Social housing sector coping with operational challenges from coronavirus

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The Regulator of Social Housing has today (7 May) published the results of its new monthly survey of housing associations and local authorities about how they are coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

The social housing sector is generally reporting that it is still managing to maintain service delivery for emergency repairs and key health and safety checks despite the impact of coronavirus.

Providers responsible for care and support settings are reporting that they can currently maintain safe staffing levels and essential services. They highlight concerns about their ability to maintain safe staffing levels where there are outbreaks of coronavirus in the care setting itself, particularly where staff need to self isolate or due to illness, including anxiety and stress.

Social housing landlords’ survey responses describe a sector coping with the current considerable challenges. They report that they have, on the whole, been able to access PPE, but supply and continuity is highly uncertain and they have concerns about the supply chain for other materials. Emergency repairs are being maintained, but backlogs of routine repairs and less critical safety checks are building up. Landlords also face challenges in carrying out safety checks where tenants need to shield themselves from the virus or are more generally afraid of providing access.

Rising to meet these challenges, housing associations and local authorities are redeploying staff, in some cases identifying new contractors and suppliers, and contacting more tenants by phone and by text, particularly tenants who are vulnerable.

Fiona MacGregor, Chief Executive says:

Social housing landlords have a key role in keeping tenants safe in their homes. Ensuring safe staffing levels and completing emergency repairs and vital safety checks are fundamental to tenant safety. The coronavirus outbreak makes this even more important as everyone spends more time at home and vulnerable households have to self-isolate, at the same time as presenting significant operational challenges for housing associations and local authorities.

We are pleased to see from our first cross-sector survey that social housing providers are generally coping well in maintaining essential operations in the face of the impacts of the virus and finding solutions to their most pressing challenges. This is testament to the hard work and agility of providers and their staff in prioritising tenant safety at this time.

Notes

  1. The short survey asked providers to answer a single multiple-choice question on each of five key areas: emergency repairs; statutory gas safety checks; statutory fire safety checks; asbestos, electrical, legionella and lift checks; and care and support staffing levels. For each area it also asked them to identify any key constraints, risks and mitigating actions and the scale of any backlog.
  2. The survey and supporting guidance were made available for providers to complete on RSH’s online data collection portal NROSH+ from Friday 17 to Friday 24 April. It was issued to all private registered providers with 1,000 or more properties, local authorities, and to some smaller private registered providers with over 500 properties and/or a high proportion of care and support activity. The next round of the survey will take place between 15 May and 22 May.
  3. We intend to run the survey monthly for as long as is necessary and will keep the frequency under review. However, where providers believe tenant safety is threatened or viability is under strain, we urge them to inform RSH immediately through their key contact at the regulator, or our

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