As you can imagine Lancashire Mind has had a busy few months having to adjust since the government imposed lockdown on 23rd March. The tenancy team have had to adapt very quickly, to respond to any issues, we face, so that we could continue giving tenants in our supported housing service the support they need.
When the lockdown was introduced, the team worked in partnership with multiple agencies including local Councils, Mental Health Teams, the Probation service and of course our landlords to support the homeless and people with poor mental health to keep them safe during the pandemic.
Our top priority was to ensure that safety measures were in place to safeguard our tenants and staff members. We put together a contingency plan in place to cover all eventualities such as staff shortages and a reduced support service.
Previously, the tenancy team would have carried out face-to-face visits, but this was replaced with telephone conversations since the lockdown so that the tenants continue getting the support needed.
The tenancy team carry out daily phone calls to all tenants, to check on their welfare and if they need any assistance or support. We also arrange food parcels for those in need, so that they maintain their nutrition and stay healthy, whilst staying safe indoors.
We are working in partnership with specialist services to ensure our tenants receive the specialist health care and medication they need to stay safe, which I think really highlights the great relationships that we have with partner agencies.
At times during the lockdown, the tenancy team have had to deal with some very challenging situations with tenants. On these occasions, where there is an urgent need to visit the tenant, the team have worn the correct PPE and adhered to the social distancing rules. Visits have been outside the tenants’ home (we are lucky that most of our properties have gardens!) so that the tenants always feel comfortable.
Using these measures, the team have been able to support the tenant to resolve their issues, reduce any fears and anxiety and get them back on track through intervention with partner agencies.
As for our landlords, they have been under pressure to find ways to maintain standards throughout the pandemic, especially with repairs and maintenance. Some have started using new technologies and processes which they will continue to use in the future. This has supported the need to maintain standards in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, given the ongoing importance of providing safe and secure homes.
Everyone is conscious of social distancing and with distancing rules still in force, repairs and maintenance teams are evaluating how they can work differently and avoid entering tenants’ homes where possible. Understandably, many are nervous of contractors entering their properties – something that is likely to continue for months to come.
To be compliant, the tenancy team and our landlords must balance the risks and ask tenants to work with them. To reassure tenants that safety is a priority, good communication is vital to make sure everyone is comfortable.
Some quick fixes may be available to mitigate some of these challenges, such as ensuring that IT is up to date, using video calling with tenants and partner agencies and having regular supervision and team meetings with those working remotely.
However, the most problematic may be the lack of adequate separation between work and home. This could disproportionately affect the most conscientious employees and risk burnout, by failing to take breaks throughout the day and working too many hours.
This message is particularly relevant now, as the country is beginning to come out of lockdown and working towards post-crisis recovery.