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The Network – The CHS Newsletter May 2020

We are here to support you

I am writing this in the middle of the most challenging time most of us have ever known. CHS regularly tests and updates our plan for how to manage in a crisis but even this had not fully prepared us for the pandemic we are all facing. It has had a huge impact on our services, our staff, our residents and service users. We have adapted as quickly as we could and moved our staff to home working. We have given them the best secure access we could to all of our work IT systems to keep our services running.

We’ve had difficulties but everyone is doing their absolute best to pull together as a team to solve problems as they crop up. Everyone, including me, is really focused on the most important thing, which is delivering services to you. CHS staff are really living up to the challenge. I want to pay a tribute to and thank the staff who are delivering those services as well as they can in very difficult circumstances.

I am sure many of you are affected in different ways yourselves. We are thinking of you and we do have resources in place to help. In particular, please see our article on the support our money matters team can provide. We are doing our best to look after you so please look after yourselves and each other too. Remember:

You are not alone – Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Nigel Howlett – Chief Executive

In this Issue

  1. Coronavirus: Stay Home, Stay Safe; Nigel’s Message: We Are Here to Support You
  2. Contacting CHS; Repairs and Maintenance; Gas Safety Checks; Housing and Your Rent
  3. Gardening, Communal Cleaning, Window Cleaning and Handyman Services
  4. Dealing with Domestic Abuse During Isolation; Tenant Scrutiny Panel
  5. Money Advice
  6. Older Peoples Services; Sunflower Nurseries; Community Support Services
  7. Customer Feedback
  8. Job Opportunities; Garden Competition; Scams Warning

Coronavirus: Stay Alert, Control The Virus

In view of the fast-changing situation resulting from the spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus, we are continuing to actively manage our response to the disease and would like to reassure our customers that we are taking all necessary steps to minimise the risk of infection. We are making sure we are properly prepared and have detailed plans in place to help minimise disruption to essential services based on the advice from the Government, the NHS and Public Health England. This includes:

  • Continuing to provide services whilst seeking to reduce the risk of infection to both customers and staff
  • Asking employees and contractors to ask if anyone in the household is self-isolating before making a home visit
  • Asking customers needing a repair or home visit, if they believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 so that we can take the necessary precautions
  • Asking customers to not visit our office in Histon but instead contact us via email or call us on 0300 1113555

Everyone can do their bit by:-

Hand-washing – Wash hand regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water.

Staying at home if you have symptoms – Anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days. If you live with other people, the whole household should stay at home for 14 days.

Stay alert

We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means you must:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • work from home if you can
  • limit contact with other people
  • keep your distance if you go out (2 metres apart where possible)
  • wash your hands regularly

Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

There will be a limited number of things you can do from Wednesday 13 May that you couldn’t do before:

  • spend time outdoors – for example sitting and enjoying the fresh air, picnicking, or sunbathing
  • meet one other person from a different household outdoors – following social distancing guidelines
  • exercise outdoors as often as you wish – following social distancing guidelines
  • use outdoor sports courts or facilities, such as a tennis or basketball court, or golf course – with members of your household, or one other person while staying 2 metres apart
  • go to a garden centre

At all times, you should continue to observe social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home, including ensuring you are 2 metres away from anyone outside your household. As with before, you cannot:

  • visit friends and family in their homes
  • exercise in an indoor sports court, gym or leisure centre, or go swimming in a public pool
  • use an outdoor gym or playground
  • visit a private or ticketed attraction
  • gather in a group of more than two (excluding members of your own household), except for a few specific exceptions set out in law (for work, funerals, house moves, supporting the vulnerable, in emergencies and to fulfil legal obligations)

Repairs and Maintenance

It is still business as usual with regards to emergency and non-emergency repairs; please contact the usual number 0300 111 3555 or report repairs via myCHS or Live Chat. Our contractors have all been briefed on hygiene precautions. However, if you have a scheduled appointment over the coming weeks for a repair and are self isolating or do not want a contractor entering your property at this time, please contact them directly to cancel. If a contractor does attend your property, distance yourself and your family by at least two metres and ask them if they can wash their hands before and after the visit. Communal repairs and servicing visits will continue in the usual way to ensure safety and compliance.

All replacement kitchens, bathrooms and boilers have been temporarily suspended until further notice.  We will be in touch when we are able to resume our replacement programme. Our surveyors will continue to carry out Fire Risk Assessments – you will receive notification when these are due to take place. Where required, our contractors will continue to carry out safety checks on lifts, fire alarms, emergency lights and water supplies.

We are all working under extremely challenging circumstances and you may experience a delay in repairs as our contractors are impacted by reduced availability of parts and materials.  Please bear with us during this time, your support and understanding is appreciated.

Gas Safety Checks and Annual Boiler Service

Gas safety checks are continuing as normal, and you will be contacted to arrange access. We are required by law to do gas servicing in our homes once every 12 months and the Health & Safety Executive advises that gas servicing still needs to be carried out in this time frame despite this crisis. Our gas contractor has the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need and are using social distancing precautions so we can still safely do gas servicing.

Housing and Your Rent

During the period of social distancing CHS Housing Officers are all now working from home and will not be visiting anyone in person. We will try to provide our normal services by phone, Livechat and e-mail. We understand you may also be worried about paying your rent. As always we are keen to hear from you if you are going to struggle to make your normal rent payments. Our Housing Officers and Money Matters team can talk you through what help there may be and we’ll monitor what extra help the government might announce. If you need more time while you catch up on your payments, we’ll listen and agree a plan with you, and ask you to pay whatever you can while things are sorted out, for example while you wait for benefits.

The Housing team have seen is an increase in Anti-Social Behaviour reports. During this stressful time, we would ask you to be extra considerate to neighbours and be mindful of how your behaviour impacts others around you.

More articles

Gardening, Communal Cleaning, Window Cleaning and Handyman Services

Country Grounds Maintenance (CGM) – changes during the pandemic

The gardening contractors CGM are currently still delivering the gardening service to CHS customers during the Covid-19 pandemic. CGM are following the necessary legislation and have also introduced additional measures to ensure the continued safety of their staff and members of the public.

CGM is taking precautions by:

  1. Keeping social distancing (2 metres) from each other and other people
  2. The gardeners are travelling in separate vehicles
  3. The teams are avoiding entering buildings as much as possible, such as older peoples services (our care homes) where the courtyard areas can only be accessed through the building
  4. Additional protective equipment
  5. Increased cleansing of work vehicles and equipment
  6. All teams have been issued with hand sanitisers and detergents

The gardening schedule can be found here:

Gardening recovery plan

CGM has been delivering the gardening service to CHS customers since March 2019. Last year customers told us the gardening service standard was not being met at some sites. One issue was the condition of various sites when they were handed over to CGM last March to maintain. This handover was during the growing season and CGM told us it was not possible to carry out the necessary works to shrubs that would mean they could be properly maintained over the summer, and as CGM had over 120 sites, the gardening was not manageable for them.

CHS moved this forward by agreeing to a garden recovery plan with CGM.  The plan identified sites where four or more customers made complaints from March 2019.  The recovery plan started in November 2019 and was completed in January 2020. This was delivered to customers at no extra charge. CHS staff, CGM and Estate Inspectors completed a post inspection process of all sites where the recovery plan was delivered.  All sites passed the post inspection process. Going forward CGM will continue to maintain our gardens, and the service will continue to be monitored by CHS.

Feedback measures for the gardening service – all change!

CHS has decided that we will ask all customers who receive a gardening service for their feedback twice a year instead of once. Going forward you will receive a questionnaire every six months.  This will allow CHS to gather greater levels of feedback on the gardening service and gives you a chance to feedback during different gardening seasons.

Advanced Cleaning Services (ACS)

ACS continues to deliver communal cleaning services to CHS properties (where applicable) and have increased staff protective equipment for all staff. ACS is concentrating on keeping door knobs, banisters and handrails clean when they visit.  They are using a different detergent (SELGIENE ULTRA), which is a Viruscide Cleaner, meaning it can deactivate or destroy viruses. ACS has infection control procedures in place, which are communicated to staff via toolbox talks and daily correspondence. All staff have been given the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) to deliver their cleaning roles.

Mr Squeaky Clean  – window cleaning services

Mr Squeaky Clean – the window cleaners, are still delivering the service by cleaning windows externally but they are not cleaning windows internally, so that they don’t have to enter buildings. Only one member of staff will attend each site. This helps with social distancing but the service may take longer than usual. We appreciate your patience in this matter.


The handyman will still be visiting the schemes to perform all essential checks, if you currently pay for this service through your service charges.

Dealing with domestic abuse during isolation

During the period when we’re having to stay at home and to spend a lot of time with our own household members, we realise this can cause you extra challenges if you live with domestic abuse. You can still seek help; all agencies including the police are still available for you. There is never an excuse for domestic abuse, no matter what the circumstances. CHS will not tolerate it, and will support you, as will lots of other organisations.

If you are already affected by domestic abuse, or feel more at risk of abuse, there is help and support available to you. You can still contact helplines, online support, refuges and the police. The government’s instruction to stay at home as a result of COVID-19 does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

If you are in danger, call 999 – and press 55 when prompted if you are not able to talk. This will send your call to the police who will try to locate you and send help.

The abuse you go through may not be physical violence – it might be financial control, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse. Does your partner :

  • Stop you keeping in touch with family and friends, even while you can’t visit them?
  • Control your money, or not give you enough to buy essentials?
  • Blame you for abuse or arguments?
  • Threaten you?
  • Push or shove you, or worse?
  • Read your emails, texts or letters?
  • Destroy things that belong to you?

There are many other signs that you may be in abusive relationship. Anyone can be subjected to domestic abuse, and should not feel afraid to report it; you are not alone, and there is help available. 

While everyone is spending a lot more time at home, you may be worried about what you hear from your neighbours’ homes. If you are worried that a neighbour may be suffering domestic abuse, you may be able to help them report it to the police, or listen to them while they decide what they want to do, without pushing them if they aren’t ready yet. You can also call the national helpline (0808 2000247) for advice on how support them. If you think they are in immediate danger, call 999. Or call CHS and tell us why you are concerned, we will help.  

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be an abuser, you can also seek help. Respect is an anonymous and confidential helpline (0808 8024040) for men and women who are harming their partners and families. 

For more advice and to find out how to seek help, go to

National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000247 (with a link to Live Chat Monday to Friday 10am -12 pm)


Tenant Scrutiny Panel

The CHS Scrutiny Panel consists entirely of customers and we asked them to review the current Lettings Standard and update it where they felt changes could be made.  

The Scrutiny Panel did a lot of research, including speaking to customers who have moved into CHS homes recently, and made recommendations that could give financial benefits along with streamlining and simplifying procedures. The Panel agreed the following recommendations with CHS:

  1. The Lettings Standard was separated into two parts – ‘Moving In’ for new tenants and ‘Moving On’ for outgoing tenants, to be produced as a leaflet. This should make it clearer what to expect of your new home and what you need to do when you move out.
  2. The Housing Officer visits new tenants after one month’s occupation – the Panel recommended using the visit to check their new home meets the Standard, and for the Housing Officer to leave a ‘Visiting Card’. This visit is also used to inform/remind new tenants about CHS services such as Customer Panel membership, maintenance, complaints and whether they have found the CHS Handbook helpful.
  3. The existing £100 End of Tenancy Bonus scheme has been withdrawn to make value for money savings.
  4. The adoption of the new decorating packs scheme to replace the old decorating vouchers. This has now been put into practice – if any decorating is required, CHS will pay for a pack of paints and decorating materials, delivered to your door.
  5. White goods should only be gifted (i.e. left in a home after an outgoing tenant leaves it behind) if they are in excellent condition, i.e. nearly new. If there is any doubt, the outgoing tenant should be asked to remove them to prevent costs being incurred to CHS. Housing Officers would inspect them to assess their suitability.
Money Advice

This is a very worrying time if you are self-employed, unable to go to work or concerned about your future income. CHS has a team of Money Matters Advisors who can help you to understand what support may be available.

Questions you have may include:

  • I have been laid off
  • I have lost working hours
  • I have no money for food
  • I am self-employed and work has dried up
  • I don’t know which benefits I can claim

Our Money Matters Advisors are not doing any home visits at the moment, but they are available Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm by phone, text or email to answer your questions.

If you are a CHS customer email the Money Matters team at   When you e-mail please include your name, phone number and a brief idea of what you need to ask about. We will usually be able to phone or e-mail you the same day and will do our best to help you through this difficult time.   

Some help already available:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows employers to designate you as a ‘furloughed worker’ if they are unable to allow you to work and 80% of your wages can be reclaimed from the government up to £2500 per month.
  • If you are self-employed you can ask the government for a cash grant of 80% of your average profits (up to £2500 per month). The average income would be calculated based on your average income over 3 years, using your tax return. You would need to have filed a tax return for 2018-19 at least; if you are more recently self-employed you may not qualify and may need to apply for Universal Credit. See
  • Employees who have COVID-19 or who are self-isolating in line with government advice will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day off work if not covered by an employer’s scheme. Rules about ‘fit’ notes will be relaxed for COVID-19 related absence.
  • New Style (contributory) Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) will be payable for people who have COVID-19 or are self-isolating from the first day of sickness, instead of having to wait until the eight day.
  • People who are directly affected by COVID-19 or self-isolating will be able to claim Universal Credit (UC) without having to attend a Jobcentre if they can’t qualify for enough SSP or ESA to live on, as Universal Credit can help you pay your rent.
  • People receiving benefits do not have to attend Jobcentre interviews for 3 months starting from 19th March, although Jobcentres remain open to support you if you aren’t able to use phones or go online.
  • From 6th April the standard allowance in Universal Credit and the basic element in Working Tax Credit will increase by an extra £20 per week. For a single person the monthly UC will therefore increase from £317.82 to £409.89 per month.
  • All Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC) Medical Assessments have been put on hold for 3 months.  All reviews of existing disability benefits have also been put on hold for 3 months
Older People’s Services: maintaining excellent care

Our care workers are in the forefront of maintaining excellent care for our older people with care and support needs, and we are proud of the way CHS teams have risen to the challenge. Visits to our Care Homes and Extra Care schemes have had to stop, the only exception being at end of life, when it is important that family can be together if possible. Staff have been helping relatives keep in touch using Skype and WhatApp for video calls, which you can imagine both residents and their family really enjoy. All our carers have sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and we’re confident supplies will keep coming in. We are still receiving new residents into Care Homes, with extra precautions if they come to us from hospital; we are conscious the NHS needs us to continue accepting new residents.

Our care home Langdon House had a Care Quality Commission Inspection at the beginning of March, and retained it’s ‘Good’ rating – with ‘Outstanding’ for care, which has been a big morale boost. We are carrying out frequent welfare checks by phone with sheltered residents, as we don’t see them to provide care. As we are still carrying out repairs, our contractors are all using PPE and follow strict rules about when they can enter a building and how long to leave a room/flat empty before carrying out any work after a resident has left. We have received good feedback from the County Council and others on the precautions we are taking to keep residents and staff safe.  

We are continually bowled over by all the kindness shown at this time – children singing to Dunstan Court residents, staff from Vera James House looking after residents at John Beckett Court, gifts of plants for the shared gardens, gifts of food, and lots of messages of support from relatives and others. Thank you to businesses who have donated to us including: John Lewis, Waitrose, Tesco, Homebase, Scotsdales, Something To Look Forward To and Avon.

Sunflower Nurseries

We are keeping our nurseries open during the pandemic in order to provide childcare for key workers and vulnerable children. The nurseries are open at 40% of full capacity and that’s to provide additional spacing for social distancing and also to reflect that many workers aren’t able to use nurseries now because they have been told to work from home. Our nurseries are making a difference to vulnerable children, for example we received a referral from a social worker looking for a place for a child. We were in a position to offer a place the same day and we have been able to offer two extra sessions using our bursary. This will give this little boy some stability in his life and some much needed support to both him and his carers. Staff have also been keeping children who are at home entertained remotely by creating videos of songs and story time.

Community Support Services

Our supported housing schemes are continuing to operate. Staff have been working really hard to keep residents entertained and motivated. In particular the young people are finding it hard to follow the Government’s advice about staying home.

They have been cooking and gardening to do something productive. Having some fun has really uplifted everyone’s mood. Everyone is realising that we will get through this together.

Customer Feedback

In a recent survey we asked 472 people what they thought of CHS’s communication. Here’s some of the results:


We are looking at how we can improve our email communication with you, as many customers have said they would like to be kept informed by email. You may be reading this newsletter in an email now. We would like to use email to keep you up-to-date with the latest CHS news and changes that may affect you, so expect to hear more from us over email in the future.

Scam Warning

Coronavirus-related frauds increase by 400% in March

Between 1 February 2020 and 18 March 2020 Action Fraud received 105 reports from victims of coronavirus-related frauds, with losses reaching nearly £970,000. The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived. Action Fraud has also received 200 reports of coronavirus-themed phishing emails to trick people into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing people’s personal and financial information. Other frauds being reported include ticket fraud, romance fraud, charity fraud and lender loan fraud.

An increasing number of bogus medical products are being sold through unauthorised websites claiming to treat or prevent COVID-19. Don’t be fooled by ‘miracle cures’, there are currently no medicines specifically for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 and there are no CE marked self-testing kits approved for home use.

Watch out for scam messages
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.

Shopping online
If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. Where possible, use a credit card to make the payment, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

Protect your devices from the latest threats
Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

Job opportunities

If you are looking for work and want to make a positive difference to people’s lives during this unprecedented challenging time, then we’d love to hear from you

We are looking for permanent Care Team Leaders (Day & Night), Care Assistants (Day & Night), Housekeepers and Laundry Assistants

Casual Relief positions are also available to give you flexibility

Please see below the locations in which we have various positions available:

Langdon House – Cambridge CB4 1QB

Alex Wood House – Cambridge CB4 2JS

Vera James House – Ely CB6 1TA

Dunstan Court – Cambridge CB1 8QD

Richard Newcombe Court – Cambridge CB4 3EY

Moorlands Court – Melbourn SG8 6FH

Please apply through the link below:

Enter the Garden Competition

The annual Residents’ Garden Competition is open to gardeners of all levels. Whether you have a big garden, a veg patch or just a few hanging baskets, why not enter, you might win a prize! Please send photo entries to Laura Papanikolaou on or to CHS Group, Endurance House, Chivers Way Cambridge CB24 9ZR.

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