Coronavirus updates

Below you will find all of Grand Union's updates on coronavirus
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Update - Friday 17 July



We’re really proud of the work our teams have been doing since the crisis began, and while more and more lockdown restrictions are being lifted, bringing with them a sense of normality, there are still those who have been really affected by coronavirus.

While we are a landlord, it’s also key to note that we provide a range of support services, and these have been critical for a number of customers in the past few months.

Since April, our Financial Inclusion team has helped customers receive over £1m of extra income, ensuring that they’re receiving the money and benefits they are entitled to. This ranges from ensuring people are on the right benefits, to challenging decisions made about peoples’ benefits and even representing them at appeal tribunals.

Understandably we’ve seen a number of customers struggle to pay their rent during the crisis, which is why back in March we brought in our rent repayment periods and established a dedicated Rent Support team. They’re working hard alongside Financial Inclusion team and other in-house support services to help customers in whatever way we can.

Our Repairs team is now fully operational and will have completed the backlog of jobs in the coming weeks. If you have any routine repairs you need to let us know about, you can, by logging them on our website via this form, or calling us on 0300 123 5544.

In other good news, we’ve reopened all of the communal lounges in our Extra Care schemes, as well as the majority of lounges in our over 55’s schemes. For the time being, these are only available for customers living at our schemes, but we hope the wider community will be able to benefit from using them again soon.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has completed surveys for us recently. We’re really pleased that so many of you have taken time out of your days to help us. Certainly, the most recent survey helped us gain a better understanding of your lockdown experience and we were really pleased that 85% of customers who responded have found the information we’ve provided recently useful.

We’ll continue to post updates here, so keep checking back regularly. Alternatively, you can also follow us on Facebook where we also post the updates as well as other useful content. You can find us at www.facebook.com/GrandUnionHousing/.

We're still here to help

We know that a number of people are still struggling through this crisis, which is why we want to remind you that we’re still here to help and have been since the start.

Whether that’s with money or benefits advice, employability support, your wellbeing, tenancy support or anything else, we can offer help, advice and guidance.

As you can see, since March, we’ve been helping a number of customers.

So if you need us, please get in touch.

Gas safety checks

Gas safety checks are an essential part of maintaining your home and keeping you safe.

That’s why it’s really important you let us into your homes to do this annual check.

Our team is able to perform gas safety checks fully in line with government guidance, as you can see in this video.

Repairs and maintenance update

We’re making great progress on completing the backlog of repairs that were paused during lockdown.

In early July we’ll be starting on new routine repairs, so you can book these now by completing this online form or calling 0300 123 5544.

Repairs and maintenance

Since our last update, we’ve been working hard to get through the backlog 1,800 non-urgent jobs that we put on hold when we went into lockdown.

So far, we’ve completed 90 of these jobs and have appointments made for 1,475 further jobs, meaning we are on track to have the majority finished by the end of June.

If you logged a repair before lockdown, we’ll be contacting you to find a suitable time to complete these.

This will allow us to recommence routine repairs from the beginning of July, meaning you can log new routine repairs from Monday 15 June. This can be done online or by calling us on 0300 123 5544.

Elsewhere, from next week we will also be starting kitchen and bathroom surveys. Our contractors for both of these are still furloughing their teams, so installation of new kitchens and bathrooms may not begin until mid to late July.

Next week we’re also starting external works, accessibility works and window and door replacements. From July we will also start electrical testing in occupied properties. Our hope is that by August this service will be fully operational.

Thanks again to everyone who has supported our teams by social distancing whilst they have been undertaking repairs and maintenance in your homes.

Boiler servicing

Don’t forget that gas safety checks are an essential part of maintaining your home and keeping you safe.

Our team is able to perform gas safety checks fully in line with government guidance.

It’s really important you let us into your homes to do this annual check. However, we know some people may be self-isolating because you or a family member has Covid-19 symptoms.

If that is the case, please let us know and we will rearrange the appointment to take place after your isolation has ended.

If you are shielding because the NHS has written to you then we will assess the risk to you and your family and discuss a plan with you as to how we can safely carry out the check. Where the check cannot go ahead, we will provide you with a separate Carbon Monoxide alarm as an additional safety measure so you can feel safe and secure in your homes.

Lettings and mutual exchanges

From Monday 15 June, Central Beds Council (CBC) will re‐open the Choice Based Lettings system for 30% of available properties in the CBC area. Please check the Bedfordshire Homefinder website for details of any properties available: www.bedfordshirehomefinder.co.uk

The other 70% of available properties will be let via direct let/nominations from Central Beds Council. This is to ensure that those with an essential and urgent need to move are prioritised.

Your safety and wellbeing and that of our colleagues remains our priority so we will continue to do our best to let properties in the safest way possible. This may mean special arrangements for viewing properties and signing tenancies to maintain social distancing. 

Individual landlords will advise successful bidders of any special arrangements over viewings and sign up. There may also be delays in letting some properties to avoid unnecessary risk.

The Bedfordshire Homefinder website will keep you updated about any changes to procedures so please do keep an eye on the website over the coming weeks and months.

We are still waiting to hear about arrangements with other local authorities as we start to come out of lockdown.

Some other good news, we will also start to process mutual exchanges again from 15 June, subject to the other landlords’ position on exchanges.

Supporting customers

We continue to support customers whose incomes have been affected by coronavirus and have been contacting them all to review their circumstances and discuss future payment plans.

If you have been affected financially and haven’t been in touch with us, you can find out how we can help on our dedicated web page.

Other changes

Elsewhere we have reopened communal gardens at our over 55s schemes. This space will be able for customers at the schemes to use while still socially distancing.

The communal lounges remain closed though as we consider this to still be a risk. We hope to open them once lockdown is relaxed further and will of course let customers in the schemes know when things change.

Earlier this week the Minister of State for Housing, Rt Hon Christopher Pincher, wrote a letter in response to the Prime Minister announcement on 10 May on the steps the Government is taking to ease the lockdown. This letter is available here and we wanted to explain in more detail what this means for you.

Keeping you safe

Your safety, and the safety of our colleagues, has always been our top priority during this crisis which is why we have continued to provide an urgent and emergency repairs service and undertake essential checks that keep you safe.

We have also continued to carry out maintenance works to empty homes throughout lockdown to provide much needed homes for homeless families and have continued to maintain estates and open spaces as we know how important these have been to you during this difficult time.

Over the last couple of weeks, you will have started to see more Grand Union vans, and those of our contractors, in your area as we have been undertaking more routine maintenance to external areas.

As the Government looks to reopen society, we are now putting in place our plans to recommence our normal repairs service, though you will appreciate that things remain far from normal.

When we went into lockdown we had around 1,800 non-urgent jobs that we put on hold, and so we are beginning to contact customers to agree a time to come and complete these. We hope to complete these by the end of June. You don’t need to contact us about an existing repair that was logged prior to lockdown – we’ll contact you.

This means that from July we are aiming to have slots available for new repairs and we hope to be able to take repairs requests from you from the third week of June. We will of course keep you updated and as always the easiest way to do this is through your My.GUHG account. Once you've done this, one of the team will contact you when our backlog of repairs is cleared.

All of our team have access to hand wash facilities, hand sanitiser and personal protective equipment. In addition, we have produced a guide to visiting customers so we can do this in accordance with Public Health guidelines.

Gas safety checks

Gas safety checks are an essential part of maintaining your home and keeping you safe. With the above guidance in place and protective equipment for all operatives, these checks will continue, and you must give access. If you are self-isolating because you or a family member has Covid-19 symptoms, then let us know and we will rearrange the appointment to take place after your isolation has ended.

If you are shielding because the NHS has written to you then we will assess the risk to you and your family and discuss a plan with you as to how we can safely carry out the check. Where the check cannot go ahead, we will provide you with a separate Carbon Monoxide alarm as an additional safety measure so you can feel safe and secure in your homes.

Supporting you

We’re still here to support you if you’re still struggling.

Key services to you, such as money advice, welfare benefits advice and our dedicated Rent Support team can offer you help, support and guidance if you’ve been affected financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rent Support team are working with everyone who has contacted them to see if additional support is needed around employment and benefits. They’re also working with customers who have taken up our periods of rent payment flexibility and are now starting to work with those who have returned to work to set up suitable repayment plans. We will be assessing each case on an individual need basis though. You can read more about this in our previous update from Tuesday 19 May.

Our teams have called every Grand Union customer over 70, all 1,900 of them, to check they’re ok and we’ve had some great feedback from this, which the team really appreciated.

Elsewhere, we’re still working with local authorities, agencies, organisations and local charities in whatever way we can. One of these is a Community Larder scheme where we’ve helped them deliver thousands of food boxes to people in need.

We will keep you updated with any more changes to our services, but for now, enjoy your weekend and stay safe.

In the past two months, a number of you have worked with us to reduce your rental payments, taking advantage of a period of ‘rent payment flexibility’ for those encountering financial difficulties due to Coronavirus.

As this two-month period comes to an end, we need to start reviewing customers’ rent payments.

For those who are about to or have already returned to work, we’ll work with you to set up suitable repayment plans.

If you’re still struggling though, we will look at how we can help.

We know this has been and continues to be a difficult time for many, so we want to once again reassure you that we will not charge any interest or any fees for arrangements entered into and we will not take action against anyone working with us if they fall into arrears.

We're still here to help and can offer support and advice to those affected by the current crisis.



Wellbeing - Maintaining wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak