The view from: whg

Apr 1, 2020

Over the last two weeks, we’ve been speaking with numerous housing associations about their response to the Covid-19 crisis. We wanted to share some of their experiences, so will be starting a blog series called, The view from. The first in the series comes from Julie Haywood, Director of Community Investment at whg, who are based in Walsall.

We have identified more than 4,000 customers aged 70 or over who may need additional support during the Covid-19 crisis. A number of them live in our Wellbeing Schemes but many live out in the community in general needs housing.

We wanted to make sure they had support and could meet their own physical needs, such as food and warmth. Mobilising our resources, we agreed we would contact all 4,000 customers and gave ourselves five days to complete this mammoth task.

Colleagues from teams across the business volunteered to help contact customers, and we developed a simple, single script to ensure messaging was consistent. Each volunteer had 65 people to contact, and from these calls we RAG rated each customer. This flagged up anyone who was particularly vulnerable and meant we could refer those who were in particular crisis to the community support hubs that Walsall Council had established.

We’re working with Walsall Council which is more effective than us working on our own. We’ve helped to create virtual project teams behind each of these four hubs, with a dedicated contact for each one. So far we’ve referred 300 customers who need urgent support from the Community hubs.

We’ve also joined forces with Walsall Council to look at how we can support those struggling with food provision. Although food banks are currently managing stock levels, face to face customer contact is reducing. We have been helping to support deliveries of food and medicine to particular vulnerable residents, pulling in resources from our Asset Management teams who have been out in their vans supporting deliveries.

One of the issues we’ve had is around volunteers. It’s not possible to get DBS checks done quickly enough at the moment, so we’re coordinating with the local police who are able to run PNC checks instead for volunteers coming forward.

The other area of our work we’ve been focusing on has been employment, as there have been lots of new jobs coming onto the market, particularly in retail. We had our annual jobs fair at the beginning of March, so have data on 600-700 customers who are looking for work. Now we’re connecting them virtually with these new job opportunities.

Next week, we’ll be broadening our outreach work out to other groups we know could be particularly vulnerable at this time. These include those in the 60-70-year-old age bracket, customers who have an NST for rent arrears, and those who have taken part in our holiday hunger programme.

Together, we’ve made huge steps in helping thousands of vulnerable people across Walsall feel a little less worried, and a little less isolated. Of course, it’s easier when your stock isn’t too dispersed, but nonetheless, we’re proud of the impact the whole organisation has made so far.

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