Coronavirus information
Wednesday 25 March 2020

For the safety of you, your family and our colleagues our offices are currently closed and we are only providing critical care services.

As the risk of spreading the coronavirus grows we want to keep all our customers and colleagues as safe as possible. We are following advice from the government to delay the spread of the virus, minimise risk to you and to make sure the NHS can cope with demand during this time. Therefore we made the difficult decision to close our offices on Thursday 19 March and from Wednesday 25 March will only be carrying out critical care services.

We understand that this is a very uncertain time and you may have lots of questions and concerns. To help, our customer experience team is available to support you and will be able to offer you advice and guidance on things like accessing benefits, how to self-isolate safely and other support groups that are available.

You can also find most of this information in our FAQs so please take a look at these before contacting us.

 

What are critical care services?

  • Gas servicing (under review)
  • Significant water leaks such as flooding of the property, ingress, burst pipes etc
  • Electrical outages including full loss of power to part of or a whole building
  • Gas leaks – If you smell gas contact National Grid Gas (Transco) immediately on 0800 111 999.

For our most vulnerable customers, we may also be able to support with loss of hot water or loss of heating but these will be considered on a case by case basis, according to the risks.

If we are attending your property to deal with a critical repair and want to carry this out in the safest way possible. To do this, we will be wearing full personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. We will then dispose of this safety after we complete your repair.

When we enter your home to carry out the work we ask that you and anyone else in your home moves to a different room in the property so that we can practice social distancing.

Yours, your family’s and our colleagues’ safety are our highest priority, and this is why we are taking such serious measures to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. We remain absolutely committed to our customers and to delivering critical services and we’ll continue to deliver these services for as long as we’re able to.

 

What is the latest government advice?

To help prevent the transmission of coronavirus, keep an eye on the latest government and NHS advice and take care of yourself by:

  • Staying indoors unless absolutely necessary.
  • Washing your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitising gel if soap is not available
  • Keeping a distance of at least two metres between yourself and other people
  • Coughing or sneezing into a disposable tissue or into your elbow
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth

The government says people should only leave their home for the following reasons:

  • Only shop for basic necessities such as food and medicine
  • One form of exercise a day, alone or with people you live with
  • For any medical need or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person – this includes moving children under 18 between parents’ homes
  • Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take them to school
  • Travel to and from work where work cannot be done from home (e.g. key workers)

If you think you have been in contact with someone who could have contracted the coronavirus visit the NHS 111 online website to find out if you need medical help and seek advice on what to do next.

If you have symptoms you must stay at home for seven days and anyone in your household must not leave your home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

If your symptoms deteriorate, then call the NHS on 111.

We will continue to keep you updated as much as possible as things develop. Please keep yourself, your family and your community safe at this uncertain time.

 

Concerned about rent payments?

We know that you may have concerns about working and finances right now but we’re here to help and want you to feel secure in your home. We know you’ll make every effort to maintain your rent payments but if you do get sick or can’t work because of the coronavirus, you will be able to stay in your home and we will do everything we can to help you maintain your tenancy. We’re here to provide you ongoing support including explaining your options and helping you access the right benefits. Please contact us on 0300 123 1567.

You can also find most of this information in our FAQs below, so please take a look at these before contacting us.

 

Why are we currently running essential services only?

We are following the advice from the Government to delay the spread of the virus, minimise risk to you and our vulnerable and elderly customers, and to make sure the NHS can cope with demand during this time. Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to close our offices from Thursday 19 March, this means that we will only be running essential services

What does this mean for you?

  • It means that our receptions will be closed
  • Only emergency jobs will be carried out
  • We will not be carrying out non-essential visits face to face and will instead contact by phone where possible.

If you have a repair or a visit booked we will be in touch shortly to let you know that this has been canceled.

We will continue to carry out emergency appointments in a way that is safe for you, your family and our colleagues. This will mean that colleagues 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.

We understand that this is a very uncertain time and you may have lots of questions and concerns. To help you through this, our customer contact centre is available to support you and will be able to offer you advice and guidance on things like accessing benefits, how to self-isolate safely and other support groups that are available.

Take a look at our FAQ below for answers to a full list of questions.

 

If you have an emergency or an urgent question you can get in touch with the team using our live chat facility or calling 0300 123 1567. Please expect higher than normal wait times, due to an increased number of customer contact and our colleagues working from home.

Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions

We appreciate you may have concerns about finances right now. Whether you have already fallen into arrears or not, we’re here to help. We know you’ll make every effort to maintain your rent payments but if you do get sick or can’t work because of the coronavirus, we’ll do everything we can to help you maintain your tenancy. We have set up an Accounts Specialist team to help you through this time and provide you ongoing support including explaining your options and helping you access the right benefits to reduce the risk of you getting into difficulties.

As the risk of spreading the coronavirus grows we want to keep all of our customers and colleagues as safe as possible. We are following the advice from the government to delay the spread of the virus, minimise risk to you and to make sure the NHS can cope with demand during this time. Therefore we have made the difficult decision to close our offices from Thursday 19 March and from Wednesday 25 March will only be carrying out critical care services.

Diagnosis of coronavirus should only be given by a trained physician however common symptoms of the coronavirus include:

  • Sudden onset fever/high fever
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Stuffy/running rose
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle and joint pain, body aches, fatigue

If you think you have been in contact with someone who could have contracted the coronavirus visit the NHS 111 online website to find out if you need medical help and seek advice what to do next.

If you have symptoms you and anyone in your household must not leave your home for 14 days. You will also need to tell us if you have an appointment so we can rearrange it.

If your symptoms deteriorate, then call the NHS on 111.

To help prevent the transmission of coronavirus, keep an eye on the latest government and NHS advice and take care of yourself by:

  • Staying indoors unless absolutely necessary.
  • Washing your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitising gel if soap is not available
  • Keeping a distance of at least two metres between yourself and other people
  • Coughing or sneezing into a disposable tissue or into your elbow
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth

The government says people should only leave their home for the following reasons:

  • Only shop for basic necessities such as food and medicine
  • One form of exercise a day, alone or with people you live with
  • For any medical need or to provide care or help to a vulnerable person – this includes moving children under 18 between parents’ homes
  • Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take them to school
  • Travel to and from work where work cannot be done from home (e.g. key workers)

The only shops and services that are open at this time are:

  • Restaurants, cafes and work canteens – only for food delivery and takeaway
  • Supermarkets selling food
  • Health shops like pharmacies
  • Petrol stations, garages and car rental businesses
  • Bicycle shops
  • Home and hardware shops
  • Laundrettes and dry cleaners
  • Pet shops
  • Corner shops, newsagents and post offices
  • Banks

Coronavirus is most likely to spread from person to person, so social distancing is an infection control action intended to slow down the spread of a contagious disease.

This means less contact between you and other people and postponing or canceling meetings, events, and gatherings.

How do we apply it?

Coronavirus can spread when people with the virus have close contact with people who are not infected. This typically means spending more than 15 minutes with an infected person and being within two meters (6-10 feet) from them.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing the spread of infection. To apply social distancing, try and limit your contact with others, and practice the following steps:

  • If you are sick, stay away from others.
  • Continue to practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. This should be done before and after providing routine care for another person (e.g. a child), after contact with animals or pets, after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
  • In the absence of the above, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% of alcohol in it.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze and dispose of the tissues.
  • Avoid handshaking.
  • Consider whether outings such as travel, both individual and family, are necessary.

Please remember to stay safe and for more information, please watch this World Health Organisation video on how to practice social distancing.

We ask that you try and prevent the transmission of the virus by following the advice above and share this advice with your family and friends. Please share your concerns with a medical specialist or your GP, they may be able to offer advice relating to your own personal circumstances. If you think you, a family member or a neighbour may have contracted coronavirus please do not visit your GP, visit the NHS 111 online website where you can find out if you need medical help and what to do next.

Yes, we want to make sure that you, your family and our colleagues are safe and reducing the spread of the virus. Please contact us as soon as you can to make us aware that you are self-isolating. We will keep this information only for as long as necessary to keep you and our colleagues safe.

If you are self-isolating, reach out to neighbours, friends and family who can provide you supplies. You can also get food deliveries to your home through all the major supermarkets. Stay at least two metres (about three steps) away from other people in your home and sleep alone if possible. You must also wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds, each time using soap and water.

Unfortunately from Thursday 19 March 2020 our offices will be closed for yours and our colleagues safety. If you have an emergency, you can still contact us on the phone, our website or through our live chat.

It is important that you are prepared for long periods of self-isolation. You may wish to contact your local pharmacy to see if they offer release prescription and delivery services in your area. You should also ask your local bank to set up standing orders or direct debits for core bills if you have not done so already, some banks also offer telephone banking. Most high street supermarkets offer online shopping and delivery services so book a slot as early as possible to make sure you receive food and necessary supplies. Some supermarkets also offer telephone shopping.

Whether you are showing symptoms or not, it’s a good idea to phone ahead to see what your medical professional advises. If you do have symptoms, make sure you tell them.

We will continue to make sure that your personal information is kept as securely as possible. Any details you give us about your health will only be used by us to ensure that we continue to give services in a manner which is safe for you, your family and our colleagues. We will only share that information with those organisations who provide public health support when absolutely necessary and lawful to do so. Please read our customer privacy notice, here [link] for more information. If you have a trusted relative or friend that you wish us to contact about matters affecting your tenancy if you become ill then please contact us so we can arrange for you to receive the forms.

Whilst the majority of people are looking out for their family, friends and neighbours at this time, unfortunately, there are some people who are taking advantage of the situation. If you receive a call, an email or a knock on your door from people claiming they are offering services or testing for coronavirus, please alert us immediately and follow the below guidance:

  • Do not give any personal information (name, address, bank details, contact details) to people without verifying their credentials. Always ask for ID and contact the company they work for directly to check.
  • Make sure your computer has up to date anti-virus software and a firewall installed
  • Many frauds start with phishing emails. Banks and other financial institutions will not send you an email asking you for information or to click on a link, so never provide this information
  • Never give out personal details or bank details over email or over the phone
  • Sign up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard Secure Code when you are given the option to when shopping online. This will involve registering a password with your card company and adds an additional layer of security to your transactions.
  • Regularly check bank statements for entries you don’t recognise. If you don’t recognise a transaction, contact your bank immediately.
  • Destroy or shred any receipts or post with your card details on.
  • If you think you have been a victim of fraud or want to check unusual activity, contact us immediately.

Concerned about work?

We appreciate customers may have concerns about working and finances right now. We’re here to help and want you to feel secure in your home. We know you’ll make every effort to maintain your rent payments but if you do get sick or can’t work because of the coronavirus, we’ll let you stay in your home and do everything we can to help you maintain your tenancy. We’re here to provide you ongoing support including explaining your options and helping you access the right benefits.

If you cannot work due to the coronavirus (self isolating following government advice or infected) and are eligible for statutory sick pay, you will get it from day one.

To qualify you will need to be classed as an employee, earn an average of at least £118 per week, tell your employer you’re sick before their deadline. Agency workers are entitled to statutory sick pay.

You will not be eligible if you are getting Statutory Maternity Pay or have received the maximum amount of Statutory Sick Pay (28 weeks).

If you are not eligible for statutory sick pay but are infected or are prevented from working because of a risk to public health, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

You can apply for Universal Credit online. If you need to make an appointment, call the number you are given when you submit your claim and explain your situation. In these circumstances, you can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without attending a job centre.

If you need to claim ESA because of coronavirus you will not have to produce a Fit Note. The usual seven day want time will also not apply under these circumstances.

You must tell the DWP as soon as possible that you are staying at home on government advice or have been diagnosed with coronavirus. This is very important to make sure you are not sanctioned. To do this, use your online journal or call the Universal Credit helpline (0800 328 5644).

If you cannot attend health reassessments or job centre appointments because you are self-isolating or infected, special arrangements will be put in place and appointments rescheduled. Mandatory work search and work availability will also be removed to account for a period of sickness.

For information about coronavirus and claiming benefits, please visit the Department for Work and Pensions’ information page. It will continue to be updated with regular updates on the arrangements the DWP is making to support those who are affected by coronavirus.

If you are self-employed you are eligible to claim Universal Credit.

You can apply for Universal Credit online. If you need to make an appointment, call the number you are given when you submit your claim and explain your situation. In these circumstances, you can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without attending a job centre.

From 6 April 2020, the DWP will be temporarily relaxing the Minimum Income Floor for all self-employed claimants affected by the economic impact of COVID 19. This means that self-employed claimants will be supported by basing their Universal Credit award on their actual earnings.

Questions about your property

Where possible it is advised to carry out social distancing to reduce the risk of getting infected or infecting others. If you are well and wish to have people visit, you should ask them the following questions before making a decision:

  • Have you felt unwell recently?
  • Have you travelled abroad recently?
  • Have you been in contact with anyone who has felt unwell or travelled abroad?

If guests answer yes to any of these questions, please ask them not to visit. If you are self-isolating you should not allow anyone to enter your home.

Unfortunately, this will not take place while the government has placed strict measures on the country. We want to make sure that you, your family and our colleagues are as safe as possible and there is currently no safe approach to sign-ups.

For yours, your family’s and our colleagues’ safety we will not be advertising properties or signing up any new customers to properties at this time.

For the safety of you, your family and our colleagues we are now only carrying out critical care services. If you have a non-emergency repair booked with us we will be contacting you to cancel this until further notice.

For the safety of you, your family and our colleagues we are no longer carrying out property visits. If you have a non-emergency visit booked with us we will be contacting you to cancel this until further notice.

From Wednesday 25 March we will only be carrying out critical care services. This includes:

  • Gas servicing (under review)
  • Significant water leaks such as flooding of the property, ingress, burst pipes etc
  • Electrical outages including full loss of power to part of or a whole building
  • Gas leaks – If you smell gas contact National Grid Gas (Transco) immediately on 0800 111 999

For our most vulnerable customers, we may also be able to support with loss of hot water or loss of heating but these will be considered on a case by case basis, according to the risks.

If you smell gas in your property you will need to contact National Grid Gas (Transco) immediately on 0800 111 999.

If you have an emergency please contact us over the phone or online where we can assess the situation and provide advice and guidance.

We will carry out critical care services in a way that is safe for you, your family and our colleagues. This will mean that colleagues 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.

Domestic abuse

Whilst home is widely considered the safest place to be, this is not the reality for victims of domestic abuse. If you or someone you know is at risk, then know that you are not alone, get in touch with us or call 999 if there is immediate danger.

There are also a number of support charities and organisations specifically tailored to support victims of specific forms of abuse. Click on the links below to visit the websites of the following organisations suggested by the Community Safety team and find out what their services can provide for you:

  • Women’s Aid
    Service to provide support and safety for Women, children and families suffering from domestic abuse.
  • Mankind – Male domestic abuse service
    Domestic Abuse support service for Men.
  • GALOP
    Galop can help if you experience homophobia, transphobia or biphobia wherever it occurs, including at home, in public, at work, online or in cruising sites.
  • National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)
    The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation.
  • Victim Support
    Online and phone support line for individuals in the UK.
  • Dash charity
    Confidential advice and support charity for individuals and families suffering from domestic abuse.
  • Paladin Stalking Service
    Support and hotline for victims of stalking in the UK.
  • Karma Nirvana
    Help and support for victims of honour based violence and forced marriage.
  • Oii My Size
    Healthy relationship advice, help and support for teenagers suffering from pressure and abuse in relationships.
  • Hollie Guard app
    An app for women designed to keep victims safe and to monitor the abuse, conspicuously contacting, track location and record instances of abuse.
  • Polish Domestic Abuse helpline
    Service to provide help for Polish nationals living in the UK.
  • Hampton Trust
    A charity which runs programs for perpetrators of domestic abuse.
All services are running normally. Please do not hesitate to get in contact with us, or with any of the services listed below should you need help.

The National Centre of Domestic Violence (NCDV)  is fully operational. NCDV provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation.

With the current coronavirus outbreak, the center wants to reassure you that NCDV is fully operational. They are running all normal services and have also increased our capacity to handle more referrals if necessary.

The investments they have made in technological solutions over the past 10 years are now allowing their staff to operate without risk and provide solutions to more victims of domestic abuse and violence.

Please continue to contact them in the usual way, their helplines will remain fully open and referrals through our website and app will be attended to as usual.

 

Support services available to you:

Click on the links below to visit the websites of the following organisations suggested by the Community Safety team and find out what their services can provide for you:

  • Women’s Aid
    Service to provide support and safety for Women, children and families suffering from domestic abuse.
  • Mankind – Male domestic abuse service
    Domestic Abuse support service for Men.
  • GALOP
    Galop can help if you experience homophobia, transphobia or biphobia wherever it occurs, including at home, in public, at work, online or in cruising sites.
  • National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV)
    The National Centre for Domestic Violence (NCDV) provides a free, fast emergency injunction service to survivors of domestic violence regardless of their financial circumstances, race, gender or sexual orientation.
  • Victim Support
    Online and phone support line for individuals in the UK.
  • Dash charity
    Confidential advice and support charity for individuals and families suffering from domestic abuse.
  • Paladin Stalking Service
    Support and hotline for victims of stalking in the UK.
  • Karma Nirvana
    Help and support for victims of honour based violence and forced marriage.
  • Oii My Size
    Healthy relationship advice, help and support for teenagers suffering from pressure and abuse in relationships.
  • Hollie Guard app
    An app for women designed to keep victims safe and to monitor the abuse, conspicuously contacting, track location and record instances of abuse.
  • Polish Domestic Abuse helpline
    Service to provide help for Polish nationals living in the UK.
  • Hampton Trust
    A charity which runs programs for perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Shared Accommodation, Independent Living and Schemes

We are doing everything we can to minimise the risk of coronavirus for our colleagues and our customers. If we do experience a high level of staff absence, we have business continuity plans in place that will see people leading our non-essential activities moved to help support our most important activities. We are also working with the local authority and partners in the community to make sure the vulnerable are supported.

We have introduced some robust measures to make sure you, your family and our colleagues are safe. We have increased cleaning of particularly high-touch areas of our schemes, posters are going up asking visitors not to enter a scheme if they have symptoms or are infected with the virus to protect all customers and colleagues. All customers in Independent Living will be written to this week with specific guidance and reassurance on using the communal facilities like laundry safely.

If you have been unwell or are self-isolating then do not use the community laundry facilities. If you have been unwell please follow the following government guidance. If dirty laundry has been in contact with an ill person, you should wait a further 72 hours after the 14-day isolation period before washing your laundry in communal facilities. Items that are heavily soiled with bodily fluids, for example vomit or diarrhoea, should be disposed of.

Government guidance says that if dirty laundry has been in contact with an ill person, you should wait a further 72 hours after the 14-day isolation period before washing your laundry in communal facilities.

Items that are heavily soiled with bodily fluids, for example, vomit or diarrhea, should be disposed of.

During the government’s strict measures, friends and family should not leave their home or visit you unless they are providing essential care for you, this includes help with washing, dressing or preparing meals.

If you receive regular health or social care from friends, family or an organisation, speak to them about the extra precautions they are taking to keep you safe.

Our guest rooms are currently unavailable to make sure you are as safe as possible. We will be cancelling already booked appointments and will not be taking any further bookings until the government’s strict measures are lifted. Friends and family should not be visiting you unless they are providing essential care for you.

We would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of the government and NHS’ current advice:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as often as possible, especially before touching your face, mouth or eyes. If soap isn’t available, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser should be used
  • If you need to cough or sneeze, do so in a disposable tissue or using your sleeve to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
  • Everyone should avoid gathering in crowded places including pubs, you should work from home if possible and restrict unnecessary visits to friends and relatives in care homes
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, a cough or high temperature, you must isolate for seven days and anyone in your household must self-isolate for 14 days
  • If your symptoms deteriorate, contact the NHS on 111

Information continues to change on a regular basis so please keep up to date on the latest NHS and government advice.

We will continue to keep you updated as much as possible as things develop.

Please keep yourself, your family and your community safe at this uncertain time.