Update 1 April 2020

Repairs

You will be aware from your spring issue of atHome, that Barnet Homes is bringing its repairs service back in-house. The service is currently operated by Mears.

Our in-house service was due to begin carrying out repairs from 1 April 2020. However, due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to delay this change for three months.

This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but one which has been taken in the best interests of our staff, Mears staff and most importantly, our residents.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that we are only able to operate an emergency and urgent repairs only service, and this will continue in the short term. We have taken this decision to ensure the most vulnerable and at-risk in our communities are provided with the essential repairs they need.

If you have any questions, please email talk2us@barnethomes.org, but please be aware that there may be a delay in responding to your query.

Rent/Weekly Charge Payments

Barnet Homes recognises the extreme disruption that Covid-19 is causing and will do everything we can to reassure and support our customers who find it difficult to pay their rent/weekly charge during this time.

Do I still need to pay rent/weekly charges?
Yes, whilst help and support is in place for those who have been affected financially by Covid-19, the obligation to make these payments continues.

How can we help you?
Our priority is to keep residents safe during this Public Health Crisis and to assist you with difficulties you may have resulting from Covid-19. We will:
• work directly with you to help prevent you from getting into rent arrears
• provide help and support to you to claim benefits and assist you to maximise your income
• link you to our dedicated Welfare Benefits Advisors if you need additional debt management and benefit advice
• provide you with details of other organisations that can provide you with specialist support

What you should do
• Pay your rent/weekly charge – Help us to continue to provide essential services to our residents by continuing to pay your rent
• Contact us – If you are having difficulty in making rent/weekly charge payments contact us straight away to discuss how we can help
• Check Government support – The UK Government has announced extra benefits support, including Universal Credit (UC) for the self-employed. These are available to view via barnethomes.org or on the UK Government site gov.uk

How can you pay your rent?
• Online/telephone banking: You can pay by bank transfer or setup a standing order using the Barnet Homes bank details:
Sort code: 60-23-36 – Account number: 82622833
• Automated telephone payment line: 0845 356 3456 (select option 2 for housing rent). This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week
• Online at barnet.gov.uk or at barnethomes.org. You can also set up a two-weekly direct debit using the form on our website.

When paying via the above methods you need your rent reference number to hand which is nine digits long, starts with a ‘1’ and can be found on a rent statement.

For those who are un-able to use the above methods our Income Collection Service can take payments via Credit/Debit card on 020 8359 3102. However, due to current circumstances we are experiencing very high call volumes and increased wait times so customers are advised to use the above methods in the first instance to make payments

Safety and compliance checks

Where it is reasonable, safe and in line with government guidance, you should allow our staff and contractors into your property so that we can inspect or fix urgent health and safety issues.

Barnet Homes still has a legal responsibility to carry out Landlord Gas Safety checks within your homes. The current pandemic has not removed this requirement. Please work with both Barnet Homes and Mears to allow engineers into your homes, where possible, to undertake the vital safety checks on your gas appliances.

We are aiming to deliver as many of our other compliance inspection and servicing programmes as possible in these difficult circumstances. Works such as electrical checks, fire alarm inspections, emergency lighting and smoke alarm
checks will continue in communal areas. Where these checks involve accessing your home, however, many of these (apart from gas safety checks) will be temporarily postponed.

We want to remind you of the Fire Service advice that you should periodically check the operation of smoke alarms within your property. Please contact us via talk2us@barnethomes.org should your alarm not sound when you have done the ‘button check’.

Your continued co-operation and assistance at this time is very much appreciated. We aim to keep you safe and secure in your homes. Our aim is to keep you safe and secure in your homes.

Support for vulnerable people

If you, a family member, friend, or close member of your community are in need of urgent help that is not medical-related, please visit Barnet Council’s website at barnet.gov.uk. Their urgent support page will provide you with further information on the support available.

Community Help Hub – Working together to support our communities

We are working with and supporting community groups across our borough to provide support to the most vulnerable.

The Community Help Hub provides regular information on how you can help your community, keep safe, connect you to community resources and register as a volunteer to one of many groups. The community response to COVID-19 relies heavily on volunteers, and many organisations are already in urgent need of help. For more information, visit engage.barnet.gov.uk/how-to-help-your-community.

Staying safe

If you do have volunteers in your area providing support, remember no volunteer should ask for money in advance or your bank account or card details. Nobody should enter your home; items such as shopping or medication should be left at your front door. If you have concerns with callers at your doorstep, please call the Police by dialling 101. If you feel you are in immediate risk, please call the police by dialling 999 (emergencies only).

 


Dear resident,

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is causing a considerable amount of uncertainty and concern for the public. We want to assure you that the health and wellbeing of our customers and staff is our utmost priority at this time.

In this message, we will be setting out the steps we are taking to ensure your health and wellbeing, as well as some forced changes to services.

In line with the government’s advice, we have minimised the number of people working from our offices through increased homeworking. For our customer-facing teams, this has been challenging due to ongoing IT connectivity issues caused by the pressures of increased homeworking across the country. This means that some customer phone calls have been cut-off or the sound on the phone call has been of poor quality for customers and staff. Some of our staff are self-isolating, but many are continuing to work while self-isolated.

Given the current challenges presented by Coronavirus, it is vital that we focus our people on dealing with emergencies and assisting our most vulnerable residents. To help make sure we can do this, we will be operating a reduced service, and we ask that you do not call our services unless you have an emergency request.

Contacting us

You will experience long wait times to speak with someone when calling us. If your enquiry is not an emergency, please do not call us. Instead, please use the contact form at barnethomes.org/contact-us. Please note that we will prioritise email and web form enquiries that are of an urgent nature. This means it is likely that you will have to wait longer than usual for a response from us if your enquiry is not urgent. Emergency housing enquires include reports of domestic violence, anti-social behaviour or harassment, domestic emergencies and flexible tenancy reviews. If there is any threat to life, please call the emergency services.

Social distancing

We want to remind residents to follow the government’s social distancing guidelines. These include avoiding all non-essential use of public transport, working from home whenever possible, and avoiding gatherings. You should only visit crowded areas, such as supermarkets, when absolutely necessary. More information about these guidelines is available on gov.uk.

Repairs

From Monday 23rd March 2020 we will provide an emergency repairs service only for at least three weeks. While some of our staff can continue to work from home, our repairs operatives and engineers cannot. By moving to an emergency service only, this will allow us to focus our resource and efforts on the highest priority repairs and the most vulnerable residents. Social distancing measures will also affect the repairs we can deliver

What is an emergency repairs service?

  • We will assist with repairs requests of a very urgent nature only including:
  • repairs which affect the security of your property
  • total loss of electricity, gas or water
  • total loss of heating
  • serious water leaks that cannot be contained
  • blocked toilets (where another toilet is not available)
  • leaks involving foul waste

We will also prioritise repairs for our most vulnerable customers where their repair problem is having an adverse impact. We will continue to respond urgently to any reports of gas leaks or carbon monoxide alarms.

If you have an emergency repair, please call our Customer Contact Team as usual on 020 8080 6587. We will ask you questions around your current status regarding self-isolation, which will inform our approach to delivering your repair. If you have a repair, but it is not an emergency repair as described above, please do not call or email us about your repair until after Wednesday 15 April 2020.

Gas safety checks

We may also require access to your property if your annual gas safety check is due. You will be contacted about this well ahead of the expiry of your current safety certificate, and we will work with you to carry out the annual gas safety check with the minimum disruption.

Other contractor visits

While we are providing an emergency-only repairs service, please be aware that there may be contractor presence at your property, especially in communal areas. These contractors will be carrying out important health and safety and compliance inspections and related work.

We will advise you separately if your home is part of scheduled planned maintenance or major works programmes that have been postponed.

Making payments and advice for people who are affected financially by the pandemic

If you usually pay your rent, service charges or major works bills by calling our advice lines, we ask that you use an alternative method of payment:

  • Payments can be made by telephone, 24 hours a day using the automated payment line (phone 0845 356 3456) using a debit or credit card.
  • Payments can also be made online using a debit or credit card by visiting barnethomes.org (please select ‘Make a payment’)

To make payments online, you will need your nine-digit tenancy or account number which you can find on your latest statement.

We understand that due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, many of our residents will struggle to pay their rent, service charges and other important bills.

If you are a Barnet Homes tenant or a leaseholder our Welfare Benefits Advisors are here to help and will support you to maximise your income and claim financial assistance in these difficult times. This includes helping residents who are either self-employed, working on a zero-hours contract or earning below the weekly average income £118 p/w.

If you would like to discuss your situation further and have a telephone assessment with one of our Welfare Benefits Advisors, please email us on WelfareBenefit.ReferralInbox@Barnet.gov.uk.

Home visits

If you are self-isolating because of suspected Coronavirus, please call 020 8080 6587 so that we can take appropriate measures if we need to visit your home. Please do not be offended if we ask you if you or anyone in your household is unwell or has symptoms relating to Coronavirus. If you are self-isolating, we will do all we can to maintain a service. However, it is possible that only emergency works and repairs are attended to.

Safeguarding

We have set up a Task Force response to Coronavirus, which is working to support our communities. Their work includes:

  • Working with existing charities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents. They are also providing training and support to volunteers.
  • Working with food banks to ensure stocks remain high for those who need them most.

If you would like to contribute to any of the above, please email us at talk2us@barnethomes.org.

Alternatively, Covid-19 Mutual Aid is a national database of Facebook support groups, available at covidmutualaid.org/local-groups/

Visiting Barnet Homes Housing Options

If you or someone you know is planning on visiting the Housing Options service at Barnet House, please be aware that all contact with customers will be by phone and through our customer portal. Members of the public will not able to come into Barnet House. The Housing Options will continue to provide support, information and advice to customers at threat of homelessness.

To access the support from Housing Options, please call 020 8359 4797.

If you already have a housing officer and need to speak to them, please email them instead (firstname.surname@barnethomes.org). If you do not know their email address, please email housingadvice@barnethomes.org.

For any non-emergency enquiries, please also email housingadvice@barnethomes.org, rather than telephoning.

If you are dropping off keys, please call 020 8359 4785 in advance. You will need to drop your keys off through our letterbox, but there is also some paperwork which needs to be completed.

General health and safety advice

For the latest information on Coronavirus, including the situation in the UK and information about the virus and its symptoms, you should refer to the NHS England guidance at gov.uk. If you have symptoms of Coronavirus, please call the NHS on 111.

The Coronavirus situation is a rapidly-changing. We are committed to supporting our staff, residents and customers throughout these challenging times. For the latest updates from us, please visit barnethomes.org, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Mulvenna
Chief Executive, The Barnet Group