UK GOVERNMENT ISSUES UPDATED GUIDANCE ON COVID-19 FOR UNIVERSITY HALLS & HMOs
 

On Monday 20 July 2020 an updated 'Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settings' was published by the UK Government. One section specifically deals with university halls of residence, private PBSA and HMOs.

The Guidance is for owners and managers of residneetial settings to support the management of children and young people living in a number of different settings including 'university halls of residence and houses in multiple occupation'.

The following is the extract relevant to universities and students. The full paper can be accessed by following this link:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on isolation for residential educational settings - GOV.UK

University and college halls of residence and houses in multiple occupation for students aged 18 and over

Students living in halls of residence or houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) who develop symptoms of coronavirus should self-isolate in their current accommodation. Universities and colleges should facilitate this. Students should discuss this with their university or college, and with the manager of their halls if they are privately owned, or the landlord of their HMO.

If a resident of an HMO has coronavirus symptoms, all residents must isolate for 14 days, follow the COVID-19: guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection guidance.

When students are living in halls of residence where someone else has symptoms of coronavirus, their institution will discuss the situation with PHE’s local Health Protection Team, which will carry out a risk assessment and identify who is required to take part in whole household isolation based on how closely they have been living together.

Those living in private halls should inform their hall manager so they in turn can inform PHE’s local Health Protection Team. Depending on the circumstances, this would normally include those students living in the same flat or on the same floor who share cooking or washing facilities, or both.

If halls accommodation is different from the format described above, for example longer corridors of single rooms, you will need to make decisions on the whole household group to self-isolate for 14 days on a case-by-case basis. This decision will be informed by the catering and social areas shared by groups of students, in consultation with PHE’s local Health Protection Team.

Institutions and building managers of private halls will need to design procedures with their staff to ensure that self-isolating students can receive the food and medicines they need for the duration of their isolation. This is especially important for disabled students.

Students in HMOs will need to discuss their circumstances with both their landlord and their institution, who should work in tandem to ensure that necessary support is in place.

Staying at home for a prolonged period can be difficult, particularly if there is no access to outside space. It is important to take care of mental as well as physical health and seek support if needed. Students can keep in touch with family and friends over the phone and on social media. There are also sources of support and information, such as Every Mind Matters for adults, and Young Minds for young people. Students in university or college accommodation can also contact any support or wellbeing service provided by their institution.

It is important that institutions operate a ‘non-eviction’ policy, so that no student is required to leave halls if their contract is up, if their rental agreement does not cover holiday periods or if they are unable to pay their rent. This applies whether students are self-isolating or not.

It is particularly important in the case of international students, care leavers and estranged students. Students in HMOs are protected from eviction by new rules developed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Institutions will need to make clear to the manager of any privately owned halls of residence that evictions are unacceptable. The hall manager must – if they are unable to accommodate a student – work through local partnerships, such as with the local authority and lettings agents, in order to prevent students being made homeless.

If the university or college has a nomination agreement with the private halls provider, they should use this relationship constructively to avoid evictions. If no relationship exists, universities or colleges should ensure that the private halls provider has solutions in place. Under no circumstances should students be evicted.

Editor's Note: My thanks for collegues in the National HMO Lobby for sending on this information, and for suggesting it might also find be useful to take a look at:

Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education | CDC 

[Monday 27 July 2020]