One of the few positive things to emerge from this crisis has been the greater sense of community across the whole country, with people and companies coming together to offer help to those who need it or to the key workers who are on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19.
From the exploits of centurion Captain Tom Moore (a staggering £33 million raised for the NHS) to individual acts of kindness in towns, villages and cities across the UK, good deeds have been in plentiful supply.
And this has extended to the property market, too, with numerous stories in recent months of companies or landlords providing homes to NHS workers or much-needed masks.
NHS Homes, the scheme launched by the short-term accommodation sector to offer free homes and amenities to NHS key workers, now has more than 2,500 properties available for use across the UK.
NHS staff who have used the scheme have expressed their gratitude, while homeowners have explained why they have offered their properties to the programme.
The scheme is being operated by a number of professional management companies, under the umbrella of trade body the UK Short Term Accommodation Association (STAA). It enables NHS staff to stay in homes near the hospitals they work in for free during the Covid-19 crisis.
The pandemic has, unsurprisingly, caused a considerable downturn in bookings in the short-term sector as travel, tourism and business have all taken a battering. As a result, a number of companies in the sector have joined forces with their customers - homeowners who rent out their properties while they are away – to offer homes, that would otherwise be empty, to NHS workers.
What began with a handful of companies, including UnderTheDoormat and onefinestay, has grown in just a few short weeks to more than 30, with more firms joining every day, from holiday homes companies to serviced apartment businesses.
Merilee Karr, chair of the STAA and chief executive of UnderTheDoormat, said: “It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work to launch this scheme and get it up and running so quickly. I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts – the property management and hospitality companies, firms offering services and the homeowners who offered their homes to NHS workers for free.”
She added: “The value that the scheme is delivering is clearly demonstrated by the comments we have received from the NHS workers themselves.”
Jayni Tank, who works at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, said: “I just wanted to say thank you for organising this for me. You can’t understand the relief my family and I feel since I’m not going home after a shift, due to their vulnerabilities. It has also meant I was able to volunteer for more weekend work as we are so understaffed.”
John Thornton, an anaesthetist at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, praised the scheme as a fantastic gesture, while Sheema Khanum, a paediatric nurse at the Royal London Hospital, commented: “I needed to go to work but I wanted to protect my family and was worried about bringing back the virus with me. I emailed NHS Homes and they got back to me really quickly. I moved in two days later. This gave me the peace of mind I needed.”
Sophie, a nurse at University College Hospital, added: “I would love to express how grateful I am for having a quiet, calm and clean place to come back to after returning to work on the frontline during the pandemic. Mental health is so important, especially in times like this, and having this space without the worry of cost or infecting family members is invaluable. Really appreciate all of your support during this crazy time!”
Homeowners have also outlined why they have joined the NHS Homes programme. Simon Aram, from South West London, said: “After seeing the request from UnderTheDoormat to make properties available for NHS staff I had no hesitation in offering mine. To be able to offer something back to those who are sacrificing so much for our benefit was something I felt compelled to do.”
Kathleen Wilson, from West London, added: “I got an email from UnderTheDoormat about NHS Homes and thought wow, this is fantastic. I would rather it was utilised than just sitting there empty. Three days later they had it set up and ready. I just wanted to give something back to the NHS.”
Harriet Baring, from Chelsea, also commented: “We are all desperate to help our incredible NHS staff in any way we can. When they are exhausted at the end of their shift, the use of our flat feels like the least we can do.”
Nigel and Nicola Forsyth, who live in Primrose Hill, agreed in saying it was the least they could do. “We are fortunate enough to have spare accommodation in the worst hit area of the UK. We cannot think of any group of people who deserve the use of it more than our fabulous, indefatigable NHS.”
Some of the companies supporting the scheme include: UnderTheDoormat, Laundryheap, onefinestay, Altido, LoveHomeSwap, Veeve, Air Peace of Mind, CityRelay, Sykes Holiday Cottages, Guardhog and Airlinen.
NHS workers who want to request accommodation, and those companies with properties to offer to the scheme, should go to www.nhshomes.co.uk.
Property brands unite for charity appeal
A number of leading property brands have come together for charity, to support the ‘LifeLine Phones 4 NHS’ campaign for Covid-19 wards and patients.
The charity campaign is appealing for Londoners and companies to donate new or second-hand smartphones and tablets to the NHS, so that they can be data wiped, sanitised and provided to coronavirus patients in wards, providing them with video links to loved ones.
Under the umbrella of the Young Barnet Foundation and voluntary organisations Barnet Together and CIC Social Box, the ‘LifeLine Phones 4 NHS’ campaign is being supported by Aston Chase, Avanton, Beauchamp Estates, Landhold Developments, LONRES and Wetherell.
The campaign was officially sanctioned by the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, with London NHS hospitals benefiting from the campaign including the Royal Free, Barnet General Hospital and Chase Farm Hospital.
Londoners and companies wishing to donate WiFi enabled phones or tablets (all non-returnable) should visit the www.lifelinephones4nhs.com website, emailing details of the devices they wish to donate and the address they can be collected from within the London area.
Social Box will then arrange to have the devices collected, data wiped, checked, sanitised and delivered to the hospitals and wards that need them most.
Research by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) in August last year estimated that there are approximately 40 million unused smartphones, tablets and other laptops lying unused in drawers and storage in companies and households across the UK, with most owners having no plans to recycle.
The RSC poll revealed that nearly half (45%) of the 2,000 people they surveyed had as many as five unused devices in their possession, with the most common items being mobile phones and laptops.
Jeremy Gee, managing director of Beauchamp Estates and co-head of the property sector co-ordination team for the charity campaign, said: “We, the charity and the non-profit organisations involved are delighted that so many firms from across the real estate industry have kindly given support to this initiative to help the NHS provide its patients with an alternative to face-to-face contact. This charity campaign will aim to help connect patients in wards cut off from their loved ones at precisely the time when they need them most.”