The people of Marlow have reacted angrily after Red Kite Housing Association issued a statement on why they decided to close their communal freezers ‘without any notice’.

On May 26, a Marlow resident expressed their anger after he discovered that the community hall at Brooke Furmston Place had been closed.

He said: “Red Kite have taken it into their [own] hands to put locks on the community hall at Brooke Furmston Place late this morning (May 26) - no notice to anyone.

“We have two large freezers which people of a certain age put goods such as poultry frozen goods etc.

READ MORE: Red Kite under fire after closing communal lounges 'without any notice'

“They are still unable to come out and do shopping so today they cannot get food out or put their goods in which were orders.

“Shame on you, Red Kite.”

Red Kite responded promptly and said: “All of the communal lounges in our sheltered schemes were closed in March as soon as the Covid-19 crisis started and government lockdown restrictions became clear.”

They also confirmed that residents received two letters explaining the slight changes.

But some Marlovians were not happy with the statement.

One user said: “From their response, it seems they don't actually keep in touch with their residents by telephone to ensure they are all ok? That's disappointing.

Another user said: “How about checking if residents received anything in the post. Especially those that don't have computers/email, or those that are isolating.”

READ MORE: Zoom meetings to take place for archaeology enthusiasts

Someone else added: “Red Kite just seem to think they are a law unto themselves and no-one else matters.

“I feel so sorry for the people that have to try and deal with them on a daily basis.”

Red Kite has since responded with a five-page statement explaining their actions since the pandemic started.

They said: “Protecting and supporting our residents living in sheltered schemes has been one of our key priorities.

“With all the early information that was released about the Covid-19 virus affecting vulnerable groups and in particular those over 70-years-old, we anticipated at an early stage that this was likely to affect people living in care homes or similar settings more than others.

“Our sheltered schemes, whilst not care homes, have a similar layout and environment to care homes, so it was important we responded quickly and robustly to protect residents, and ultimately save lives.

“We had been monitoring the outbreak as it entered Europe at the start of the year and started to consider our response.

READ MORE: Meals for Marlow receive HUGE donation to help the vulnerable

“When Covid-19 started to gain traction nationally, we immediately mobilised our Emergency Response Team to allow us to review the situation, understand its impact and make the decisions that were needed, this was early March.

“One of the first things we did to help protect residents in our sheltered schemes was to close the communal lounges and kitchens, as well as closing the communal toilets for resident use.

“This made sense to us as a number of people gathering in enclosed spaces would seem a natural breeding ground for the spread of a virus such as Covid-19 and we were already aware of a conference in Scotland which resulted in 25 infection cases.

“We wrote to residents on the March 13 (one day after the Chief Medical Officer raised the risk to the UK from moderate to high) to let them know about this important measure as it meant that we were limiting the chances of the virus spreading from person to person, and reducing any cross-contamination.

“However, our communal laundries remained open as we knew several of our residents rely on this key facility.

READ MORE: Councillor donates food to the elderly as coronavirus battle continues

“Three days later, the Prime Minister advised everyone to cut all non-essential contact, and the Chief Medical Officer stated that those over 70 should take ‘particular care to minimise their social contact.’

“Our proactive action certainly was entirely in line with the direction that the government was starting to take us.

“To make sure that residents knew the areas that were closed, signs were put up in the schemes by our team of sheltered specialists on March 16.

“By this time, our Covid page on our website was up and running to and a place for residents, and family members to keep up to date on the actions we were taking.

“Shortly after, on March 19, we wrote to our residents again, giving them more information about what we were doing.

“Firstly, that we would be carrying out a deep clean and disinfection of the communal areas.

“This was a commercial antibacterial misting system, using similar technology as the airline industry which sanitises and remains effective for several days.

“This was a supplement with an enhanced twice-weekly top-up cleaning regime focussing on frequent hand touch surfaces to reduce the risk of contamination.

“With the benefits of the antibacterial misting, we have continued to carry these out on a regular basis.

“Once again, this was about safeguarding our residents from the spread of the virus.

“By this time the government message was strengthening – Boris Johnson had advised everyone in the UK against ‘non-essential’ travel and contact with others, and people over 70 and those with certain conditions were urged to consider the advice ‘particularly important.’

READ MORE: Fire station posts plea for clothing donations to be HALTED

“They had also asked older members to society to minimise contact with others.

“We knew we had to support government guidance to continue to keep tenants safe.

“With a number of our schemes with door entry systems, we knew we could help our residents and visitors to the schemes comply with the government directive by creating a virtual reception as it were – where all visitors to the block would ring through to a central call centre who would not only confirm the visit was essential and in line with the government guidance, but also carry out a health screening so that anyone displaying symptoms would not be given access.

“All essential visitors would be given access.

“We told residents about our plans in the same letter and offered additional support, whether that be with any financial concerns such as rent payments or for heating, or for practical help such as shopping and collecting medication.

“We knew that as shielding took hold that people would start to feel isolated, which is why we developed our Tea & Chat service, to regularly call residents who felt this would help them get through the lockdown.

“We also let them know that we would be calling them over the next few weeks just to see how they were and to see if there was any additional help we could give them.

On March 23, Boris Johnson announced that measures they had already started to put in place would be further tightened to protect the NHS, with wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of movement which would be enforceable by law.

“The government advised people to stay at home except for essential purchases, essential work travel, medical needs, one exercise per day (alone or with household members), and providing care for others.

“Our restrictions on the door entry would help support this, as anyone visiting for essential reasons would still be able to gain entry to the schemes.

“Whilst we knew that the restrictions would not be popular with everyone, we knew it was the right thing to do.

“Only those that were going against the government’s directions would be denied entry as they would be committing a criminal offence and it was important that we did not encourage this.

READ MORE: 50,000 Meals for Marlow meals have now been served in Bucks

“More importantly, they could be introducing unnecessary risks to our residents, many of whom would fall into the Government's shield category and therefore being some of the most vulnerable members of society.

We completed this work on April 1 and since this date, all visitors to the scheme, where the arrangements have been observed have been health screened before entering the block.

“We sent all residents affected a message on the March 31, confirming the arrangements and that non-essential visitors would be turned away.

Unfortunately, at the same time, and unrelated to our door entry measures, a team of Royal Mail staff had decided to stop delivering to some of our schemes, due to a misunderstanding that our schemes might have been care homes rather than independent housing.

“Whilst some residents saw this coincidence as a direct link, it was not and we worked with Royal Mail to help ensure mail continued to our residents, who subsequently reassured us that this matter had been resolved.

“The post was always on the list of essential visitors, together with anyone delivering essential food, medicinal supplies or providing care.

READ MORE: Second alcohol business launched in Marlow in the space of two weeks

“With the changes introduced to restrict the movement of people, the need to social distance, and the general reduction in our human contact with each other, we were keen to speak to all residents in our sheltered schemes to reassure them that we would be there to support them.

“With over 1,300 homes, it would take a little while to do this, so we used a variety of communication channels; telephone, SMS text, campaign messaging tools and our website as 757 of our sheltered scheme residents have taken us up on our offers of help.

“These have ranged from shopping, collecting medicine, financial support and also signing up for our tea & chat service.

“We have delivered this support directly as well as through referrals to our amazing network of partners.

“We also know that other residents will be receiving support from family members or one of the many great community groups that have come together to support those most in need during the crisis.

“When we wrote to our tenants again on May 6, it was at a time when Buckinghamshire Council had confirmed that locally, of the 134 care homes nearly 25 per cent of them had confirmed outbreaks of the virus.

“Whilst we wouldn’t want to relax our measures too soon, we knew that lockdown wouldn’t last forever and we, therefore, wanted to find out what our residents would like us to do as and when the Government started to relax its lockdown.

“We asked tenants their views by letter and also by a telephone message which would allow them to respond to their preference.

“We would then be able to use this information, alongside government guidance and the current status of the virus.

READ MORE: New cocktail business launched in Bucks - but in which town?

“Once again we offered support for those that needed it.

“We also recognised it was the VE Day Bank Holiday weekend.

“At any other time, our schemes would have been adorned with bunting, and plans for residents to get together.

“However, with the crisis still hanging over us and with the UK death toll becoming the highest in Europe and second highest in the world that same week, it was important that we helped guide residents to celebrate safely, and we shared information on some of the BBC’s arrangements for the day.

“We knew it was important to discourage residents from gathering so that a day of celebration didn’t result in the spread of the virus, especially where we knew that people could have the virus but not display any symptoms.

“We found out afterwards that unfortunately at some schemes, residents still chose to gather in communal gardens. We also found out that at the end of May at one scheme some residents gathered in one of the communal rooms.

“As the rooms were already officially closed we responded by physically locking any of the communal rooms where this wouldn’t impede emergency exits.

READ MORE: Year 7 student organises collection point to raise food for the vulnerable

“This was to reinforce a measure that had been placed for over two months and something that all residents had been made aware of several times.

“Whilst we cannot regulate this, we have tried to encourage residents to observe the measures as they are in place to safeguard the majority.

Since mid-May, and with the government gradually relaxing some of its measures we set out to make sure we had plans in place for when we would be able to relax some of these crucial public health measures. It was important to us that as and when we were able to lift the restrictions on the door entry that there were other measures in place to protect our residents.

“We started making plans for a health monitoring system that would see us replacing the central screening with a system whereby we asked residents to keep us informed of their health, and to follow guidance from the government as well as to take measures to keep both themselves and other residents safe.

READ MORE: Garden enthusiasts reveal their joy as popular garden centre reopens

“For us, this included planning for Covid-secure measures by reviewing our cleaning plans which were actually robust and fit for purpose, as well as increasing awareness posters, social distancing signage and introducing hand sanitisers at entry points to the schemes.

“These plans helped when our Emergency Response Team reviewed our position at the end of May, reflecting on why we had taken the measures originally, but also where we were now.

“Throughout this crisis, we had taken measures only after analysing the risks and taking significant legal advice around the responsibilities of both Red Kite and of the residents living in our schemes.

“It was made clear to us in legal advice that we are all required to comply with the Government instructions, which have been supported by the Health Protection Regulations 2020.

“In essence, this meant that anyone breaking the lockdown and access restrictions were in fact committing a criminal offence.

“These measures were introduced lawfully and for the right reasons to help protect our residents by reducing the likelihood of Covid-19 entering the scheme, especially to those in the Government's shield group.

The government had also changed both who is now in the shield group, and the advice on being able to take exercise and meet other people who are not part of your household outdoors whilst maintaining a 2-metre (6ft+) distance, so we know there will increased footfall of residents coming in and out of the scheme.

“We have also consulted with residents to ask what they would like us to do.

READ MORE: GALLERY: Marlow residents take jaw-dropping photos of rainbow appearing in the town

“It’s important to say here, we had many residents who would prefer the restrictions to remain in place, but we didn’t have a consensus.

“We knew that there was some dissatisfaction with the measures being voiced on social media, but it was important that we did not give undue weighting to what was a small voice when we look at how many residents we were protecting, especially where some of the information was not accurate and had been sensationalised.

“We do however recognise that this has been an emotive time for everyone, as it is undoubtedly an unusual place to be in where we have all had to live with government lockdown restrictions being unprecedented in modern peacetime.

"We took on board all of the available evidence as part of our last review, which we usually did on a fortnightly basis.

“As the government had significantly changed its approach to allow more freedoms outside of the scheme and that there were changes to the shield mechanism, we decided that we would move to reinstate the individual intercoms to residents flats so that visitors could call through to residents directly.

However, we continue to have a duty under the Health and Safety regulations as is reasonably practicable to prevent or where this is not possible, adequately control the exposure to its residents to substances hazardous to health.

READ MORE: Much loved Marlow barber speaks out as he retires after 54 years in service

“Therefore, we could not reinstate the individual flat call buttons in isolation, without all other measures being in place.

"It is, therefore, necessary to do this on a scheme by scheme basis at the same time as introducing the health monitoring we had mentioned above.

“This includes ensuring we have a high degree of awareness in the scheme, both for residents but also visitors.

"We are introducing two posters; the first poster will confirm the current government alert status which is currently at Level 4 – together with the advice they have given for everyone to follow.

“The second poster will let people know what the status is in the scheme and will help residents to make informed decisions about any precautions they may wish to take to keep safe.

READ MORE: 'We’re not family-run but we’re like a family' - Post Office on their battle against Covid-19

“At the moment the status in all our schemes is amber, but if we become aware of a Covid-19 case in a scheme this would change to red and would remain in place for at least 14 days after we have been notified when we will review the status alert.

“So, with all this preparation in progress, we plan to start reinstating individual intercoms on June 8 and the programme of works should last a week.

“We are relying on residents to help make this work by ensuring they screen anyone they let into the scheme, and to only give essential visitors access.

“Whilst the government has relaxed its measures it does, however, remain a criminal act if a resident invites or encourages a non-essential visitor, without a reasonable excuse, to enter the scheme.

“Any non-essential visitor to the scheme would be committing a criminal offence, and the person they are visiting aiding and abetting the offence if they let the visitor in.

“Our plea, therefore, goes out to anyone that is considering visiting someone living in a scheme to please think twice if your visit is not essential.

READ MORE: Mixed reaction to Marlow's one-way pavements

“We have residents in the scheme who are worried, and who are more susceptible to the virus and its impact.

"Public Health England has reported that the current outbreaks of Covid-19 in local care homes in Bucks are now up to 41.8 per cent.

"We are hugely thankful that to date we have managed to limit the spread of the virus in our sheltered schemes.

“Whilst we have tragically lost seven residents in our sheltered schemes to Covid-19, so far, those that we have lost had contracted the virus outside of the scheme environment in either hospital or care homes.

“Whilst we cannot completely prevent the virus from entering the building we will continue to take all reasonable measure that we can to limit the chances of it entering and spreading.

“The measures we have in place have been to help our residents stay safe, save lives and to protect our NHS."