I’m finding keeping up with the news hard going at the moment.
Numerous reports are being published about how the Covid-19 lockdown has affected vulnerable people, and they don’t make for easy reading: people living with dementia being completely isolated for months on end and feeling ready to give up1; people’s mental health deteriorating2; people considering harming or killing themselves3; calls to the police about domestic abuse surging4 … the list goes on.
It’s truly heart-breaking to discover that measures society put in place to protect vulnerable people from the Coronavirus may actually have put them at risk in ways that we didn’t foresee. When people were unable to see friends and family, cut off from support networks, worried about their security, perhaps already experiencing a physical or mental health issue, it’s bound to take a heavy toll on them.
Many vulnerable people live in social housing, and their landlords have a legal obligation to protect their safety and wellbeing at home. This vital task has been made more complicated by the lockdown, making it harder for councils and housing associations to make essential repairs to vulnerable tenants’ homes, help them to apply for benefits or jobs, carry out welfare checks, or to just be there when someone needs to make a human connection.
So how can a social landlord fulfil its duty to support a tenant whose ability to be safe at home is affected by age, disability, illness or circumstances at a time when it can’t simply send someone round to see them?
I recently hosted a webinar explaining how our ResponsEye service can help. The service was originally launched for the emergency services – to enable people to use their smartphone to livestream video and pictures from the scene of incidents – but it has lots of applications within social housing too.
Councils or housing associations can use ResponsEye to text or email a tenant a link that allows them to send videos and still images from their mobile devices quickly and easily, without needing any special equipment or downloading any apps.
The tenant is always in full control during a ResponsEye session. They can end the transmission at any time or reverse the camera or use chat instead of voice to communicate. They’ll receive an email receipt to confirm that the session has happened, while the landlord can securely store the information for future reference, download it into their CRM database or share it with other stakeholders.
Say, for example, a tenant contacts their housing association to say that their boiler isn’t working properly, but they’re shielding because of the Coronavirus and they can’t let an engineer into their home to inspect it. Their housing manager can send them a ResponsEye link and the engineer can see the boiler through their mobile device and talk them through carrying out some simple repairs. If the boiler still doesn’t work, the engineer can inspect the boiler remotely and come equipped with the right parts to do a swift repair job that minimises their contact with the tenant.
Or perhaps a vulnerable tenant needs help applying for Universal Credit and the council is unable to carry out a home visit to support them. Using a ResponsEye link to livestream video through their smartphone, the tenant and their housing manager can go through the application process step by step together. If help is needed from another council department to complete the application, the housing manager can share the session with that department as it’s happening and ask for information. The video can be recorded and securely stored, providing proof for both parties that the application has been made.
In a post-Covid world, councils and housing associations will be able to continue to use ResponsEye to effectively triage requests for repairs, ensuring that the engineer is aware of the extent of the repair and any parts required prior to attending the tenant’s property. Simple repairs such as boiler resets can continue to be done remotely, removing the need for a home visit and ensuring that vital engineering resource is prioritised for the most urgent cases and vulnerable tenants.
We’ve already got customers using ResponsEye to carry our virtual inspections at properties in remote parts of the country, that would have normally taken hours out of the working week to visit in person. This will continue in a post-Covid world as they’ve been highly effective and saved a huge amount of time and money.
We’ve made ResponsEye as straightforward to use as possible, for both tenants and landlords. Landlords can apply their own branding to the service, so that tenants can be reassured that they’re not being scammed, and operators receive information about what to say to tenants before starting the streaming session. They can choose whether to capture audio as well as video, and all sessions are logged and stored in chronological order with reference numbers – making it easy to find a particular one in the future.
Tenants don’t have to have the latest smartphone or tablet to be able to use ResponsEye, or a device with voice calling capability – older devices are supported, and they can also use the chat or still picture function on their tablet, for instance, if they don’t have a smartphone – and they don’t have to download an app or specialist software. They just click on the link and start streaming!
Making people feel safe in their homes – especially those who may find that more of a challenge – is vital, even more so during a time when normal human contact is pretty impossible. Being able to talk to someone face-to-face and ask for help – even if it’s remotely – could make all the difference, and tools like ResponsEye allow you to support your vulnerable tenants through the toughest of times.
Find out how we can help you to remotely support your vulnerable tenants quickly, easily and securely.