Alongside all businesses in the UK, Catalyst has been playing its part in the national response to the COVID-19 crisis. Over the last seven weeks, we have responded to changing circumstances and guidance by focussing at all times on keeping our customers and colleagues safe. In the short term, we continue to deliver the support and essential services our customers rely on and, for the longer term, ensure that we remain financially strong and able to deliver excellent customer service in the future. So far, we have put the following arrangements in place:
- Catalyst colleagues are successfully working from home except for our key workers who deliver cleaning, essential repairs and grounds maintenance, and services to vulnerable residents in supported housing. Currently, our offices are only open to essential and emergency teams, i.e. those that need to be in the office Our contact centre is open, with colleagues taking customers’ calls at home and consistently answering over 90% of calls;
- A small proportion of colleagues are unable to carry out their jobs under the current restrictions and are placed on the Government’s job retention scheme. Catalyst is paying the difference between the scheme and their full salary in order to protect their financial wellbeing;
- We continue to deliver essential repairs where failure to do so might cause significant damage, and to carry out gas safety inspections. The Estate Services team is providing an enhanced cleaning service and essential grounds maintenance as well as carrying out fire safety checks. Our key workers meet the government’s social distancing guidance and have the correct personal protective equipment;
- We have established an emergency fund to help support small voluntary organisations helping people in our communities;
- We have established a wellbeing team to proactively contact our customers, focussing on the most vulnerable. Catalyst has a strong support framework in place that helps us identify those who may be struggling and assist in getting them the help they need. Our Money & Advice team helps customers to access benefits and other available financial support they may be entitled to in order to support customers to maintain their tenancies and pay their rent. Payment plans are available where appropriate.
- In line with government instructions, no evictions are being carried out during the coronavirus crisis; and
- Development of new housing has been slowed, with contractors adapting the way they work onsite; Contractors have closed 11 of our sites, with another 2 partially closed. Catalyst and our contractors will continue to assess the impact of the outbreak on regeneration and construction sites and are working to get back on site.
While it will remain unclear for some time what the full financial impacts of COVID-19 will be on our business, we have undertaken enhanced stress-testing of our financial plan and remain confident that we are well-placed to manage the current disruption to cashflows. As at 31 March 2020, we continue to hold high levels of liquidity (cash and undrawn available loan headroom of £479 million), ongoing low gearing, and over £1 billion of unencumbered assets.
Financial results quoted are unaudited. No reliance should be placed on the information contained within this update. We do not undertake to update or revise such public statements as and when our expectations change in response to events. This update is neither recommendation nor advice. This is not an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities.
For further information, please contact: Michaela Booth, Director of Corporate Finance, via email or call 0208 832 3394.