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Coronavirus update from Wheatley Group Chief Executive Martin Armstrong

10 September 2020

I hope you and your family are well.

Wheatley is continuing to do all we can - adhering strictly to Scottish Government health-and-safety guidance - to support the people we work for across central and south Scotland.

Their wellbeing, and that of Wheatley staff out and about in our communities and all those working from home, remains our unwavering, number-one priority.

In recent weeks, we’ve begun re-introducing several services suspended at different stages of lockdown. By responding quickly and decisively to changes in government policy and guidance as they’re announced, I hope we’re proving how agile, flexible and deep rooted we are in our neighbourhoods.

  • Our offices

These remain closed, with all office-based staff being supported and equipped to work from home.  Housing officers are in regular touch with tenants by phone, email and online, supported 24/7 by customer service advisors, also working from home.

By way of example, frontline staff at Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) alone have made over 155,000 calls to tenants since lockdown began on everything from the full range of wraparound services we’re continuing to provide to help and advice on paying rent. A further 67,000 welfare checks have been made by telephone at GHA. At Dunedin Canmore they have made over 10,800 calls to tenants since lockdown began and made a further 3739  welfare checks by telephone. At DGHP, staff have had over 38,000 contacts with tenants during lockdown.

  • Environmental services

Our Neighbourhood Environmental Teams (NETs) have been prioritising essential services, such as cleaning in multi-storey blocks, bulk uplifts and safety patrols. A phased return of all NETs services will begin on Monday, September 14.

  • Letting

This has resumed and we’re allocating homes to different groups of applicants with the highest housing need.

  • Repairs

Currently, we can only carry out emergency and essential repairs, along with gas safety checks and servicing. Everything possible is done to protect both customers and staff through strict adherence to health-and-safety practices and the use of the appropriate PPE.

  • Wheatley Care

Full on-site support is continuing in accommodation-based services. Whenever possible, the people we work for through outreach services are supported by telephone.

  • House building

Our ambitious new-build programme, comprising 4000 homes over the next five years, re-started in June on 24 sites across the country, seven of which have been completed. We see being named - for the fourth year running - the UK’s largest builder of social-rented homes as a badge of honour.

  • EatWell / Home Comforts

Our hugely-expanded emergency food service, operated by Wheatley Foundation, has delivered almost 28,000 packages to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the country. As you might imagine, there is huge demand for the good-quality furniture and white goods supplied free to vulnerable households by our Home Comforts service, which has now re-started.

  • Emergency Response Fund

Set up to alleviate hardship and isolation during the pandemic, this fund has supported more than 4000 Wheatley households to date. This has included providing everything from cookers, fridges and microwaves to mobile phone and fuel top-us and family activity packs.

  • Graduate programme

Ignite is a two-year graduate traineeship, which is the biggest of its kind in Scotland and was launched a year ago by Jamie Hepburn MSP, Scottish Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills.

Twenty-two graduates were recruited in 2019 and 14 more this year. The housing and business graduates receive:

  • on-the-job training and development;
  • opportunities for further study and qualifications;
  • mentoring support to build a successful career;
  • and an excellent salary and benefits package.

The aim is to attract talented, ambitious graduates who share our social purpose and ethos and have a strong desire to “Making Homes and Lives Better”. It’s an important aspect of the “Wheatley Way”, i.e. learning and development that grows new talent and identifies and nurtures future leaders of Wheatley and the sectors it operates in.

  • Bursaries

The Foundation has increased the number of bursaries it’s offering this year from 50 to 80. Recipients receive £3000 over two years towards further-education costs. This takes the bursaries awarded over the past three years to 230.

  • Tackling homelessness

More than 400 empty homes have been handed over to local authorities as temporary accommodation for the homeless. We’ve provided already half of the 300 homes we pledged to Housing First, the multi-agency partnership set up to tackle rough sleeping. In addition, we’ve “flipped” 29 temporary furnished homes, turning them into permanent homes for the homeless people living in them. Thirty more are in the process of being “flipped”.

Take a look at our video HERE, which charts our ongoing response to the pandemic, through the eyes and in the words of our wonderful staff. If you’d like any more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Martin

Chief Executive

Wheatley Group

To read my message, please go to Coronavirus update 3 April.


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