Councils and COVID-19: The Response Edition #6

May 1, 2020  |  By Charlotte Morgan, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

27/4/20 – 01/5/20

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.

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

Supporting residents in need

A new ‘early warning’ system for Greater Manchester’s care homes will flag concerns around COVID-19 outbreaks and shortages in PPE. It is thought to be the first time such a system, based on one used by the NHS to flag trusts under severe pressure, has been set up for social care. It will see the region’s ten councils share a dashboard of information on which care homes can report problems, so other parts of the health and social care network can step in to help.

Kingston Council’s Adult Education service moved its wellbeing sessions online to help provide support to people experiencing anxiety over COVID-19. The free virtual classes include: relaxation and meditation, practical ways to manage stress and anxiety, support for children, and lockdown advice for individuals and their families.

Camden Council
launched a new scheme to help schoolchildren without digital devices to access online learning during lockdown. As part of the scheme, the council is encouraging local businesses and tech companies to donate spare laptops and iPads to schools so that they can be distributed to pupils who need them for their studies. The council and Camden Learning are also working with schools, community groups and local businesses to find ways to ensure pupils have a Wi-Fi connection in their homes.

Ealing Together, a collaboration between Ealing Council and resident groups, created a community support directory for its website. By typing in an Ealing postcode, residents can find organisations offering local services that are not provided by Ealing Together, such as access to hot meals, book drops and dog walking.

Hertfordshire County Council is offering some sexual health services in a different way so that people can continue to access them during the pandemic. One new service is an online form to enable women to order free emergency contraception and have it delivered to their door.

Supporting key workers

Liverpool City Council will cover the pay of workers in the adult social work sector who are self-isolating or off sick due to COVID-19. Other measures approved by the council to support the sector include: maintaining payments for day support services and community support services at pre-pandemic levels; making a one week block payment to residential and nursing homes to cover the costs of lower occupancy rates due to an outbreak or infection control measures; and paying for home care and supported living based on ‘planned’ level of activity, rather than on the basis of the hours delivered.

Isle of Wight Council launched a new ‘Key Worker Cycle Scheme’ to encourage key workers to choose cycling as their preferred mode of travel. The scheme gives key workers free access to a bike on long-term loan or, where a key worker already owns a bike, provides a £50 voucher which can be redeemed against repairs and essential accessories. Within a week of its launch, the scheme had loaned out bicycles to 30 key workers and enabled bike repairs for over 100 key workers.

Place Leadership

Derby City Council formed an Economic Recovery Task Force to lead the city’s economic recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. The group, which is made up of representatives from both public and private sectors, will work together to understand the economic impact facing Derby; assess which businesses, sectors and investments are likely to be hardest hit by the pandemic; and revise Derby’s City Centre Masterplan to take into account new commercial realities and changed priorities.

Manchester City Council will part-close some city centre roads to traffic and widen footpaths in some streets to help people observe social distancing rules before and after lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Funding for community projects

Westminster City Council’s community contribution scheme, which comprises voluntary donations made by Westminster’s top-rate band H council taxpayers, has helped to create a new £250,000 fund for local organisations supporting people in need through the COVID-19 outbreak.

Support for businesses

Kingston Council launched a new 90-day programme to support the local business community. The programme offers a range of online workshops and clinics providing practical support in areas such as: managing cash flow, business planning and modelling, managing people and mental health and wellbeing, and maximising online selling. The council also prepares a business e-bulletin with tailored information and support for local businesses. The e-bulletin currently reaches almost 3,500 subscribers.

Plymouth City Council and Plymouth City Centre Company set up an online marketplace, ‘Shop4Plymouth’, to encourage the community to support local retailers. Visitors to Shop4Plymouth can select which items they are looking for and choose to purchase them from a range of independent businesses in Plymouth that can offer contactless collection or home delivery services.

Self-isolation activities

A programme supported by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council has been adapted to help young people unleash their creativity during lockdown. The ’99 by 19’ programme – devised by young residents themselves – proposes 99 ‘bucket list’ activities for young people in Southend to complete by the age of 19. All are designed to “change and shape [participants’] future in being an active participant in making Southend better place to live, work, study and play”. The first 9 items on the list were released in April and are all activities that can be completed safely in the home, such as ‘make a home movie’, ‘start a blog’ and ‘find out about your family’s past.’

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