Supermum Vicky’s extended family

A mother of three has taken on responsibility for an extended family – of over 3,000.

 Vicky Downey from Kinmel Bay has just been elected as secretary of the Tenants’ Forum of Cartrefi Conwy, the association which took over   the county borough council’s housing stock in 2008. 

And she sees it not just as a way of helping tenants like herself but also as an opportunity to broaden her experience.

 Vicky, 33, who has three daughters of school age, has lived on the Chester Avenue estate for about five years and in that time has taken a key role in the growing number of community activities.

 She is on the committee of the Chester Avenue Community House, which is at the hub of so many activities, and has undertaken several courses organized for tenants including Welsh and manual handling.

 “I don’t like just sitting around when the children are at school,” she said.

 She has been one of the driving forces behind the success of the Green Fingers Club which has done much to transform the appearance of the large estate, which for so long had a reputation for being unkempt and litter-strewn. She is currently chairman of the group.

  Through Cartrefi Conwy’s innovative participatory budgeting scheme, a grant of £2,435 was obtained so that every tenant on the estate was offered a hanging-basket, and planters have been provided in communal areas. The brackets for the baskets were put in place by the association’s building maintenance team.

 “Things have improved and there is a pretty good community spirit here now. I know pretty well everybody on the estate and most of them know me,” said Vicky, who is also involved with the Gateway project aimed at helping the unemployed find work.

 She was persuaded the attend the annual meeting of the Tenants’ Forum which acts as a  link with Cartrefi Conwy’s  board, and agreed to become the firt volunteer secretary, working alongside new chairman John Roberts  and vice-chair Margaret Rawlinson, both from Llanrwst. Until recently, the role of secretary was filled by a member of the association’s staff.

 “It’s early days yet and we haven’t really got started but I know there’ll be a fair bit of work with about 3,800 tenants throughout Conwy,” she said.

 Vicky is hopeful that the skills she acquires in the role, added to those she has already gained through the Community House programme, will help her find employment in the future.

 “I did some bar work before having the children but that’s all, and I would like to go on various other training courses to improve my CV,” she said.

Meanwhile, self-employed joiner John Roberts has been elected chairman of the Tenants’ Forum.

 For the past 16 years John, who originally hails from Dolwyddelan, has lived on the Glanrafon estate, in Llanrwst, which comprises 66 flats and maisonettes. About eight years ago he helped to establish a Tenants’ Association on the estate to campaign for improvements, and he became treasurer of the group.

 Through the Association he became involved in the Tenants’ Forum which at that time represented council-house tenants throughout the county. When Cartrefi Conwy took over he maintained his interest and was rewarded when he was recently elected chairman.

 The first vice-chairman of the Forum is Margaret Rawlinson, who lives in nearby Scotland Road, Llanrwst, and is chairman of the Glanrafon Residents’ Association.

 John, 69, is a firm believer in the benefits of working through the Forum, which helps give the tenants a voice on housing services and knows from experience that he can work well alongside Margaret, who recently helped to acquire a £1,500 grant from Cartrefi Conwy to enable residents to tidy up a scruffy piece of land near their homes.

The Tenants’ Forum is seen by the Board of Cartrefi Conwy as an important medium for keeping tenants informed of policies and projects and as a sounding-board.

Pam Lonie, Chair of the Board, said: “We are committed in all our involvement work to empowering tenants to influence change and to ensure that the way we work allows people of all ages to play an active part.”

Caption: Vicky Downey (right) with Phil Jones, Cartrefi Conwy Community Involvement Manager, and Alf Roberts.

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