Coronavirus update from Wheatley Group Chief Executive Martin Armstrong - 12 January 2021

Stakeholder update from Wheatley Group Chief Executive Martin Armstrong

12 January 2021

Happy New Year. Let’s hope, as 2021 progresses, it becomes a better one than the year past.

The fact is, however, that although the vaccination programme underway offers us all as a way out of this awful pandemic, there are huge challenges ahead in this (we hope) final stage of the battle against Covid. The demands on organisations like Wheatley to date have been considerable and will continue to be so in the weeks and months ahead. But at least there is now light ahead: a world in which a form of normality is within reach.

Until then, Wheatley will continue to do what we do best: provide the highest level of services possible. Going forward, this will be within the tougher restrictions imposed at the start of the year by Scottish Government to tackle the more virulent form of Covid, which is 70% more transmissible than the original. How this impacts on our services is summarised (below) for your information.

A safety-first repairs and maintenance service will continue as follows, with tradespeople only going into houses to:

  • carry out utility (electricity, gas, water, telephone, broadband) safety checks and essential repairs, maintenance and installations;
  • and do repairs and maintenance that otherwise would threaten health and safety.

We’ll continue to prioritise all fire-safety-related repairs and other key services, including delivery of vital goods and shopping; installation, delivery and repair of essential household furniture and appliances (washing machines, fridges and cookers, etc.); and support, such as furniture removal, for a home move.

Staff will receive a list of what constitutes essential work, but will use their judgement on what can be done safely, taking into account customers’ individual circumstances.

Letting and home moves, including viewing properties, will continue with a focus on supporting homeless people. Stair and close cleaning will be paused. The more transmissible variant of the virus increases risk to both staff and customers in often narrow closes and stairwells and, as it is not essential maintenance, routine cleaning will be suspended outwith multi-storey flats. Mobile teams will respond to urgent issues, such as blood spillages.

Face-to-face and home visits will continue across housing and care, but only where possible and permissible. Staff will continue to provide services by phone, with in-person support only when a vulnerable person’s wellbeing is at risk, e.g. where there are serious mental health concerns, anti-social behaviour or domestic abuse issues and support can’t be delivered remotely.

Care services continue to operate at between 90-100% of contracted hours. To maintain compliance, in-person training will be held where it can’t be done online. Wheatley Care is liaising with five health boards on their individual timescales, priorities and practicalities for their vaccination programmes. Care home staff in Glasgow and Stirling have been vaccinated, with a vaccination programme for the people we work for being finalised over the next three weeks. Staff outwith care homes in Forth Valley and Lothian have started making appointments with their local health boards and liaison is ongoing with Lanarkshire, Glasgow and Fife.

Our Emergency Response Fund is again supporting people and families in need. Our hugely-expanded EatWell emergency food service delivered almost 15,500 Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda vouchers in the lead-up to Christmas and will continue to support households in hardship, primarily through the distribution of vouchers, with food packages being delivered to those unable to visit a supermarket. You can read more about the support we have provided for our communities through our charitable trust the Wheatley Foundation here.

Capital investment critical in terms of health and safety, such as gas, water or fire safety (including installation of smoke and heat detectors), will continue. Non-essential internal investment work is suspended. External capital work, including environmental, will continue with staff and (in the case of Dumfries and Galloway) contractors adhering strictly to health-and-safety guidance and using the appropriate PPE.

Our ambitious construction programme, providing over 1000 much-needed new homes on 20 sites ranging from Dumfries and Galloway, Edinburgh and the Lothians to Falkirk, Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire has resumed (weather permitting), with contractors following the wide-ranging safety protocols agreed with Scottish Government. Almost 400 new homes have been completed in this financial year to date.

I hope you had a good break over the festive period and feel ready to face the challenges of 2021. If you want more information or would like to discuss any matter, please get in touch.