Coronavirus – what we’re doing to lower the risk



07/06/2021

We know these continue to be unprecedented times for us all but our main priority throughout this is the safety of both you and our colleagues.

We are working hard to maintain our services and we’ve put a range of measures in place to protect you, your families and loved ones, and our staff:

  • To help keep customers and colleagues safe, our offices are now open for customers to make face-to-face appointments with us. These must be pre-booked as we cannot accept walk-ins at this time. Our teams are still delivering services online and by telephone too.
  • When a member of staff attends a home they will assess if it is safe or appropriate to enter. Please don’t be alarmed or offended if they ask you some questions – this is to ensure we keep everyone safe.
  • We are directing all staff and customers to follow official advice listed on the NHS.uk website at all times.
  • We have a coronavirus business continuity group which meets regularly to assess our stance and actions as the situation progresses.
  • We have business continuity plans in place should the situation become worse.

3 simple actions to protect one another

To help stop the spread of Covid-19 we must all help protect one another:

  • Wash hands: keep washing your hands regularly
  • Cover face: wear a face covering in enclosed spaces
  • Make space: stay at least 2 metres apart - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions

Stay up to date with the latest guidance by visiting the Oldham Council website.

You can stay up to date with all the latest news by visiting this page regularly and checking out the Frequently Asked Questions at the bottom of this page.

We will continually keep this page updated with all the latest advice and information for you.

Contacting First Choice Homes Oldham

In line with government guidelines, our offices are now open for customers to make face-to-face appointments with us. These must be pre-booked as we cannot accept walk-ins at this time. Many of our teams are also delivering their services online and by telephone – read more in our news section and in the Frequently Asked Questions section on this page.

Our Contact Centre also remains open - you can call us on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Contacting us by post

Although we are hosting pre-booked appointments with customers, the majority of our colleagues are still working from home (where they can) in line with government guidelines. This means we have very limited access to items sent to us by post. If you need to contact us at this time, please call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Latest update on 21 June 2021

Greater Manchester has been identified as an area where the new Covid-19 variant, referred to as the Delta variant, is spreading quickly.

This is because the new COVID-19 variant spreads more easily from person to person.

The safety of our customers and staff continues to be our priority and we're urging everyone to keep on doing their bit to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

You should:

  • Meet outside rather than inside where possible
  • Keep 2 metres apart from people that you don’t live with (unless you have formed a support bubble with them), this includes friends and family you don’t live with
  • Minimise travel in and out of affected areas
  • Get tested twice a week for free and isolate if you are positive
  • Continue to work from home if you can
  • Get vaccinated when you are offered it, and encourage others to do so as well

Stay up to date with the guidance on the Oldham Council website and the GOV.UK website.

It’s really important that you follow any advice our staff provide when they visit your home so that they can work safely.

If you have booked a repair and are self-isolating, please contact us on 0161 393 7117 so that we can rearrange your appointment.

Our offices are now open for customers to make face-to-face appointments with us. Please note these appointments must be pre-booked as we cannot accept walk-ins at this time. Find full details in the news section here on our website.

Our teams are still delivering services online and by telephone, and we also have live chat on our website where our teams will be able to answer your questions.

Coronavirus: Frequently asked questions based on what you have been asking us

These are constantly being updated in line with government advice. Please keep checking them regularly.

Are you still advertising properties?

Yes we are advertising properties through our new www.mymoveoldham.co.uk website.

If you had a MyMove account and applied for a home before 1 July 2019, you need to re-register before you can login. If you created an account after 1 July 2019, you don't need to re-register and should be able to log in as normal. Details of everything you need to do are on our website. 

All applications made before 1 July 2019 have been passed over to Oldham Council’s housing register. As these applications no longer belong to us, we cannot officially comment on their position, however the date of their application will be retained so applicants will not ‘fall to the bottom of the list’ based on this factor alone.

If you are still having problems logging into MyMove, after you have checked whether you need to re-register and ensured you are logging in with your new contact details, or you just need some advice, please email mymove@fcho.co.uk Please supply your contact information and details of your issue and a member of our team will be in touch to help you.

Some of our homes are still being advertised with Oldham Council. Oldham Council’s housing options service is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can access information on Oldham Council’s website, by emailing Housing.Options@oldham.gov.uk or calling on 0161 770 4605.

Oldham Council’s phone lines are exceptionally busy at this time, as it continues to offer telephone support for critical services. We encourage you to access information via the website wherever you can.

I don’t have access to the internet, but I need to re-register for MyMove. Please can you help?

If you or someone you know is struggling, please get in touch with our Contact Centre on  0161 393 7117 and they will put your enquiry through to our Allocations and Lettings team, which will be able to help.

I don’t have access to the internet to bid on homes. Is there any help available for me? Can you place bids on my behalf?

If you or someone you know is struggling to bid on homes because of internet access, please get in touch with our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 and our colleagues will be able to help you.

When will First Choice Homes' services get back to normal? 

These are unprecedented times and there isn’t an easy answer to when all our services will return to normal.

We appreciate what an uncertain and worrying period this is for customers and we are monitoring government advice on the coronavirus pandemic. Our priority is our customers’ safety and the safety of our staff, and we will do all we can to help protect the NHS and save lives at this critical time.

We are continually reviewing our services in light of the ongoing situation and we thank you for your ongoing support and co–operation.

For latest official health updates please visit NHS.uk and we’ll update this page regularly with all the latest information on our services.

I have been offered a First Choice Homes property or garage. What will the sign up process be at this time?

Currently we are asking customers to complete their sign up process by email to minimise risk for our customers and our staff. We will email you with the new tenancy agreement and you will have 24 hours to read the document and reply to us confirming that you have read the agreement and are happy to take on the tenancy on the specified date.

A keysafe will be installed at the home/garage and you will be given a keysafe number so you can gain entry to your new home/garage. We will remove the keysafe once you have confirmed to us that you have accessed your home or garage.

If you do not feel that you can move at this time, we can withdraw your offer without this affecting your application in any way.  Please be aware that we can’t hold properties for applicants who may wish to sign up at a later date.

If you have any questions about moving into your new home or renting a garage, please get in touch with our Contact Centre - call 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

How can I end my First Choice Home tenancy at this time?

Currently we are asking customers to complete their tenancy termination process by email to minimise risk for our customers and our staff.

If you would like to end your tenancy with us, please get in touch with our Contact Centre by calling 0161 393 7117 or emailing servicecentre@fcho.co.uk. They will pass on your details to your Neighbourhood Officer, who will confirm the process to you.

A keysafe will be installed at your property one week before you are due to leave. We will give you the keysafe code and you will be able to leave the keys in the keysafe when you leave the property.

We understand that this is a worrying time for lots of people and we are here to help. If you do not feel that you can move at this time, or the property that you are moving to is no longer available, please get in touch with our Contact Centre as soon possible. You can call 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

What will happen if First Choice Homes has to close down due to coronavirus?

At the moment this is not something we are considering but we are actively monitoring the situation.

We have contingency plans in place to help us continue providing essential services in the event of a range of emergency situations – including pandemics.

We have invested in technology which means that many of our staff can work from home so that we can continue to provide services to our customers.

If large numbers of staff cannot work as they are unwell we may need to cut back on some services for a time while we focus on more urgent work.

What should I do to avoid catching coronavirus?

Please follow official NHS medical and health advice and the latest government advice.

Do I still have to allow access for electrical/boiler/gas safety checks if I’m self-isolating?

Electrical, boiler and gas safety checks are going ahead. We are implementing safe working practices, so please follow the advice given by the engineer while they are working in your home.

If you are self-isolating and have a boiler/gas safety check booked, you must let us know by calling our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or emailing servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

We will look to rearrange the appointment for a later date. This is so that we can play our own part in stopping the virus from spreading.

Is First Choice Homes still allowing customers to swap their home through mutual exchange during the lockdown?

Keeping our customers and staff safe is our priority during the current COVID-19 crisis. To help reduce the spread of the infection, we have taken the decision to only progress essential mutual exchanges through systems such as Homeswapper at the current time. All social landlords like FCH have been advised by the Government to pause non-essential housing allocations and transfers.

Essential mutual exchanges would include:

  • supporting victims of domestic abuse and people fleeing other forms of violence
  • preventing severe overcrowding
  • facilitating move-on from temporary accommodation
  • facilitating discharge from hospital to free-up bed space for others requiring care
  • supporting those living in unsafe accommodation, or without settled accommodation, which poses a risk to their health.

When we can resume non-essential mutual exchanges, we’ll let customers know.

For more information contact our Service Centre. Email us at servicecentre@fcho.co.uk or call 0161 393 7117.

Are you doing routine repairs?

  • The government has confirmed that tradespeople will be allowed to enter homes, provided they follow social distancing guidance, so all maintenance and repairs in your homes is carrying on.
  • When a member of staff attends your home they will assess if it is safe or appropriate to enter. Please don’t be alarmed or offended if they ask you some questions – this is to ensure we keep everyone safe.
  • We will continue to implement safe working practices using the appropriate PPE and observing social distancing when we visit your home. In turn, we ask you to please respect this, follow any advice we may give you and stay in another room until the work is completed to help keep everybody safe.
  • To help stop the spread of coronavirus you must let us know if you have an appointment booked and you have coronavirus symptoms, or are self isolating or someone in your household is. We will rearrange the appointment for another time.
  • You can report a repair online via MyAccount on our website fcho.co.uk, or email servicecentre@fcho.co.ukor call 0161 393 7117.

How should I report a routine repair?

If you need to report a new routine repair, do this in the usual way:

I want to report a repair but your phone lines are very busy. What can I do?

You can raise a non-emergency/urgent repair through My Account which can be accessed through our website.

Or you can use our call-back service. If you haven’t got time to wait on hold until a member of staff is available to speak to you, make use of our call-back service. When you’re on hold, press ‘7’ on your keypad, followed by your call-back number, and a member of staff will aim to get back to you within three hours (during working hours)

What do you consider to be an emergency repair?

We consider anything that will impact on your safety and wellbeing or will have a significant impact on your home to be an emergency repair. Such as:

  • Total loss of power
  • Total loss of water
  • Insecure property
  • Uncontainable leak
  • Dangerous electrics and/or water on electrics

If I get sick due to coronavirus, will you still come out to do a repair at my home?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus or you live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms, you must let us know when you are reporting a repair or have one already arranged by emailing us at servicecentre@fcho.co.uk or calling 0161 393 7117.

In normal circumstances (i.e. routine repairs) we will look to rearrange the appointment for a time when you are well again and no longer infectious. This is so that we can play our own part in stopping the virus spreading and help protect our staff from infection.

In the case of serious emergencies we will assess the situation on a case by case basis. We may link in with other services or our staff may use specialist protective equipment to help ensure your safety whilst not putting anyone else at the risk of infection.

What do I do if I have booked a repair or home visit but don’t want anyone coming to my house?

We understand this is a worrying time and we ask you to please get in touch with us if:

  • You’ve booked a repair or home visit but would prefer it if we didn’t come to your home at this time.
  • You or any member of your family are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus and you have a visit booked. Please don’t book any new repairs or visits at his time unless it's for an emergency repair (total loss of power; total loss of water; insecure property; uncontainable leak; dangerous electrics and/or water on electrics; unsafe/exposed asbestos).

Don’t worry, we’ll look to rearrange your appointment for another time.

Please email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk or call 0161 393 7117.

Am I at risk of catching coronavirus from your staff visiting me?

As a company we are taking coronavirus very seriously and we’ve put a range of additional measures in place to protect our customers and staff.

We are asking all our staff who are showing any symptoms of the virus to self-isolate.

We also have a team of staff First-Aiders who have all been briefed on what to do.

We have given staff multiple hand gels, washes and sanitisers, and we are encouraging their use at all times.

We are also directing all staff and customers to follow official advice at all times.

How can I speak to my Neighbourhood Officer to discuss an issue?

If you'd like to speak to your Neighbourhood Officer, please get in touch with our Contact Centre. Call us on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk

Rubbish has started to pile up in my neighbourhood. Can FCHO remove this rubbish?

If you are a customer in our flats, the communal bins are being collected and we're carrying out checks for rubbish in our neighbourhoods whilst maintaining social distancing to make sure there are no risks to health and safety. Please make every effort not to overfill or block rubbish chutes.

For customers in our other homes, Oldham Council is operating its recycling rounds. Please visit the Oldham Council website for full details and advice.

My pay has stopped completely or reduced. I can’t pay my rent. What can I do?

There are no plans by the government to stop or suspend rent being charged and it’s really important that you pay your rent. If you have trouble doing this, you should speak to us as soon as possible. We can discuss any difficulties you may be having and work with you to get you back on track. Call us on 0161 393 5353.

Will my housing benefit still be paid as normal?

Yes and we’ll keep customers informed of any changes.

I already owe some rent but now I can’t pay?

Please contact our support team if you are worried about being able to maintain your rent payments. Our team can have a confidential conversation to understand your circumstances and the support options available to you. Call us on 0161 393 5353.

Are you putting the rent on hold?

We aren't putting the rent on hold but our team is here to support customers who are worried about being able to pay their rent. Please contact our support team on 0161 393 5353 to discuss your situation and the support options available.

I can’t go into work but I don’t know whether I’ll get paid.

The government have announced a range of measures to support people affected by Covid-19.

For full detail visit the government’s coronavirus and claiming benefits web page.

I can’t get through to Universal Credit to advise them of the increase in the rent starting from April.  Can you help or advise?

You can let Universal Credit know about the change to your rent through your UC Online Journal. To do this go into ‘report a change of circumstance’ and update the rent details. If you need help, please contact our support team on 0161 393 5353 for help.

I made an application for Universal Credit but can’t get through to anybody on the phone to process my claim. I’m worried that you will the start the eviction process due to no fault of my own. What should I do?

Please contact our support team on 0161 393 5353 for help and advice. Due to the current situation, Universal Credit are experiencing unprecedented volumes of calls, but don’t worry we are very aware of this.

I’ve been told that you have a dedicated phone line for people on Universal Credit.  What is the number?

We don’t have a dedicated Universal Credit phone line anymore, however our support team can answer any of your queries about Universal Credit in confidence. Please call us on 0161 393 5353.

I am self-isolating and unable to work from home. Is there any financial help available to me?

The government has announced a new payment scheme for people on low incomes living in Oldham who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home.

The scheme will begin on Tuesday 1 September and is designed to support you if you cannot work from home while self-isolating, either after testing positive, or coming into contact with someone who has.

How much is the payment?

If you are eligible for the payment and test positive with the virus, you will receive £130 for your 10-day period of self-isolation. Other members of your household, who have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to a payment of £182.

If you are advised by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate, you will also be entitled to a payment of up to £182, for however long you must self isolate.

How can I claim the payment?

You can apply for the payment through the Oldham Council website.

The payment is available to people currently receiving either Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit. You will also need to provide evidence that you are eligible for it. You’ll be asked to produce a notification from NHS Test and Trace, a bank statement and your National Insurance number. Local authorities can also check the Test and Trace system to confirm if you have been asked to self-isolate. When you have provided the evidence needed,  your payment will be made within 48 hours.

Please note: if you're eligible for the payment you must apply for it during your isolation period to qualify.

How we can help you

Our Income Collection and Community Impact Teams are here to support you through the application process for this payment. Call our Income Collection team on 0161 393 5353 or email fit@fcho.co.uk.

To reach our Community Impact Team, call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk, and you will be put through to them.

Find out more

This new scheme is being trialled here in Oldham, as well as in Blackburn with Darwen to ensure the process works. If it is successful, the scheme is expected to be rolled out in other areas of high infection rates.

Further information is available on the Oldham Council website and at gov.uk

I am self-isolating due to age or health conditions. What should I do about shopping, medication, bills, benefits etc?

Help is available from a number of sources.

Our Community Impact Team will be able to give you advice. Please get in touch with our Contact Centre and a member of the team will refer you to our Community Impact Team. Call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Oldham's coronavirus emergency need helpline has been launched to help local people who are genuinely in emergency need because they are self-isolating and don’t have any friends or neighbours who can support them or are unable to leave the house to shop for essential items.

The helpline number is 0161 770 7007. The line is open 9am-5pm on weekdays, 11am-2pm on weekends, and 11am-2pm on Good Friday and Easter Monday. Read more about the service in the story in our news section.

Will there still be support available to help me with welfare advice, money management, affordable food, and accessing other support services?

Yes our Community Impact Team are continuing to take referrals and support customers by phone at this time. Call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 to speak to a member of the team or email communityimpact@fcho.co.uk.

Community drop-in sessions are suspended until further notice and so is the duty service held at First Place, Oldham on Mondays and Thursdays.

Will there still be support available to help me look for work, training, and volunteering?

Yes, our Directions team is continuing to take referrals and support customers by phone at this time. Call 0161 393 5550 or email directions@fcho.co.uk.

I have an assessed medical need, can I still access support and advice?

Yes, our Independence team is continuing to take referrals and support customers by phone at this time. Call 0161 393 5488 and ask for the Independence service.

Is The Bread and Butter Thing affordable food service still running?

Yes the service is still operating from four hubs: Wallshaw Street Community Centre on Mondays; NEON in Greenacres on Saturdays; Bethesda Church in Royton on Wednesday; Sholver and Moorside Community Hub on Thursdays; and ROC ‘n’ Rolls Community Cafe in Holts on Fridays. 

To find out if you’re eligible for The Bread and Butter Thing food service, please get in touch with our Contact Centre and a member of the team will refer you to our Community Impact Team. Call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Do you deliver food from The Bread and Butter Thing to vulnerable customers?

The safety of our customers and staff is paramount and all requests for deliveries will be assessed on a case by case basis. To discuss, call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk and they will put you through to the Community Impact Team who can help.

Can I be eligible to use both Oldham Foodbank and The Bread and Butter food service?

Yes you can. There are no restrictions on eligibility for both.

If you are struggling, please call our Contact Centre. They will be able to put you through to our Community Impact Team who can complete an online referral for the Oldham Foodbank with you and direct you to your nearest food bank location. They will also be able to see if you’re eligible for The Bread and Butter Thing food service.

To get in touch with our Contact Centre, call 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Please visit Oldham Foodbank’s website for details of its service and the three additional emergency food hubs set up to help deal with the current situation.

Can you issue vouchers for Oldham Foodbank?

Yes we can. Please get in touch with our Contact Centre. They will be able to put you through to our Community Impact Team who can complete the online voucher with you and direct you to your nearest foodbank location. To reach our Contact Centre, call 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

I am worried and need some reassurance, advice and support during the coronavirus outbreak, what can I do?

If you need help, or know someone who does, call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 to speak to a member of the team.

I am unable to work due to the coronavirus because my place of work has been forced to close and I’m on furlough. How can I find out more about government help for me?

We’re signposting customers to the Gov.uk website for up to date information about this about what other options may be available to you.

I’m self-employed. How can I find out about help from the government at this time?

We’re signposting customers to the Gov.uk website for up to date information about help that self-employed people can get from the government.

What can I do if I see First Choice Homes customers not following the government’s advice on social distancing?

Social distancing is the single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus to protect the NHS and save the lives of our loved ones. You can read more about the measures on the Gov.uk website.

We are reminding all our customers that we all must comply with social distancing measures. Authorities, including the police, have been given the powers to enforce the new rules – including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

Please contact Greater Manchester Police using the live chat service if you're concerned that someone isn't following the advice on social distancing.

How can I apply for Small Business Rate Relief and the Hospitality, Retail and Leisure grants?

Please visit the Oldham Council website for the Small Business and Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Grant Funding form.

More information about help and support for businesses is available on the Oldham Council website.