At the Council’s cabinet this week, held virtually for the first time due to lockdown, we reported on how the Council has responded to COVID-19 across the city.
Across our neighbourhoods, where services need more people on the ground, our main aim has been to redeploy staff into critical response roles so that we can directly support the communities we serve.
Councillor Paul Wood, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety at Sheffield City Council said: “We know that there are many people who need our help right now, more than ever before. We’ve very quickly worked together to identify those who need us most and what they need from us and have taken action. Our people are doing different jobs in different ways across all of our services so that we can keep people housed and safe. It’s quite an achievement to see this happening before our eyes on such a scale and our thanks go out to every single person who is part of making this happen in our communities.”
Neighbourhood Teams have been prioritising work focused on minimising health and safety risks on our estates and making sure that our most vulnerable customers and the large numbers of customers who are shielding have what they need. Our Safer Neighbourhoods Team is maintaining partnership working to keep our communities safe and is responding to any safeguarding concerns and reports of domestic abuse.
Our Private Housing Standards team is continuing to support those living in the private rented sector by working on a rota basis. Emergency remedial or prohibition notices are still being issued for serious hazards and those at threat of illegal eviction are being supported. The team is also looking at the implications for private sector housing and regulations in light of estate agents and student letting businesses starting to open after lockdown.
We have made sure that all rough sleepers have been accommodated by using hotel and student housing – 89 people at risk of sleeping rough now have shelter. This accommodation is staffed in person by our officers seven days a week and on call in the evenings. We have suspended Choice Based Lettings to focus on arranging direct lets for the most vulnerable households and those in need of emergency housing and will restart it again when safe to do so. Our homelessness and rehousing services have continued with a skeleton staff in the office with the majority of our usual work now being handled remotely over the telephone.
We’ve also been making sure that no council tenant will lose their home due to rent arrears at this time. Our Income Management and Financial Inclusion Team is continuing its work to minimise rent arrears and customers are reminded that rent continues to be due, but we are also urging those whose accounts fall into arrears to contact us so that we can discuss what financial support options may be available to them.
Essential repairs have continued throughout the crisis and as lockdown eases, new build, maintenance and refurbishment work will start to resume in line with Government, Public Health and Health and Safety Executive Guidance on agreed safe systems of work.
Paul added: “All of these services in our neighbourhoods will continue to do what they can to provide the right help, advice and reassurance that’s needed across our communities. Providing essential services in the best way that we can for those most in need is what we’re here for.”