Coronavirus – what we’re doing to lower the risk


28/05/2020

We know these are unprecedented and worrying times for us all.

Our absolute main priority throughout this is your safety and the safety of our staff.

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

  • We are still only undertaking emergency repairs – more info below.
  • In line with government guidance, members of our staff who can work from home are now doing so to continue delivering services to you. Please be assured that we are still here to help you and our Contact Centre remains open - you can call us on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.
  • 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, including the equipment and provisions to allow people to work from home if needed and if possible.

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

Update from the Housing Minister to all social housing customers, 18 May 2020

The Housing Minister has written a letter to all social housing tenants in England to update them on the steps regarding coronavirus that the government is taking to prepare to reopen society and support social housing tenants to move on with their lives.

As your landlord, our priority is your safety and that of our colleagues. We are following government guidance and operating our services where possible in line with this.

You can read our response to the letter from the Housing Minister in the news section of our website.

We will continue to keep you up to date with our service news through this dedicated coronavirus information page.

Contacting First Choice Homes

In line with government advice about coronavirus, until further notice our offices are now closed to members of the public and we are reducing face to face contact with our customers. Please be assured that we are still here to help you and our Contact Centre remains open - you can call us on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Contacting us by post

Our offices are now closed and we will 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 grass cutting

From Wednesday 20 May we restarted our grass cutting service. Thanks to all our customers for bearing with us while we had to postpone our service due to coronavirus. You can read more about this in our news section.

We will be out in your neighbourhoods over the next three weeks completing our first cut of grass. All our staff have been provided with the necessary equipment and safety advice to ensure they do this without risk to you or them and are complying with government guidance on social distancing at work so if you can please keep your distance from them if you see them working.

Our grass cutting schedule shows you when our team will be cutting the grass near you. If your area is not on the schedule, this means we have already been.

We’ll be reviewing our grass cutting service again in early June and we’ll keep you updated on any changes.

Latest update on repairs

We are still only attending emergency repairs - we are not attending routine repairs that have been booked in at the moment. This is to reduce the risk of infection to you & our staff.

We’re working hard to plan how we can resume our usual services and we’ll share details as soon as we can.

We will only deal with the following list of emergency repairs:

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

If you have an appointment for a routine repair booked

Our team will be in touch with you soon. Once we are in a position to resume routine repairs we will be in touch again to make arrangements to complete your work. Your repairs will take priority over any new ones that have been reported.

If you need to report a new routine repair at this time

You can still report non-emergency repairs and when the situation changes we’ll be in touch to make arrangements to complete your repair. Email us at servicecentre@fcho.co.uk or call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117.

You may still see our staff still working in communal or outdoor areas, on empty homes or on building works where they will have limited social contact. It’s important that we continue to deliver as much of our service as possible. All our staff have been provided with the necessary equipment and advice to ensure they do this safely without risk to you or them.

Latest update on bin collections, rubbish and recycling

From Monday April 27, Oldham Council will empty either your grey, blue or brown bin on your usual collection day – just as they did before the coronavirus forced them to temporarily change things.

At this stage, you can also put your green bin or food caddy out on your brown bin collection day.

This is to make sure that the council still collects your garden waste over the summer.

Reverting back to the usual three weekly collection will help cut waste, which is important for the environment and helps to reduce costs.

Please visit the Oldham Council website for full details and advice.

If you are a customer in our flats, we will be emptying the communal bins and carrying out checks 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.

We're continuing to tackle antisocial behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic

We know antisocial behaviour can have a huge impact on our customers' lives and we will continue to support anyone who has concerns about antisocial behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic.

Please continue to report any antisocial behaviour through the MyAccount portal or by calling or emailing our Service Centre on 0161 393 7117  or servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

To report any criminal activity contact Greater Manchester Police on 101 or online at www.gmp.police.uk. In an emergency always dial 999.

We are also continuing to make applications for injunctions and undertake possession proceedings during this time.

We understand that the current situation is very challenging, please treat everyone with respect and consideration so we can all get through this and come out the other side together.

Latest update on how our Directions Team can help our customers whose job has been affected by Covid-19

If you live in one of our homes and your job’s been affected by Covid-19, our successful Directions Team can help you with advice on getting into employment, support you with job applications and give you help updating your CV.

Call the Directions Team on 0161 393 5550 or email directions@fcho.co.uk to see how they can help you.


Latest update on the new helpline for vulnerable people unable to leave the house and without neighbour or family support

A new service in Oldham is coordinating the delivery of emergency food and essential personal and household items to people in genuine need as they are self-isolating and don’t have any friends or neighbours who can support them, or they are unable to leave the house to shop for these items. This could be someone of any age.

The hotline for people to call for help is 0161 770 7007. The line will be open 9am-5pm on weekdays and 11am-2pm at weekends.

Prescriptions and medicines will be handled separately by local pharmacies working with GPs - please ask the helpline for advice.

Read more in our news section.

Latest update on how we are advertising homes: our new MyMove website has now launched

Our new www.mymoveoldham.co.uk website went live on Mon 6 April. We are aware there were some technical problems at first, but these have been resolved now and you can log in to find a new home.

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.

Latest update on electrical/boiler/gas safety checks 

Electrical safety checks are currently suspended, but boiler/gas safety checks are still 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.

How we're supporting our vulnerable customers aged 70+

Our teams are offering support for vulnerable customers aged 70+ to help them cope with challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Colleagues from across our organisation are currently telephoning customers to offer reassurance, advice and support to help them get through this period.

If you need help, or know someone who does, call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117.

Latest update on the Community Impact Team

The coronavirus has impacted on our Community Impact Team and there have been some changes to our service:

  • Community drop-in sessions are suspended until further notice
  • The duty service held at First Place, Oldham on Mondays and Thursdays is suspended until further notice
  • Our customers can still access support from our advisors. Please call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 to speak to a member of the team.

Latest update on Pest Control

Oldham Council’s Pest Control service is currently suspended due to coronavirus. Please visit the Oldham Council website for more details and we will update our customers on any changes.

Latest updates on tree services

We are now only responding to emergency tree issues, for example situations in which trees have fallen due to storm damage. To report an issue please call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117 or email servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

Latest update on playgrounds

In line with government advice to help make sure the rules on social distancing are followed at this time, all our playgrounds are now closed to the public until further notice. As soon as we can, we’ll reopen our playgrounds.

Our parks are located at:

Conrad Close Park – Conrad Close, Sholver – OL1 4RN

Beech Ave Park-  Beech Ave, Greenacres – OL4 2EF

Bobbin Walk MUGA – Waterloo St, Glodwick behind the shops OL4 1EY

Onslow Close MUGA – Dunbar St, Coldhurst OL1 2HZ

Kempton and Newbury Way, Park & MUGA, Busk, Chadderton OL9 6PN


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 throughout the lockdown?

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.

Until lockdown is over 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.

Until lockdown is over 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 will our services return to normal.

We appreciate what an uncertain and worrying period this is for customers and we are continually 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.

As soon as it is safe to do so we’ll reassess our services and let you know. 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 safety checks are currently suspended, but boiler/gas safety checks are still 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.

I’ve already booked a repair. Will you still come and do it?

Due to latest government advice on coronavirus we are still only attending emergency repairs - we are not attending routine repairs that have been booked in. This is to reduce the risk of infection to you and our staff.

If you have an appointment for a routine repair booked, our team will be in touch with you soon. Once we are in a position to resume routine repairs we will be in touch again to make arrangements to complete your work. Your repairs will take priority over any new ones that have been reported.

If you need to report a new routine repair at this time you can still do so and when the situation changes we’ll be in touch to make arrangements to complete your repair. Email us at servicecentre@fcho.co.uk or call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117.

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

Are external repairs still going ahead? 

No they aren’t. Due to latest government advice on coronavirus we are now only attending emergency repairs. This is to reduce the risk of infection to you and our staff.

We will only deal with the following list of emergency repairs:

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

You can still report non-emergency repairs and when the situation changes we’ll be in touch to make arrangements to complete your repair. Email us at servicecentre@fcho.co.uk or call our Contact Centre on 0161 393 7117.

I have seen some members of FCHO staff working in communal areas and in empty properties. Is this safe and why can’t they work on my home?

The current government advice is to avoid any non-essential contact, which is why we have moved to emergency repairs only.

You may still see our staff still working in communal or outdoor areas, on empty homes or on building works where they will have limited social contact. It’s important that we continue to deliver as much of our service as possible. All our staff have been provided with the necessary equipment and advice to ensure they do this safely without risk to you or them.

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, the official advice is now to stay at home for seven days. If you live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms, you should all stay at home for 14 days.

If you are in this situation, you must let us know when you are reporting an emergency repair or have one already arranged by emailing us at servicecentre@fcho.co.uk.

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?

If you or any member of your family are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus and you have a visit booked you must let us know please email us on servicecentre@fcho.co.uk. Please don’t book any new repairs or visits. It’s important we all do our bit to keep everyone safe and to limit the spread of the virus.


Will I still be able to book a repair over the phone or through MyAccount?

You will be unable to make any appointments for non-emergency repairs.

We’re only carrying out emergency repairs at the moment to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection for our customers and staff.

To report an emergency repair call our Contact Centre on 0161 3937117.

We will record details of any non-emergency repair requests that we receive and we will be in contact with you once we are in a position to provide you with an appointment date or a further update regarding your repair request.

If the situation with your repair changes and the issue becomes worse then please do not hesitate to contact us.

We will of course keep reviewing this and will let you know if the situation changes so please keep checking here or on social media.

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 long do I need to wait for someone to call me back about my non-emergency repair?

We’re afraid there’s no straight answer on this one right now. Due to latest government advice on coronavirus we're now only attending emergency repairs, this is to reduce the risk of infection to our customers and our staff.

Once the official advice changes and we’re in a position to resume non-emergency repairs, we’ll be in touch again to make arrangements to complete your work.

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, we will be ensuring the communal bins can be collected and 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, from Monday April 27, Oldham Council will empty either your grey, blue or brown bin on your usual collection day – just as they did before the coronavirus forced them to temporarily change things.

At this stage, you can also put your green bin or food caddy out on your brown bin collection day.

This is to make sure that the council still collects your garden waste over the summer.

Reverting back to the usual three weekly collection will help cut waste, which is important for the environment and helps to reduce costs.

Please visit the Oldham Council website for full details and advice.

While there are changes to local waste and recycling services and we are doing our best to keep our neighbourhoods neat and tidy, we’re encouraging customers to take reasonable steps to minimise their waste.

Recycle For Greater Manchester has some useful advice and their recommendations include:

  • Avoiding DIY and decluttering projects unless you have space to store your waste.
  • Making the most of space in your bin by squeezing air out of bin bags and flattening/squashing rubbish.

If you need to store your excess waste at this time, please do so safely:

  • Do not block any exits (for example, doorways and windows)
  • Keep waste away from electric points
  • Keep waste away from any heat sources, (for example, radiators or fireplaces)
  • Do not mix materials together which may react and cause a fire (for example paper and batteries)
  • Keep waste away from any chemicals
  • Keep waste away from children and pets.

Why have caretaking services been affected by the coronavirus situation? 

We are following government advice and our own emergency plans to ensure that we can deliver our caretaking service to the best of our ability, while keeping both our customers and colleagues as safe as possible.

We are continuing to wipe down areas of high footfall in our blocks. However coronavirus has impacted on other caretaking services because our team is now following government advice on social distancing and a number of our staff members are in self-isolation.

Unfortunately we have also seen an increase in the amount of rubbish being fly-tipped in our neighbourhoods and we have taken the decision to redeploy some of our caretaking team to help remove this rubbish as quickly and as safely as possible. This is to make sure there are no risks to the health and safety of our customers or staff, especially in cases where this rubbish is blocking some of the entrances and exits to our blocks.

We’ll resume our usual caretaking services as soon as we can.

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.

If you don’t engage with us, your tenancy may be at risk

The Government has a strong package of financial support available and you can find more information on this on the gov.uk website.

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. If you don’t engage with us, your tenancy may be at risk.

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.

These include:

  • removing the waiting days for people claiming Statutory Sick Pay on Covid-19 related grounds
  • suspending all face-to-face assessments for disability and sickness claims for three months
  • removing the minimum income floor for self-employed people in receipt of Universal Credit who are affected by Covid-19
  • suspending the need to visit the Job Centre to apply for an advance when claiming Universal Credit due to Covid-19
  • suspending conditionality and sanctions for people affected by Covid-19

Where additional measures have been introduced, they cover people:

  • self-isolating in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19
  • infected by Covid-19
  • caring for a child or qualifying young person who falls into either category above.

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

Are we still getting the rent free weeks?

Yes and the rent free weeks will be w/c 6 and 13 April. If you pay by Direct Debit the reductions will already be applied to your payment calculations.

Has the service from the caretakers changed? If so is this reflected in the service charge I’m paying?

Our caretaking teams are still working in all our neighbourhoods. We are concentrating on removing the increase in bulky items and general waste to make sure there are no risks to health and safety, and we are also continuing with litter picking. Block cleaning services are continuing where appropriate at this time.

We are monitoring our charges in light of any changes to the services we provide throughout the current crisis.

Is it true that Universal Credit claimants will receive an extra £80 per month until April next year? How does this work if it’s a joint application?

Details of how much Universal Credit you may be entitled to are available on the Gov.uk website. If you have any further questions, please contact our support team on 0161 393 5353 for help.

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?

Due to the current situation, Universal Credit are experiencing unprecedented volumes of calls, but don’t worry we are very aware of this and your home is not at risk. If you need any further help with your claim or need us to explain the process of applying for Universal Credit, please contact us on 0161 393 5353.

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.

Could you bring the two rent free weeks forward from the end of the year, so we can have four rent free weeks during this “lockdown” period?

Unfortunately we’re unable to at this late stage. We’ve already let Universal Credit and Housing Benefit know when our rent free weeks will be this year, and this has already been calculated into our rent calendar.

I have received a letter from the NHS telling me to self-isolate for 12 weeks 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.

Age UK Oldham is also providing a support telephone service and an emergency shopping service for older people who are struggling during the lockdown.

Support telephone calls include:

  • A simple catch-up to check on general welfare
  • A friendly chat to ease the boredom of isolation
  • Making sure you have essential supplies
  • Providing you with general information and reassurance
  • Signposting you to practical support in your area

To request a call please phone: 0161 622 9252 (9-4pm Mon – Fri) or email: maggie.hurley@ageukoldham.org.uk.

The emergency shopping service can deliver to your doorstep a food parcel made up of enough items to last you two weeks.

Shopping options:

  • Essential Food Pack / Veggie - £35 (1 Person x 2 weeks)
  • Easy Cook Evening Ready Meal Pack x 14 (1 Person x 2 weeks)
  • Household Pack - £15
  • Pet Food Pack Cat / Dog - On request

Delivery Charge – FREE.

To order and for more details, call 0161 633 0213.

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 will continue 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 will continue 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 will continue 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 three hubs: NEON in Greenacres on Saturdays, Sholver and Moorside Community Hub on Thursdays, and Wallshaw Street Community Centre 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?

You could get paid 80% of your wages, up to a monthly cap of £2,500. 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?

Staying at home and away from others (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.

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