Coronavirus: our frequently asked questions

March 27 2020
Coronavirus 1

Like most organisations our work is being increasingly disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. We are doing all we can to continue providing services but are having to make changes as the situation develops.

We have put together some frequently asked questions to help explain how we are responding to the outbreak which we will update regularly. If you have any questions for us, please email them to communications@futureshg.co.uk


Coronavirus: frequently asked questions

1. What should I do to avoid catching coronavirus?

We recommend that you follow official medical and health advice provided by the government. You can find out more at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ and https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response. We also suggest that you keep an eye on responsible news sources, such as the BBC, to stay up-to-date on developments with the outbreak.

Currently reducing the amount of contact you have with people outside your family and hand washing seem to the most effective ways of reducing your risk of catching the virus.

 

2. If I get sick due to coronavirus, will you still come out to do repairs at my home?

As of Tuesday 24 March, we have suspended all but the most urgent and serious repair visits. This is in response to the strict measures introduced by the government to help restrict the spread of the virus.

We will do our very best to deal with emergency repairs and situations where customers are vulnerable or at risk of harm. Our ability to do this may be affected by several factors:

  • We may have fewer operatives available due to sickness, people self-isolating and also staff having to stay at home to look after children and other family members. 
  • Getting hold of some materials needed for repairs is increasingly challenging and protective clothing is in short supply.
  • If large numbers of our contact centre staff fall ill this will also reduce our ability to respond quickly to request for help.
  • Possible further restrictions imposed by the government on freedom of movement.

There is a list of the kind of repairs that we include in the emergency category on the website. Before arranging any home visit we will ask you questions about coronavirus to assess any risks associated with a visit to your property. Please answer these questions honestly to help to help us reduce the spread of the virus.

We cannot guarantee that we will carry out repairs in a home where someone has or is likely to have coronavirus. We will only consider it if there is a dangerous problem that needs to be repaired urgently and if we think it is safe for our staff to go into the property. This may depend on whether or not we have the protective equipment available to help protect our team members and currently this is in short supply.

If we do think it is safe to proceed, we will ask you to provide hand washing facilities for our operatives – both when they arrive and before they leave. We will also ask you to keep a safe distance away from our team member – usually by asking you to go into another room.

In the case of serious emergencies we will liaise with other services, for example the health, fire, or police services, as necessary and on a case-by-case basis to help ensure your safety while not putting anyone else at risk of infection.

 

3. Am I at risk of catching coronavirus from your staff visiting me?

At the moment we do not know of anyone who works for Futures who is infected. But we are monitoring the situation closely and have plans in place if the virus becomes more widespread and starts to affect the organisation.

All our staff are encouraged to keep up-to-date with the latest health advice, follow good hygiene practice and to inform their manager if they feel unwell. We will also insist that all our people follow official advice, so if anyone is suspected of having the virus we would expect them to self-isolate to prevent them spreading the illness.

Where we do need to make an urgent home visit – where a fault or issue puts customers at risk and there is no safe alternative but to carry out a repair – our operatives and contractors will ask you to keep away from them at all times. This includes outside your home and while they are in your home (in another room where possible). They will wear gloves and other protective clothing as appropriate, and ensure they wash their hands.

There is therefore no reason though at the present time, to think that there is any more risk of infection from a home visit by one of our people than from the general population.

Despite all these precautions though we are following government advice which is now to avoid all unnecessary contact. Therefore the best way to help avoid our people spreading the virus is simply to reduce the number of home visits we make until further notice. To help with this our operatives will contact you before they visit and try to help you resolve the problem yourself by giving advice over the phone. They will also carry out a further assessment of the potential risks of transmitting the virus at that time and may not attend if we believe a home visit would put you or our operative at risk of infection.

If you are self isolating or anxious about letting anyone into your home at this time you can of course refuse to allow us in (apart from gas-related problems where you may legally have to allow us or another expert in to make thing safe). However, if you do this and our advice to you is that this is an emergency that needs to be resolved, this will be entirely at your own risk. 

 

4. What will happen if Futures has to close down due to coronavirus?

We have contingency plans in place to help us continue providing essential services in the event of a range of emergency situations – including pandemics.

As of 24 March we have closed our offices and instructed all staff who can work from home to do so. Thanks to our investment in technology, many staff can work from home in the same way as they can at one of our offices. People who cannot do their normal job from home will be asked to help out in other areas where appropriate.

At the moment we are confident we can continue providing important services.

 

5. If I am sick and can’t pay my rent, or forget to pay, will my home be at risk?

Because this is an unusual situation we recognise that there may be all kinds of disruption to ‘business as usual’ at Futures. We have planned for a range of scenarios but recognise that we may have to be flexible in response to unexpected events. If customers are sick or having to care for others who are ill, cannot work or have other issues because of coronavirus, we would consider making reasonable adjustments to help people through this challenging time. We will approach this on a case-by-case basis. If you are affected and you think it will affect your ability to pay your rent, please contact us to discuss the best way of adapting to the situation until things return to normal. Like other housing associations, our underlying policy is that nobody will be evicted as a result of hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

 

6. If I have an outstanding repair will this make me more vulnerable to catching coronavirus?

While government officials and their advisors are clear that they still have many things to learn about this coronavirus outbreak, it does seem clear that most people catch it from close contact with other people who are affected. At the moment we have no reason to believe that any unresolved repairs you have requested to your home are likely to increase your risk of catching coronavirus. We will of course review this on a case-by-case basis.

 

7. What repairs and other home visits do you treat as an emergency?

Our website has details of the kinds of repairs that we consider a priority - see here for more details. Our focus is essentially on making safe anything that could affect the health or safety of our customers.

 

8. Can I still log a routine repair or other problem to be dealt with when things return to normal?

Because of high customer demand and the need to prioritise emergency work, please do not report non-urgent repairs at the moment. As soon as the government gives an ‘all clear’ to resume ‘business as usual’ work we will do all we can to return to providing our normal repairs service as quickly as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause but hope you will understand that these are exceptional circumstances affecting the whole country.

 

9. If I have special needs or someone in my family does, will you treat our repairs as urgent?

The safety and wellbeing of our customers and our staff is our number one priority. If you feel that you or a member of your household are at high risk of harm due to a repair need, please make our contact centre team aware of this. We will do our very best to help you but we will have to approach this on a case-by-case basis depending on the availability of staff and materials and the potential for a home visit to make the situation worse by putting someone at risk of catching the coronavirus.

 

10. I was due to be moving into a Futures Housing Group property now or soon. Can this still go ahead?

Given the significant restrictions on movement that are currently in place as part of the coronavirus lockdown, we don’t think it is practical or safe for anyone to be moving home at the moment. The government is also now recommending that any planned home moves are delayed. So we are currently only able to deal with emergencies – for example situation where you might become homeless if a move does not go ahead.

If we have offered you a home, we will hold it for you until the restrictions on travel and movement are lifted and you can move in. We will be back in contact with you as soon as possible when that happens.

If there is any critical reason why you need to move as an emergency, then please do tell us so that we can understand your circumstances and see if we can help.

We are aiming to complete work on a number of empty properties so as to make them safe and ready for occupation when restrictions are removed, but will not start work on any new empty home refurbishments for the time being.

 

11. I am still seeing your operatives out and about when you are telling me you cannot attend to my repair. Why is this?

We are coming out to deal with emergency repairs – suspected gas leaks would be an example - so you may still see operatives at work. But at the moment this is only to deal with serious emergencies.

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