Coronavirus update from our Housing Division

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Update for Southdown tenants from Jim Aspdin, our Director of Housing:

I wanted to write to you with an update on the service Southdown’s Housing Division is providing and how we are working to keep our tenants, clients and colleagues as safe as possible.

Although the number of new cases of Coronavirus have begun to slow and some of the earlier ‘lockdown’ measures are beginning to be eased, it is now clear that the risk of infection in the community will remain for some time.

As a supported housing provider, our primary objective remains the safety and wellbeing of our tenants. As an employer, and Registered Provider of Social Housing (RP), we also have obligations to our staff and our Regulator.

If you are self-isolating or have symptoms of Coronavirus please tell us as soon as possible. You can contact us by calling your Housing Officer or our Lewes head office on 01273 405 800. As well as requiring this information so that we can do what we can to control the spread of the virus, we may also be able to provide you with some practical assistance if required.

You may also find a letter that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote on the 18th May to all Social Housing Tenants useful, which includes guidance and links to welfare and mental health resources. An easy-read version of this letter is available also

Providing continuity of service

Throughout the lockdown, our staff have continued to work remotely with occasional visits to our properties to carry out essential repairs, welfare and health and safety checks.

This will continue for the time being but we are now also taking steps to reorganise office working to make this safe for some staff to return where necessary.

We will continue to follow the Government’s recommended social distancing guidelines to prevent the transmission of Coronavirus as much as possible. This means that we will be still operating reduced face-to-face contact between staff members, as well as with tenants, as much as possible.

We ask that, where staff are present in your property or its communal areas, social distancing is respected and that a distance of at least 2 metres between yourself and the staff member or contractor is maintained.

Repairs

Our Property Services department had limited the repairs service offered at the start of the pandemic, offering only emergency and essential repairs.

With your help, we have not faced high demand for repairs. Thank you for only requesting essential services, this has allowed us to ensure tenant safety and concentrate the service on those who really need our help.

We are now in a position to re-open the repairs service to allow most routine, urgent and emergency repairs to be completed, where it is judged that these can be done safely. We have now begun to work through the backlog of repairs and property safety checks and continue to discuss safe working practices and resourcing levels with our contractor partners. 

We will continue to carry out these appointments in a way that is safe for you, your family and our colleagues. This will mean that our staff and contractors will ask you a series of questions before we carry out any works, they will wear necessary PPE and may ask you to move to another room when work is being carried out. Please respect the wishes of our staff and contractors and allow them to practice social distancing.

Most other essential safety checks will resume again. We will be in touch with you to discuss safe access arrangements in situations where tenants have received formal advice to shield but Southdown needs to carry out essential safety checks. Where staff or contractors cannot be assured of their own or tenant safety, the visit may have to be postponed until such a time as they can.

If you have symptoms or have been told to self-isolate and we are due to visit your home, it is critical you let us know beforehand. This is vital for the safety of our staff, contractors and your neighbours.

We will continue to keep this approach under review. If you are concerned about an upcoming scheduled repair or safety check please get in touch with us to discuss via: property.services@southdown.org or 01273 898744.

Wellbeing

We have been making regular calls to all of our tenants to keep in touch and understand whether there is anything more we could be offering by way of support through this difficult period.

We have tried to be innovative, where technology has allowed, and used video calls where possible to increase the face-to-face contact we have with tenants.

We know that you may be worried about the Coronavirus and its knock-on effects: be that about staying safe; basic supplies; access to money, mental health, medication and healthcare or paying your rent.

Although tenants’ personal circumstances are all different, there are some common themes we have picked up:

  • Tenants having understandable concern for their own health and that of loved ones whilst the risk from Covid19 remains
  • Stress, isolation and anxiety as a result of the enforced social isolation and individuals’ health concerns due to Covid19
  • Tenants being unable to access personal networks or services in the community that had previously been able to help.
  • Tenants concerned about anti-social behaviour from neighbours or others not self-isolating or practicing appropriate social distancing.

We are here to help so please get in touch and we can provide support and guidance. You can contact us by calling your Housing Officer or contacting our head office on 01273 405800.

If you are struggling to pay your rent because of the Coronavirus, or its effects upon your employment, please get in touch as soon as possible. We can help you to access appropriate welfare benefits and other local sources of assistance.

We will also be arranging a series of virtual tenant involvement events over the coming weeks to help us to better understand the needs of tenants during this difficult period and improve our service offer. If you would like to be involved please speak to your Housing Officer or Housing Assistant or email:  housing@southdown.org with the subject heading ‘tenant involvement’ and we will be in contact with some suggested dates.

Please continue to keep yourself updated on Coronavirus, how you can keep yourself and others safe via the NHS and gov.uk websites. Southdown will also continue to track developments as the situation evolves and will endeavour to keep you updated.

It is currently predicted that a number of us could still contract a variant of Coronavirus over the coming weeks and months. The vast majority of people will have mild symptoms and recover from the illness but we should all remain especially careful about the direct and indirect contact we have with others, particularly the elderly or those with a weakened immune system. We would encourage you all to be extra mindful of your neighbours and the spaces you share.

We will continue to do our utmost to support you through the weeks ahead.

Best wishes, Jim Aspdin, Director of Housing at Southdown.