Coronavirus Update

We’re continually reviewing the impact Coronavirus (COVID-19) might have on our business. We’ll update our website with the latest information regarding any changes to our services or processes should changes be needed. 

Read the personal note from our CEO Sinéad Butters 

Temporary stop on some services due to coronavirus

Temporary stop on some services due to coronavirus

To protect you and our colleagues and in line with the latest government advice, we have temporarily stopped allocating and letting homes, estate management (grass cutting, communal cleaning and scheme walkabouts), work on new development sites, and asbestos checks to garages.

We're sorry for any inconvenience caused however your safety and the safety of our colleagues is our priority.

Change in our repairs service due to Coronavirus

Due to the coronavirus outbreak we’re now only carrying out emergency repairs and annual gas service and electricity checks. We’re sorry to disrupt our normal service however we must do this to protect you and our colleagues from the risk of spreading coronavirus. We'll also be wearing gloves and masks to futher protect you and our colleagues on our visit, if you are self isolating.

Your safety and our colleague’s safety are of most importance to us. Gas and electricity checks are mandatory for us to ensure your homes are safe for you, that’s why we’re prioritising those visits, and we’re taking the appropriate measures to keep you and our colleagues safe when we carry these out.

We’re also prioritising emergency repairs. An emergency repair is:

  • Total loss of power
  • Communal lights not working
  • Insecure properties
  • No hot water
  • Blocked toilet or drain
  • No heating
  • Fire alarm failure
  • Structural issues to property causing safety concern
  • Uncontrollable water leak
  • Failure of door entry system

These repairs will keep you safe in your home during an emergency.

We’re sorry that we can’t currently take bookings for non-emergency repairs. We understand this is going to be inconvenient; each week we usually carry out about 450 repairs. However, we’re following Government advice to minimise contact to reduce the spread of the virus and we’re diverting all of our available resources to annual gas and electricity checks and emergency repairs, when people need it most.

If you have a non-emergency repair booked in the next few weeks, we will be contacting you to cancel the booking and rearrange an appointment at a time to suit you.

As soon as we can resume our usual repairs service we will do, and we will update you via our telephone message, on our website, on social media and via email.

We are here to support you and answer any questions you have – please contact us via live web chat or call us on 01782 635200.

Customer advice

I am self-isolating or shielding, do I need to let you in for an emergency appointment?

We have a duty of care to keep you safe in your home. If you are self-isolating or shielding we may still need to visit you, for example to carry out gas and electricity checks or essential visits to keep you safe. 

We will only visit your home in an emergency situation where we must for your safety, and it's really important in these instances you give us access to complete the emergency works.

How are you keeping me safe when you visit?

We have put in place new procedures with our colleagues when they do visit, to
keep themselves and you safe;

• They’ll keep 2 metres distance
• Wear suitable safety equipment (PPE) where necessary

If you’re self-isolating or have symptoms of COVID-19, we will ask you and anyone else in your home to stay in another room whilst the work takes place.
Please, help us to keep you safe.

Do I need to tell you if I am self-isolating or have been infected with coronavirus?

Yes you do if you are expecting a visit from an Aspire Housing colleague or one of Aspire’s contractors you need to contact us.  

What will you do if I try to make an appointment or I already have an appointment?

We are now only carring out emergency repairs. If you already have an appointment for a non emergency repair we will contact you to cancel. We will ask you if you or anyone in your household is self-isolating at present or have been infected with coronavirus.  If you or someone in your household are self-isolating or have been infected with the coronavirus.

What advice do you have for over 70’s and those living in community living schemes?

Government advice at this time is to Stay at Home and to socially distance yourself from others. 

Non-essential visits to your home should not take place, if someone does need to visit then it’s really important that all visitors must wash their hands well following government guidelines. 

Remember to wash thoroughly for 20 seconds when they arrive and depart in the communal wash areas. 

Latest Government advice 

Government has new measures in place that require people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes. 

Every citizen must comply with these new measures, however it’s even more important if you: 

  • Are 70 or over 

  • Have a long-term condition 

  • Have a weakened immune system 

The relevant authorities, including the police, have been given the powers to enforce them including through fines and dispersing gatherings. These measures are effective immediately: 

  • Only go outside for food, health reasons, or work (but only if you cannot work from home) 

  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people 

  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home 

You can find the latest government advice here: www.gov.uk/coronavirus 

Get more support 

If you have a medical condition which makes you extremely vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19), register and tell the government whether or not you need support. Here’s some details that the government has published about their service. 

You may have received a letter from the NHS telling you that you’re clinically extremely vulnerable, or been contacted by your GP or hospital clinician. If this has not happened, contact your GP or clinician after you register with this service. 

Click here to register for this service. You can register yourself, or on behalf of someone else. 

It may take time for any support offered through this service to arrive. Wherever possible you should continue to ask for support from friends, family and us, to help you meet your needs. 

Stay home stay safe 

What matters most to us at this time is ensuring you feel you are receiving the right information at the right time and that the information is reassuring and helpful. Please raise your questions so we can keep you as up to date as possible. Your continued support during this time is greatly appreciated. If we feel that coronavirus could further impact our services to you, we will ensure you are kept informed of any changes. 

We will call you each week, where possible, to make sure you are safe. Or you can contact us directly on 01782 635200 or go chat with us live online at www.aspirehousing.co.uk

What should I do if my neighbour is infected?

As long as you are not in close contact, the risk should be minimal. NHS advice states that the virus can only survive a short time outside the body. Just make sure you wash your hands regularly and avoid close contact with anyone who is unwell.

If I am unwell in my house or flat, will you deep clean the property?

This won’t be necessary as the virus can only survive outside the body for a short time. As long as you follow any medical and Government guidance, remain isolated for as long as you are advised and avoid further contact with anyone who has the virus, the risks will be low.

Can I visit your offices?

We advise you to travel and meet our colleagues only if it’s essential, in line with Government advice. We recommend you contact us by phone, email and online via live web chat instead.

Our office at Castle House is temporarily closed. Here's some help with the services we usually host at Castle House:

Universal credit
If you need assistance claiming Universal Credit then Citizens Advice are continuing to provide the Help to Claim service over the phone or online Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm on 0800 144 8444 or www.citizensadvice.org.uk

Help paying rent/money advice
If you're having difficulty paying your rent or you'd like to talk to our Money Advice Team or Money Smart Families, please contact us on 01782 635200 and we will put you in touch with one of our advisors to help.

End your tenancy
If you'd like to end your tenancy please give us a call on 01782 635200 and we will take this over the phone.

New properties
We've now stopped advertising all of our vacant properties. However you can still visit Newcastle Housing Advice, go online to www.nhaoptions.co.uk.

If you have any other query please contact us either online or give us a call on 01782 635200

Are you planning to cancel any events?

All of our events and gatherings of any size have been cancelled or postponed for the next 12 weeks.

I'm worried how I can pay my rent - can you help?

Isolating and unable to work 

You'll get statutory sick pay (SSP) if you're considered unfit for work and you are usually entitled to it - check if you're entitled to SSP

It's worth checking your contract - your employer might pay you more than SSP when you're sick. 

If you're not sick but have been told to self-isolate and can't work from home, you should still get your contractual sick pay on top of SSP. 

Isolating and self-employed 

You can't get SSP if you're self-employed. 

If you have to take time off work and you don't get paid while you're off, you might be entitled to claim benefits. If you're already claiming benefits, you might get more money. 

If you already get benefits like Tax Credits or Housing Benefit, tell the office paying you that you can't work because you're sick. You might be entitled to more money while you're off work. 

If you're not claiming any benefits you might be entitled to claim Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit to top up your income. Check if you can claim ESACheck if you can claim Universal Credit

Self-employed and 80% of average profits

Click here for the latest information on the Income Support Scheme and Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Isolating and unable to attend job centre 

If you can't go to your appointment because you're ill or are following guidance to self-isolate, call the office paying your benefit. You'll need to explain why you can't go. 

If you're claiming Universal Credit, you'll need to use your online journal to explain why you can't go to your appointment. 

You can find out more about getting Universal Credit if you're sick

If you call the office paying your benefit or update your online journal, you won't be sanctioned if you don't go to your appointment. 

If you're already getting the benefit, you'll continue to get it if you have to cancel your appointment because of coronavirus. 

Lost job or wages reduced 

In most cases you may be able to claim Universal Credit unless you are already on Tax Credits and/or Housing Benefit and have children.

Universal Credit information here 

New Style Jobseekers – if paid enough NI contributions – click here 

Also find out more information if you have recently been furloughed https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/coronavirus-if-your-employer-has-told-you-not-to-work/

 

Need help to pay rent?

If already on Housing Benefit then report change to the council. 

If not on Housing Benefit, in most cases you could claim Universal Credit 

Universal Credit and benefit advance 

Click here for more info 

IMPORTANT – you must confirm the rent with Universal Credit before applying for an advance otherwise the rent element may not be included. 

Universal Credit – help to claim service 

Face to face surgeries have now ended.  You can only get help to claim by telephone and online only. Click here

What help can supermarkets offer?

Many supermarkets offer priority shopping to certain groups and have also brought significant restrictions, limiting shoppers to buying a certain number of the same item, restricting opening times and in some cases stopping accepting online orders altogether. Here is the latest on what supermarkets are doing.

Where my nearest Foodbank?

Find out more information here

No credit on electric and gas meter 

What to do here 

Need more help? 

Contact our Money Advice Team for any further support – call us on 01782 635200. 

The NHS has issued up-to-date medical advice on its website. For the latest information and guidance, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Supplier advice

Advice to our suppliers on coronavirus – 16th March 2020

The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers is our priority.

Whilst the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, we’ll regularly update our advice to you, as one of our suppliers, based on Government and Public Health England advice.

Please don’t be offended by our advice below; we are making these changes as we believe this will help protect them and yourselves from any potential spread of coronavirus.

Travel
We have advised colleagues that any travel to external companies be postponed unless business critical.

Meetings
We have recommended to colleagues that they work from home where possible and meetings with external contacts be held as virtual meetings or be postponed unless business critical.

Greeting people
In the event of an essential meeting we have advised our colleagues not to shake hands with people they are meeting. 

Events
All of our events and gatherings of any size have been cancelled or postponed for the next 12 weeks.

Our guidance
We are following Government and Public Health England advice, and the latest information can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

 

Contractor advice

The safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and customers is our priority.

Whilst the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) continues, we’ll regularly update our advice to you, as one of our contractors, based on Government and Public Health England advice.

Our customers
It is important that we don’t alarm our customers and that we manage communications and processes by following Government advice on how to stay safe by taking steps to prevent the risk of spreading.  You must contact us if you are considering different methodology to your normal practices so that we can discuss this prior to any implementation.

Appointment setting
The contact for your appointment will have been asked these two questions before the appointment was confirmed:

  1. Are you or anyone in your household self-isolating?
  2. Have you or anyone in your household been infected with the coronavirus?

We will only be visiting customers who answer yes to these questions if there is an emergency, i.e. an emergency repair and we have taken advice from Public Health England before a colleague or contractor visits the property.  If the situation turns out not to be an emergency the job will be rescheduled, and no one will be required to carry out the work.

At the appointment
You should reconfirm with the customer that their answers are ‘no’ to the following two questions, before entering the property.

  1. Are you or anyone in your household self-isolating?
  2. Have you or anyone in your household been infected with the coronavirus?

Should the customer answer yes to one of the questions, if it is a not an emergency appointment you should let the customer know that because the appointment is not an emergency, that it will be postponed until a future time when the risk of spreading coronavirus has gone. In this case you should encourage the customer to rearrange the appointment once they are well enough.

Emergency appointments where the customer has been advised to self-isolate or there is a confirmed case of coronavirus

There are some appointments that must take place even if someone in the property has been advised to self-isolate or has been infected with the coronavirus. However, you will be advised of this beforehand.  You will usually have been told the work is classed as an emergency before you attend and the customer will have been advised on what to do to protect you.

In this instance you should:

  1. Enter the property and request that the person who has been advised to self-isolate or is infected with coronavirus stays in a separate room to the one where the appointment is taking place, keeping 2 metres away from the person. Ideally the room that they are in will be well ventilated if possible and they should stay there until you have completed the work. Do not shake hands with the person.
  2. Ensure you have all the appropriate PPE in place to carry out the appointment safely such as latex gloves and a face mask covering both the mouth and nose.
  3. You can wear your normal PPE too.
  4. Wash or sanitise your hands regularly.
  5. Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  6. Avoid touching surfaces within the property where possible. If you touch things with the gloves on then the gloves may have Coronavirus on them. So, you still need to follow the hygiene precautions.
  7. Clean your work area after the job using disposable wipes and not a cloth/rag that you use repeatedly between washes.
  8. Wipe down your tools and equipment with the wipes provided once the job is finished and you leave the property. Dispose of the wipes and all PPE into a bag and tie the bag. Remember if you are wearing a dust mask to take it off by removing from the back. The bag can then go into the bin as normal.
  9. Not touch your nose, eyes and mouth until your hands are cleaned with soap and water or hand sanitiser gel / liquid.

Greeting people

We advise minimising contact with people, which means we recommend you don’t shake hands with people/customers you are meeting.  Please reassure customers not to be offended by this; we are recommending this as we believe this will help protect them and yourselves from any potential spread of coronavirus.

Our guidance
We are following Government and Public Health England advice, and the latest information can be found here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

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