Social landlords are facing staffing issues in areas with high rates of COVID-19 as people stay away from work to self-isolate, a survey by the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) has found.
In a summary of responses to its sixth monthly Coronavirus Operational Response Survey (CORS) for September, published today, the regulator said that some providers “described emerging issues including increased levels of absence” among care and support staff.
The absences were a result of employees “self-isolating in locations where the number of COVID-19 cases is high”, it added.
Challenges providing care and support “across areas with different restrictions in place” have also cropped up.
Some landlords working in areas with long-running local lockdowns have seen repairs backlogs that were previously growing stabilise, the regulator noted, “while others have reported that backlogs of routine repairs have begun to rise due to increased levels of staff self-isolating”.
The sector expressed fears about a second wave of the pandemic and further lockdown measures leading to more staff absences and reduced capacity, it added, which could be “particularly challenging over winter months as providers also anticipate increased repairs reporting”.
Responses were provided before the government introduced its three-tier alert system.
However, “most providers continued to report no significant issues with staffing” or with repairs delivery, with backlogs “continuing to improve overall” the RSH said.
Service delivery across the sector remained stable, with health and safety compliance at a similar level to the previous month following a steady rise in completed checks up to August.
Gas safety compliance “is approaching normal levels with only a small number of checks outstanding due to ongoing access issues”, the survey found.
And the number of providers worrying about stock and safety conditions falling below normal minimum standards has dropped “substantially” since May.
The RSH did not provide figures to support its summary, but a graph included in the report on asbestos, electrical, legionella and lift safety checks shows that at least one provider said it had “few or none complete and a material backlog” or was “not maintaining safe staffing levels and essential service delivery”.
The CORS was launched to track how the sector is coping with challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last month’s survey found that many providers were preparing for a potential second wave by stockpiling personal protective equipment and carrying out safety checks ahead of schedule.
Social landlords are being told to report to the RSH if they believe that tenant safety is threatened or financial viability is under strain.