The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has updated its guidance for landlords with additional information on shared lounges in specialist sheltered and retirement housing and canteens in extra-care accommodation.

That guidance will be particularly relevant during the winter period, making use of external communal areas more challenging. Providers will need to carefully consider the guidance. Some of the key considerations are outlined below. 

  • A reminder of the need to carry out risk assessments to identify suitable control measures, especially in relation to; 
    • The use of lifts and stairwells (including limiting the number of people who can use a lift at any one time, or one-way systems).
    • Promoting the safe use of shared facilities such as laundry rooms and waste disposal areas. 
    • The potential closure of non-essential indoor communal space where it would not be possible to maintain social distancing (e.g. shared spaces for use by more than one household).
    • Increased frequency of cleaning of common areas especially in relation to  ‘frequent touch’ surfaces.
    • Keeping indoor areas well-ventilated as much as is possible.
    • Clear communication to all residents taking into account language, cultural, and disability barriers.
  • Confirmation that social contact rules must be followed in indoor spaces. 
    • In tier 1, the rule of 6 applies so residents can mix in groups of 6 while practising social distancing. 
    • In tiers 2 and 3, only households and linked households can mix together indoors. 
  • The guidance outlines specific issues relevant to on-site canteens and restaurants;
    • In tiers 1 and 2, restaurants and canteens can be open, following the social contact rules measures applicable to the tier.
    • Restaurants and canteens must also adhere to the restrictions on operating times, and table service requirements (if serving alcohol). 
    • In tier 3, all restaurants, canteens and cafes are required to close, unless an exception applies. 
    • The regulations include an exception for restaurants and cafes to remain open in extra care schemes for the consumption of food by certain residents where it is reasonably necessary to safeguard that person’s physical or mental health. This exemption only applies to residents with needs for care and support who have accommodation at the extra care housing scheme.

Relevant social distancing and cleaning protocols should be put in place to ensure residents using the facilities can do so in a Covid-19 secure way with procedures in between use for deep cleaning where necessary.

In considering how to apply this guidance and comply with all relevant health and safety obligations housing providers will need to undertake their own local risk assessment, balancing the importance of measures that can assist residents’ wider well-being and independence, the need to have the right Covid-19 infection control measures in place and the need to comply with the restrictions on gathering indoors.