I hope this letter finds you and your family well during this challenging time. The last few weeks have been rather testing for everyone as we reshape our lives and workplaces to suit the unforeseen operating environment.
The Sovini Group is committed to being open and transparent with our stakeholders. You will likely know us better for running our Registered Provider organisations, One Vision Housing and Pine Court Housing Association, and perhaps some of our commercial businesses which I reference later in this email.
I want to keep you informed about how the Group has responded to – and will continue to plan ahead and react to – the evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We have closely monitored and followed the Government guidance from the outset, responding rapidly and appropriately to protect our business, staff and customers. Below I summarise our actions to date, and how we are planning for the future to ensure we continue to provide the best services to our customers, and support our local communities.
Supporting our customers
Housing services: We are delivering key services where it is safe and sensible to do so including emergency repairs, health and safety compliance works and where possible, supporting emergency re-housing.
We continue to carry out risk assessments and ensure we follow appropriate health and safety precautions, as per the Government guidance and our own high standards, to keep our staff and our customers safe. We will monitor, check and ensure this remains the case.
Customer Services: We continue to provide direct support via our now virtual Customer Service Centre and Independent Living teams. We have encouraged customers to advise us if they are self-isolating, shielding or fall in to one of the Government’s vulnerable categories, and have adapted our Housing Management System to flag this information to our staff. Where this is the case, we are discussing requirements on an individual basis, offering support and advice.
Across the business, we are working with and supporting a range of other agencies, third sector organisations and statutory bodies. Our Customer Service Centre and Financial Inclusion staff are offering advice and directing customers to financial, health and well-being services. We are, for example, supporting with Universal Credit, Hardship Fund and Discretionary Housing Payment claims.
We have created a customer FAQ which you can read here on the One Vision Housing website and a similar tailored version on Pine Court Housing Association’s website, and we are regularly updating this and communicating via our social media channels.
Vulnerable customers: We have regular and, where required, daily contact with our vulnerable customers. Below are some key activities we are undertaking:
- For those customers at heightened risk of exploitation and increased harm, our Safeguarding team continues to contact and check they are safe and well, and offer support.
- We have made contact with our 900 Independent Living customers and are contacting our ‘general needs’ customers over 70, offering help with getting prescriptions, groceries and other services they may need. Several hundred have taken us up on our offer of support so far, and we anticipate this will increase as the weeks under lockdown continue.
- For our Pine Court Housing Association residents in Chung Hok House, we have daily contact. We are still working with Chinese Wellbeing, supporting where necessary. We now offer a remote bilingual service.
Working with our local communities, key workers and businesses
As we do in ‘regular’ times, we are working closely with organisations to support our local communities. Below I have highlighted some of the initiatives:
- Our Director of Housing Operations, Paula Robinson, has joined Sefton Council’s COVID-19 community response group, a weekly multi-agency meeting coordinating services to the most vulnerable and those residents that are shielding across the Borough. This includes helping to identify those who are shielding and assisting with registration, and assisting with food banks in the form of any donations we can make. We are promoting this initiative across our business to encourage staff to donate and support.
- As part of our involvement in the Liverpool City Region Operational Directors Group, we are working with local food banks to provide much needed supplies to identified customers.
- We have donated to and are working with HIS Church to provide mixed pallets of food and household items to the community. We are also looking to source a pallet of items suitable for patients in hospital with limited visitors, as it has been brought to our attention that they are running out of personal care items, and for the NHS staff who are self-isolating in temporary accommodation.
- Reverend Ravi Sangra of Litherland and Orrell Hey Ministry is now the proud owner of a new bike we purchased for him. In his words: “My main use of the bike at the moment is for collecting prescriptions or food for people who are self-isolating, going to the crematorium to take services and where possible visit people in the parish. For me it an important way of being a visible community presence.”
- Sovini Trade Supplies has been working with Sefton Council and has provided staff in Parkhaven Trust and Care Connect care homes in Sefton with PPE equipment. We continue to offer support where we can, and when the supply chain allows, to help tackle the national shortage of such equipment.
Keeping our business running and our staff safe
To enable us to continue to deliver the best service levels possible while keeping our business running and our staff safe, we have had to make a number of rapid adaptations to how we operate.
The vast majority of our staff have been equipped to work from home. For those delivering key services to our customers and for our core commercial businesses we have undertaken risk assessments and ensured health and safety precautions as per the Government guidance are followed. This predominantly covers our repairs and maintenance business Sovini Property Services; builder’s merchant Sovini Trade Supplies; waste management company, Carroll Waste and construction firm, Carroll Build.
Our Executive Management team meets daily by video conference to ensure we are covering all aspects of our business. We will continue to meet new challenges positively and thoughtfully, anticipating them where we realistically can, and making provision accordingly.
We keep in regular contact with other housing providers to see how they are responding, and explore synergies where we may be able to support our respective businesses and customers.
We have encouraged our staff to volunteer to help in their local community as well as promoting the call for support from the Ministry of Defence for Reserves.
Should you need to provide key contact information if you receive enquiries directly, I have compiled a useful summary. This is not exhaustive, but should help direct people.
Please contact us directly if you would like any more information or have any questions. I also encourage you to follow us on social media and check back on our website for the most up to date information.
Group Chief Executive
The Sovini Group
Atlantic House, Dunnings Bridge Road, Bootle, Merseyside, L30 4TH