A person holding a bicycle in a flat

Supporting our key workers through Covid-19

By Dominic Gregory, Key Worker Business Manager
13 May 2020

From the heart of Leicestershire to the Isle of Wight, Sovereign Housing Association’s relationship with the NHS means thousands of key workers have a home to go back to after a day on the front-line caring for people in the eye of this Covid-19 storm.

This partnership between the housing association and the hospital trusts has never been needed more than during these trouble times.

Dominic Gregory, Key Worker Business Manager for Sovereign, explains how nearly 30 years of working together has seen the hospital and the housing provider find their way through this crisis.

“Key workers are at the fore-front of everyone's minds at the moment. Just look at the great job they are doing, putting their lives on the line for others.

“It makes me, and everyone at Sovereign, really proud of the relationship we have with the Trusts and the key workers throughout the country. We have long standing working partnerships with these Trusts built up over 30 years: we know how we can really help each other. That learning and that experience has been really crucial at the moment.

“Now, we are one of the largest providers of purpose built keyworker accommodation in the country. In the past 12 months we have provided homes for over 6,500 key workers, sometimes their families too, sometimes even visitors.

“We have homes in Leicester, Reading, Torquay, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Poole and the Isle of Wight. We also have MOD accommodation in Somerset. That’s a large part of this country.

“And throughout Covid-19 our key worker accommodation has remained open and operational supporting the six NHS Trusts that we operate in partnership with to house increased staffing levels as they bring in more short-term staff to boost their efforts.

“We wanted to do our bit to help our key workers living at these properties, to show some extra support, to give a little back when they are showing the country the way.

“That’s why we’ve postponed a rent increase. It would usually increase from April/May each year but we're postponing the increase until at least 1 August for every one of our key workers.

“We normally charge for parking at our key worker properties - which are normally on Trust sites. But in support of our NHS residents we’ve suspended our car parking charges for each of these NHS workers until at least 1 August.

“And we have also contacted each resident to ask if we can help further, providing things like additional cleaning equipment if they have to self-isolate.

“We have also released our university students from their contracts and rent obligations where their university has ended the academic year or moved all teaching online. We have partnerships in Leicester with De Montfort Uni and University of Leicester and this has been well received.​​

“It’s been a great effort from our team. All 65 members of our key worker teams and colleagues from across the organisation are pulling out all the stops to keep services running and to keep our residents safe.

"We've seen some fantastic support from across Sovereign to provide us with the people, resources and expertise needed to continue to provide a near-normal service to our customers.

"The teams are really busy as you'd expect and while many of our people can work from home, others, particularly our large number of Housekeeping Assistants, have been working flat out to prepare rooms for incoming arrivals seven days a week, whilst significantly increasing the cleaning in communal areas of our accommodation.

“We will do this for as long as it takes. It is fantastic to do our bit for the doctors and nurses, and other healthcare professionals, who are the real heroes of this country.”