Coronavirus update: Wednesday 18 March
We are continuing to monitor government announcements about coronavirus and will adapt our services and how we are working as necessary to help protect our customers and our staff and to help with wider community safety.
As you will probably know, the government introduced stronger measures to control the virus on Monday 16 March that focused on decreasing the amount of contact people have with each other. In response to this we have made a number of changes that came into effect on Tuesday 17 March.
Changes to how we work
All Futures Housing Group staff who can do so are now working from home. We have strong IT systems that mean most of our people can do the same work from home that they do in the office so most of our 'back office' teams are working as normal. There may be some short-term disruption while people get their home equipment set-up and running smoothly but we are confident that this change will have no impact on most of our customers.
Some staff cannot work from home - especially those whose work takes them out into the community. This includes our repair and maintenance teams, our groundwork teams and any staff who provide direct or face-to-face services to our customers. We are making adjustments to how these teams work that are designed to reduce the amount of contact we have with customers to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. This may mean, for example, that we phone you instead of having face-to-face meetings. Our aim though is to continue providing services as normally as possible, just in different ways to help make things safer for everyone. We have also closed our Asher House reception to customer visits and are minimising the use of remote offices to cut the amount of travel and 'social interaction' that our teams have, in line with government advice.
The biggest service changes we are making relate to repairs. Our priority is to ensure that we can continue dealing with the most urgent repairs and support our most vulnerable customers. To help us do this we are cutting back on non-urgent repairs. We are doing this because fewer home visits will reduce the risk of our repairs teams becoming sick and unable to work. This change also reduces the chance of our repairs teams spreading the virus in the community. Despite this it is still likely that some of our repair team members will fall ill due to the virus and this will mean we have fewer people available, therefore we need to focus all our resources on the most urgent work. Shortages of hand sanitiser and protective clothing are also making it harder for us to help protect our repairs teams when they do go out into the community.
At the moment we are continuing to prioritise jobs in the same way as before the virus outbreak. You can find out what kind of repairs fall into which category by clicking here. If you contact us to report a repair which is not under the priority or fast categories we will ask you to call back at another time when the virus is having less of an impact. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause but hope you will understand the need to focus on the most serious and urgent problems. We may need to update the repairs that fall into the 'priority' and 'fast' categories if the impact of the virus spreads or if the government introduces stricter measures but we will make announcements if this happens.
You may still see our repairs and maintenance teams working outdoors. While this may be frustrating if you have a problem in your home that we are not dealing with, this is because outdoor work carries much less risk of infection for our workforce. This approach not only helps our staff to keep working while reducing risks to their health, but means that there will be more capacity to 'catch-up' on other indoor repairs once the situation returns to normal as we will be ahead of schedule for outdoor work.
Other service changes designed to help reduce the spread of the virus include closing community centres until further notice, restricting the use of communal spaces in shared buildings and trying to reduce the number of visits to specialist housing for more vulnerable customers.
All of these measures may change if the outbreak develops further but anything we do will be in line with official advice.
How you can help us
If you or anyone in your household is self isolating, infected with coronavirus or at high risk of having caught it, you must tell us before arranging any kind of home visit or if any of our teams visit you at home. When you report a repair and if we do come out to your home we will ask you questions about the virus and your household. Please help us by answering these questions openly and honestly. If we think that there is a risk of our teams catching the virus by entering your home or having contact with the people who live there, we may postpone or cancel the visit to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Please also avoid reporting standard repairs at the present time as we will not be able to schedule them and it may prevent customers with more urgent problems from getting through to us.
Our customer-facing staff are currently facing increased pressure as well as having their own concerns about the virus and what it means for them and their families so please support them by being understanding at this challenging time.
We also encourage everyone to keep up-to-date on the latest official advice about coronavirus.
We remain committed to all our customers and providing the very best service that we can. The outbreak is causing disruption all around us and we are working hard to keep our services running as smoothly as possible.