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Carl Sargeant, Welsh Housing Minister's pays us a visit.

The Minister speaks with Gareth Higgins. Gareth is the first tenant to enter the Move On project.

Welsh Housing Minister Carl Sargeant has visited a new project in Brynmawr to support people who need help to live more independently.

He met Gareth Higgins, the first tenant of the Ffynnon Court Move On Project, being run by Tai Calon Community Housing, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council and the homeless charity The Wallich.

Mr Higgins told the Minister he was looking forward to moving back to Brynmawr and to having his own home again. He was delighted to be getting a two bedroom flat because his daughters can stay at the weekend.

The Move On project is based at Ffynnon Court, one of Tai Calon’s Supported Living Schemes. Residents were consulted about the plan to rent 11 flats to people, aged 18+.

Rachel Mason, Valley Manager responsible for Supported Living at Tai Calon said: “We invited the Minister so he could see for himself how the project is making a real difference to people’s lives.”

Mark Congreve, Housing Solutions Manager, at Blaenau Gwent Council said: “This project is testament to the excellent working relationship we have with Tai Calon. In fact without the co-operation of the two organisations and our other partners, it simply would not have happened.”

Housing Minister Carl Sargeant said: “I was delighted to visit Ffynnon Court and to see how Tai Calon is improving the supply of housing in Blaenau Gwent. It was great to hear how much the tenants appreciate the improvements to their homes and to also see how the work is providing much needed job and training opportunities for local people.”

Each of the flats has been renovated to Welsh Housing Quality Standard by Seren Contractors, one of eight firms working on the project with Tai Calon.

Andrew Wall from Seren Contractors said: “It was an ideal opportunity for us to show the Minister the work that goes into bringing a property up to WHQS.”

He was joined by Ryan Gore, who has been employed as an apprentice plasterer with Seren Contractors after attending an event organised by Tai Calon during National Apprenticeship Week.

Ryan Gore said: “I am over the moon to have been offered the job. I never thought I would get the chance. This really is a fantastic and unbelievable opportunity.”

He had been working with Tai Calon on a 3SC supported, Jobs Growth Wales Opportunity. Gareth Snaith from 3SC said: “We are absolutely delighted for Ryan. This demonstrates how, with the right support and encouragement, young people can gain the experience they need to obtain the jobs they have always dreamt of.”

During his visit, Mr Sargeant learnt about the many job and work programmes involving Tai Calon. He met tenants who have gone on to secure full-time employment with the social landlord.

He also spoke to Ian Barnes, a former self-employed carpenter, who is also a Tai Calon tenant. He had been looking for work in the summer of 2012 when Keepmoat, another Tai Calon WHQS contractor, came to his home in Tredegar to fit a new kitchen

When he asked if the company had any work, he was unexpectedly given the chance to show off his skills – by fitting his own kitchen,

Not only was Ian Barnes taken on by the company, he is now Site Manager on a £6m housing development in his home town after securing two promotions in just 13 months.

“The last couple of years have been amazing – I feel proud to have been able to make such a success of this opportunity with Keepmoat and I am so grateful to them for the support they’ve shown me,” said Ian Barnes.

Just starting out on their careers are Jay Bayliss and Ben Bedford. Both live in Brynmawr and have just been given a six month work placement with another WHQS contractor, Glanmor Developments.

It is about to start work on 86 homes on Brynfarm in the town. Jay and Ben will be involved in the renovation of five properties which have been empty for two years.

The Minister was very keen to hear about the project as Ben Bedford explained. “During our work placement we will be doing tiling, plastering and painting. Mr Sargeant said he wants to come back in a few months time and see how we are doing.”

Tenant Darran Thomas lives near Ffynnon Court. He shows the Minister photos of his new kitchen. It has been specially designed for Darran, who has a sight disability.

Before he left, the Minister meet local tenant Darran Thomas who has recently had a new kitchen installed.

“I am now visually impaired and because my needs have changed my old kitchen just wasn’t suitable. The new kitchen has all new light units, work tops and tiles along with all of my black appliances, it makes them stand out more. It makes such a difference knowing where everything is now, I’m so happy with the work that was carried out”

“I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Tai Calon, but the kitchen has made a huge difference. Along with complaining, I’m happy to tell Tai Calon when something has been done correctly and to compliment it.”

Chief Executive of Tai Calon, Jen Barfoot, added. “We were delighted when the Minister agreed to visit us here in Blaenau Gwent. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to show him all the great work we are doing to improve homes and lives.

I must also thank the residents of Ffynnon Court for their support and to their Scheme Manager, Sandra Smith, for baking such superb cakes. Mr Sargeant says he wants to come back and learn more about the project at Brynfarm so we will be extending him another invitation in the near future.”

The beds and bedding in the 11 flats were provided by companies which work with Tai Calon. Jen Barfoot thanked Ark Consultancy, Arthur J Gallagher, Phoenix, Insight, Northgate, Keepmoat, BRC, Carrick, JP Print, Publicity Centre and Howards Furnishers for their generosity.

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