A housing association is using scratch and sniff cards to help warn tenants to be on their guard for leaking gas.
Cartrefi Conwy is handing out thousands of gas safety leaflets to tenants, giving realistic whiff of what a gas smells like and at-a-glance advice on what to do if they suspect they have a leak.
The colourful leaflet has already proved a big hit with everyone who has received a copy with one hailing it as a potential lifesaver.
It’s triple celebration time for Cartrefi Conwy when it comes to looking after tenant safety.
The organisation has also chalked up a major success in persuading tenants to allow engineers into their homes to carry out vital checks on gas boilers thanks to a new way of working.
And Cartrefi Conwy has landed a prestigious award for its pioneering Home Partners scheme which allows tenants to discuss a range of matters with an advice specialist as a gas engineer services their appliance.
Explaining the importance of the scratch and sniff panel on the new safety leaflets Cartrefi Conwy’s Responsive Repairs and Gas Inspection Manager Jon Beer said: “Natural gas doesn’t actually have any smell at all which is why it is given a strong synthetic smell by suppliers so people can easily detect it if they have a gas leak at home.
“But if they’ve never had a gas leak people won’t have any experience of the smell and that’s why we have sent out the leaflets incorporating the scratch and sniff panel. Hopefully, when they try it out it will give them an idea of what to expect if something does go wrong.
“The leaflet also tells them what to do and who to call if they do smell gas in their property. We’re still in the process of distributing copies to all our tenants but those who have tried them so far seem very impressed.”
Jon added: “As it’s our statutory duty and also because tenants’ safety is of prime importance to us we carry out an annual gas boiler service at every one of our properties.
“However, there had been a problem with this. A certain number of tenants would refuse engineers access to their homes to carry put the check and after the necessary warnings we had to take around 200 people to court each year to force them to allow entry.
“In the past we had used contractors but when Cartrefi Conwy took gas servicing in-house in September 2015 we looked for a better way of doing things.
“We now have 100 per cent compliance with requests for boiler services at all our 3,800 properties across the county and have not taken any tenants to court to gain access since we brought the gas servicing in-house.
“Two weeks before the service is due to take place we phone the tenant to make an appointment for a gas service. We also phone them the day before to remind them.
“These two simple steps of just talking to our tenants have been remarkably successful.”
The Home Partners accompany the gas engineers when they carry out annual safety checks.
They can provide a variety of advice and support, including welfare benefits advice, identifying potential needs and assisting with property issues.
Jeff Evans is one of two Home Partners who have been working on it since it went into action last October.
“As far as my colleague Andy Seed and I are concerned it’s a brilliant scheme which has been working very well for our tenants,” he said.
“Before we started it people would talk about various issues that were concerning them to the visiting gas engineer. They’d do their best to answer but didn’t always have all the necessary information.
“Now, when we accompany them on a visit they can get on with their job while we talk things over with the tenant, supplying up to date advice and completing a questionnaire on our mobile tablets.
“We help with all sorts of things, from queries they might have about tenancy matters such as repairs to the property to welfare issues like the benefits they should be claiming. That’s particularly in demand at the moment with the current changes to the benefits system.
“Older tenants might want to discuss the possibility of having the help of one of our independent living co-ordinators.
“Home Partners is like a mobile one-stop shop for advice and information and is proving very popular with tenants. It’s also very rewarding work for Andy and myself.”
The Home Partners scheme has been such a hit that it has landed a top honour in the 2016 Welsh Housing Awards run by the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru.
It won the Members’ Choice Award voted for by members of the institute. It was also shortlisted in the New Ideas category.
Jeff Evans said: “We’re very proud to have won this high-profile award, both for ourselves who work in the scheme and for Cartrefi Conwy.
“It’s a pioneering idea and it’s great to gain this sort of recognition as the winner was chosen by members of the Chartered Institute right across Wales.
“It’s also good for our tenants knowing that their welfare has been brought to the forefront of things in this way.”
One of the tenants delighted about all of Cartrefi Conwy’s recent successes is 75-year-old Mair Jones, a retired Church in Wales vicar who lives in a Cartrefi Conwy bungalow in Colwyn Bay.
She said: “I’ve had a Home Partner visit and found it very useful. Jeff came along with the gas engineer and gave me quite a bit of valuable advice about my tenancy.
“He was able to chat to me while the engineer was doing his job.
“It’s also good to see that the housing association has produced this very useful and novel leaflet with the scratch and sniff panel.
“Gas safety is all about your property and also your life, so the advice it gives could be a lifesaver.”
All tenants visited by the Home Partners and found to meet the requirements of their tenancy agreement are entered into a prize draw in which £100 is up for grabs every month.