Message from Orla Gallagher, Chief Executive of Housing Solutions

I would like to take this opportunity to update you on Housing Solutions response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

We are obviously monitoring developments closely for both our staff and residents’ safety.  For your assurance, we remain focused on the health and welfare of our staff and residents and our ability to continue to support our most vulnerable residents in all scenarios.

It is fair to say that COVID-19 is bringing a change to the UK and it is clear that lots of things are going to have to shift around in order to help us cope.

At Housing Solutions, we have been doing everything we can to keep providing you with a housing service, but we now must accept we need to make temporary changes. 

Reacting to the latest government announcements, we must plan for staff shortages owing to our staff members having to self-isolate during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Unfortunately, this does mean, that many of our day to day services will either be stopped temporarily or reduced considerably. As a result, we are making changes to all our services, including our repairs policy as from Friday 20 March 2020.

The changes we are putting in place are designed to simplify what we do, so that we can continue services to all our residents, but with specific support for our most vulnerable residents.  

SUPPORT FOR OLDER, VULNERABLE RESIDENTS

This is a particularly stressful situation for our older and vulnerable residents.  In response, our office and estate-based staff are proactively calling residents we think might need our support.

If you, a loved one, or neighbour need help, we will do our best to provide help. Please contact our Community Services Manager Lee Campbell T: 01628 543134 lee.campbell@housingsolutions.co.uk or our Customer service team on 01628 543101.   We also have a live chat facility at www.housingsolutions.co.uk for an immediate response.

In the meantime we have put in place the following arrangements at our sheltered schemes:

  • We have engaged with the Sue Brett Foundation to help with shopping, prescriptions, postal, telephone contact as well as Maidenhead Food Share
  • Our Welfare team has been working with Maidenhead Rotary and People to Places to offer assistance to all of our RBWM customer base where required.
  • Our team of 3 officers are visiting the schemes daily to check in and carry out H&S checks, this includes checking the communal fire alarm.
    • Safe working measures have been put in place for all 3 staff – they have appropriate PPE to stay safe whilst visiting the schemes as well as keeping our resident's safe.
  • All sheltered customers have the mobile number of our 3 officers if they need additional support
  • We have identified customers that have a limited support network they are receiving additional support.
  • All of our customers in RBWM have a device in their home – OkEachDay; They press the button daily to indicate all is well, if they do not dial in – we act accordingly to check in.
  • We have also provided automated voice memos via the Ok device with information and advice.
  • Our CEO Orla Gallagher has written a personal letter to all of our sheltered customers, which was hand delivered to give guidance and reassurance of the support in place
  • There are relevant posters in all schemes with contact numbers and advice, as well as 'scam' awareness notices.
  • A further letter was sent from us to all residents in our schemes to keep them updated of Government changes.
  • Our in-house caretaking team have increased the cleaning on our sheltered schemes to daily and paying particular attention to ‘high contact’ points such as Laundry equipment nibs and switches / hand rails and the like.
  • As of 25th March 2020 – our communal lounges were classed as ‘out of use’ and out laundry facilities classed as ‘one in one out’ until at least the end of June 2020.

PAYING YOUR RENT

It is important that you pay your rent so that you do not fall behind with your regular payments.  You can pay your rent using the following methods: -

Housing Solutions website                                                                                                                                           

Create an account through our website to pay your rent online, to register click here https://www.housingsolutions.co.uk/portal

Telephone                                                                                                             

Call 01628 543101 and press 3 to be taken through to the secure All Pay payment line

Pay Point

Pay point in local stores using your Rent Payment card   

Post  
Cheques only - payable to Housing Solutions, with your name, property address and rent account number on the number on the back of the cheque                                        

Post Office  

You can pay by cash, cheque or debit card at any Post Office using your Rent Payment Card.  

Direct Debit                                                                                                        

Set up a Direct Debit by calling our Contact Centre

PROBLEMS WITH PAYING YOUR RENT

We know that during these difficult times your circumstances or employment status may change or become more uncertain. 

Please be assured that during this time, we will not commence eviction proceedings to recover possession of your home. At the end of the period, we will work with you to agree a suitable repayment plan.

Please call us on 01628 543101 immediately if you think may not be able to pay all your rent. We can support you and we have experts on hand to help you navigate through this difficult time.     

REPAIRS TO YOUR HOME AND COMMUNAL AREAS

We have temporarily shut down our on-line repairs service, but we will provide comprehensive emergency repairs service throughout this period, but we are delaying all other non-urgent repairs for 3-months.  If you have an emergency repair, please call 01628 543101 or use our Chat Facility at www.housingsolutions.co.uk

Emergency repairs are those repairs that have serious effects on people or significant damage to the home. Some examples of an emergency repair include:

  • Major Flooding,
  • Total loss of, or major fault with, electricity supply
  • Unsafe electricity fittings, Gas leak, Blocked mains drains, soil pipe or sole WC
  • Heating and/or hot water loss (calls received 08:00-19:00)

We aim to make your home safe within 24 hours of you reporting the emergency defect.The full list of emergency repairs can be found here;

https://www.housingsolutions.co.uk/rent-and-repairs/repairs/repair-priorities/

When we speak to you about the repair work, we will ask you the following questions: -

  1. Are you self-isolating?
  2. What is the nature of the repair required?
  3. Do you or any member of your household have any health condition that puts you at risk of Coronavirus – in accordance with government health guidance?
  4. Is there any risk that you may have or already have Coronavirus?

Please read the government guidance to understand if you are at risk of Coronavirus

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance

SAFETY CHECKS

We want to ensure your home environment remains as safe as possible. Therefore, we still plan on conducting critical safety checks of gas and electrics in your homes. We will also, where possible, continue with the weekly testing of fire alarms in communal areas as well as our programme of safety inspections on mechanical installations and fire remediation works. We ask for your continued assistance in helping us achieve this.

CARETAKING AND ESTATE SERVICES 

Our primary focus is the cleaning service of our specialist housing – these are housing schemes for older and vulnerable residents.

  • We have increased the internal cleaning rotas to our specialist housing schemes;
  • We have put-up notices requesting everyone to wash hands before entering the communal areas in the scheme;
  • Where possible, we have placed hand sanitizers in the communal areas;
  • We have created social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus;
  • We have postponed fund-raising and other activities in the schemes; and
  • We’re offering additional communication equipment for residents who have no support network.
  • If you see one of our caretakers please remember to respect social distancing and keep a 2 metre distance.

OTHER ESTATE SERVICES

We are working closely with the local authority to maintain the rubbish collection service, however, with less caretakers available, we are relying on residents to help ensure rubbish is disposed of properly.  Please help us keep the estates clear and prevent vermin.

In consideration of the government guidelines to minimise social contact, face to face meetings have been suspended whilst the Coronavirus risks remain high. 

Finally, please remember that this situation will pass, but it may not be for some weeks or even months. In the meantime, we will do everything we can to support you if you are in need.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

Kind regards

Orla Gallagher
Chief Executive

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