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If you went back in time to January and told me what 2020 had in store for us, I’m not sure I would have believed you. It’s been an exceptionally challenging year, with Wolverhampton and the rest of the UK facing its biggest crisis in modern times. Covid-19 has claimed close to 45,000 lives nationally, devastated businesses and has left thousands out of work. The impact of Covid-19 has been felt across every section of our communities and we’ll be feeling its affects for some time yet.

As Chair of the Board and also a tenant, my focus and that of my fellow Board members has been to ensure that Wolverhampton Homes is governed effectively to enable the delivery of those key services that customers rely on, such as emergency repairs, provision for the homeless and dealing with anti-social behaviour – not least breaches of lockdown restrictions. It’s been a huge challenge, but thanks to some prudent planning from the Senior Management Team and the commitment of Wolverhampton Homes staff, key services have been maintained throughout lockdown. The risk of Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed by government inevitably meant a suspension of many non-essential services, such as routine repairs, some home visits, lettings and estate inspections. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and I was pleased to see Wolverhampton Homes putting the safety and wellbeing of its customers, staff and the public first. I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow tenants for their patience and understanding during which has undoubtably been a difficult time.

As is often the case in times of crisis, we’ve seen people across the UK pull together to beat the pandemic and support each other. Like me, you probably spent many Thursday evenings during the height of the pandemic, gathered on your doorstep to clap for the NHS and all our frontline workers who, despite the unprecedented situation, kept this country going. It’s true what they say – not all superheroes wear capes; many of them wear scrubs, firefighting gear, a high-vis and a hat, a uniform or carry a postbag. They’re not alone either; many of us, in particular staff at Wolverhampton Homes, have played an important part by supporting our local communities through volunteering, making donations or just checking in on our elderly family, friends and neighbours. If Covid-19 has taught me anything, it’s that we really are #OneCity.

Staff from Wolverhampton Homes pledged their support to the city’s volunteering efforts by shopping for and delivering food and other essentials. In fact, since lockdown began in March, staff have carried out over 1,300 shopping trips for some of our city’s most vulnerable. They also made over 3,500 calls to elderly and vulnerable tenants to ensure they had everything they needed and to check whether any additional support was required. Wolverhampton Homes donated £10,000 to the One City Fund which, amongst other things, boosted the help on offer to those who have found themselves homeless at this extremely difficult time. In fact, the partnership approach adopted by Wolverhampton Homes, the City of Wolverhampton Council and our partners over the past few months has been hailed as best practice within the social housing sector and will most definitely shape how we deliver homeless services going forward.

As the nation slowly takes control of Covid-19 and with the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions, the focus for the Senior Management Team is now on resuming some of those services that were suspended back in March when lockdown was first introduced. In terms of our recovery, Wolverhampton Homes has already begun letting homes and carrying out external improvements and continues to attend emergency repairs and safety checks as they have throughout lockdown. We’re also booking routine repairs appointments and following new procedures to keep everyone safe. Over the coming weeks, it’s intended that more services are restored, but the priority, first and foremost, is protecting people. As Chair of the Board, I support Wolverhampton Homes’ phased approach in resuming services and I’m pleased to see them carrying out rigorous risk assessments to ensure the appropriate measures are put in place.

We’ve learnt a lot over the past few months and we’ll be using those lessons to make long-term improvements for our customers. Furthermore, Wolverhampton Homes will be launching a customer engagement survey in August, to gain a greater understanding of how customers feel about its services, and we’ll be using your feedback to shape service improvements moving forward. It’s important that we gain a broad representation of views and we would like as many of you as possible to complete the survey, so please keep your eye on Wolverhampton Homes’ website and on social media. 

Everything that Wolverhampton Homes has achieved as a housing provider over the past several months would not have been possible without the patience, resilience, cooperation and support of its customers. Teams across the business have received many heartfelt words of thanks from customers, acknowledging the work that’s been carried out despite the challenges we all face. I can assure you that your kind words have provided a real boost for staff and have helped them overcome the numerous challenges to continue delivering services, come rain or shine.  

Make no mistake, there are hard times ahead, but I know that as #OneCity, we will overcome any challenges 2020 throws at us, and together we’ll come out of this stronger than before. 

 

Stay safe everyone and be kind.

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