board Chair. With so much going on in housing, this is an exciting time to be involved in our industry and I wish her every success in representing our North East members over the next three years.”

The BCT is currently leading a £24.5 million five year revamp of the Byker Estate, including the external refurbishment of the Byker Wall itself. A £1 million fund has also been set aside for a Participatory Budget Scheme to enhance the local environment and community resources, giving residents a say over how the money is spent.

Jill added: “These are challenging times for the BCT and for the wider housing sector as we all learn to do more with less. I’m hoping that my experience of working in both public and private sector housing organisations and my enthusiasm for championing the housing profession will help me to offer beneficial advice, support and inspiration to others.”



Resident Escapes Bedroom Tax Misery with Support from BCT

A Byker resident can breathe a sigh of relief after a pioneering case worker helped her get back on track

A Byker resident can breathe a sigh of relief after a pioneering case worker from the Byker Community Trust (BCT) helped her get back on track following the introduction of the government’s controversial Bedroom Tax.

Janice Downes, a long-time resident of the Byker Wall Estate, was living in a three bedroom property, but following the introduction of the Bedroom Tax she was finding it hard to make ends meet. Coupled with ongoing health problems, the situation was causing a great deal of stress for the 54-year-old grandmother and her family, many of who also live on the estate.

Now Janice is sitting pretty in her own ground floor one bedroom flat after Andrew Young, Welfare Benefits Caseworker from the BCT, helped her to secure a move. She approached Andrew after hearing about his pioneering work on the estate, helping to secure over £70,000 worth of benefits and support to which local residents were entitled.

“Things had got to the point where I could hardly sleep as the Bedroom Tax was taking a big chunk out of my income, so when I heard about the Andrew and the work he does it was good to have somewhere to turn to,” said Janice who lives on Avondale Rise “He helped me to go through the process of applying for a new flat, which would have otherwise have been very complicated and stressful.”

Andrew first helped Janice to secure a discretionary housing payment to help her cope with the immediate expense of the bedroom tax. He then helped her to apply for her new one bedroom property, which is not only cheaper but also easier to for her to manager. He was then able to secure some help with carpets, a table and chairs for her new flat.

Andrew said: “I already knew Janice as I had worked with other members of her family, so when she came and asked me for advice. She initially came to ask for some short-term support to help her cope with the Bedroom Tax, but it was clear that a longer-term solution was needed, so I helped her to secure the smaller flat and made the process as stress-free as possible.”

Janice registered for Tyne and Wear Homes in order to bid for properties that were suitable and bid to find a tenant for her current home. This service allows public housing tenants in Tyne and Wear to search for alternative homes right across the area. Her accessibility needs and long record as a tenant helped her to secure the new flat.

To set up home in her new property, Janice also received support from the Financial Inclusion Team at Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), who were able to exchange her fridge freezer for an under-bench fridge as it was too large for the new kitchen.



Pioneering Programme Puts Byker Residents Back on Track

Groundwork partnership hailed a success by Byker Community Trust

Four young Byker residents are looking to the future after signing up to a brand new personal development course provided by Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle. They were recruited after the Byker Community Trust (BCT) asked Groundwork to help them engage and motivate young residents of the Byker Wall Estate.

The Return to Form programme is a 12 week course designed to enhance the outlook and motivation of young people not currently in education, employment or training (NEET) and it fits perfectly with the BCT’s commitment to enhance the life chances of young people living in the Byker area. Groundwork were approached as an existing provider of successful programmes for young people and worked with the BCT to identify those who could benefit from the programme.

“We literally went out onto the streets of Byker and spoke to young people about their current situation and their aspirations for the future,” said Kirstie Mactaggart, project officer for Groundwork. “The programme aims to motivate young people and signpost their progression, offering them the support they need to move forward, but it’s only worth doing if they want to succeed.”

Four young people were signed up for Return to Form, which is structured individually for every student. All participants work to complete a Level 1 Skills qualification, which can lead to a Level 3 Certificate in Progression. The groundwork team can also signpost career and training opportunities, while working with the young people on core skills such as teamwork, communication, lifestyle, assertiveness and diversity.

One of those completing the course is 18-year-old Byker resident Kyle Sharp, who signed up after meeting the Groundwork team on their tour of the estate. After leaving school with few qualifications he had found it hard to find work, but after six weeks on the Return to Form programme he has secured a part-time role at a leading sports retailer.

Kyle said: “Sometimes you just need a bit of support to get yourself motivated and move forward. Kirstie and the team have given me the confidence I needed to get out there and find a job. I’m now combining the two as I’m determined to finish the programme and hopefully move on to further qualifications.”

Success rates on Return to Form are up to 88%, with over 50% progressing onto further employment, education or training. Groundwork also works closely with local employers and training providers to identify further opportunities.

“Our commitment to the people of Byker goes far beyond the bricks and mortar. We want to get people motivated by playing an active part in their local community and contributing to society,” said Jill Haley, chief executive of the Byker Community Trust. “We chose Groundwork because they have an excellent track record in engaging and empowering the small number of young people who have fallen through the net. We’re really pleased with the results so far and I hope more young people can be helped in the future.”



Pioneering Caseworker Secures £54,000 for Byker Residents

Role could set precedent for other areas as benefit changes take hold

In just nine months a pioneering caseworker at the Byker Community Trust (BCT) has helped local residents to secure over £54,000 in benefits that they were fully entitled to, but had either been refused or not made a claim for.

Andrew Young joined the BCT in January this year, on secondment from Newcastle Citizens’ Advice Bureau, to take on the role of Welfare Benefits Caseworker. Since then he has worked with more than 190 residents to assist them with benefit queries and problems, offering clear and straightforward advice on issues that can often be extremely complex for local residents.

“The benefits system here in the UK is already very complex and constant changes, such as the Bedroom Tax and Universal Credit, are making things even more confusing,” said Andrew. “My day to day role is to help people make their way through the benefits minefield, finding out what they might be entitled to and helping them to claim.

“These are people with a genuine need and entitlement who often don’t know what benefits they qualify for, or are too wary to apply for them. A good example is Attendance Allowance, which many elderly and disabled residents are simply unaware of.”

“As a housing organisation that allows tenants to have influence over how their estate is managed, their best interests are right at the heart of what we do,” said Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT. “One of our key aims is to maximise income for our tenants and the idea for Andrew’s role emerged from discussions with CAB regarding how we could offer tenants better support through these difficult economic times.

“Andrew knows the benefits system inside out and he’s able to provide invaluable advice to our residents. This has included guiding some people through the claims process, including tribunals and appeals, where he has helped to prepare their case and gone along with them on the day. When you’re up against DWP legal teams whose brief is to defend the reasons for rejection, specialist knowledge and experience are key assets.

Andrew is also able to provide advice on short-term solutions such as emergency payments, Discretionary Housing Payments, furniture schemes and food banks, which are all lifelines that BCT residents may turn to in times of crisis. He can work with people who have had benefits overpaid and liaise with the DWP on how the situation can be resolved. To find out more about the BCT and Andrew’s role, visit



Top Award for Byker Community Trust Apprentice

Dedicated trainee receives coveted National Housing Federation accolade

A rising star of the Byker Community Trust (BCT) has scooped a coveted accolade from the National Housing Federation (NHF) after showing exceptional dedication and commitment to his role.

Steve Howells, who lives on the Byker Wall Estate with his partner and two young children, started with the BCT on a 12 month apprenticeship programme in August 2012. The 22-year-old worked at the organisation while also studying business administration and law at Westgate College, with support from Newcastle City Learning. He has now been appointed as a full-time Administrative Assistant at the BCT.

“We decided to nominate Steve for the NHF award as he has shown exceptional dedication and willingness to learn since he joined us, rapidly becoming an integral and invaluable part of the team,” said Jill Haley, Chief Executive of the BCT. “Although we’re a small team, we pledged to employ and support someone from the BCT community and Steve has proven a great asset. We’re now looking into the possibility of recruiting another apprentice in the future.”

Steve’s role at the BCT includes a wide variety of tasks, from welcoming visitors to dealing with colleague’s diaries and liaising with external agencies. He is looking to build on the success of his apprenticeship and develop his career within the housing industry, focusing on new skills and training relating to housing management. .

Steve said: “It was such a buzz to be nominated for the award and the team kept it as a surprise, so I didn’t even know until the run up to the event. It’s been an amazing year, finding the role with the BCT and then learning on the job, as well as gaining my qualifications at college. I really feel that I’ve found my direction and it’s great to be part of a close-knit team in an organisation that allows tenants to have influence over services and how their estate is managed.”


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