AN estimated 5,000-plus housing tenants have now receive welfare calls during the coronavirus crisis.

Bosses at First Choice Homes Oldham, which manages the borough's former council house stock, has been making contact with the over-70s and the vulnerable since the lockdown began.

Those who might be considered as isolated have also benefitted from the welfare calls from staff.

Bev Bertenshaw, the firm's community impact manager, said: "There were many different issues identified through the calls.

"Some customers have wanted straightforward advice or have just been happy to have a friendly chat.

"Others may have struggled with food or shopping. In such instances, some customers have been given access to our affordable food offer, through The Bread and Butter Thing.

"Others, where appropriate, been provided with food bank vouchers or put into contact with local food delivery services.

"In some cases, where customers aren’t able to get out, we have arranged to deliver groceries.

"We’re linking in with the Oldham borough coronavirus response hubs to match customers with support from other agencies in Oldham, too.

"Our community impact advisors have also been dealing with one-off enquiries from customers about financial issues, for example being unable to pay their electricity bills or heat their home.

"The team has been offering advice as needed, providing budgeting and benefits advice and referring them to useful services such as Warm Homes Oldham."

Ross Taylor, from First Choice's neighbourhood care team, would ordinarily have been on duty cutting grass during the spring, but got involved in the welfare calls programme.

He said: “I checked in with our customers to see how they were they doing, then ask if they needed any help with things like gas, electric, food, picking up medication and so on and passing the information on our relevant teams, so they could give them more support.

“Even if my customers didn’t need any specific help, sometimes they just needed a chat because they hadn’t seen anyone for such a long time.

"It’s been a difficult period for many people and I’m pleased to have played my part in delivering this important support.”

The welfare programme, as other staff return to their normal duties, is now being picked up and managed by the housing association's community impact and independence teams.

Mrs Bertenshaw added: "The team effort to deliver the welfare call programme has been amazing, to achieve so many calls and provide so much support in a short period of time is fantastic.

"I had a phenomenal response from colleagues all wanting to do their bit and it speaks volumes about the caring people we have here in our organisation."