Update March 26th
Our focus at Bernicia during this difficult and worrying time remains on the health and safety of our tenants, customers and staff.
In line with Government advice, we now have all but a very limited number of staff working from home and our offices remain closed to the public.
We have opened a telephone service with our call centres and community call alarm services operational as part of our home working arrangements.
You may experience a longer wait than usual for your call to be answered, so if this is not an emergency you can get in touch with us via our website and by clicking on ‘Contact Us’.
If you have a digital account you can also log onto ‘My Bernicia’ where you will be able to view your personal information including your rent account.
While we have instigated home working, we do have staff working remotely, responding to emergencies and undertaking compliance checks, such as gas servicing, all designed to keep tenants safe.
Bernicia is in regular contact with trade bodies such as Gas Safe and we are working in line with current advice, which may change depending on how the current situation develops.
Where we have to go to into people’s homes we have protocols in place to ensure residents and staff are safe.
We have also put in place additional measures at our sheltered and supported housing schemes to enhance cleaning and maintain social distancing and are providing extra help and advice to residents.
Every tenant has received a letter explaining how Bernicia is reacting to the Coronavirus outbreak and the services they can expect during this time.
We are also working with local authorities and other partners to determine whether there is any wider support we can provide to tenants, customers and communities, particularly the vulnerable.
We will be identifying capacity and skills to help the wider effort.
Thank you once again for your understanding and patience at this difficult time.
Take care and stay safe.
Coronavirus: Chief Executive John Johnston answers your questions
As the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) outbreak develops we want to assure you that the health, safety and well-being of our tenants, residents, customers and staff is an absolute priority for us.
On a daily basis the government is issuing and updating information on how the spread of Coronavirus can be contained and delayed.
First and foremost please follow the government’s advice which is always up to date and can be found on www.nhs.uk. Advice is also provided through a government media campaign so listen out for any new developments.
As a service provider we need to make some changes to the way we do things. These changes will, understandably, bring some limitations to normal service delivery but are designed to ensure that we keep you and your home safe and that we are there when you need us. They are designed in accordance with government advice, particularly in relation to limiting social contact, as we all try to do our bit to help manage the Coronavirus outbreak.
The following questions and answers are designed to tell you about what’s been put in place and what you can expect during this difficult time. I must reiterate however that this is our approach at this current time, things are changing constantly in response to government advice and our staff resource levels, so you are advised to also check our website for the most up to date information.
Will your offices still be open?
Our offices in Ashington, Pity Me and Berwick will now be closed to the public. If you need to deliver something to us, for example a letter or you need to return keys, post box facilities are available at each office.
Telephone lines will operate as normal, so please either ring 0344 800 3800 or visit our website www.bernicia.com if you need to report something or require any information or help.
What will happen with repairs service?
We are focussed on maintaining this critical service. For a period of time we will be scaling back on non-urgent repairs, but still operating an emergency and urgent repair service. Urgent repairs will be limited to things that might turn into emergencies if we don’t fix these.
Our emergency service will still operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
If you still want to report non urgent repairs we can record these but we’ll not be able to currently offer you an appointment or give you a timescale for completion.
What if my heating is due to be serviced?
Making sure heating appliances are safe is extremely important therefore we’ll carry on as normal with our servicing programme.
We’ll need access to your home so please continue to let us in and be assured we have taken every precaution to ensure our staff can work safely in your home.
I’m due to have improvements done to my home, will these still go ahead?
It’s likely the works planned for your home will be delayed, we’ll let you know when these can go ahead.
Will I have to disclose if I am self isolating or have any symptoms related to the virus?
We’ll ask you a series of questions before and at the time we visit your home. Please don’t be offended by these, our only intention is to make sure risks of transferring the virus are minimised.
I live in a sheltered housing scheme, will anything change?
Due to social distancing, no activities will be able to take place in communal lounges and / or activity rooms.
You’ll have to think carefully about visitors to your home and ask visitors to stick to the government’s advice on hygiene. We do accept that your loved ones will want to make sure you are safe and well.
Contact will be maintained through your warden, who will remain on site but only enter your home in certain circumstances, and the community alarm service.
Enhanced cleaning practices have been triggered and these will ensure all touch surfaces are regularly disinfected.
What about the community alarm service?
Our 24 hour service will continue as usual. We’ve recently been in touch to ensure we have the correct contact details for your next of kin so our records are up to date. It’s really important that you inform us of any future changes.
How will I pay my rent if I can’t leave my home?
There are a number of ways to do this without having to worry about social distancing.
You can pay over the phone via the Allpay automated service by ringing 0330 041 6497.
If you don’t like automated services you can ring us and we’ll take your payment.
You can also set up a login on ‘My Bernicia’ and make payments via our website or through the Allpay website www.allpay.com or by using the Allpay app.
The easiest and safest way to pay your rent is by direct debit, you can do this directly through Allpay or if you need any help just give us a ring.
What happens if my income is reduced?
We recognise the impacts of Coronavirus are far reaching and people may be affected financially, for example if businesses reduce services or close.
If you face such circumstances please get in touch, you may be entitled to help towards your rent or may need some advice on what can be done to help manage your payments. The important thing is that you keep us informed, we are here to help on 0344 800 3800.
I’m waiting to move to another Bernicia property, will this still go ahead?
We’ll continue to repair and relet homes as they become empty. So if you are to move home this will still happen but with safe working practices in place.
What if I am a victim of anti-social behaviour?
Cases will be prioritised as we may be only able to deal with the most serious of these.
Face to face interviews will only take place in extreme circumstances, again with safe working practices in place.
Most information can be taken over the telephone or by email or letter therefore limiting interview situations will not stop cases being managed and progressed.
At this point no-one can fully predict how Coronavirus will develop, therefore we’ll review the situation on a daily basis and make adjustments to manage this and restore business as usual when its right to do so.
We’ll update our website with any further changes and let you know personally if there is anything fundamental we need to tell you about.
The outbreak of Coronavirus is a very concerning situation and we are facing difficult times, rest assured we are, and will continue to do as much as we can to support our tenants, customers and local communities.
We thank you for your patience and cooperation whilst we work through these difficult times and hope you take care and stay well.
We will keep you updated with information through our website – please keep checking here and the NHS website.