Translating the messages Sharing the practice – Repairs

In this, our second translating the message / sharing the practice bulletin we are focussing on REPAIRS.

As we approach the end of another week in ‘lockdown’ these continue to be challenging times for all organisations, especially in the housing sector, where we are supporting some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Yet housing providers have a key role to play in helping to secure the ongoing provision of critical services.

At ARK we are playing our part, supporting our clients, signposting to the latest advice and using the knowledge and expertise within our team to help translate the messages about what we need to be doing into the right practices on the ground. The idea is to help our customers make well informed and considered decisions.

Policy Message

The Government has made it quite clear; tenants and customers’ rights to a decent, warm and safe place to live have not changed. But what has, is the way in which housing providers are going to have to go about meeting their legal and regulatory obligations. Government guidance at this time is to access tenants’ properties only to fix or inspect serious or urgent issues and take a pragmatic common-sense approach to non-urgent repairs.

Best Practice Guidance

  • You should define and possibly re-define which repairs are ‘serious or urgent’. This should be more than you would usually classify as an emergency to reflect the potentially prolonged duration of the current situation
  • Devise and put in place a clear risk assessment process for accessing tenants’ homes. This should have a series of steps and a process map that takes into account the need to protect those who are self-isolating as well as the health and wellbeing of your operatives
  • Continue to log all repairs, even if you aren’t going to attend to them straight away. You will need a clear log of these for ‘catch-up’ purposes
  • You may also need to put in arrangements for re-contacting tenants about something they have already reported to check that it is still okay to be left unattended and that the situation isn’t becoming more critical
  • Use neighbourhood/repairs teams to continue to undertake estate/property risk assessments of external/communal areas to ensure potentially dangerous situations don’t go unreported
  • Now could be the time to explore moving more staff towards multi-trade using the current voids as training opportunities
  • Start planning how you are going to deal with your catch-up repairs once the lockdown is lifted or partially lifted. There will be pent up demand from tenants
  • Stay in close contact with your contractors and plan the return to work with them
  • We suggest ‘batching’ repairs on a geographical basis to ensure the best use of resources and monitoring ‘demand’ by trade so you can call in additional capacity in those areas if necessary.

Summary Example – Repairs Risk Assessment Process

STEP   ASSESSMENT PROCESS
Step 1 – Initial risk assessment when taking the repair  
  1. Take repair details and assess in accordance with determined criteria whether the repair is an emergency/urgent, bearing in mind the nature of work needed, vulnerability of tenant etc.
  2. If it needs attending to, then ask a series of questions around the health and wellbeing of the household, including illnesses and published COVID-19 symptoms.
  3. Establish whether anyone in the household is self-isolating, shielding etc.
  4. Note and provide all details/responses for operatives, making an initial assessment as to whether any enhanced PPE may be needed due to reported health issues.
Step 2 – Operative doorstep risk assessment  
  1. Operative checks initial risk assessment details, ensuring 2m social distancing is maintained at the door (Work from a presumption of infection, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary).
  2. If no household health issues, operative may enter property wearing appropriate PPE, but asking if all household members can ideally remain in separate room/space whilst the work is carried out
  3. The operative should thoroughly wash their hands at the kitchen sink both upon entry to the property and immediately prior to leaving
  4. The operative should clean all hard surfaces they might be working near before starting work.
  5. If there are household health issues, further operative protections may be needed e.g. enhanced PPE.

If you would like to talk about any aspect, would like to know more or discuss how the ARK team could assist your organisation in putting appropriate repairs approaches or risk assessments in place please contact us ark@arkconsultancy.co.uk