SPONSOR SEGMENT - Inspections in vulnerable person's properties and care homes

Thursday 19 March 2020

In common with a number of other providers, Zurich Municipal carry out safety inspections on plant and equipment belonging to our customers, many of which are to ensure councils meet their statutory responsibilities. Our engineering surveyors are in some cases encountering difficult situations particularly involving vulnerable individuals and/or care homes where we may be inspecting stair lifts in an individual’s home or equipment in a care home. It is not clear what the customer’s policy is around these individuals and we have had circumstances where our surveyor has entered the home of a vulnerable person to carry out an inspection and it has become clear to our employee that to carry out the inspection would put the individual at risk.

Our guidance to our surveyors has been updated to fall in line with the Government issued communication on vulnerable and over 70’s staying at home and reducing social contact. While this guidance suggests that family and friends should stay away – it does not preclude persons entering the property who are providing essential services.

Our guidance has a default position for single occupancy dwellings where we may be inspecting a stair lift, home lift or patient hoist which is that we do not inspect and that we issue a Not Available Notice. This is principally to ensure we do not put a vulnerable person at risk, and at the same time, to protect our staff.

However, where there are essential services, we will risk assess the situation and depending on the result, could provide the inspection. It will therefore be dependent on the owner (the Council)/resident informing us that the equipment is essential and that they are happy for our surveyor to attend.

We need to be pragmatic here regarding what is essential and what is not, but it is important for us to understand your position - for example a stair lift where the resident is still able to climb the stairs and a bathroom hoist for a severely handicapped person.

Our surveyors have guidance from us including a question set for them to work through ahead of any inspections and we have included below, a short extract showing three key questions we will ask an individual householder, and the proposed action dependent on the response.

  1. Have you or a member of your household returned from a country or area with elevated incidence of COVID-19 during the past 14 calendar days (category one country)?
  2. To the best of your knowledge, have you or a member of your household been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?
  3. Are you currently unwell, with symptoms including fever, high temperature, cough, or sore throat?
  4. Are you or any member of your household self-isolating for any reason, or recognised as a vulnerable person?

If responses to the questions are all 'no', inspections can continue as normal. You should follow the hygeine guidance set out by the World Health Organisation, such as regular hand washing, keeping at least two metres away from people in the home and not shaking hands when greeting. You could also very politely suggest that the resident may wish to stay in another room.

If responses to questions 1-3 are 'yes', inspections cannot continue and an NV report using the working provided should be made.

If response to question 4 is 'yes', our default is that inspections cannot continue and we issue an NV report using the wording provided.

However if the client or resident has requested that an inspection is done as the equipment is essential, then we can still complete an inspection. The current Government advice does not preclude service providers from attending customers' homes and we should adopt all of the above precautions. We should not be using this as leverage to complete the inspection, it is only at the request of the client in respect of question 4.

If you still feel uncomfortable then you are at liberty to adopt the walk away policy and issue an NV.

We are sure that all councils will have their high priority vulnerable individuals in mind during planning and reaction to the current unprecedented situation and our call to action is for your organisation to communicate with us, to let us (or your current inspection provider) know how you would want us to handle these situations on your behalf, to maintain a balanced approach between meeting your statutory obligations and at the same time protecting your vulnerable individuals and your supplier's staff.

Rod Penman, Head of Public Services, Zurich Municipal

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