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Stakeholder Relations Team

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Northern Gas Networks (NGN), the North of England’s gas distributor, has introduced an unlimited community volunteering policy for its 1,300-strong workforce, during the Coronavirus crisis.

The policy means that all employees can carry out unlimited, paid voluntary work in local communities during their work hours – fitting these charitable acts around their day jobs.

The company, which serves over 2.7 million homes and businesses, is continuing to maintain the region’s gas network and provide an emergency response service for customers who smell gas. However, non-urgent works have been suspended – freeing up some capacity among front line and back office employees.

In response to the current pandemic, Northern Gas Networks has extended its offer of support to community partners throughout the network and is encouraging community organisations, charities and local businesses to get in touch at AskNGN@northerngas.co.uk

Community Action Northumberland is just one partner to benefit with a £2,600 donation for its Warm Hubs programme, which supports isolated communities in rural Northumberland.

Mark Horsley, Chief Executive of Northern Gas Networks said: “These are extraordinarily challenging times, and I believe they demand an extraordinary response from utility companies. We have a critical role to continue to provide the regions gas emergency service and carry out essential maintenance work to keep the gas flowing, but our responsibility goes much further than that.

“As a business based at the heart of the communities that we serve, we have a duty to look after the wellbeing of our people, customers and communities.  That’s why we’ve made the decision to extend our paid volunteering programme to all colleagues indefinitely so that they can support vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown.

“Our message to our 1,300 staff has been, ‘Do what you can, when you can, and we will support you.’  And our message to our customers and community partners is, ‘If you need us, just ask.’”

“We’re had an incredible response from staff to our new policy and call for volunteers, from colleagues making surgical gowns for NHS staff, helping out at local hospices, delivering essential food supplies and making daily calls to customers that are isolated in their homes. One colleague spent the weekend making 80 takeaway curries from his home kitchen, which were delivered to local doorsteps, with the money raised donated to the York Hospital charity.”

The company’s front line engineers are also continuing to provide an emergency response service when customers’ smell gas. This frequently involves entering customers’ homes wearing personal protective equipment and following stringent safety guidelines.

Chris Garside, an emergency response engineer working in the East Riding of Yorkshire said: “The job is always challenging, but it has become even more so during the current health crisis, due to the requirement to maintain social distancing, even while working in customers’ homes.

“I was recently called to a job in a Wakefield where there were nine children in the house, and the wife was pregnant with child number 10. The husband had put a nail through a gas pipe while he was doing some DIY.  I managed to get the repair made, while maintaining social distancing. It was quite a logistical feat.

“I do sometimes find myself reflecting on the extra risks that the job carries at the moment, especially when I’m back home with my family at the end of a shift. But honestly, I’m still going to go out there every time, to keep people safe. I think we all feel that sense of duty at Northern Gas Networks.”

To further demonstrate its commitment to doing the right thing for employees, customers and communities, Northern Gas Networks has joined the C19 Business Pledge.  Founded by former UK Cabinet Minister, Rt Hon Justine Greening, the pledge aims to encourage businesses and universities to be a force for good by making a commitment to what they can do to tackle coronavirus in both the short, medium and long term.

For more on the C-19 Business Pledge visit www.c19businesspledge.org