Services during Covid-19
We continue to let you know what we are doing to support you and how we are continuing to reduce the risk of Covid-19 with our focus on the safety of all our customers and colleagues.
We are still providing services although we have had to make some changes. All decisions which we make are in line with government guidance on social distancing and regulations. This is to protect our customers, staff and those who work with us.
Safe working practices to protect customers, colleagues and contractors from covid-19 inevitably make our work slower and may create some frustrations. It’s not an excuse, but like other organisations we now have staff absent from services sometimes if they may have covid-like symptoms and need to get a test or isolate. Lockdown increases frustration and we are all a bit more fed up, especially now we’re into the limitations of winter weather too. So we ask for your generosity in bearing with us and thank you for that.
Support and Older People's Services
Our staff continue to work in these projects and schemes. The risk of transmission of covid-19 infection continues, so we are asking that in older people’s services in particular, where customers may be more vulnerable and where offices are generally small, that meetings with staff are by appointment, socially distanced and by phone or online where possible.
Staff continue to ensure essential health and safety checks are completed regularly within buildings to keep them safe. If for any reason staff have to come into your flat, they may ask to wash their hands or wear gloves as well as ask you to remain two metres away at all times or to move to another room whilst they carry out essential work.
You can still contact us by phone and you have the phone numbers for those staff who are supporting you, so that you can make direct contact when you need to. If staff are not able to answer your call immediately, please leave a message and someone will call you back. If your call isn’t urgent this may be the following working day if we have spoken to you already on the day you call. Where you have an alarm service in place please use this in an emergency.
This is a very unusual situation for all of us and can sometimes feel very strange. We have risk assessed opening up communal spaces and most are open with some restrictions. We are still trying to protect everyone as much as we can and will keep this under review. Customers and staff remain our absolute priority so please help us to support everyone through this challenging time.
Here are the local Age UK support groups should you wish to ask for their excellent support:
Age UK Devon. Tel: 0333 241 2340. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Age UK Cornwall. Tel: 01872 266383. Email: email@example.com
Our Customer Enabling Hub
The staff who answer your emails and calls into our Customer Enabling Hub are mainly working from their homes. Our Templar House and Tarka House offices are closed to the public.
All our online and telephone services are operating as normal, but please bear in mind that covid-19 impact and the high volume of calls may mean that it takes slightly longer to get through on the phone. Please be patient and remember you can email us if that’s easier or use this web form:Contact Us
Are you worried about your rent payments? We want to reassure customers that we understand this is a worrying time for those who have had their income reduced because of Covid-19 but we are here to provide as much support and help as we can.
Our Westward assurance is:
If you fall behind in your rent payments because your income has reduced, or because you have lost your job, as a result of the coronavirus you will not lose your home.
If you are having difficulty in paying your rent we ask that you contact us as soon as possible.
Please talk to us as soon as you have concerns so that we can help ensure you receive all the money to which you are entitled. We will work with you to agree an affordable payment plan which takes into account your individual circumstances. Please speak to your Income Officer, if you have any concerns. You can find their details here.
We want to spend our time supporting those customers who have been directly impacted by covid-19. This means it’s more important than ever that if your employment circumstances have not changed you continue to make your rent payments as usual.
As a result of the latest government guidance we have changed the way we provide services to you to reduce the risk to you and our staff, and to prioritise the work of the Housing teams so they are there for those who need our help the most.
Property services - general position
You will see our contractors and trade staff out and about in their vans and you may think that everything is back to a normal position pre Covid-19. In many instances this is the case.
However most of our work, due to our revised “Safe Working Practices (SWP)”, now mean that many of our jobs will take longer to complete and that our staff may have to wear additional PPE. This can reduce the number of jobs we can complete in a day.
We are also experiencing many issues with supply of materials which may mean that we have the labour to do the job but we cannot get hold of sufficient materials to complete the work. What this means for our customers is that we may have to do temporary fixes to allow us to stop the problem, and then return when materials are available to fix the problem permanently. We are competing for these limited materials with builders and maintenance companies and working with all of our suppliers to try and achieve a satisfactory outcome. Our residents have been fantastic in working with us during this difficult time.
Also our staff and contractors are sometimes affected by being pinged through the NHS Covid alert app or are unable to come to work due to having coronavirus. This is always causing work delays from time to time.
There are a number of residents' requests for work which are outstanding and we have been trying to make contact with residents to make appointments. If you are contacted by Westward and do not want us to complete the work during this period, please let us know and we will hold the job for when you feel comfortable about the work being completed.
Repairs, empty homes and day-to-day maintenance
We have re-assessed our safe working practices and are able to carry out most of the day-to-day repairs tasks with your help. Westward want to make sure that you are safe from the spread of covid-19 and that our trade staff and external contractors are also safe and able to carry out works to your home.
We can carry out work to the external parts of your home without any contact with you. If the work is inside of your home we will ask you to keep your distance or vacate the room or rooms in which we plan to work. Please work with Westward and our contractors to help us with the safe working processes that we need to follow.
Kitchens & Bathrooms
We are continuing with the usual work programme. New safe working practices in line with guidance for working during the Covid-19 pandemic are in place. It is essential that our external contractors and Westward trade staff follow these strictly for your safety and protection and in turn, for you follow these to protect our staff and contractors.
We are now planning our heating renewal programme. For those customers who are currently in the plan to benefit from a new heating system, we expect to be making contact with you in November to discuss our safe working practices and book a start date appointment.
We continue to carry out emergency heating renewals if a system breaks down.
Window & door installations
We are completing installations of new windows and externals doors, which follow similar safety measures to that of kitchens and bathrooms. Unfortunately, lead times on the manufacture of windows and doors is slower than usual due to the impact of Covid-9 on manufacturing, so the process is taking a little longer than normal.
External maintenance and decorations programme
Fire safety work
We continue to replace fire doors where they are due for replacement, but only where we can purchase them as there are limited supplies due to Covid-19 disruption. We have previously measured and purchased specific fire doors which need installing in certain blocks which we plan on completing as quickly as possible.
We also continue with our fire risk assessment programme in communal areas of our blocks. This will possibly result in some fire safety improvement works which we will be completing as and when labour and materials allow.
Property compliance checks
We have contractors out and about completing asbestos surveys, electrical testing, legionella risk assessments and lift inspections.
Looking to the future
As government advice changes, we will be reviewing this position. You can get up-to-date advice on our services from our website, social media and from our advisors in the Customer Enabling Hub.
Find out the latest news
You can find all of our latest news here our website, or on Facebook and Twitter, where we will be sharing helpful tips and messages.
The safety of our customers, staff and contractors remain our number one priority. We appreciate your patience and understanding during these uncertain times. If you are worried about your own situation, please call us 0300 100 1010 as we will do everything we can to help.