The following statement has been published by Belong Limited:

As a social care provider, Belong’s provision of 24-hour care in its villages is critical to the national response to the Covid-19 outbreak and, as such, its villages remain operational, albeit with practice and policy changes made to keep residents and colleagues safe, and adhere to Government and Public Health England guidance. A Covid-19 steering group was established early on in the outbreak and the organisation’s business continuity systems were invoked. These are proving robust and are ensuring we continue to adapt promptly as new guidance is released.

Safety & wellbeing

Belong has received positive feedback from the Care Quality Commission and local authorities on its actions so far, which include restricting village access to staff and essential visitors only. Belong’s household model lends itself to isolating units in any outbreak scenario and, so far, there are no confirmed cases amongst residents or colleagues. A wide range of safety measures and guidance has been issued around screening, Personal Protective Equipment, hygiene, deep cleaning and social distancing, and initiatives have been launched to promote physical and mental wellbeing for people self-isolating or simply coping with these anxious times.

Facilities closure

Facilities, such as hair salons, gyms, therapy rooms, library & IT suites, function rooms and the Belong Heritage Gallery in Newcastle-under-Lyme, have all been closed, while the Bistro has switched to providing meals for households and a take-away service for apartment tenants only.

Staffing continuity

Staffing is being managed well to cover those self-isolating (circa 12% of Belong’s workforce), helped by flexibility in redeploying those previously working in village centre facilities. Recruitment drives, including contacting former employees, are underway and there has been a positive response to date.

Service continuity

Belong’s households are continuing to provide 24-hour care. Occupancy remains high, at 95% across all seven villages in the open households and 98% in the mature villages. Belong’s home care service (Belong at Home) is continuing to support people in the community but is not accepting new customers at this time, to ensure it can meet existing commitments in the context of risks of staff needing to self-isolate. Belong’s day care service (Experience Days) was suspended from 24 March 2020.

Financial impact

Belong is confident that it will be able to absorb any additional costs incurred due to the outbreak. The bulk of Belong’s revenue derives from household fees and apartment rents, which should not be significantly affected. However, there will be a drop in revenue due to the closure of amenities; the estimated cost of Bistro, Salon and Gym revenue is £630k per annum and the Experience Days (day care) revenue is £300k per annum. Some of this will be offset by staff savings and savings in other costs, such as non-essential maintenance, training and travel over the period.

Belong’s 2020/21 budget already includes a £450k Covid-19 contingency for irrecoverable sick pay and additional agency costs that may be incurred. The organisation has significant cash resources, with £14.4 million presently available.

For further information, please contact Chief Finance Offer, Chris Hughes.