Headline
Brief from the Chief: An update on COVID-19 - 19 March
Date
Thu, 19 Mar 2020
Description

Dear colleagues

I thought today it might be helpful to you to read about some of the actions the council has been taking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please bear in mind that the rapidly-evolving situation inevitably means that whatever details I share can quickly become out of date but nevertheless I will summarise some of the activity and planning which we have been doing, to help us cope as an organisation and to best support our communities.

The Corporate Management Team is meeting daily at 8am. This is to disseminate the Government's latest announcements and respond accordingly, to assess the current situation in the East Riding and with our own operations, and to strategically co-ordinate our ongoing and planned actions.

Our response to COVID-19 continues to be proportionate, flexible and evidence-based, in line with Government and Public Health England advice, and so far has included the closure of a number of facilities and the reduction of some services.

This means some staff are seeing demand on their workload decreasing and we are assessing how we can respond to this to support colleagues who are facing rapidly-increasing volumes of demand.

To this end, a skills audit across the council is identifying staff with a range of skills which can potentially be utilised in ways other than their normal roles, should it be required.

Please complete this information when you are asked to do so, to support the council's collective effort in dealing with the impacts of COVID-19.

I encourage you all again to keep referring to the FAQs, which are available on the intranet and via managers, if you have any questions or concerns relating to COVID-19 issues and how it is affecting the council and our workforce.

The FAQs include guidance on subjects such as staff aged 70 or over, employees with underlying medical conditions, pay for staff who are self-isolating and annual leave queries.

 

Community support

A project team is planning the council's role in relation to the community and voluntary sector's support of vulnerable people who are self-isolating. This may at some point involve mobilising some of our staff into voluntary support for our communities and, in particular, our most vulnerable residents.

If this happens, and you are called upon, please do your best to provide any help you can. There will be more information about this to come, probably next week.

 

Business support

Following the Government's announcement on Tuesday about measures to support businesses and the economy, the council is waiting for further detail of the measures and responding so that support can be provided to East Riding businesses as soon as possible.

For businesses with a rateable value below £15,000, there will be a cash grant of £10,000. The council is sending letters to small businesses to request their bank details so that this information can be processed. This will be a labour-intensive process and the council is re-allocating resources to ensure this is done as quickly as possible.

For businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000, there will be a cash grant of up to £25,000.

100% business rates relief will be available for all firms in the hospitality sector.

 

Adult social care

In terms of adult social care and some of our most vulnerable residents, there is a daily dialogue between the council and the 140 residential care providers and the 40 home care providers in the East Riding. 

We have increased resources for residential care homes to step up infection control measures and have provided further advice around protection measures, which is all part of the various ways we have been supporting and working strongly and collaboratively with the provider market.

An Adult Social Care recovery room is operating from 8.30am to 5pm, providing us with additional resilience to support our care providers and informing our intelligence from across the East Riding.  This includes representation from health services.

Some social workers have been moved away from review work to support hospital teams which are under intense pressure and there are coordinated reporting arrangements in place to align with the wider health and care system.

 

ICT

ICT equipment - particularly mobile devices such as laptops, phones and iPads - is being audited and this will be re-allocated where necessary to support home working requirements. An ICT "stress test" is taking place today for home workers.

 

Constitutional arrangements

An emergency Full Council meeting is being held tomorrow to deal with officer delegations so that council business can continue where necessary in support of local residents and the economy. 

These delegations are intended to be used only where it is not possible to hold a committee meeting and for essential decisions only. 

Committee agendas will focus only on items requiring a decision to meet statutory deadlines or are urgently required to ensure the continued running of council services.

Legislation is currently being worked on to allow future meetings to take place remotely.

 

Schools

The Government announced yesterday that schools in England will close tomorrow for the vast majority of pupils and for the foreseeable future.

The situation is changing rapidly and is providing the council and schools with an unprecedented challenge. We know this is a very worrying time and we are asking parents and carers (and I know this includes many of our staff) and students to bear with us while we work with our schools to find solutions.

We are awaiting further information and guidance from the Department for Education, including details of which groups of people fall into the category of 'key workers'. This will help us to understand how many pupils schools can expect to be attending next week.

 Meetings have already taken place today, looking at issues including home-to-school transport and provision of meals for those who are entitled to free school meals.

It is expected that the arrangements which are put in place for the start of next week may change over the coming weeks as the situation develops.

Our absolute priority is keeping the most vulnerable children in our area safe.

Finally, please keep checking the COVID-19 page of the council's website for service change information (easily accessible from the home page) and please support our Corporate Communications colleagues in keeping this information as up-to-date as possible for residents by emailing service change information to pressoffice@eastriding.gov.uk

The email account is being monitored continuously from 6am to 9pm but emails may also be picked up and responded to outside of those hours.

Thank you for your continued support during these difficult times.

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