Headline
Brief from the Chief: COVID-19 Update - 2 April
Date
Thu, 02 Apr 2020
Description

Dear all,

I thought I'd share with you some of the activity which has been going on across the council as we continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19.

Before I do, I'll start by saying thank you for the incredible - but not surprising - response from every service area.

People's willingness to work such long hours, turn their hands (and minds) to new tasks and do whatever they can to support not only our communities but each other is yet further testament to what a fantastic workforce we are lucky to have.

Thank you to each and every one of you. You continue to amaze and I'm so proud to be part of such a fantastic team.

I have also been asked to pass on thanks to everyone from our elected members, who continue to be in awe of the speed of our response and the way staff have continued to deliver essential services in such difficult circumstances

We all know there are even more challenging times ahead so please keep up the brilliant work and positive attitude and please continue to look out for each other.

Many of you are on the frontline of service delivery - providing vital care support, working with care providers, keeping refuse collections going, emptying litter bins, ensuring a provision continues for key workers' children, safeguarding young people and the many more essential services which continue.

Many of you are adapting to change and working from home or differently in other ways, supporting frontline efforts "behind the scenes" and carrying out other much-valued duties which are still as important during COVID as they were before.

To all of you, thank you.

Below is a flavour of some of the things which have been going on in recent days. It's not a full round-up of council activity but should give you an idea of the types of work taking place to support the residents, businesses and communities we serve.

Business support

I'm delighted to tell you that yesterday the council was able to make grant payments to 1,942 small businesses yesterday worth a total of £19,420,000.

That's a staggering amount and I'm sure the payments will be welcomed across the East Riding, not only by those receiving the payments but by the families and communities the businesses support.

It was a fantastic achievement by all the business rates and finance staff involved in getting the businesses' bank details and processing the grant applications so quickly and effectively. That brilliant work will continue, as more than 7,000 applications are expected to be processed over the coming days.

The council is working extremely hard to support East Riding businesses, in any way we can, through the hardship caused by the coronavirus lockdown and the payments are being made possible through Government aid in the form of its business grants scheme and business rates relief.

As part of additional support measures, the council is also processing changes to the Retail Relief scheme which will mean all retail, leisure and tourism businesses will pay no business rates in 2020-21, regardless of their rateable value.

The council's business support team is also working alongside the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership and all its partners to pool information on the issues affecting businesses, share resources and ensure businesses can access support. The central point of access for business support across the Humber region is the Humber Business Growth Hub.

The council has been very pro-active in our approach to the support of East Riding businesses and we are doing all we can to not only support them but keep them as well informed as possible about the support available, whether through the Growth Hub online resource or our own website, which now includes a dedicated business support page - https://www.eastriding.gov.uk/business/business-rates/billing-business-rates/ - which is linked to on our COVID-19 page.

Council meetings

To ensure vital decisions can still be made during this period when normal council meetings cannot be held, Full Council and Cabinet have agreed to delegate certain powers to officers in consultation with the Leader, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Members or the relevant committee Chairman or Vice-Chairman.

Where decisions need to be taken, reports and papers, similar to an agenda, are being compiled and published five clear days before the decision will be taken. A conference call is then held with all available members of the relevant committee (wherever possible on the date and time the original meeting was scheduled for) to seek their comments, questions and views, either in support of or against the officer recommendation.

The director with delegated powers then considers all the comments and determines the decision, which is recorded on a decision-making pro forma, and published on the website under the relevant committee page.

The first such conference call was taking place with Planning Committee members today at 2pm and the papers are on the council website.

Schools and Children's services

Despite supporting the national drive that the best place for a child is at home where it is safe to be so, East Riding schools, academies and other educational settings continue to do a fabulous job by remaining open in the spirit of supporting their communities to offer places for children who have parents or carers who are a critical key worker, as well as children who have an assigned social worker or an Education Health and Care Plan.

Our school communities are committed to offering the provision throughout the Easter holiday period to support the critical workforce and their staff.

In many cases, they are operating provisions in partnerships with other schools, observing strict social distancing guidance and supporting staff with a rota system to ensure they have the appropriate rest and relaxation time.

Pupil numbers change daily but all of our East Riding schools have an offer in place, either in their own school or in partnership with one or more partner schools.

Staff and leaders are working exceptionally hard against a backdrop of constant change, continuous challenge and high demand to offer a positive and supportive experience and teachers and students are embracing technology to deliver lessons and submit work.

Thanks to remote working and support from the ICT team, parents should be told which primary schools their children have been allocated a place at, for the 2020/21 school year, on 16 April, as planned, which will be a great achievement.

It's worth noting as well that the council has been receiving excellent feedback about the creative ways social workers in the East Riding are maintaining contact with vulnerable children.

Community and Voluntary Response

The East Riding's Community Response Hub, run by the council in partnership with The Smile Foundation, is continuing to work well.

By the end of yesterday, we have so far received about 1,250 calls and have been able to help people in various ways, whether they need help with food supplies, are feeling lonely or need other tasks performing.

The hub is getting a lot of interest in the media and social media. Last Thursday and Friday alone, social media posts about the hub reached 65,000 people and generated 351 shares by social media users.

Arrangements are being made to send a letter to each household and to print cards for town and parish councils to distribute to members of the community who may need the hub's help.

Guidance is also being sent to our ward members and town and parish councils about the roles they can play in support of the hub.

If you know of anyone in isolation or who may be otherwise housebound - and who have no family, friends or neighbours in the first instance who can support them, for example with supplies of food - please share the hub's call centre number (01482) 393919.

Adult social care

In Adults Services and Business Management and Commissioning, we are working with our partners at a system level to embed a discharge-to-assess model for hospital discharges.  

We are responding to changes to national legislation, in the Coronavirus Bill 2020, and we will implement the Care Act Easement Guidance for Local Authorities in the coming days

A COVID-19 Response Room is providing support and advice for the independent care sector and this service is interfacing with the East Riding Community Response Hub

I know the management are extremely grateful for the support from other parts of the council and from our adult social care workforce who are helping to ensure that social care - such an essential service - continues in these challenging times.

We have also launched a new campaign to recruit new staff to key worker roles, to support the adult social care and the care sector across the East Riding.

This has become especially important with the COVID-19 outbreak and we need to recruit urgently into the sector - into both private and council-run adult social care providers.

The campaign - Choose Care - is looking to recruit people quickly into fixed term and casual paid opportunities, in a variety of settings, including residential care facilities, respite care and care in the home, across the East Riding.

If you know anyone who has been a carer in the past or who would be interested in one of these roles, please share the following link to the new website - http://www.choosecareeastriding.co.uk/

Active East Riding

We are aiming to launch a new website called Active East Riding very soon. This will be full of ideas of what residents and staff can do at home during the lockdown period, as we all know how important it is to keep physically and mentally fit.

For all those staff who are now unable to attend their local exercise or leisure centre, East Riding Leisure has teamed up with world-leading exercise class provider LES MILLS for an exclusive offer of free workouts for 60 days with LES MILLS on Demand.

To activate a 60-day free trial, visit https://eastridingleisure.co.uk/lmod/

Skills survey

As of yesterday morning, 4,265 staff had completed the skills survey, which is great and helps us to identify potential staff for reallocation, from services which have seen a reduced workload to essential services and others which are facing increased pressures.

It's a major task linking the information provided with service areas' needs and more information arrives daily.

Not all staff who have completed the survey are available for reallocation to other tasks because many are able to continue with their existing role and this may be a role which is in high priority area. Also, some people who have said that they were available when they completed the survey are not now available, as things are changing so rapidly in the current environment, and staff are also being redeployed within services to meet pressures.

However the team coordinating this huge logistical challenge have been able to respond to requests for additional staffing to be reallocated to priority work, such as supporting the community hubs, and Community Response Hub call centre. 

Technology

More than 2,600 staff who are normally office-based are working from home using remote access technology on a range of council devices, including PCs, laptops, iPads and smartphones.

More than 2,000 staff are also already using Microsoft Teams following a quick and successful roll-out of the software. It is a collaboration tool which allows staff to communicate - via text, video and telephone - with colleagues in the council and anyone from other organisations which also use Microsoft Teams.

We are all rapidly learning new skills and I would like to thank everyone working in the Technology department for the way they have responded to this enormous challenge and for their patience in dealing with the inevitable queries. We have taken huge strides forward in just a matter of days on our digital journey.

Safe working guidance

We continue to follow the advice from Public Health England in respect of PPE and safe working practices.

Further guidance has been shared with staff about safe work practices and this is available on the intranet, just click on the COVID banner on the home page. The information is an open-access area of the intranet so can be viewed from any device, from anywhere - a council network account is not needed.

The FAQs we have been regularly producing have also been recently updated so please keep reading them for a wide range of guidance.

Keeping staff informed

A new bulk email system is being used to communicate with frontline and other staff who do not have council network access and council work email accounts. It means those staff can now receive council news and advice to their personal email accounts, to help them keep up-to-date with important information during this crisis.

Your East Riding

We have taken the decision not to publish the June edition of Your East Riding. The lead-in time between sending the magazine to print and the start of its distribution means that any COVID-related news, information and advice to residents could quickly become out of date. We will continue to communicate with residents (and businesses) using a wide variety of other methods and, if we need to contact every household, we can produce letters and leaflets as and when necessary.

Parking

The council has made its car parking free of charge to help our essential workers, volunteers and NHS staff as they go about their roles during this COVID crisis.

It applies to all council car parks and on-street council parking bays free of charge and charges have been suspended until Sunday, 31 May (to be reviewed nearer that time).

Drivers with season tickets (permits) for council car parks will also benefit, with more details about this available on the intranet. Those of you who pay for a parking pass monthly will not have any deduction taken in April and May and, for those who pay in advance, the pass will be extended for two months.

Controlled Parking Zones in Beverley, Bridlington and Howden are still in operation as normal and, in line with Government advice, people are urged to continue staying at home if they are not carrying out essential work or travel.

I hope those summaries are useful to you.

The council continues to work extremely closely with its partners through the Local Resilience Forum and other groups and, along with other local authorities, we have been having regular, direct dialogue with Government departments such as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Myself and colleagues on the Corporate Management Team are holding daily teleconferences and the Senior Management Team is also holding daily remote meetings, via the video calls function in Microsoft Teams.

I have daily calls with the Leader and weekly calls with all Group Leaders and we are keeping Members up to date with regular briefings.

We're united in our efforts to provide the best possible support to the East Riding through this challenge and to provide the best possible support to you all.

As I've said before, our vision of Your East Riding - where everyone matters and our values of working with quality, pride and respect have never been more appropriate. Please keep them in mind.

Stay safe, keep looking out for your loved ones, your colleagues and yourselves and keep making the East Riding proud.

Thank you. #TogetherEastRiding

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