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Social Housing Resilience Group weekly update: 21 May

Update on SHRG's work and key issues. 

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The Social Housing Resilience Group (SHRG) was convened by SFHA in response to the coronavirus outbreak. As well as SFHA, the SHRG comprises Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland, Scottish Housing Regulator, Wheatley Group, Glasgow and West of Scotland Forum of Housing Associations, Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, and Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers. It aims to deal with the significant challenges the outbreak is causing so that social landlords can continue to provide the support their tenants and communities need.

Originally meeting three times a week at the start of the pandemic, the SHRG is now meeting once a week on Tuesday afternoons.

The issue of personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be discussed. Concerns have been raised regarding its procurement and distribution in terms of rising prices and promised orders being diverted to other customers. SFHA has been able to make alternative routes available through its bank of commercial associates and the SHRG is arranging access to a new national procurement option for housing associations, details of which have been emailed to SFHA member CEOs today.

SFHA shared feedback from associations of their tenants’ experiences with energy suppliers, with the main issues being legacy payment meters and with specific suppliers. There are also concerns over rising bills for tenants as the pandemic continues. The Scottish Government has raised these with Energy UK, which is expected to join a call with the SHRG in the next couple of weeks.

With regards to Universal Credit, SFHA has received clarification that third party deductions were automatically reinstated on 10 May. Dialogue between the UK and Scottish Governments continues, with the Scottish Government again urging the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to further strengthen the social security system for people affected by COVID-19 to provide both immediate and longer term improvements for people across the UK in a letter earlier this month.

Testing and tracing remains a key focus for Public Health Scotland. Clarification is being sought on access to testing for key workers in housing associations; staff at Grampian Housing Association are set to become part of a local test-and-trace scheme, in a partnership with NHS Grampian.

Work is underway to review future plans and priorities for EEESH and the installation of smoke detectors in light of current restrictions. Members of SFHA’s Property Repairs and Maintenance Forum will have received an information request as part of the evidence collection for this piece of work. Other members who wish to discuss this matter are invited to contact SFHA Policy Lead Stacey Dingwall at sdingwall@sfha.co.uk

The Social Housing Financial Resilience Forum met for its second call on 20 May, where SFHA provided updates on its data collection, the elements of the emergency coronavirus legislation relevant to the social housing sector, discussions with lenders and the FCA, and the early stages of work on the recovery process.

An update was also provided by the Scottish Housing Regulator on the findings from its first data return, and the SHR stated it was encouraged by both the sector and individual organisations in responding to the immediate shock of the current crisis. SHR did highlight that many impacts are yet to manifest.

The Scottish Government updated those on the call on forthcoming publications on both public engagement and the route map out of lockdown. It also again expressed its willingness to work with the sector on any emerging issues and the wider issue of the recovery process.

SFHA members shared details of the level of rent arrears which have increased across the board since the current crisis began. Discussions also covered concerns about factoring arrears which are also growing. With the exception of for PPE, members advised it is still too early to provide evidence of increasing costs. The next meeting will be held in late June.

SFHA has also issued the first quarterly data return to members, the evidence gathered through this exercise is vital in ensuring SFHA has a robust case for financial support for our sector in the longer term. Completed January–March returns should be sent to Shona Mitchell (smitchell@sfha.co.uk) by 5 June.

 

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