Top tips for housing associations operating during a local lockdown

26 August 2020

Local lockdowns mean that organisations have new guidance to follow, and with this comes a range of challenges for housing associations to navigate.

We’ve spoken to some of our members operating in Leicester and Greater Manchester to find out what they’ve learnt from local lockdowns and compiled their top five tips.

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Communicate with residents, colleagues and stakeholders on a very regular basis. Most of all with residents, to ensure that they understand the restrictions being put in place in their local area and what this entails, as well as likely timeframes.

Consider language barriers and people’s accessibility to the internet and phones. A blended approach works best, utilising phone calls, emails, letters, door-to-door visits and even community events such a ‘virtual neighbourhood’.

This is key to:

  • Building residents’ understanding of the restrictions.
  • Identifying specific support needs (from repairs to access to Foodbanks and hot meals).
  • Managing expectations around what services you can continue to provide safely.
  • Pre-empting people’s behaviour, for example when visits in sheltered and extra care schemes are restricted.

Housing associations’ experience so far has shown that there can never be too much communication during local lockdowns, and that communications plans drawn up in advance of a local lockdown ensure smoother engagement with customers.

2. Think about the services you can continue operating safely in line with government and local authority guidelines.

You should keep in mind that areas may well be in and out (and possibly back in, again) a local lockdown for the foreseeable future. So consider the long-term consequences of a stop-start approach to business operations and key services such as repairs, handling voids and construction. What can safely be continued? 

Working with local authorities to plan this is key, as well as looking at what other areas have done. The government guidance on local lockdowns is flexible enough to consider a range of options. During the lockdown in Leicester, for example, the government didn’t change its advice around construction and repairs, so this flexibility allowed housing associations there to risk assess and determine for themselves which services to keep running safely.

Other tips our members have shared on business planning include:

  • Have one colleague focused on monitoring government and local authority guidance who can keep colleagues constantly up to date on changes, as well as liaising with other local agencies.
  • Take a step back for 24 hours and watch for guidance and full communication of the issue from the local authority – rather than acting straight away, and then having retract decisions a few days later.
  • Keep boards constantly updated with daily communications on restrictions and the running of the business.

3. Manage the welfare and training needs of colleagues

The impact on colleagues can be hard, especially if colleagues have recently returned to a normal work schedule, for example by returning to the office or on repairs and maintenance.

Going back into lockdown is difficult at a time when the rest of the country carries on operating in the ‘new normal’. As with customers, our members have advised pre-empting this feeling and enhancing staff communications, as well maintaining as much flexibility to working arrangements as is safe to do so.

Consider the training needs of employees: what do you need to equip colleagues with to operate in a new local lockdown, and how can training be delivered? You may want to create new e-learning, or consider blended training where some aspects need to be delivered face-to-face. Some housing associations have filmed videos, for example a walkthrough of how to use a new office setup, or training videos for front-facing staff.

4. Work with other local agencies

In particular, maintain a clear communication channel with your local authority. Housing associations experiencing local lockdowns have found that working with their local authority as has been key. Local authorities will better understand measures from government as more detailed briefings are made available to them.

There are ways that housing associations will be able to support local authorities, notably through:

  • Helping to increase testing capacity at testing stations and door-to-door testing, and door-to-door engagement to inform residents.
  • Increasing a focus on compliance among customers.
  • Sharing resources with the council, for example combining repairs and maintenance with leaflets and joining door-knocking session. Bespoke customer leaflets, made in conjunction with the local authority have been successful.

5. Learn from other areas that have experienced local lockdowns

Council websites are a good source of information, and if restrictions are imposed they will likely follow the patterns of previous areas. You can get a head start by looking at what local authorities in Leicester and Greater Manchester have done, for example.

We hope you’ve found these top tips helpful. If you have any you’d like to share please get in touch.


To hear more top tips from housing associations, watch our local lockdown webinar.


Who to speak to

Contact the team