Covid-19 (Coronavirus) updates and advice for tenants

LAST UPDATED: Thurs 8th Aug, 6:30pm

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 (Coronavirus), Hillcrest has been continuing to provide as many services as possible.  In order to continue to minimise the spread of the virus, we’re continually adapting our services and procedures in line with Government advice at the time.

Repairs

Lockdown Period

Works have been carried out throughout the Lockdown Period in line with Scottish Government guidance. All Emergency Repair works, Gas Servicing and urgent Void Repair works have been carried out.

We realise that tenants may be anxious of people entering their homes at this time, firstly we will only carry out repair work with the tenant’s consent.  Secondly, detailed Risk Assessments have been carried out across all areas of works and suitable Protective Personal Equipment is worn at all times.

Scottish Government Phase 1 Period

In ‘Phase 1’ of the ‘Covid-19 Routemap’ our outdoor works increased. This has included Landscaping and Roofing works carried out by external contractors and Fencing and Cyclical Painting works carried out by our internal maintenance teams.

Scottish Government Phase 2 Period

Preparations are now in place to increase the types of works we can carry out now we have moved  to ‘Phase 2’ of the Scottish Government ‘Covid-19 Routemap’ as ‘non-essential indoor non-office-based workplaces resume’.

We are currently targeting Monday 29th June 2020 as a start date for non-emergency repair work. At this stage we expect to be able to carry out all other maintenance works, with the exception of Kitchen Replacements and new Gas Central Heating installations.

Kitchen Replacement and new gas Central Heating installation works are currently targeted as a Monday 3rd August 2020 start.

Non-Emergency Repair Deadlines

As non-emergency repair works have not been carried since the 23rd March 2020, we expect to have a backlog of around 3 months of non-emergency repairs to complete when we commence works on 29th June 2020.

We will do our best to clear this backlog as quickly and as safely as we can although it might take some time before the backlog is cleared. Staff who would ordinarily work kitchen replacement contracts will be reassigned to non-emergency repairs to help clear the backlog of works.

During this time we may not be able to complete a number of non-emergency repair works within our normal 10 working day deadline and we ask that you bear with this.  We will endeavour to have all repairs completed as quickly as possible and a convenient time.

We would like to apologise in advance for the inconvenience this may cause you and we would like to thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

Our trades operatives will wear appropriate personal protective equipment when they visit your home to help prevent any spread of the virus.

If you are self-isolating or have been diagnosed with Coronavirus and already have an appointment to have maintenance work carried out, please contact us.

 

Non Repair Home Visits

Until now our housing staff have been unable to visit you in your home and have instead contacted you by phone, email, text or video call. Whilst virtual appointments remain the default option, from Monday 17th August our Housing and Maintenance Officers, and HEAT advisors will be able to carry out limited home visits where no other alternative is possible.

These will be subject to your permission and the usual safety and social distancing rules will apply. These will be subject to your permission and the usual safety and social distancing rules will apply. Unfortunately it is still not yet possible for us to re-open our offices for visitors but we will notify tenants as soon as we are able to do so.

 

Housing and Customer Services

Our offices remain closed to all visitors. However, we are still open, all queries will now be answered via phone (0300 123 2640) or email (customerservice@hillcrest.org.uk).

 

Rent concerns – support for tenants struggling as a result of Coronavirus

Tenants affected by Coronavirus who are concerned about paying their rent should contact us as quickly as possible. We have suspended our standard rent arrears collection processes to focus on individual contacts and support.

Your rent will remain due during this period and you can apply for Universal Credit from the Department for Work and Pensions, which includes support for housing costs if they are eligible. The UK Government has introduced some temporary changes to make this easier. We can help you through this process.

If you are applying for Universal Credit, please do so online rather than by telephone. More information about Universal Credit and the current health crisis is available hereOur Tenancy Sustainment Service can give advice on Universal Credit applications. The team can also advise on what you can claim if you are unable to work due to you or someone in your household being ill or self-isolating.

If you are self-employed, you can check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support scheme here.

If you are worried about your rent or if you have any queries about benefits or Universal Credit please contact us on 0300 123 2640.

If your employer has told you not to work, there is further information from Citizen’s Advice Scotland here. The Money Advice Service also has information here relating to Covid-19 and your finances.

 

Coronavirus update – Scottish Government relaxes benefit eligibility.

The Scottish Government has temporarily changed eligibility for a number of social security benefits to help people who are impacted by coronavirus.

The move is to ensure people who can’t get an application in on time due to things such as illness or caring responsibilities can still get the support that they need.

BEST START GRANT

If someone does not get any other benefits, they normally need to be under 18 to be eligible for the Best Start Grant. If they could not apply before they turned 18 because of disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

PREGNANCY AND BABY PAYMENT

A baby normally needs to be under six months old for a parent to be eligible for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment. If they could not apply before the baby turned six months old due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

EARLY LEARNING PAYMENT

A child normally needs to be between two years old and three years and six months old for a parent or carer to be eligible for the Early Learning Payment. If they could not apply before then due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

FUNERAL SUPPORT PAYMENT

If a person could not apply for a Funeral Support Payment within six months of the funeral taking place due to the disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

YOUNG CARER GRANT

A young carer normally needs to be under 19 years old. If they could not apply before they turned 19 because of disruption caused by Coronavirus, an application will still be considered.

If you would like to find out more about any of these payments, please contact our Tenancy Sustainment Service on 0300 123 2640.

 

Information for people with prepay meters

If you are self-isolating or recovering from Coronavirus, this will mean you may not be able to leave your home. This can be a problem if you have a prepay meter, which requires you to go to the shop to top up.

Different energy suppliers will have their own ways of dealing with this, which can include one or more of the following options:

Smart meter top up – you can do this online using the usual process. If you are struggling financially due to working restrictions, your energy supplier may be able to top up your meter if it is an emergency situation. Please note – this will have to be paid back to your supplier at a later date in the form of payback per week on your prepay meter.

Electricity key or gas card top up – you can pay your supplier directly by phone and they will then send a unique code to a pay-point near to you. This code can then be picked up by family or friends. If you don’t have anyone who can do this for you, your supplier may be able to send a key or card to your home that will allow you to top up. The supplier will assess how much you would need for the period of isolation and circumstances you are in and usually supply you with enough to stay on-supply during this time.  Please note – this will also have to be paid back to your supplier at a later date in the form of payback per week on your prepay meter.

General tips:

  • If you are not self-isolating, it’s a good idea to keep topping your meter up with extra money whenever you can to build up plenty of credit in case you have to self-isolate at a later date.
  • If you or anyone in your home has any underlying health conditions, you should also contact your energy supplier to let them know. They will add you to the Priority Service Register, which will give you extra support should you need it.
  • If you are self-isolating, you should contact your energy company as soon as you become aware of an issue to do with your prepay meter, as some of the solutions above can take up to a week to sort out.
  • It is a good idea to leave your external meter box unlocked so family or friends can use your key to top up if you are self-isolating. This would also help if your supplier needs access.

 

Advice for billing and Direct Debit customers

  • If you are experiencing difficulty to pay bills or keep up with Direct Debit payments, you should call your supplier as soon as possible to see what assistance they can offer. This may be in the form of deferring or lowering Direct Debit payments or putting accounts on hold, but will vary with different suppliers. No energy supplies will be disconnected during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
  • Recovery letters and notices that are auto-generated will still be sent out and if you receive one, phone your supplier at the earliest opportunity.
  • Suppliers are keen to identify households that have vulnerabilities so they can support them and add them to the Priority Service Register. This is particularly important for tenants who are at risk of going off supply.
  • Energy suppliers will only arrange for an engineer to visit your house in an emergency situation during the Covid-19 lockdown and this would be where a supply is unsafe or off-supply.
  • It is vitally important that if you are experiencing difficulties with your energy supply to get in touch with your energy supplier as soon as possible. This may prevent emergency measures needing to be carried out and is easier for your supplier to give assistance.

SSE has now produced FAQs for their customers that answer a number of specific questions they may have. You can find these here.

If you are concerned that spending a lot of time at home as a result of self-isolation will drive your energy bills up, Energy Action Scotland has tips and information that can help.

If you need any other advice, please contact HEAT on 0300 123 2640.

The main energy suppliers and their contact details are listed below. Many of these suppliers have a live chat option on their website if you have no phone credit.

SSE

0345 026 2658 – Customer service

0345 071 9852 – Priority service

sse.co.uk

EDF

0333 200 5100

www.edfenergy.com

Utilita

0345 2068 333

utilita.co.uk

Bulb

0300 3030635

bulb.co.uk

Scottish Power

0800 0270072

community.scottishpower.co.uk/

Scottish/ British Gas

0220 100 0303

https://www.britishgas.co.uk/

OVO

0330 102 7517

forum.ovoenergy.com/

Npower

0330 100 3000

www.npower.com

text phone 0800 413 016

EON

0345 303 3040

 www.eonenergy.com