Brief from the Chief: COVID-19 Update - 1 May
Fri, 01 May 2020

Dear colleagues,

I talked in Wednesday's Brief from the Chief about the Government's indications of a "refinement" of the UK lockdown and how the council is already starting to plan the strategic and operational recovery from COVID-19.

A few frontline council services which had been halted when the lockdown began, such as grass cutting, have been recommenced and we're considering how certain others might follow suit, for example the possible re-opening of household waste and recycling sites.

This can only happen with the appropriate safety requirements in place but it's important that we do try to get things moving where possible when it is safe, practical and beneficial to do so.

Some services will remain closed for a longer period and we will continue to ask our staff in those areas to keep contributing to the collective efforts in other ways, such as redeployment to the East Riding Community Response Hub activities.

Of course, many services have continued operating at full or increased capacity and this has involved thousands of "frontline" and "behind the scenes" staff.

I resisted using the phrase "operating as normal" because there is nothing normal about any of our work during this global pandemic - whether your current office is your kitchen table, or you're providing education to children of key workers, or you're out and about collecting bins, repairing potholes, or supporting poorly or frail residents in their own homes or care homes, or any number of other essential tasks so valued by our communities.

When we stand outside our homes at 8pm every Thursday, those claps, cheers and fireworks are not just for the NHS staff.

They're also for our own angels - our social care workforce - and everyone else who is playing such a crucial role in protecting and supporting the most vulnerable members of our society, the thousands of council staff providing essential services and the legions of community volunteers.

I want you all to know how much your efforts are appreciated by the council's leadership - officers and elected members - and all your colleagues.

You don't have the "luxury" of working from the comfort and safety of your homes, you can't take a coffee break when you like or start and finish work a bit earlier or later.

You turn out in all weathers. Some of you provide a round-the-clock service. Many of you have physically demanding jobs. Many others have emotionally challenging roles. All of you carry out vital work. And all of you are in our thoughts as you go about your daily or nightly tasks.

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Staff and residents at Wold Haven Residential Care Home

I personally can't begin to imagine the mental and emotional strain many of you in adult social care are going through at the moment and I understand that, in some areas, things are going to get tougher before they get easier.

In this briefing, I wanted to focus on adult social care as when I talk about the council's recovery planning, I understand that for our adult social care colleagues in particular that "recovery phase" may be a long way off.

For you, this is still very much an emergency response. It is one of the key issues for the council and all services will continue to support that response, as they have throughout the past six weeks.

It is important that colleagues throughout the council recognise that the Government and Public Health England tell us that the next six weeks could be extremely challenging for care homes. Increasing numbers of people who have isolated without or with reduced access to support are reaching crisis and will need specialist support.

Any easing or lifting of lockdown restrictions presents risks of increased infections in care homes and for vulnerable people being cared for at home and I know there are growing concerns in the care sector about this.

I know what lengths the business management and commissioning team have gone to, to provide reassurance and support to the social care sector to ensure care can be sustained for our families, neighbours, friends and colleagues, both now and in the future.

Safe systems of working and superb infection control have helped to suppress the spread of coronavirus in the East Riding's care sector so far but once the lockdown is "refined" it may bring new challenges. It therefore remains imperative that any refined restrictions are equally respected in order to protect both our communities and our frontline employees.

The sector is also facing fresh issues around personal protective equipment, with new guidance for care sector staff issued by the Government this week requiring the wearing of face masks at all times within care homes. The potential recommencement of elective surgery in hospitals and trends for use of in public places are likely to further increase demand for PPE.

All of these factors contribute to huge challenges on our adult social care colleagues and I'm sure I speak on behalf of the whole council when I say you have our utmost respect, admiration and gratitude for the work you have been doing and will continue to do to keep our vulnerable residents safe and well.

Across the council we will continue to do what we can to help you, so that you are not alone in this challenge, whether it's through the advice and guidance of our public health experts or the support of ICT, legal, finance, HR and colleagues in other teams.

For example, I know managers in business management and commissioning continue to be extremely grateful to the Supplies team for securing and delivering PPE for the care sector. This involves working long hours to keep PPE stocks up, being creative with how they manage the changes in demand and supply, undertaking deliveries across the sector and working closely with the Humber Local Resilience Forum, partners across the country, the business management and commissioning team, safety services and public health to ensure resources are checked for quality.

We don't under-estimate the enormity of the challenge faced by our frontline adult social care workforce.

Across the council, all our work is important but yours can literally saves lives.

Your efforts are immense. Your commitment is heart-warming.

You are as much in the frontline as our NHS friends and we thank you for your tireless, selfless dedication to the cause.

Your work has always been hugely important but right now and for the past few weeks and the weeks ahead, it has never been more important.

We applaud you and at 8pm next Thursday, and the Thursday after, and the Thursday after that, we will be clapping for you.

And when this is all over, I hope that the adult social care sector receives the recognition it deserves and the reforms which it has been promised for years.



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