Councils and covid-19: The response Edition #2

April 3, 2020   By Charlotte Morgan, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

Local authorities are indispensable in our current crisis and are therefore under enormous pressure. They manage the public services that people are increasingly reliant on, support the most vulnerable people in our communities, and hold information that keeps local people safe and informed. In this time of great uncertainty, councils are taking new, radical and innovative steps to deal with the crisis and protect their residents. We’re compiling some here and will update it weekly. See last week’s edition.

If you would like to share examples of how your local authority is responding to COVID-19, please write to Charlotte Morgan – cmorgan@nlgn.gov.uk/ @cmorgan_9.

Supporting residents in need

Kent County Council, alongside local and national partners, launched a new county-wide 24-hour helpline, ‘Kent Together’, to support people who need urgent help, supplies or medication. The helpline is being coordinated by the county council, which will feed the information through Kent’s network of volunteers, district and borough council teams and local support groups so that they can respond to requests in their area.

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council repurposed a council-owned theatre as a community support centre to co-ordinate essential assistance for its vulnerable residents. The centre supplies local food banks (with donations from major food retailers and local traders), prepares emergency welfare packages, and provides hot meals for those who would otherwise go without.

Enfield Council also opened a new large-scale supply hub this week to deliver food and pharmaceutical products to vulnerable residents. The hub houses a dedicated call centre to help residents who are unable to rely on family or trusted friends for practical support.

Staffordshire County Council called on local people to “step up and help out” residents who rely on personal care in their own homes. The council’s ‘iCare’ campaign aims to recruit volunteers who will be given training to carry out personal care tasks if needed as the COVID-19 outbreak increases the demand for care across the county.

Durham County Council set up an online directory of recognised voluntary groups, businesses, charities and other agencies who can offer help to people in self-isolation. The organisations can help with tasks such as collecting shopping and prescriptions, posting mail and providing advice or emotional support over the phone.

Additional funding

Manchester City Council unveiled a new set of measures to support people in the city facing financial struggles during the COVID-19 outbreak. These include: £700,000 to help pay for lunchtime meals for school-age children who need them before the national scheme comes into effect on 20th April; £500,000 for emergency Council Tax Support for people facing hardship who may not be eligible for the existing scheme; £200,000 to support emergency food provision; and £200,000 to support carers.

Lambeth Council is expanding the Crowdfund Lambeth criteria to support projects tackling the impact of COVID-19 in communities. These could include information sharing, signposting and logistical matters, e.g. liaising with supermarkets to acquire surplus foods. For these projects, Lambeth Council’s usual criteria for match funding levels and expected crowd contribution will be relaxed.

Staffordshire County Council launched a new COVID-19 Support Fund to help existing volunteer and community groups continue to operate and encourage new community activities during the crisis. Each county councillor has been given £2,500 to allocate to eligible groups in their local area or jointly fund projects working across multiple wards.

Keeping communities informed

Guildford Borough Council held its first ‘virtual’ committee meeting on 1st April, a meeting of the Licensing Sub-Committee. If the meeting is successful and national regulations permit, virtual Executive and Planning Committee meetings will take place in the second half of April.

Job-matching and business support

Stockport Council launched a new job matching website to connect employers across the borough who have urgent temporary or permanent vacancies with applicants who are immediately available and in need of employment during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cheshire East Council launched a new scheme to help businesses across the borough support each other during the COVID-19 outbreak. The online scheme connects businesses in need of help to those that are in a position to help with, for example: staffing, delivering services or goods, mentoring phone calls or advice. The council had already developed a scheme to match people who are vulnerable and/or isolated and in need support with people, organisations or businesses willing to help.

Bury Council announced that market traders will receive a two-month ‘rent holiday’ dated from mid-March, with the possibility of further support if the crisis continues beyond this period. Businesses renting premises from the council will also be awarded a rent holiday of up to two months if they can demonstrate need.

Lewisham Council announced that businesses will receive a four-month reduction on annual business parking permits from 1st April 2020.

Self-isolation activities

Bradford Council’s Curriculum Innovation Team started a series of online tech challenges for primary school-aged children (and their parents) to encourage them to use their digital and creative skills while at home. A new challenge will be uploaded every weekday.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council’s Public Health Team is tweeting simple recipe ideas to encourage residents not to waste leftover food. Recipes tweeted so far include leek and potato soup, frittata, ‘anything goes’ couscous and banana loaf.

Sutton Council’s Museum and Heritage Service invited residents to document their experiences of life during the COVID-19 outbreak in a diary (handwritten or digital). If residents are willing to send their diaries to the council, they will be added to Sutton’s borough archive collection as “an important and hugely valuable record of events”

We will be continuing to update these examples weekly. Please write to Charlotte Morgan – cmorgan@newlocal.org.uk to submit your own.

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