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BLOG: Thinking of our frontline staff - By Gabriel Codjoe

04 May 2020

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Monday Morning. The time when our scheme managers from the older persons team, who look after our most vulnerable residents, carry out the critical activity of on-site fire alarm tests and deliver letters from us giving important information on how to stay safe during the coronavirus outbreak. Over 4,000 letters have been hand delivered so far.

By Gabriel Codje, Director of Housing at Network Homes

They feel conflicted - worried about going out because of the lockdown, but eager to do their job; they know their schemes, they know where everything is and most importantly, they know the people who live there. But they still worry as they drive or walk to work through the empty roads and streets, but on they go.

When they arrive at their scheme they go in; down empty corridors, through empty communal lounges, areas that usually have familiar residents occupying their favourite spots. The scheme managers carry out the alarm test and thankfully everything is working okay. They then hurry out just in case they meet a resident. Not because they don’t care. It’s because they know residents will want to have a chat and our scheme managers will want to talk to them; ask them how they are, do they have enough food, are they lonely, are they in touch of with their family… But they are some of the most vulnerable in society, so social distancing must be respected.

Yet there is consolation. The next part of the job, when they get home, is to phone each resident in the schemes they look after to carry out wellbeing checks - now the conversation can happen. The team has made over 6,000 phone calls so far. For the majority, it’s positive but where there are issues, scheme managers are always on standby with some warm advice. Every scheme manager dreads the situation when no one answers the phone; and still no answer when they check again. Tragically there have been two deaths from coronavirus in our schemes so far.

And the day’s not always done come 5pm. A call can come through saying that an alarm has developed a fault so a site visit with a contractor is necessary. And it starts all over again.

It’s a similar story for our intermediate rent property managers who are doing an amazing job supporting front line NHS staff. They need to carry out weekly alarm tests for our cluster accommodation at Northwick Park Hospital where we have 17 rooms, and ensure that rooms are turned around quickly for the constant rotation of doctors and nurses using them. It’s obviously a worry being so close to the front line of the nation’s response to coronavirus.

Many of our residents are facing income challenges during these testing times. We’re hearing stories of residents phoning the DWP only to be told they are one of thousands in the queue. But our income officers still need to ensure people are paying their rent; what a task when we hear every day that people are losing their lives! In times like these, it comes down to the skill and compassion of the individual officers at being able to have those difficult conversations. Fortunately, the Government has put measures in place to help people who may lose their jobs or have a reduced income, and this helps our income officers in their daily conversations with residents who are having difficulty. The income team has carried out over 1,700 actions over the last week which is way more than during normal times and I’m pleased to say our income has not yet seen any significant degradation.

This is just a snapshot of the lives of some of our front-line workers who are working incredibly hard to keep our residents safe and support the national response to coronavirus. Many of them are still required to be out and about during the lockdown. There are many more across Network Homes including from repairs, compliance and neighbourhood management teams. We should applaud each and every one of them.