25 March 2020 Coronavirus update from Wheatley Group Chief Executive Martin Armstrong

Coronavirus update from Wheatley Group Chief Executive Martin Armstrong

25 March 2020

I am keen to update you on how Wheatley is managing the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on customers and staff, and to underline our continuing commitment to work in close partnership with Scottish Government, local authorities and all of our other partners in supporting our communities through these extraordinary times.

For several weeks, we have taken - as you would expect - a wide range of urgent actions in line with NHS and Scottish Government guidance. This has ranged from suspending all non-essential travel and meetings to securing and issuing frontline staff with protective equipment.

Last Thursday we introduced a new service model for our housing, care and property management subsidiaries. This will see us provide a restricted range of services, with an over-riding priority to ensure tenants and the people we work for in care remain safe and secure, whilst safeguarding the welfare and wellbeing of our staff.

As a result, our housing offices are closed and housing staff are working from home. In care, we are continuing to provide on-site support in our accommodation-based services, while the people we work for in through outreach are being supported remotely by telephone. Again, where practicable, staff are working from home.

All new working arrangements are focused on providing essential services, supported by comprehensive, clear and constant communications to customers and staff. Our key message is “we are here for you”, but stressing and explaining we are only able, in these exceptional circumstances, to provide a restricted range of services. In doing so, we have

  • fully equipped staff to work from home and although home visits are suspended, housing officers are remaining in close contact with tenants by telephone, email and text;
  • restricted repairs and maintenance to emergency and essential services only;
  • urged all tenants to let us know if, through being ill or self-isolating, they are finding it difficult to pay rent;
  • ensured all appointments with welfare benefits and fuel advisors are fulfilled by phone;
  • prioritised the work of Neighbourhood Environmental Teams to focus on essential services, such as fire-safety patrols and cleaning in multi-storeys and bulk uplifts;.
  • created local Rapid Response teams to handle priority requests;
  • and ensured our EatWell service continues to target vulnerable tenants in need of emergency food provisions.

On homelessness, we recognise the significant challenge all local authorities face in fulfilling their statutory duty to the homeless, as well as the greater risk the Coronavirus poses homeless people. Our staff have been in contact with their council counterparts already to discuss all appropriate actions going forward.

Wheatley is forced by the crisis to suspend allocations across its housing stock from the end of this week. However, we will offer all future empty properties for use as temporary accommodation until the crisis is alleviated.

On a wider note, I am keen to assure you all Wheatley directors, managers and staff will continue to work closely with all partner organisations to mitigate the worst effects of Coronavirus. I am sure that by working together we can support our communities to come through this crisis.

If you would like to pick up any issues with me personally, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely

Martin Armstrong,

Group Chief Executive Officer