Categories Social Housing

Social Housing – Scheme Responsibilities / Fire & Carbon Alarms

At the end of last year, 23rd November to be precise, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities issued a Press Release stating – ‘All social homes required to have smoke alarms fitted.’

The intention was that ‘people living in social housing will be safer in their homes under new rules’.

To be honest with you, we already thought that was a given but, what we take for granted as logical, natural safe management is clearly not all it seems. We (JGF) work in close association with Aico, whose fire detection / alarm systems just about corner the market.

Nerijus is just finishing an Aico installation in a Social Housing Unit in Kent

The Law

These reforms follow a commitment in the Social Housing White Paper published last year, setting out proposals for wide-ranging reforms of the social housing sector which will drive up standards.

Housing Minister, Eddie Hughes MP, emphasised that housing providers are required – by law – to install smoke alarms in all social housing, and carbon monoxide alarms must be fitted in social and private rented properties with fixed appliances such as gas boilers or fires. Also, that such alarms are to be repaired or re-fitted once they are told they are faulty.

Mr Hughes pointed out that around 20 people are killed each year in accidental carbon monoxide poisoning and many more through house fires – but we know that simple interventions can stop these needless deaths.

Fortunately, the majority of landlords are all over this – and more – caring about their tenants and ensuring safety standards are maintained. But a minority do fall short, putting their tenants in danger as a result.

Responsibilities

Landlords must now have the electrical installations in their properties inspected and tested by a qualified and competent organisation at least every 5 years. Landlords must provide a copy of the electrical safety report to their tenants, and to their local authority if requested.Co-ordinating such a massive task like this needs organisation and impressive systems and procedures to drive it. Our dedicated Social Housing Contracts Manager and specific SH Electrical Installation & Maintenance Teams understand the problems, step around the pitfalls, and smooth over all aspects of certification. It’s a good thing as there can be up to 3 different certificates for the installation of smoke detectors alone.

If you are a Social Housing Scheme Manager reading this, you’ll find more information regarding your responsibilities and immediate action points – HERE.

Or, of course you can just call us on 01322 284300, we’ll be pleased to help.

Installation & Maintenance

Legislation with smoke detectors is a very complex area, with lots of conflicting views and it is actually difficult to fully comply on a practical level.

Getting it right can be tricky.

You probably already know that the main brand of smoke detector is Aico, they absolutely corner the market.

We (JGF) work in close association with Aico, fitting heat and carbon detectors to give the best possible protection throughout, and we mean throughout – you can’t just pay lip service to residents’ health and safety. Sticking the odd device up in the entrance hall may tick the box – just – but it does not protect the household.

The Extra Mile

There are acceptable short-term solutions to these knotty problems, but like all knots … they can come undone.  That’s why we use tamper-proof 10-year battery backup alarms. Yes, they may be more expensive but they’re a much better solution for Social Housing.

As standard, a smoke circuit is run back to the consumer unit. Most people put this onto its own MCB in that consumer unit.

We do not.

We add this to a lighting circuit to avoid somebody switching off the circuit, then forgetting to re-energise that circuit, rendering the alarms inactive and the home unprotected.

If you can’t hard-wire the smoke detectors together, you must use a radio link module to make sure each detector will set off the others within the property. This is the preferred solution, particularly as it has a 10-year life span and cost just £45 each. So, it is always worthwhile hard-wiring if you can, to avoid the additional expense at a later date.

Smart Technology

Being market leaders in fire alarm technology, you might think that a company would sit back on its laurels and enjoy their position of strength.

Not so Aico.

Spending time with them to learn more about, what we’ll call here, ‘standard alarm devices’, we are also really excited about using future, smart technology to save lives.

Their HomeLINK platform integrates and analyses sensor data to help landlords take a scalable and future-proofed approach to their IoT strategy.

OK, the first hand up in the class asked the question – what is IoT?

In this case say, in Social Housing, it is the interface that makes the difference between a device sensing smoke and making a noise, to the device sensing smoke and flagging a problem up at the Social Housing management offices, raising alarms and first responder call outs there. It’s much more than that, but that will do for now.

The four technical components of an IoT process are: sensors/devices, connectivity, data processing, and a user interface.

For Social Housing management and landlords, the properties are fitted withTemperature, Humidity and CO2 Sensors; and Connected Smoke and CO alarms.

The analytics platform displays on site in a single user-friendly dashboard, using innovative data science and software to help one system understand another.

Landlords can integrate emerging technologies with their own day­-to­-day processes in a scalable way.

The benefits are amazing – but we’ll go into that next time.

If you are a Social Housing Scheme Manager reading this and need advice, please reach out, just call us on 01322 284300.

Categories Social Housing

Social Housing: Adapting to Change, Delivering to Need.

In many ways it’s a good thing that the majority of UK’s diverse population doesn’t really know what or why Social Housing is. A good thing, because to live in Social Housing is to have deeply painful social needs.

Commercially, suppliers, contractors and other service providers simply think of delivering to such properties as – ‘another paycheque’.

Socially, we (JGF Electrical) take a pride in supporting communities whose needs are greater, and resources weaker, than we would ever hope of requiring ourselves.

Professional Support

That is why our approach to partnering the not-for-profit Housing Associations who operate such schemes, is to do so with extra care and consideration. Our job on site is not unlike supporting Landlords of normal rental portfolios. We test and inspect to British standards; upgrade accessories, consumer units and smoke detection where required; partially rewire or fully rewire properties requiring the upgrades; complete adaptions for social and physical ability needs. And most importantly, complete all certification for a safe home for people to live

More often than not, these properties are occupied and sometimes by people with personal issues and in distress.

Gaining access can even be a challenge. We train our teams to have the highest electrical industry standards. But we also train and develop ‘social experience’, so they extend the supportive hand of polite professionalism at the same time. As, when on site, we represent the Managing Association, this approach is an asset to them and a feather in the cap for us both.

As you can imagine, it’s far from being a bed of roses. Outside of properly managed bona fide Housing Associations, tenants have been treated as second class citizens for whom second and third-rate accommodation ‘will do’.

So disgustingly wrong.

Things are Changing

But, thankfully, things are changing.

In an exclusive interview with ITV News in February, Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he is “ashamed” by the conditions social housing tenants are being forced to live in. He admitted, for the first time, the Government had failed to deliver the reforms promised to tenants after the Grenfell tragedy in 2017. A year-long ITV News investigation has uncovered social housing conditions described as “the worst the sector has ever seen”.

Residents across Britain have shown the mould, damp, leaks, collapsed ceilings and risks of electrocution that blight their lives, despite consistent complaints to their landlord.

Politically, he was able to make such admissions because the Government had already released their White Paper on ‘Levelling Up’ earlier that month.

An article from the National Housing Federation (NHF) sums up the intentions of ‘Levelling Up’:

Key Issues & Actions

Key issues covered in the White Paper are considered under specific headings:

  • Regeneration and delivering social housing
  • Local government and devolution
  • UK Shared Prosperity Fund
  • Planning reform
  • Resident voice and quality of homes
  • Supply of older peoples’ housing
  • Next steps for housing associations

The NHF article notes that there are still questions around the details of funding and how the new proposals will work in practice. So, there’s clearly more to come on this and we are grateful to UK Housing for keeping all involved up to speed. And we will be developing what this means to JGF and other specialist contractors supporting Social Housing over the next few months.

The bottom line though is that all involved will have to tighten their grip.

There will be more work needed across the sector to inspect, maintain, upgrade and re-fit, which means greater costs to scheme managers. These costs can be offset against future call outs, if the job is done properly in the first place, and ‘properly’ means far more than just ticking off a number on a job sheet.

‘Properly’ means approaching the service partnership with broader understanding and responsibility from inspection, specification, quotation, stock management, efficiency, installation, re-testing and certification.

Certification itself means more than form filling. We are known across Kent for the quality of EICR Certification and, if it carries our Q1 quality assurance stamp, you will know it’s a job well done. No compromise, just experience, expertise and of course – care.

As you see, it’s a big subject that we will be taking bite-sized pieces from, to digest over the coming months.