Innovating through the pandemic – Visitor Pods for care schemes

Stuart Fisher, 01 December 2020

This has been an extremely difficult and challenging year for many, many people. Coronavirus has fundamentally changed the way we live our daily lives, with many being personally impacted by this disease. Working habits, shopping habits, and our social and family interactions have all had to change significantly during 2020.

The frontline operations of social housing and social care activities have not been immune to the effects of coronavirus. At Accord we deliver a significant amount of social care - around two million hours a year - and as you can imagine the operational challenges of dealing with coronavirus in a social care setting have been immense. Nationwide shortages in PPE, delayed roll out of track & trace and testing programmes, and the requirement to significantly increase infection prevention measures have all placed a huge amount of operating pressure on the frontline workforce, who were heroic (and thanks to Simon in procurement (also heroic!) securing over 200,000 items of PPE per week. I’m pleased to say staff never once went without the required PPE).

However, despite these unparalleled efforts to keep Accord’s care and support customers and colleagues safe, there was one thing we couldn’t do. During periods of lockdown and the tiered social mobility restrictions which have applied at various periods since March, we couldn’t ensure that our customers in our care schemes could been visited by their families. We invested in new smartphones, tablets and other technologies to help customers stay in contact with their families, but it wasn't the same for them. Fundamentally, they missed being with their families and loved ones.

You may also know that Accord has an off-site manufacturing plant known as LoCaL Homes (LoCaL = Low Carbon Living, clever eh?) where we produce our own homes using modern methods of construction. The construction sector was also impacted by coronavirus with many development sites pausing in the initial lockdown - this slowdown resulted in some production capacity the LoCaL Homes factory. What we had was a requirement for Covid-secure visitor access at our care schemes (the problem) and the ability to produce self-contained units (the solution). We decided to make the most of what was available to us here at Accord and developed the Visitor Pods concept. The pods are being manufactured in the LoCaL Homes factory, assembled on site ready for use where customers in our current support settings will be able to once again see their much-missed families and loved ones in a Covid-secure way.

The Visitor Pods will be located outside our care schemes near to the entrance. Families and loved ones will use one entrance, Accord’s customers will use the other. Visits can be booked on a pre-arranged basis and we’ll once again welcome visitors to safely spend some real quality time together in a warm, clean and comfortable environment. Both elements of the Visitor Pod will be deep cleaned between visits to ensure it remains Covid-secure. Whilst FaceTime, Zoom and other technologies are great at connecting people, the Visitor Pods provide a much more wholesome experience, and what our customers and their loved ones really want.

We've never been afraid to think differently here at Accord. We've always innovated and considered the art-of-the-possible when faced with a variety of problems or issues. This is just another example of us joining up the dots, making the most of what is available to us and really deliver impactful solutions for our customers and their families. Some might argue coronavirus has changed everything, but there are certain things we are determined not to let it change. If it's important to our customers, then it's important to us.