Coronavirus guidance for supported housing providers

11 November 2020

Housing associations providing supported housing and sheltered accommodation during the coronavirus outbreak continue to face unique and difficult challenges in a changing environment. Many are at the frontline providing care and support to very vulnerable people, including people who have tested positive for coronavirus, and implementing measures to safeguard and support residents and service users through the crisis.

We know that supported housing providers are working hard to plan how to keep vital services running and to prepare for the challenges winter brings. To support this work, below we have summarised the latest information available on coronavirus that is relevant to supported housing.

In addition, we are in regular contact with ministers and officials to make sure that the issues faced by supported housing providers are heard, including the challenges faced by increasing costs. To support this work, please contact us to share the challenges you are experiencing and examples of the vital work you are doing, so we can ensure these are understood across the government.

On this page you will find the latest information on:

  • Latest available guidance
  • Shared accommodation and communal areas
  • Shielding and mental health
  • Maintaining service delivery
  • Contract tracing
  • Prevention and infection control in supported housing settings
  • Managing hospital discharge to supported housing schemes

Latest available guidance

Supported housing landlords and providers should review their services and operating practices regularly in line with available guidance. In particular:

Additional guidance is listed at the bottom of this page.

Shared accommodation and communal areas

  • The Landlord and Tenant Guidance states that there is no restriction on people moving permanently into new shared accommodation.
  • Guidance on use of essential and non-essential communal areas remains unchanged and all residents should always do their very best to follow the latest coronavirus guidance.
  • However, supported and sheltered housing with a restaurant or canteen facility will potentially be impacted by the new restrictions on operating restaurants. We understand that many members have already or plan to close restaurant facilities, however we are seeking further clarity from government on what constitutes a restaurant within the context of a facility open only to residents.

Shielding and mental health

  • Although people are not being asked to shield in the same way as before, during this second national lockdown, if you are working with vulnerable people you should minimise their contact with others.
  • The government intends to clarify a number of issues on this point, and acknowledged the lockdown will have implications for people’s mental health and feelings of isolation and loneliness. They acknowledged that these issues may be particularly acute in care homes and supported housing settings.

Maintaining service delivery

In cases where residents need immediate care or support that cannot be delivered remotely without putting them at risk, providers should try to maintain service delivery as consistently as possible. This can include:

  • Working with local authorities to ensure that lists of people in supported living are up to date.
  • Maintaining up-to-date business continuity plans.
  • Maintaining oversight of vulnerable residents and ensuring they have risk management plans in place.
  • Avoiding sharing staff between settings.

Contact tracing

  • Contact tracers should follow up with people who are ‘close contacts’ of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. This could be someone who:
    • Spends significant time in the same household
    • Is a sexual partner.
    • Has been within one metre of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus for one minute, has been coughed on or had skin-to-skin contact.
    • Has been within two metres of someone who has tested positive for coronavirus for more than 15 minutes.
    • Has travelled in a vehicle with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
  • The government Test and Trace app is now available to download. Advice for health and social care workers on using the app is also available.

Prevention and infection control in supported housing settings

While maintaining service delivery, providers should also take all necessary precautions to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading within schemes. The government guidance covers infection control measures including:

  • Proper use of PPE.
  • Hygiene measures including hand-hygiene.
  • Promoting social distancing among staff and residents.
  • When and how to allow visitors to schemes.
  • How to respond if staff or residents display coronavirus symptoms.
  • Managing outbreaks within schemes.
  • Testing and tracing.

Reducing the risk of infection

  • Undertake continuous risk assessments of each setting, including:
    • the vulnerability of residents,
    • those who may find changes in routine challenging,
    • the levels of support and care available, and
    • the physical conditions in the operating environment.
  • Ensure that lists of people in supported living are up to date.
  • Communicate information with residents/service users in a way that they are most likely to understand.
  • Continue to adapt services and practices and adopt social distancing measures wherever possible.
  • Use hand and respiratory hygiene principles and self-isolation where necessary.
  • Continue to use PPE where necessary, including providing personal care, or in situations where social distancing is difficult, for example, if the supported person has behaviours and/or needs.
  • Regularly update staff on how to use PPE (especially donning and doffing).
  • Minimise and carefully manage visits where feasible.
  • Where possible, avoid or minimise staff deployment to more than one location. If a local risk assessment identifies service delivery issues caused by low staffing, supported living and care/support providers can work with local authorities to establish plans for mutual aid, including limited sharing of the workforce.

What to do:

  • In case of possible outbreak?
    Supported housing providers and local authorities should work together to facilitate mutual aid, care and support plans across their areas.
  • In case of suspected or identified cases of infection?
    Supported housing providers and staff should comply with the published guidance on testing and tracing workplaces.
  • If there's a risk of multiple cases of coronavirus?
    In such situations, providers should work with the contract tracing team to seek tailored advice if possible from the outbreak control team, the local authority or Public Health England, to help manage the outbreak. This also applies if there is risk of an outbreak across a whole team providing an essential service.
  • If an outbreak is suspected in supported living accommodation?
    Report to the local Health Protection Team (HPT) immediately.

Please see our detailed page for updates on accessing coronavirus testing.

Managing hospital discharge to supported housing schemes

  • Any individual moving into or returning to a supported living setting should self-isolate until 14 days have passed, even if they have tested negative. The possibility of false negatives or the patient having only just contracted the virus means that housing providers should still exercise extreme caution.
  • Supported living environments should ensure that support plans are in place to maintain a supportive and planned transfer. Discuss support plans with the person being discharged, and where appropriate their family and care providers. Pay particular care to people with autism, learning disabilities, mental health problems, or dementia and their families understand, before the transfer happens.
  • Consider the needs of all residents in cases of people living in shared settings, in particular, the practical arrangements required to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Some people living independently may need support to ensure they can follow advice about what should happen during the 14-day period. If the person, or anyone they share their home with, lacks capacity to understand information about the discharge arrangements or the requirements of the 14-day period, and decisions that impact on their living arrangements and/or support needs are required, then the Mental Capacity Act should be followed. Consult with the people who are significant to them before decisions are taken in their best interests.

Additional guidance