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Our main focus must continue to be on responding to the pandemic

Message from Sally Thomas, SFHA Chief Executive. 

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More than anything else, this is a crisis of life and death in which everyone is affected. A quarter of the world’s population is in quarantine, and 81% of the world’s working population, all experiencing shock, disbelief, fear and disconnection.

And its deeply personal for all of us. My niece has had the virus, close friends have had it, I’ve got three children in London, and my mother is in a care home in Peterborough. Some of the SFHA team have almost certainly had it, although, without testing, we can’t be sure. 

So our work lives have not only merged with our home lives, because of working from home, but also because this pandemic is a direct threat to every single one of us. And we have to look after each other at home and work.

We’re now in phase two, the second period of lockdown, which feels like the new normal (for now) after what felt to me like the controlled chaos of the first. Things have settled, in relative terms, and the issues for members have both stayed the same and changed – how to source a steady supply of PPE, providing humanitarian support, governance, maintaining financial resilience, furloughing, homelessness and the constantly emerging challenges of service delivery. And, above all, keeping staff, tenants, residents and communities safe.

And despite all the talk of recovery, planning ahead and taking what we’re learning into a better future, we’re still in the response phase. The focus is firmly on understanding, connecting with, and responding to, our members. We are still very much in the thick of it.

Looking and planning ahead for the real and lasting changes we need is, of course, critical and is coming. We are going to have to juggle both.

Our main focus must continue to be on responding, and reacting, in real time. For SFHA, this means delivering for our members, and, for the housing sector in Scotland, keeping staff and tenants safe, maintaining and building community and connections, continually strengthening every relationship we have.

It must also turn to what next? How do we safely begin to unlock, with all the uncertainty and fear that brings. 

We are starting to work with the Scottish Government, and other key partners, on a sector plan to do this as part of the response to the government’s Framework for Decision Making discussion papers. We will be drawing on the Social Housing Resilience Group, our new Member Response Group and the online COVID-19 Member Forum for ideas. We will be looking for, and welcoming, ideas from everyone.

I have absolutely no doubt that social housing, and the unique role of housing associations, is going to be fundamental to the recovery. We have to be ready to muster all our strength, resilience and passion for the task to come. Above all, we have to be hopeful if we are to build what is, undoubtedly, required: a new social and economic settlement for Scotland and its people. 

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