The main focus for Robin and Anava dealing with families unable to move into new or adapted properties during lockdown is to minimise risk to keep them safe.
Although some building works involving one contractor could in principle still go ahead, this has been hampered by a lack of building materials, meaning clients are often stuck in their existing homes, some facing eviction from rented property at the end of a tenancy agreement, or unable to complete on a purchase.
"People's needs remain the same, obviously, and the challenge is to keep moving things along where possible." Robin says. "Lots of professionals can keep working - preparing new designs, conveyancing solicitors can do their work and we can manage finances remotely and review things like tenancy agreements."
"Clearly what we can't do is get everyone involved together and actually walk round and assess a property and discuss how to get it ready. Generally that means we're telling clients to stay where they are – the known tends to be safer than the unknown. The stress is when tenancies are coming to an end or where a property is being sold. And the availability of rented accommodation has dropped off considerably as landlords and property owners perhaps rethink their current and future situation. That is a worry."
Anava says her team is discussing what is best case by case to come up with the safest solution.
"As well as properties staying empty mid-build because of lack of materials, several clients living in hotels and Air BnBs were evicted due to closures and have had to move back to a building site, which is not ideal. And a lot of clients have lost carers, of course, who can't go into their home. It's manageable for a husband, say, to care for his wife if the children are at school, but to try to do that while also home schooling and managing kids is super, super challenging.
"I'd say we're constantly risk assessing, breaking things down into little pieces to work out how to manage each situation and come up with creative solutions.
"Luckily my team is multi-disciplinary – we're not just housing experts but also occupational therapists so we're familiar with safeguarding needs and rehab goals so can view a 'project' as a whole. For example, I got a gym bench delivered to a client who can't have his usual daily physio so that he can keep going with some exercises himself.
"Very important is talking to clients regularly, even just a quick Whatsapp message to ask how they are and being able to answer their small questions. That really reassures people that we're thinking about them, that we're still there, even remotely."
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