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Coronavirus: Information for Residents

 

This page is being constantly updated as new information emerges. Please keep checking.

What changes have you made to your services following Government advice?

In summary, we have made the following changes:

We are encouraging all residents to register for ‘My English Rural‘ to ease pressure on our essential services. Here you can contact us, report repairs, feedback on repairs and check and pay your rent 24-hours a day.

We need you to tell us if you are self-isolating.

We are only able to respond to emergency repairs and essential gas safety checks.

Where possible, our contractors will only make essential home visits and will strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Following Government advice, our Surrey office is now open for staff who wish to return. A thorough risk assessment has taken place and guidelines have been put in place to ensure it is ‘Covid-19 Safe’. All other offices remain closed and the majority of our staff are continuing to work from home.

We are encouraging all residents to follow the latest advice from the Government and NHS.

How do I register for the online resident portal?

If you have not already done so, we would ask that you now sign-up to use the online resident portal. The portal offers a range of self-service options and will help to minimise calls during what is a busy and pressurised time.

It is quick and easy to sign up with a computer or smartphone. You just need a few details to hand. You can register using the following link – https://englishrural.org.uk/register.

If you need help, email us first on info@englishrural.org.uk or call us on 020 7820 7930 and we can register for you if you have a valid email address.

How do I tell English Rural if I am self-isolating?

Please let us know if you are self-isolating. You can now alert us via the resident portal in the ‘Contact Us’ section or you can email us on info@englishrural.org.uk or call us on 020 7820 7930. We have also introduced some extra protocols for staff, which mean they will ask you some further questions when you call. Please always be clear and honest in your response to these questions.

If you display any symptoms like those of the coronavirus you should follow guidance available from public authorities. The advice is subject to change and can be found on the NHS website.

The Government have also produced a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about social distancing and information on how to manage your mental health.

The Government has updated its guidance for people who are shielding taking into account that COVID-19 disease levels are substantially lower now than when shielding was first introduced. People who are shielding remain vulnerable and should continue to take precautions but can now leave their home if they wish, as long as they are able to maintain strict social distancing.

What should I do if I am worried about how I will pay my rent?

The Government has outlined measures to protect people’s wages with the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which sets out to cover up to 80% of the salary of retained workers up to a total of £2,500 a month (backdated to March 1st 2020). Check here to see if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Government is also increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance for the next 12 months, by £1,000 a year. The basic element of Working Tax Credit is increasing by £1,045 to £3,040 from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021. In addition, the Government is strengthening the safety net for self-employed people too, by suspending the minimum income floor for everyone affected by the economic impacts of coronavirus.

On the 26th March, the Chancellor announced that the Government will pay self-employed people adversely affected by the coronavirus with a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2,500 per month. If you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) you can apply for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme scheme.

The Government has also confirmed that a £500 million hardship fund will provide council tax relief for vulnerable households.

A voucher scheme has been launched by the Government for schools providing free school meals. Weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 will be issued to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus. You can also check if you can get Tax-Free Childcare and 30 hours free childcare during coronavirus.

If you are having any problems paying your rent, discuss these with your Regional Housing Manager who can offer further advice based on your circumstances. English Rural has a social purpose, and this means that we will understand and support you when you face financial challenges.

The rent setting policy applied by English Rural means that none of our rents are above the level at which you will be able to receive financial support from the Government. Claiming financial support from the Government can take time and the important thing is to start this as soon as your circumstances change. Contact your dedicated Regional Housing Manager if you are unsure about how to do this. They will be ready and willing to help you.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureau offers further advice if you can’t pay your bills because of coronavirus.

What’s happening with repairs, planned maintenance and gas safety checks?

The advice below follows the Government’s update on 10th May 2020 regarding steps to re-open society and support families in social housing. The Government acknowledges the safety, security and wellbeing of residents as a key priority.

English Rural intends to return to a normal repairs and maintenance service and support our maintenance contractors in their phased workforce return.

Maintenance and Repairs

Repairs services were prioritised on initial lockdown and reduction in contractor workforce capacity. As we see an ease in lockdown measures, we will be looking to reintroduce routine repair orders.

During the lockdown we have continued to raise, but not issue orders. This has naturally resulted in a backlog of non-essential repairs which may take longer than normal complete. However, please contact us if you do not hear from our contractors to arrange a convenient appointment.

Operatives entering your home should notify you in advance of arrival, maintain a safe distance and follow hygiene procedures set by HSE guidance.

No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk. Please highlight any related requirements to the contractor when arranging an appointment or contact the English Rural repairs team for assistance.

Planned and Cyclical Maintenance

We are resuming the external cyclical decoration programme as normal as we consider this to be lower risk. Operatives carrying out this work can better observe guidance to ensure such work may be carried out safely.

We will be working with our contractors to understand specific risks to allow internal planned maintenance to resume for the kitchen and bathroom programme. However, this will only take place in homes where residents are not shielding, or self-isolating and method statements can be produced to reflect a suitable working practise.

Gas Safety Checks

The guidance during lockdown was that Landlords should make every effort to abide by statutory safety obligations, such as annual gas safety inspections. We continue to work with our gas service contractors from two months preceding the expiry date to ensure ample time to gain access and complete a gas safety certificate.

If you are self-isolating, you should inform us to rearrange the gas safety check to take place after your isolation has period ended. If you are shielding, we will balance the risk presented considering factors such as the age and type of appliance, previous maintenance history and date of the last gas check. In some situations, this might indicate that the gas safety inspection should still go ahead.

Urgent Repairs and Emergencies

Out-of-Hours Repairs – 0800 046 9985

Emergency repairs are classified as:

  • Uncontainable water leaks
  • No power to the whole property
  • No heating and no hot water
  • Any other repairs that English Rural deem to be an emergency and a risk to resident safety

If you smell gas, immediately call the National Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999.

In the event of an emergency

  • Do not smoke of light matches
  • Do not turn electrical switches on or off
  • Open doors and windows
  • Turn off the meter at the control handle unless the meter is in the cellar
  • Call the National Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999

English Rural are committed to returning to a normal service in line with Government guidance.

As always, we welcome any comments and questions you may have. You can get in touch via the online resident portal, by emailing us on repairs@englishrural.org.uk or by calling us on 020 7820 7930.

Will work still be carried out in my home?

Work carried out in your homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no coronavirus symptoms.

It is important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2-metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

No work will be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England is providing advice to tradespeople and households. Routine safety maintenance that ensures your home is safe to live in (e.g. gas servicing) will continue to be carried out.

No work will be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.

Will English Rural staff still attend appointments?

No. The advice from the Government is for everyone to stay at home and to only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work.  Instead, we will use alternatives arrangements such as telephone or video calling. Please contact your Regional Housing Manager if you have any concerns.

How will English Rural keep me informed?

We will use our website and the resident portal as our primary channels to provide you with new information. We will also send text messages and the postal service when appropriate. We recognise that not everyone has access to the internet, and where you do not, we would ask that you check with neighbours who do so that they can share information with you, ensuring you adhere to the Government guidelines on social distancing. We have made the decision to offer future updates electronically partly for practical reasons, but also because circumstances are changing so rapidly that information is quickly out of date.

We also strongly recommend that residents consult the advice given on the Government and NHS websites.

The Government have also produced a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about social distancing and information on how to manage your mental health. You can also download a helpful information leaflet here (PDF).

Please be aware that false and misleading claims about coronavirus can spread online and in social media at this time. Special units across government are working to combat this. Read more here.

Are English Rural’s offices open?

Partially. Based on advice from the Government and after a thorough risk assessment, we have taken the decision to re-open our Surrey office for staff who wish to return. It has been made ‘Covid-19 Safe’ and guidelines have been put in place to ensure staff safety. However, the majority of English Rural staff continue to work remotely. We were well prepared for this decision as our IT and phone systems enable home working for all staff. We have redirected post. Phone numbers remain the same. The reality is that residents are unlikely to notice that this change has happened.

Where do I go for support if suffering domestic violence?

You should contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on Freephone 0808 2000 247 or contact your Regional Housing Manager. If it’s an emergency then call the Police on 999. Most councils also provide a list of local contacts on their website where you can seek support. Please also see our specific page on domestic violence which lists useful contact details for a variety or organisations and services that can help.

The Government also offers advice about what you can do if you’re struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

How can I look after my mental health and wellbeing?

During this time, you may be bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also feel low, worried, anxious, or be concerned about your health or that of those close to you. Everyone reacts differently to events and changes in the way that we think, feel and behave vary between different people and over time. It’s important that you take care of your mind as well as your body and to get further support if you need it.

Please refer to the Government’s guidance on looking after your mental health and wellbeing during this time.

The Government also offers advice about what you can do if you’re struggling because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

How can I apply for the English Rural Coronavirus Hardship Fund?

Please note that the Hardship Fund has now closed. We succeeded in helping 50 households in desperate financial need.

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