Over the last month, we have seen the Covid-19 pandemic take hold with stories of despair dominating the headlines.
However, during times of trouble, people step up and go above and beyond to support those around them. During this crisis, housing associations across Wales have been working hard to tackle the worst health emergency our generation has known.
During this time, older people are more likely to feel isolated and lonely, with less opportunity to get outside and interact with people. Staff at Adra in North Wales have been regularly phoning all tenants aged over 70 years old, and those who are vulnerable, to help them feel less lonely while staying at home.
Fellow North Walian housing association, Cartrefi Conwy, has established a new wellbeing team made up of staff whose work has now stopped due to the virus. The team have made over 1000 calls to vulnerable and elderly tenants since lockdown began.
In addition, staff at Bron Afon in Pontypool have made over 1,300 phone calls to tenants aged over 70. The calls are clearly making a difference to these people, who have fed back they “love hearing a friendly voice at this difficult time.”
Covid-19 has rapidly changed the world around us, and has left people feeling uncertain about their employment and finances. Housing associations have had to adapt the way they work in order to continue providing employment and financial advice to the 250,000 tenants they support across Wales.
The team at United Welsh in Caerphilly are all now working remotely, but that doesn’t mean the support has stopped. When the virus reached Wales, they started reaching out to the people they had supported into employment over the last year, offering advice and support on next steps. With tenants now obviously concerned about their financial situation and employment, the team at United Welsh have played a vital role in tailoring support and offering advice to those who are continuing to search for work.
RHA in Tonypandy has been reaching out to tenants to make sure they are aware of the help and support available to them. The team has been on hand to support those who may be having trouble paying rent; provide budgeting and benefits advice, and refer people to the Grub Hub project for food donations.
Dave from Melin Homes in Cardiff recently helped a resident who was struggling to pay off a water bill debt, resulting in a saving of over £820. Not surprisingly, the tenant now refers to Dave as a ‘legend’!
Staying locked in at home is bound to have an impact on people’s mental health.
Newydd Housing Association in Tongwynlais runs the successful Hapi programme which helps to keep the community healthy and happy through activities including cooking classes, training courses and running clubs. Tenants really benefit from the programme, so despite the crisis, they were keen to keep it running on a digital basis. Newydd now uses Facebook live to run family fitness classes, cooking classes, and the very popular singing sessions. The programme has proven to be popular beyond South Wales, and has reached over 20,000 people all over the world.
With a number of projects now on hold, housing association staff have been volunteering their time to other areas of the organisation. In his normal day job, Andrew Beale is Project Manager in the Development Team at Linc, but has since started volunteering on the dementia unit at Penylan House nursing home in Cardiff. In his new role, Andrew has been helping prepare breakfasts and delivering it to residents. He has seen first-hand the care and dedication his colleagues put in to caring for the residents at Linc’s nursing homes, especially at a time when they are no longer able to receive visits from their families.
Staff from Merthyr Housing in Methyr have been putting activity packs together for children and young people who are at the local Prince Charles Hospital. These young people are unable to see their families, so the team is thrilled to be able to make the young people’s stay in hospital even a little bit better.
With housing association tenants facing hardship because of Covid-19, reliance on foodbanks is expected to rise. The Clean and Green team at Tai Calon in Blaenau Gwent have been busy using their vans to carry out food bank deliveries to those in need across the area.
Newport based Pobl Group and Newport City homes worked together with Newport Council and Newport foodbank to deliver more than 4,000 meals in one week to local residents
Meanwhile, the community empowerment team at Linc has launched a successful food assistance programme, with deliveries going out to vulnerable tenants who are struggling to access food in the current crisis.
Housing associations in Wales will be profiling the work they are doing to support tenants in Wales through a new campaign called ‘With You‘. Follow this campaign through CHC’s Twitter page @CHCymru and searching for the hashtag #withyou