As a housing association operating across 86 local authorities, with a significant proportion of disabled and vulnerable tenants, our goal is to support and guide our staff and customers through these challenging times. The health and safety of tenants, staff and contractors is our overriding priority as we maintain our frontline, business-critical services.
Habinteg has implemented the organisation’s Business Continuity Plan and we are following government guidance to limit the spread of coronavirus. As a result, we have changed some of our working practices:
Governance and planning
- We have established a Covid 19 Response Team, which includes members of the Executive & Operational Management Teams. The response team currently meets daily, via MS Teams, in order to assess and manage risk. The team is chaired by Habinteg’s Head of Governance.
- Our office-based teams in London and Bradford are now working from home to ensure a continuous high level of service and this is working well.
- Our team of Neighbourhood Managers & Neighbourhood Co-ordinators are working from home whilst keeping in touch with local tenants, particularly those who are vulnerable. Our Neighbourhood teams are signposting tenants to locally available support where appropriate.
- Our Customer Support Team are responding to calls from home, maintaining a high level of customer service.
- We are encouraging tenants and staff to follow government guidance on social distancing. Reducing social interaction between people will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus and will help to relieve pressure on services such as the NHS.
- Where staff members are required to perform functions that cannot be undertaken at home, we are taking a risk-based approach. Staff members will complete a risk assessment, with support of their line manager, and in line with government guidance on social distancing.
- Habinteg’s communal schemes have the Government/NHS posters displayed and we have put extra measures in place for cleaners to concentrate on handles, grab rails and other high traffic surfaces in shared areas. We are also making sure plenty of soap is available in our communal areas and toilets. Where communal social spaces exist we have taken steps to close them on a temporary basis wherever possible.
- Where we know residents are particularly vulnerable and in receipt of care, we are taking steps to consult with any known care providers and speaking with our Local Authority partners to agree if Habinteg need to take any additional steps to help manage the spread of the virus.
- Habinteg’s trading arm, the Centre for Accessible Environments, is working remotely and continues to respond to queries from clients on issues relating to accessibility and inclusive design.
- Given the significant challenges our contractors face, operating with a reduced workforce at a time when sourcing materials is difficult, we will prioritise only essential repair work at this stage. We will only be booking contractors to attend Habinteg properties to carry out emergency repairs and safety related landlord duties such as gas servicing. When contractors do carry out essential work, they will take new, special precautions.
- Habinteg will take a pragmatic and common-sense approach in order to comply with safety regulations, such as gas checks. Habinteg’s legal obligations around compliance have not changed and the safety of tenants remains our priority. Recognising that tenants may be concerned about people entering their home we are providing information on our website about extra safety precautions being taken by operatives to deliver statutory checks.
- Some contractors that provide grounds maintenance and communal cleaning will continue to do so, whilst their staff remain well and where they are able to do so within the social distancing rules. We have advised tenants of this and asked them to keep their distance from any workers who are operating on scheme.
- Habinteg continue to charge rent in the usual way. For tenants worried about finances and for anyone struggling with work or benefits, we have information and sign-posting to help on our website. We are updating this regularly as new information becomes available. We continue to advise tenants to contact our Income Recovery Team should they anticipate any difficulties.
- Building new, accessible homes remains Habinteg’s core ambition. Our current pipeline projects have unfortunately been put on hold, having received requests not to carry out site inspections and surveys until further notice. Several contractors we are working with have closed their sites and offices temporarily, in order to maintain the welfare of their staff. Many contractors have stated they are unable to maintain social distancing guidelines whilst on an active building site. Following encouragement from Government that the construction industry stay on site wherever possible we are hopeful that our contractors may be able to deliver some activity even while social distancing measures remain in force.
- Habinteg are confident that, as soon as restrictions are eased, we will continue at pace in progressing our pipeline of new homes. We are encouraged by new guidance issued by the Construction Leadership Council, which sets out how people working in the construction sector may continue to carry out their duties during these challenging times.
As we adapt the way we work to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, we will always prioritise the health and safety of tenants, staff and contractors.