Council putting ‘shoulder to the wheel’ in response to COVID-19 crisis

In the first Policy Committee meeting since the coronavirus lockdown – which took place virtually – Councillor Kay Cutts, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, summarised the range of actions which the council has taken to respond to the coronavirus emergency and set out how it is preparing for the recovery phase. Coun Cutts also stated that the Council’s response to the crisis has been exemplary.

The Council prioritised Adults’ and Children’s social care functions and worked with health and community partners to support those people in the community most vulnerable to the virus.

As a result of the pandemic and following national guidance, some council services, functions and priorities were re-organised. This meant some services were altered, reduced or suspended. To comply with government guidance on social distancing and redeploy staff to support Covid-19 priorities, the following public-facing service areas were closed:
• Youth service premises – youth work staff are supporting young people through work to support children’s social care settings
• Library services and adult and community learning – online services and resources remain available and have proved increasingly popular.
• Outdoor education services
• Day services – whilst premises are closed, staff are supporting service users remotely and remain in contact
• Country parks and green spaces – commercial facilities and public car parks are closed, but parks and green spaces themselves remain open and accessible to local visitors
• Children’s Centres – premises continue to offer targeted support for vulnerable children.

Commenting after the Policy Committee meeting, Councillor Kay Cutts said:
“Covid-19 presented an enormous challenge to how we operate all our services. I am grateful to our workforce for the way they have responded under exceptionally difficult circumstances and continued to deliver front line care services for the most vulnerable people in our communities. Our care workers have adapted to new ways of working. We have worked hard to make sure there are supplies of PPE for those who need it to do their jobs safely, and we continue to make this a priority.

“As soon as the crisis struck, we set up a Community Fund to enable voluntary groups and charities to apply for financial assistance to support their communities. So far, we have awarded more than £300k to organisations across the County and groups are still able to apply for grants of up to £10k. This is making a real difference and I am pleased that we have been able to help in this way.

“We also launched our Community Hub – a support helpline to match people who cannot leave their homes, with organisations that can provide food parcels, medicines or other support. This has been a real success and we are supporting people every day so they can get the help they need across the county.

“I am immensely grateful to our teachers and school staff for their work in keeping schools open for the children of key workers so they can continue to learn and be supported while their parents carry out important work within the community. It has been difficult for parents who have had their children at home and it’s important they are recognised for offering their children structure and routine. Schools have also been supporting our most vulnerable children and continue to identify any risks to children and offer appropriate support and guidance where it is needed.

“Council staff have risen to the challenge – people have done different jobs, such as answering phones in our customer service centre or the MASH, youth workers have moved to support young people in other areas. I pay tribute to everyone for their willingness put their shoulder to the wheel and get the job done – whatever it happened to be. I think we are in a different position as a result of this crisis and staff have done a very good job.
“Today’s report is comprehensive and highlights how this council is committed to doing all it can to help Nottinghamshire residents in times of need, but it is also important to look forward to a positive future – taking all the best learning from this awful pandemic and building a stronger society as a result.”

The Local Resilience Forum will begin to co-ordinate partners’ recovery efforts. Various subgroups will be established to oversee specific areas of recovery such as welfare, health, community and economic recovery, to address the short, medium and long-term social and economic effects of the coronavirus emergency.

The recovery phase will be complex as it will need to balance many factors and involve different agencies. Across the council, this will look at: Safe access to Council premises, safely re-opening the services where operations were reduced or stopped, safe operation of all other Council services, communication of safe, ‘Covid-19 Secure’ working practice with staff and managing the governance, finance and resources issues.

Councillor Cutts added: “I am very positive about the future and have absolute faith in this council to help Nottinghamshire get back on its feet as safely and as soon as possible. Now that we have the Prime Minister’s road map, setting out a plan for getting things up and running, we are directing our attention towards making sure that all our services are ‘Covid-19 Secure.’ While we plan the recovery phase, we must not forget that the virus is still very much present in our society and many families are still grieving the loss of loved ones.

“Once we are satisfied that we have the correct, safe measures and robust processes in place, we will be able to let people know what the changes to services will be when the time is right. But operating safely to support the people of Nottinghamshire remains our top priority.”

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