The global pandemic has impacted everyone's lives, often in unimaginable ways. It has brought significant challenges of financial exclusion, 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.

With lockdown, social housing providers and our partners in public services and the charitable sector have called on their resources, expertise, and determination to continue supporting the most in need in the most challenging circumstances.

Throughout the pandemic, we have taken a person-centred flexible approach to support individual customers and team members. Our board meetings continued, and we managed Covid-19 through a business continuity process. We have proudly demonstrated resilience and strength while upholding and working collaboratively and innovatively in line with our Group vision and values.

We owe great thanks to our teams, who have worked throughout the pandemic to keep services running and serve all our customers. 

How we supported our employees

Thank you We gave a special one-time thank you recognition payment to all employees who have been with the organisation throughout the pandemic and created an employee 'thank you' video shown at our first virtual colleague conference.

Health and safety Ensuring the health and safety of our customers and employees remains our top priority. All our employees receive comprehensive health benefits starting from day one of their employment. This year we invested £221,000 in Covid-19 related initiatives and additional safety measures to help keep our employees safe, healthy, and supported. We also increased sick pay for employees diagnosed with Covid-19 or placed into quarantine.

Wellbeing supportIt is imperative that our employees feel emotionally supported and have access to vital wellbeing services and resources during this time. We have created an intranet wellbeing and information hub and produced hundreds of resources to support mental, emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing. We provided wellbeing workshops, resilience training, meditation and yoga, and coaching sessions. At the height of the pandemic, we gifted all employees two extra days of paid leave to enable rest and recuperation. In partnership with our charity, Key, we also launched temporary emotional health and wellbeing services to further complement our existing support offer.

Our Digital Services Team worked around the clock to facilitate hundreds of employees working and delivering services from home.

Flexible and homeworking We introduced further flexibility in our working arrangements for those with caring responsibilities to manage their family responsibilities alongside their role effectively. Our Digital Services Team worked around the clock to facilitate hundreds of employees working and delivering services from home, transforming us into a virtual working environment overnight.

Incident Support Team We created an Incident Support Team to strategically manage and coordinate the Group's resources, including redirecting and redeploying colleagues, skills, vehicles, and funding to those services that our vulnerable customers most needed.

New recruitsWe continued to recruit new colleagues and welcome new apprentices during the pandemic, adjusting our recruitment, selection and induction practices as necessary to accommodate the circumstances.

Supporting colleagues fundraising Our charity budget supported 15 colleague fundraisers with matched funding of £7,617.

We completed 2,086 emergency repairs and 3,474 essential safety checks such as gas servicing and electrical testing.

How we supported our customers

Here to Help Our 'Here to Help' service was established for tenants to access any help or support they needed during this uncertain period, including delivering food parcels, essentials, and medicines. Since the start of the pandemic, we have made over 100,000 welfare calls to tenants.

Supporting tenants facing financial challenges To help tenants facing financial hardship due to the pandemic, we amended our usual arrears procedures. We helped 696 tenants with income and benefits advice and secured over £196,000 of additional income for them.

Essential repairs and safety checksOur Property Services Team continued to deliver vital services during the restrictions, including 2,086 emergency repairs and 3,474 essential safety checks such as gas servicing and electrical testing. The team undertook 1,639 asbestos surveys and inspections, fire risk assessments, and related work and water hygiene checks to keep customers and homes safe (the figures quoted are from 23 March 2020 to 31 March 2021).

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.

The pandemic has particularly impacted people with learning disabilities and autism.

Urgent support for those at risk We continued to support those in urgent need of accommodation by keeping our refuges open and preventing 320 people from becoming homeless who were at risk of doing so.

We set up additional services, including a text helpline, website, and live chat for women facing domestic abuse, to provide safer options to contact us during the lockdown. We collaborated with Boots to help provide urgent refuge for women at risk of domestic violence.

We received £23,858 from Lancashire County Council to help with additional costs in reducing the spread of Covid-19 within our homeless and refuge accommodation. This enabled us to supply our tenants with PPE to keep them safe and provide regular deep cleans of the accommodation.

Supported living customers The pandemic has particularly impacted people with learning disabilities and autism. We provided deep cleans at properties where a Covid-19 infection was confirmed. We regularly checked in with our care provider partners to keep both tenants and care staff updated on all government guidance.

Artlink West Yorkshire received funding through our Community Investment Fund for their Creative Toolkits project. This enabled them to continue to work with our Leeds-based supported living tenants remotely throughout the pandemic. The tenants received their creative toolkits at home and watched videos made by the artists to guide them through each kit. It has been a unique chance for our tenants to have fun and develop artistic skills at a time of such uncertainty and change.

The Base Community Centre operated a takeaway café and delivered over 700 food parcels.

Key Unlocking Futures Key Unlocking Futures supported over 1,600 people and prevented over 300 cases of homelessness, as well as helping people through The Base Community Centre that has operated a takeaway café, delivered over 700 food parcels and set up a community shop to offer a sustainable supply of high quality, low-cost food.

Progress Futures We continued to support people through Progress Futures, particularly those who had lost their jobs. We secured funding as part of the More Positive Together partnership programme for two more years.

Progress Lifeline Progress Lifeline was one of the few telecare providers in the UK to maintain full services, keeping over 50,000 vulnerable customers safe. We modified our services to ensure we could continue delivering services to our existing and new customers. We worked closely with health and social care to support the increased demands on services. We made over 3,000 calls to our most vulnerable customers to check their welfare. We also transferred over 1,000 new customers.

Tackling isolation and loneliness Our involvement activities went virtual to combat isolation, including a garden competition, VE Day celebrations, and keep-fit classes. We ran regular digital social media campaigns to share messages of wellbeing and support. We engaged in fundraising for craft and activity kits. We installed Wi-Fi at our young people homelessness schemes to help tenants keep connected and engaged.

Emergency Fund We launched our Emergency Fund, which awarded over £17,365 to community projects and charities helping people impacted by Covid-19. (1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021).

PPE support We sourced and donated vital personal protective equipment (PPE) to key workers at St Catherine's Hospital, Bolton Hospital, care homes, schools, and prisons in the face of shortages.

Food and essentials We supported local councils to deliver food, essentials, and prescriptions to tenants and residents.

Other achievements

  • We achieved 100% gas compliance despite very challenging circumstances
  • We completed 75 neighbourhood walkabouts, 1,162 communal inspections, 271 new tenant visits, and resolved 1,335 housing management cases
  • We managed over 600 anti-social behaviour cases
  • We let over 550 properties, completed 90 new homes, and sold Concert Living homes at Edward Gardens
  • Installed 115 new doors, 100 bathrooms, and 84 kitchens during lockdown


Article December 2020