Members of the Property Guardian Providers Association (the PGPA) have combined forces to offer over 500 rooms and properties they manage to help the NHS during the coronavirus crisis. Several properties have already been commissioned for beds and testing facilities.
Property guardianship makes use of temporarily vacant buildings, offering affordable accommodation for people at a lower cost than private rentals, whilst keeping properties secure.
“Approximately a third of property guardians are already key workers” explained Graham Sievers, who Chairs the PGPA, “but our members have worked with local authorities, the NHS, owners and guardians alike to see if they can add to and extend their use where possible both to help health workers stay nearer their workplace during this crisis, and for other requirements during the pandemic.”
One such property, The Pears Centre in Coventry (pictured above), is having the former car park turned into a COVID-19 test centre. James Freeman, Managing Director of VPS Guardians, said: “We carried out a risk assessment together with Warrington Council and the NHS, and then, once we had established there was a safe way of utilising one section sufficiently far away from the residential area, asked our guardians if any wished to move. They all chose to stay.”
Somerset County Council has worked with Ad Hoc Property Management to free up a former care home that was being secured by 25 property guardians, so that it could be used to alleviate the pressure on beds at their acute hospitals. New accommodation had been found for the building’s guardians, who have all relocated so the council can convert the site to a temporary emergency facility. Simon Wright, Ad Hoc’s Operations Manager, added: “We have also offered a few hundred en-suite bedroom facility, a former student campus, in Birmingham, if it is needed.”
Live-in Guardians, another founding member of the PGPA, has sent details of up to 100 rooms, including new flats and houses that are currently vacant and could be made available for NHS workers. Managing Director Arthur Duke, whose mother is seriously ill in hospital with the coronavirus, sent details to the NHS organisation coordinating accommodation, a fortnight ago. “They are mostly across London, and include some accommodation just minutes from main hospitals, like the Royal Free.” Arthur said.
Graham concluded: “The PGPA was set up just over a year ago to set standards for the sector, and it’s right for all our members to have made significant efforts and contributions to helping the NHS during this unprecedented crisis. In addition, we’ve made every effort to support the guardian community.
“We held direct talks with the Ministry of Housing last month to ensure our guardians, many of whom are self-employed in the hardest hit creative, arts and performance sectors, could access the emergency benefits introduced by the government. Recently, we also introduced the only independent safety audit mechanism to protect property guardians, with a Coordinated Partnership with a Primary Authority. They can inspect properties at short notice, and only members of the PGPA are subjected to this safety audit. So it has been a pretty momentous first year in operation.”