Like most organisations our work has been significantly disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. We are doing all we can to continue providing services in light of the many restrictions still in place and are planning for how we can resume as many normal services as possible as the lockdown eases without putting customers or our own people at risk of infection.
We have put together some frequently asked questions to help explain how we are continuing to adapt in response to the pandemic. If you have any questions for us, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Coronavirus: frequently asked questions
1. What should I do to avoid catching coronavirus?
We recommend that you continue to 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.
Reducing the amount of contact you have with people outside your family and hand washing still seem to the most effective ways of reducing your risk of catching the virus.
2. 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, we are asking customers not to report non-urgent repairs at the moment. We are planning to start to reintroduce a routine repairs service now that lockdown is easing but it will take us time to do this. We have to ensure that all of our work procedures are checked and updated to make sure that home repair visits are as safe as possible for customers and our teams. We are also having supply problems with some materials needed for repairs and with protective equipment that may prevent us from carrying out some types of work. We will keep customers updated as this process gets underway. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and thank our everyone for their patience over recent weeks.
3. If I get sick due to coronavirus, will you still come out to do repairs at my home?
We can't 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.
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 (at least two metres) 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.
4. Am I at risk of catching coronavirus from your staff visiting me?
Any Futures staff who show signs of possible infection with coronavirus, or live with someone who does, are instructed to self-isolate in line with government recommendations. Now that testing is more widely available, we are also encouraging any employee who thinks they may have the virus to be tested. Where home visits are necessary, we are following the latest official guidance to ensure that we keep the risk of cross-infection to a minimum.
We are therefore as confident as we can be, given what is currently known about covid-19, that we are effectively controlling any potential risk of our employees passing on (or catching) the virus during home visits.
Despite all these precautions though we are still following government advice which is to generally avoid all unnecessary contact between people from different households. Therefore the best way to help avoid our people spreading the virus is simply to keep the number of home visits we make to a minimum while the virus is still in circulation. 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.
5. What will happen if Futures has to close down due to coronavirus?
We had contingency plans in place to help us continue providing essential services in the event of a range of emergency situations – including pandemics. We put these plans into action at the start of the coronavirus outbreak and this has helped keep disruption to our work to a minimum.
We closed our offices at the end of March and since then most staff have continued to work effectively from home. A limited number of staff are working from our repairs depots with safeguards in place to help avoid the risk of spreading the virus in the workplace. 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 have been helping out in other areas where appropriate. Only a small number of staff who could not work because of the restrictions caused by lockdown have been put on furlough.
At the moment it seems that our plans were effective and we have largely continued running the organisation and many services smoothly throughout lockdown (other than the restrictions on repairs and other home visits). As lockdown eases we are planning to continue adapting and we are confident that we can continue operating as necessary through any future lockdowns that may be imposed.
6. 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. We would encourage any customers with money or work worries to use our money and employment advice services.
7. 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. 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.
8. 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.
9. If I have special needs or someone in my family does, will you treat our repairs as urgent?
The safety and well-being 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?
Following new advice released by the government on 12 May, we are putting measures in place which will support customers to move into their new homes. We are contacting customers who have been offered a property to see if they would still like to move, and if it is safe for them to do so. You can find more information about house moves here.
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 indoor emergency repairs – suspected gas leaks would be an example - so you may still see operatives at work. Alongside this, to help keep on top of our workload while helping keep everyone safe from infection, we also have people doing outdoor work such as gardening and exterior building work and also refurbishing empty homes for customers on the waiting list. We understand that this may be frustrating for customers with less urgent indoor faults, but doing these 'safer' jobs will free up time for our staff to deal with the backlog of indoor work once we have the systems in place to do more routine indoor repairs safely.
12. How are the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown affecting Beep Assist customers?
Our Beep Assist team has continued to support customers since the start of the outbreak. In some cases that has meant helping people to carry out resets and other small repairs or maintenance tasks with advice and instructions over the telephone. We have also been carrying out customer reviews over the phone. Where this hasn't been possible, our team have been making necessary home visits and using official guidance together with protective equipment to help keep our customers and staff safe.