This has probably been the strangest year ever. We could never have imagined in January that we would spend most of the year trying to protect our sometimes extremely vulnerable residents from a virus that we barely knew existed at that time.

The lockdown coincided with the Scheme Manager at St Margaret’s leaving after a long absence due to illness. The remaining staff had been helping to cover while she was off sick and are continuing to do so. It is now possible to advertise and interview new staff and we will be doing so as soon as possible. I am very grateful for the extra work put in by Clare Leggett and Claire Baker during this time and also to Jenna Bond who came in to help out at St Margaret’s until lockdown and has now returned to help again.

Unfortunately, the guidance for sheltered housing during the pandemic has been sparse and inconsistent. We have had to interpret and adapt the information we have been given to suit our own particular circumstances. I would particularly like to thank John Sparkes for sharing the measures taken by the local authority sheltered housing he works for. Although this was not always considered appropriate for us, it gave us guidance and re-assurance on the action we had decided to take.

Inevitably, we could not please everyone. At times I don’t think we managed to please anyone as we had complaints from residents and their families that we were being too strict and also complaints that we were not strict enough but we have always acted in the best interest of the most vulnerable of our residents. As the government relaxed the restrictions and a lot of people have forgotten, become confused or are simply ignoring the rules as they are fed up with them, the danger of the virus entering our complexes is increasing and it is more important than ever that we keep control of the situation. The new Rule of 6 coming into effect on Monday will cause us to put in place a whole set of new restriction.

Lockdown has also had an effect on our flat refurbishment programme and our voids. We could only have work done on flats under very controlled conditions in order to protect our residents. There was also a shortage of materials which slowed the work down. No-one was allowed to move in or out of the complex during the full lockdown. This resulted in one resident having to stay past the end of their tenancy and flats vacated just before lockdown had to remain empty until the housing market was opened up some 3 month later.

We also have a policy of moving residents around the complex when they wish to, in particular residents wishing to move to the ground floor if their mobility is deteriorating. This delays the reletting of flats and will also increase refurbishment and redecoration costs. Despite this we feel it is the correct thing to do. Our good local reputation means that we rarely have to formally advertise, with most enquiries being from recommendation.

As a private registered provider of social housing we are required to include our residents as much as possible in the running of the Association. We do this by having regular meetings with the residents to keep them up-to date with what we are doing to maintain and improve their lives and accommodation, asking them for comments and suggestions for future projects and discussing points they raise. Although the pandemic forced us to cancel some meetings, we have now re-commenced them by holding two separate meetings at each complex with half of the residents at each time to allow for safe social distancing. I am very pleased to report that we continue to have a resident board member for each complex and I would like to thank both Alice and Betty for their input. Betty stood down after two terms in office and I would like to welcome Pamela to the board.

I wish to thank everyone who has supported me in my role as Housing Manager. This includes my management team who meet with me every month to help and advise me on all operational matters, scheme manager Clare, Nicky our Housekeeper at St Anne’s  who retired last year and is now enjoying life as a resident of St Anne’s, and my assistant Claire. I would also like to thank Steve and his crew from SD Contract Services for the excellent work they have put in over the past year on our behalf.

Our Board is crucial to the running of the Association as they provide the essential Governance needed for our organisation.  Succession planning is the responsibility of the Board and the advancing years of the current Board Members is an issue that is currently being considered. We are continuing to encourage younger people with the skills we need to join our Board and we hold our Board Meetings on a Monday evening four times a year to enable working people to join the Board. Board Members give their time completely free of charge, not only at the Board Meetings, but also at meetings for detailed discussions of day-to-day matters with myself and the scheme managers, sub-committees and many other things

To all of you I would like to express my thanks for your help and support over the past year.