• Sarah Tempest

Routine Repairs Are Back

After nearly four months, routine repairs are due to restart. We will be concentrating on repairs that have been logged during lockdown and pre-lockdown, to begin to clear the backlog of jobs that have been reported whilst we've been under severe restrictions. You can contact us from Monday 29th June to follow these up and visits will commence from 1st July.

Lockdown has presented many problems for us all, and new ways of working. Repairs has been an area that's been particularly hard hit.

On the 17th of March 2020 Rooftop closed its offices in the expectation that due to the Coronavirus pandemic, we would need to alter the way we worked. As an organisation we were lucky that many of us had our own laptops and mobiles, so we had the equipment to learn or adapt to working from home. For the Rooftop Repairs Team it was a little different. At first the team thought that they might be the only ones allowed to stay in the office, but on the 23rd of March the whole of the UK was put into lockdown and told to work from home if they could.

The Repairs Team responsive service depends on the team being able to constantly co-ordinate with each other. They are effectively a call centre that needs to share information and rely on particular technologies to do their job. It had always been feared that it would be difficult for Repairs to effectively work from home because of problems with external setups, glitches in phone lines and configuration issues with information technology.

Fiona Ritchie is Team Leader in Repairs she says “it's fair to say we were quite alarmed about lockdown, it all happened so fast.”

“The critical thing for Repairs is the collaboration and the cross working. Anybody in the team could pick up a call from a customer requesting a repair. An individual in the team may know that there is a history to that issue or have knowledge of a particular type of problem, and when working remotely you cannot share the content of peoples brains.” She added

Repairs have always worked like one collective unit, a hive mind working together.” Of course the whole team worked incredibly hard and very quickly to set up the necessary systems from home, supported brilliantly by The IT team at Rooftop.” Fiona says.

Restrictions brought in due to COVID-19 meant Rooftop was forced to pare back the services Repairs could offer. These restrictions helped in being able to adapt to home working in the early stages. The team set up a WhatsApp group so they could continue to share information and use it as a real time tool. Colleagues could ask questions, swap information with each other and continue to share vital snippets.

The Repairs Team had to consult Government guidance, information coming from the Regulator of Social Housing, the National Housing Federation, and to work alongside its partner organisation Platform. Rooftop’s role in the repair service is to be the point of contact for our customers, so whenever you have a problem the phone call will come to a member of the Rooftop Repairs Team. When the repair is actually taking place, we work in partnership with a company called Platform, so when somebody arrives at your home, it will likely be a member of the Platform team.

Adam Quinn is Rooftop’s Repairs Manager, he says that before lockdown, the team were logging 200-300 repair jobs every week. The sudden stop caused by Coronavirus restricted the work that could be done, so inevitably a backlog was going to build up. “None of us realised how long this would last.” Adam says. “Repairs relies on a chain of connections between Rooftop, Platform and the suppliers of materials. All of them had to stop.”

At lockdown, Platform furloughed most of their staff. Due to Covid-19, we were only allowed to carry out emergency repairs, these included water leaks, loss of power, boiler breakdowns and anything that posed a health and safety risk. Obtaining access to properties could put both customers and staff at risk, so the service essentially became a “make safe” service.

For example, we had one customer who contacted us to say that a door frame was beginning to collapse. We aim to make sure emergency repairs are attended to within 24 hours of the call to check the severity of the issue. In this instance the door was collapsing, so a prop was put in place to make it safe. Because completing a job can take much longer and require too much contact time indoors within the guidelines, that door frame still needs to be replaced. So as restrictions come to an end, Rooftop will have a lot of catching up to do.

About one month into lockdown it was possible to extend the Repairs service to cover some urgent repairs as well as emergencies. Social distancing had to be maintained and PPE worn as necessary.

“We received about 1800 repair job requests since 23rd March” Adam Quinn, Rooftop's Repairs Manager, says “over 1000 of these have been completely resolved. I’m extremely proud of what has been able to be achieved and the team has done a great job of getting to customers.”

Tom Davies is one of Rooftop’s Repairs Officers and he will have spoken to many of you. “I’ve been taken back by how the vast majority have accepted and understood our reduced level of service over the past few months” he says.

Customers have been extremely patient and tolerant during this time and in fact many people did not want to have someone coming into their homes, because they were understandably fearful of Covid-19. For example, we might have needed to collect appliances from a property and not all of our customers wanted us to do that.

Fiona Ritchie the Team Leader for Repairs says she's “very very proud of how the team adapted” she says “they've always gone above and beyond, always tackled any difficulties head on” have worked long hours and very hard throughout this time of everyone being at home. ”There were some technical issues, phones crashing for example, but our IT Department supported us. I couldn't imagine that even five years ago the country could have responded to Coronavirus by working from home, because the stress on broadband would have been too much”.

Rooftop’s Repairs Manager, Adam Quinn says he knows of at least 350 repairs that had tickets raised during full lockdown that will need to be dealt with first, as our Repairs Service gets back up and running properly. As Platform bring their staff back from furlough, Rooftop are able to start “normal” operations. Suppliers of materials may not be able to provide what’s needed straight away, as every part of the repairs chain has to get back up to speed. Some parts or materials come from abroad or are in short supply, so there is a backlog everywhere.

Adam says "As we start on the huge task of catching up we ask that people continue to show the understanding that has been displayed for the last few months. If you contact us with a non urgent repair, I'm afraid there will still be some delay in getting to you. We will need to prioritise repairs that have been put on hold and also any new emergency repairs”.

If you logged a repair by email during lockdown or pre lockdown, we will be contacting customers to confirm their repair is still required and if there are any changes to the repair needed. The repair will be logged and an appointment made.

If you phone us from Monday 29th June, emergency and urgent repairs will be logged as usual. Routine repairs will be added to the current backlog and will be attended to as soon as possible, but we have to focus on repairs that have been stuck in the system before we are able to deal with new routine repairs.

Rest assured, we intend to provide the services you need as soon as we can and we will continue to operate our Covid-19 safety precautions. Thank you all for your tolerance and patience.