There were altogether 230 participants which is nearly half of all our housing staff, not bad considering we run a 24/7 service and many of our front line workers are not office based.
Our interim Housing Director, Darren Levy, led both sessions.
I was invited to speak at both where I thanked all our staff for their hard work and public service during this emergency on behalf of the Mayor and all Councillors.
Our staff have carried out emergency repairs and safety inspections to homes and communal areas throughout the Covid-19 emergency; brought voids back into use for families; transported food to #HelpNewham hubs for distribution to shielding residents; moved around 400 families and individuals from shared accommodation to self contained accommodation where they can self isolate; dealt with a constant flow of new homeless applications day and night; protected private sector tenants from illegal evictions; our concierge workers have kept our tower blocks and lifts clean and personally checked on vulnerable residents; others have been redeployed from normal office hour duties into 24/7 shifts for emergency call outs; been giving advice and support to very worried residents on rents, service charges, allocations, tenancy issues and benefits while working from bedrooms and kitchens at their homes.
There was a wide range of questions to Darren from staff including PPE; what will happen to families in temporary accommodation; Risk assessments; Protection for BME staff from Covid; Newham's role in "track and trace"; Rent arrears; Gas servicing; residents with "No recourse to public funds"; budget cuts due to Covid and modular housing building (and many others).
A line manager did ask what can we do to really thank all the "Housing Heroes" who have gone above and beyond for our residents?
While I want a celebration for all staff once it is safe to do so I suspect that if the Government does the right thing and funds a decent pay rise for all Council staff that this will go down much, much better.