Coronavirus update – political engagement, regulation and compliance, key and essential workers and the benefit system

25 March 2020

This update covers how we’re engaging with political stakeholders and the regulator, clarification we’re seeking on key and essential workers, and changes to the benefit system.

Our political engagement

As we announced in our 20 March update, our lobbying and policy work in the coming days is centred around four key priorities.

  • Keeping people safe.
  • Protecting resident incomes and livelihoods.
  • Sustaining critical services.
  • Supporting communities and recovery.

We’ve worked with our new Coronavirus Rapid Response Group to publish a briefing that provides more detail on what these priorities mean and our urgent work on them.

Download the briefing

We’re in regular contact with key government officials, ministers, sector partners and the regulator about these priorities – setting out how housing associations can work with the government to tackle this crisis, and what they need right now from the government to be able to do that.

We’re also working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), and Treasury select committee chairs, and we’re in regular contact with officials in these departments.

Regulation and compliance

Many of our members have been in touch to share the challenges they’re facing undertaking statutory safety checks given the restrictions caused by residents who are self-isolating. Housing associations are taking sensible risk-based decisions to prioritise the safety of both residents and staff.

We’re now in urgent conversations with the regulator and with MHCLG, pushing for clarity or new guidance to support this.

We’re also talking to the regulator about prioritising the most urgent regulatory returns to inform their response to the crisis, while recognising the pressure our members’ teams are facing at this time.

We will keep our members updated as these conversations progress.

Key and essential workers

We’re urgently seeking clarity from the government on two related issues:

  • Which key frontline roles are considered essential in order that their children can continue to attend school. We shared our draft guidance on this on 20 March, and we’re continuing to seek further clarity from the government.
  • What types of roles are allowed to travel, and which workplaces can remain open, following the enhanced restrictions on movement announced last night. New guidance from MHCLG says that repairs and maintenance work can continue in peoples’ homes, subject to public health guidelines, but does not fully clarify the impact for those in the rest of the housing sector, so we’re in active conversations with officials to get further information, and will relay this to our members as soon as possible.

Changes to the benefit system

We received information from DWP on 23 March that sets out changes to benefit entitlement. This includes an extra £20 per week from 6 April for people on Universal Credit. We welcome these changes and will continue to work with DWP to make sure that the benefits system protects people’s incomes. This work is set out in the briefing mentioned above.

The information we received stresses the need for DWP to focus on dealing with new claims and getting money to people on time.

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