COVID-19: Guidance and Advice for ICSH Housing Association Members

To best serve our members and the voluntary housing sector, the ICSH is constantly monitoring the official information available regarding Covid-19 and its containment and we will communicate this to our members, highlighting specific official advice in relation to our members’ roles as landlords, employers and providers of wider community services .

Official Information Sources on COVID-19

General Information

At Risk Groups

Healthcare Workers

Employers and Employees

Business Continuity

Other: Volunteering, Mental Health, Data Protection

ICSH Guidance on Housing Management Issues During the Covid-19 Crisis

 

Please find below a list of resources from Government, state agencies and other organisations of interest to ICSH members, that are providing information and guidance notification on Covid-19.

Official Social Media Sources

Please follow the following official handles on Twitter for COVID-19 related information.

  • @HSELive
  • @hpscireland
  • @roinnslainte
  • @CMOireland

 

General Information

Health Service Executive (HSE)  Covid-19: Information Sheet

Download the HSE information sheet here Coronavirus COVID-19: The Facts

Health Service Executive (HSE) Covid-19: General Advice

The latest Covid-19 information from the HSE is available here. https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus.html. The latest Covid-19 information from the HSE  for at-risk groups is available here. https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/at-risk-groups.html

Irish Government Covid-19: Measures in Response to COVID-19

The general public is being asked to follow this advice and keep informed of the ongoing outbreak. The advice includes information and guidance in relation to social distancing, vulnerable groups, visiting hospitals, nursing homes and long stay settings and advice for employers and employees. Details of these updated measures can be found here. https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/c36c85-covid-19-coronavirus/

The Government has also issued a National Action Plan in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), which is available here https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/47b727-government-publishes-national-a...

 

At-Risk Groups

HSE & Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) COVID-19: Guidance for Vulnerable At-Risk Groups & Settings

General guidance is availbale here https://www2.hse.ie/conditions/coronavirus/at-risk-groups.html

This guidance document gives general advice about preventing the spread of COVID-19 in settings for vulnerable groups, such as Homeless, Travellers, refugees/asylum seekers and others. The measures outlined are mainly focused on congregate settings or facilities managed by staff and can be applied in direct provision centres, hostels, hubs or residential settings including those without clinic or in-house nursing, medical or healthcare support. Click here to download the guidance document.  (dated 14th March 2020)

Homeless Services COVID-19

On Saturday 14th March, Minister Murphy issued a statement outling measures by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, local authorities and specialist agencies to ensure the safety of the individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness and are currently accessing emergency accommodation, as well as staff working in these areas.

Testing on any suspected cases is arranged via GPs or Safetynet.Safetynet Primary Care is a registered charity funded by the HSE, it offers a comprehensive primary health care service targeted at people who are experiencing homelessness in Dublin. Due to the increased volume of phone and email queries about Coronavirus testing in light of broadening of testing criteria announced by the HSE, Saefteynet are asking symptomatic patients to fill out the following questionnaire to help them make assessments more efficiently.  https://screeningform.com/safetynet-homeless

The Dublin Region Homeless Executive has advised that individuals engaging with homeless services do not present in person to their local authority or to Parkgate Hall. service users asre advised to make cnotact by phone, post or email. Click here to download information and contact details for the four Dublin local authorities.

In relation to remote support services, telephone support is a widely used tool in psychosocial support. Technologies can be used as a complement to face-to-face services, but also as a service on its own.In the context of the confinement declared by the Spanish government due to COVID-19, you can download a useful document that offers practical advice on how best to use telephone and digital technology to give the best possible support to Housing First clients. Click here to download the document.

At-risk Groups Covid-19: Information from ALONE

ALONE, in collaboration with the Department of Health and the HSE, have launched a COVID-19 support line for older people. The National Public Health Emergency has established a Vulnerable People Subgroug and as a member organisation of the National Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Subgroup for Vulnerable People, ALONE is working in collaboration with the Department of Health and the HSE on a coordinated national response to support older people who have concerns, may be at risk or who have contracted COVID-19. Contact ALONE on 0818 222 024 (8am-8pm) if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on www.alone.ie.

At-risk Groups Covid-19: Information from SeniorLine

SeniorLine provides a Freefone service every day of the year 10am-10pm, including all public holidays. Callers concerned about coronavirus will get the most up-to-date guidance recommended by Government sources. You can contact Senior Line on 1800 80 45 91

At-risk Groups Covid-19: Information from The Alzheimer Society

The Alzheimer Society of Ireland provides advice and support for vulnerable people living alone (pdf) during the coronavirus pandemic. While the group does not offer personalised medical advice, their service can direct you towards reliable sources of information. You can contact the Alzheimer National Helpline team on 1800 341 341, by email at helpline@alzheimer.ie or via Live Chat at alzheimer.ie

At-risk Groups Covid-19: Information from Age Action

The Age Action Information Service also provides a service for older people to ensure that they can access accurate and timely information about the virus. The service is available Monday to Friday 9.30am—5pm on 01 4756989.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) Covid-19: Advice to Member Nursing Homes

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) is the national representative body for the private and voluntary nursing home sector. The NHI is providing COVID-19 advice to member nursing homes here. https://nhi.ie/covid-19-guidance/

Nursing Home ireland also provides a very useful list of HSE contacts for accessing PPE equipment here https://nhi.ie/covid-19-guidance/

 

Healthcare Workers

Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) Covid-19: Advice and Guidance for Healthcare Workers

The HPSC provides advice and guidance for healthcare workers. https://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/respiratory/coronavirus/novelcoronavirus/guidanc...

HSE & HPSC Covid-19: Current recommendations for the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19

The HSE Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) guidance will be monitored and may change as the coronavirus outbreak evolves. Click here to access current guidance.

HSE Office of the Chief Clinical Officer Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

To ensure the sustainability of essential products, specifically PPE, the HSE has developed guidance to support staff in the prioritisation of same. The guidance provides information on the availability of PPE and the use of same to minimise the risk of transmission of infection. The guidance note is available here.

Nursing Home ireland also provides a very useful list of HSE contacts for accessing PPE equipment here https://nhi.ie/covid-19-guidance/

Employers and Employees

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Covid-19: Guidance Notice for Employers and Employees

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are introducing measures to provide income support to people affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Government have now urged all employers to support national public health objectives by continuing, as a minimum, to pay employees who cannot attend work due to Covid-19 illness or self-isolation the difference between the special Illness Benefit rate and their normal wages. In addition, A number of income supports are available from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for people whose employers do not continue to pay them during a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) related absence or temporary lay-off from work.

For more information, click here. https://www.gov.ie/en/campaigns/4cf0e2-covid-19-coronavirus-information-...

 

Business Continuity

Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation Covid-19: Business Continuity Planning - Checklist of Preparatory Actions

The following is a checklist of some of the key risks to the continuity of your business activities during the outbreak of COVID-19 and of preparatory actions that can be taken to respond. Click here to download the guidance document.  https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Business-Continuit...

Office of Government Procurement Covid-19: Note on Procurement and Contractual Matters Associated with the Covid-19 Response Measures

The purpose of this note is to provide guidance to Contracting Authorities who:

  • are required to procure emergency professional services or works as a result of the Covid-19 response measures; or
  • are currently a party to a public works contract or conditions of engagement or both;

It is recognised that the Covid-19 response measures announced up to the date of this note are likely to impact both on operations on construction sites and the delivery of aspects of a design team’s services. In these challenging times it is imperative that parties to contracts work together to ensure that the project can be delivered safely. This note sets out measures to assist parties to the contract to take the necessary steps to meet this objective. https://constructionprocurement.gov.ie/19-march-2020-note-on-procurement...

Housing Agency Covid-19: 10 Tips for Owners' Management Companies During Covid-19

The Housing Agency has prepared some tips for directors of residential owners' management companies to consider during the COVID-19 period. Click here to download the publication https://www.housingagency.ie/sites/default/files/Covid-19/10-Tips-OMCs.pdf

Public Interest Law Alliance COVID-19: FAQs FOR NGOs

The Public Interest law Alliance (PILA) has compiled some resources to help NGOs navigate some of the key legal issues that may arise in the coming days, weeks and months and to signpost to where legal help and support will be available. The six identified areas are: employment law, corporate governance, contracts, data protection, insurance and increasing complexity of client concerns. You can download the PILA FAQs for NGOs document here.

 

Other: Volunteering, Mental Health, Data Protection

Volunteering  Covid-19: Volunteering or recruiting Volunteers to Support the response to Covid-19

Volunteer Ireland are prioritising the recruitment, support and promotion of volunteer roles related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) response and are providing practical advice and guidance to organisations and members of the public wishing to volunteer Click here for more information: https://www.volunteer.ie/about-us/covid-19/

ALONE is also enabling individuals to register online to volunteer their time. You can register here. https://www.tfaforms.com/4715929

HSE Mental Health COVID-19: Guidance on Minding your Mental Health

Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19), can be worrying. This can affect your mental health. But there are many things you can do to mind your mental health during times like this. Click here for advice and information https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/mental-health/minding-your-mental-health-d...

Data Protection Commissioner Covid-19: Data Protection and COVID-19

Governments, as well as public, private, and voluntary organisations are taking necessary steps to contain the spread and mitigate the effects of COVID-19, widely referred to as the ‘coronavirus’. Many of these steps will involve the processing of personal data (such as name, address, workplace, travel details) of individuals, including in many cases sensitive, ‘special category’ personal data (such as data relating to health). Data protection law does not stand in the way of the provision of healthcare and the management of public health issues; nevertheless there are important considerations which should be taken into account when handling personal data in these contexts, particularly health and other sensitive data. Click here for more information https://dataprotection.ie/en/news-media/blogs/data-protection-and-covid-19

 

ICSH Guidance on Housing Management Issues During the Covid-19 Crisis

The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) as the national federation for housing associations in Ireland, is committed to supporting members throughout the current Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent restrictions. The current restrictions will have a significant impact on housing associations’ activities and their ability to carry out normal housing management functions in a way that is safe. The following guidance is designed to offer advice to members on how they can best adapt to this rapidly changing situation – keeping business going as usual as much as is possible while keeping staff and tenants safe and supported.

This advice is based on the stricter restrcitions on movement and meetings announced on March 27th and is informed by the new restrictions on essential workers. We have a full overview of how these new requiremens will affect AHBs here. 

We are liaising with the Department of Housing and other statutory bodies regularly to raise issues of concern for the sector and advocate for our member. 

 

Allocations and lettings
Allocations should continue if they inovlve moving people out of homeless or otherwise unstable or unsafe accommodation. For other allocations that you are unsure about continuing with, consult with the relevant local authority to ascertain if they are priority allocations that should proceed.

 

Housing associations should consider the risks before carrying out any interviews for allocating new or void units in person. Creative ways of carrying out interviews should be considered such as over Skype or other video messaging or over the phone. Consideration should also be given to the fact that new tenants may find it a difficult time to move due to likely reduced access to goods and services. This is something that should be looked at on a case by case basis, having regard to the safety and stability of an applicant’s current housing situation and whether or not they are in an at risk group. Where lettings take place, a full risk assessment should take place and social distancing and strict hygiene protocols should be followed at all times if carrying out interviews in person or during all aspects of the letting process.

 

Pre-tenancy
Any planned pre-tenancy training should be postponed until after the restrictions are lifted on March 29th or thereafter. Social distancing guidelines would be difficult to follow in any organised indoor setting and any meetings such as this would be best avoided. Pre-tenancy information can be given to new tenants via email or by post.

 

Rent collection and arrears
Door-to-door rent collection or receiving rent payments in person is relatively rare however we would advise members to contact tenants that make rent payments in person and encourage them to make their rent payments through other means for the duration of the restrictions. This is a time of considerable financial uncertainty for many with the slowdown in economic activity having a knock-on effect on some employment. We would advise members to deal sensitively with any tenants facing such worries or uncertainty. The ICSH advises its members to:

  • Encourage tenants to approach them at an early stage if they are worried about their finances
  • Assure tenants on differential rents that any changed income will be factored into their rent calculations, while being realistic that these calculations may not be done immediately and may take some time to resolve
  • Assure tenants that should they fall into arrears as a result of income decreases from the Covid-19 restrictions, they should engage with you as soon as possible and their situation will be handled sympathetically and with understanding.

 

Repairs and maintenance
All planned and cyclical maintenance should be suspended until April 19th (or until restrictions are lifted thereafter). Routine and urgent repairs should also be suspended and only emergency repairs should be carried out. For emergency repairs that are absolutely necessary, guidelines for social distancing and hygiene should be strictly followed by any occupants and tradespeople visiting the property. The tradesperson or company carrying out the repairs should do a risk assessment of the situation and act accordingly.

If emergency repairs are required in a property where there is a suspected or confirmed case of Covid 19 or where someone is self-isolating, then the HSE should be contacted regarding best practice and in relation to protective equipment for any tradespeople. The HSE Live number is Callsave 1850 24 1850 / 041 6850300 and is manned 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am – 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Call volumes are likely to be very high at the moment and there are further means of contacting HSE Live outlined on their website.

 

Vulnerable tenants
Tenants who are in the “at risk” category are those who:

  • are 60 years of age and over
  • have a long-term medical condition – for example, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer or high blood pressure
  • have a weak immune system (immunosuppressed)

 

Those who are over the age of 70 and / or medically at risk are currently being advised to "cocoon" and not leave their home at all for the next two weeks. Many people are anxious about Covid-19 and the restrictions that have been put in place. Those in the at risk category are probably even more anxious. There is a risk that tenants who are lonely or socially isolated may become even more so during this time of reduced social interaction. We would advise all AHBs to inform tenants of local services that can are available for those who are socially isolated or vulnerable and who may be stepping up their efforts at this time. The ICSH is collating a list of local authority response teams and will distribute thsi to our memebrs later in the week.

 

Advice from other bodies

The Housing Agency Regulation Office has put together a guide with six key areas for Approved Housing Bodies to consider during the coronavirus pandemic. https://www.housingagency.ie/sites/default/files/Regulation/AHB%20Regula...

The Residential Tenancies Board have assured customers and stakeholders that their customer contact service will continue to operate during regular business hours. They are encouraging everyone to use their online services such as webchat and email as far as possible as there may be some delays on phone lines.  
 
Irish Water are asking the public, both householders and businesses, to help maintain vital water and wastewater services by conserving water where possible.In particular, they are asking non-domestic customers to turn off all non-essential water in buildings which are not going to be in use for a period of time. They are also appealing to the public to check for and report leaks to 1850 278 278.  

HIQA have announced they will be cancelling all routine inspections of designated centres until further notice.

ICSH Advice
The ICSH is operating as usual and we are available for any queries you have on Covid-19 or any other housing issue. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9.15am – 5.15pm. Our phone number is 01 6618334. Most staff are working remotelyand can be contacted by email.

 

 

 

Date: 
Monday, 9 March, 2020