Our response to Covid-19
The global pandemic impacted everyone’s lives and often in unimaginable ways. With it came significant challenges of financial inclusion, increased domestic violence, safeguarding, hunger, poverty, homelessness, mental ill-health, and inequity for the most vulnerable in society; issues in our society that have a steady presence in our sector and ones that we continuously seek to address and campaign for.
With lockdown, social housing providers, along with our partners in public services and the charitable sector, had to call on their resources, expertise, and determination to continue to support the most in need in the most difficult of circumstances.
Some of the ways we worked collaboratively and innovatively within our organisation and wider communities included:
Launching a dedicated Here to Help service
Our Here to Help service was established for tenants to access any help or support they needed during this uncertain period. During the pandemic, the team made over 100,000 welfare calls to tenants and customers.
Establishing an Incident Support Team
We created an Incident Support Team to strategically and centrally manage and coordinate the Group’s resources, including redirecting and redeploying staff, skills, vehicles, and funding to those services that are most important to vulnerable customers.
Supporting people at risk of falling into arrears
To help tenants with financial hardship due to the pandemic, we amended our usual arrears procedures. We processed hundreds of new Universal Credit cases to support tenants facing financial challenges and secured over £160,000 of additional income for tenants
Providing emergency accommodation
We continued to support those in urgent need of housing, including people facing homelessness and women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Completing essential repairs and safety checks
Our Property Services Team continued to deliver vital services during the first lockdown, including 2,086 emergency repairs and 3,474 essential safety checks such as gas servicing and electrical testing, as well as undertaking asbestos surveys and inspections, fire risk assessments and work and water hygiene checks to keep customers and homes safe (the figures quoted are for the period 23 March 2020 to 31 May 2020).
Supporting our independent living customers
We increased tenant welfare calls, assisting tenants with technology to keep families connected, and coordinating activities to tackle boredom and isolation.
We worked in partnership with over 100 support agencies to increase our welfare and support services for our tenants with learning disabilities, or autism, and mental ill-health.
Key Unlocking Futures
Our Progress Living Team continued to provide safe accommodation to key workers from United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust, to help over 4000 NHS workers focus on fighting COVID-19.
- We offered support to local councils to deliver food and prescriptions to tenants and residents.
- Donated PPE to Bolton Hospital and St Catherine’s Hospice.
- Launched an emergency fund that awarded over £9,381 to community projects and charities during the lockdown (1 April 2020 to 12 August 2020).
- Set up a text helpline, live chat, and website and worked with Boots to provide more support for women experiencing domestic abuse.
- Ran regular social media campaigns to share messages of wellbeing, support, and information.
- We continued to support people through Progress Futures, particularly those who had lost their jobs, and we secured funding for our More Positive Together programme for two more years
- Progress Lifeline was the only telecare provider in the UK to maintain full services, keeping 49,000 vulnerable customers safe.
- Our involvement activities went virtual to combat isolation including a garden competition and VE Day celebrations, with our involved tenants more engaged than ever!
- We completed 75 neighbourhood walkabouts, 1,162 communal inspections, 271 new tenant visits, and resolved 1,335 housing management cases
- 115 new doors, 100 bathrooms, and 84 kitchens fitted during lockdown - click here to read what a difference a new door makes!
- Our Emergency Fund made a huge difference to many local voluntary and community groups
- Achieved 100% gas compliance
- We continued to develop homes to meet housing need
- We continued to recruit new colleagues and welcome new apprentices during the pandemic
- We transformed into a virtual working environment overnight, with the Digital Services Team working round the clock to get everyone kitted out
- Keeping our employees healthy, safe and supported with extra safety measures in our offices and for our frontline workers, homeworking, generous sick leave arrangements for those who contract the virus, access to wellbeing and therapeutic services and resources, and providing employees with the flexibility to manage their family responsibilities and their role.