Council Coronavirus Update: Monday 27 April 2020


North Somerset Council have issued an update on key Coronavirus information in their weekly Coronavirus update:

North Somerset Together.

We have launched this new service to link residents in need to the fantastic support being offered by communities.
North Somerset Together is an initiative that is helping residents who have no support from family or friends and who are socially isolated access the support they need during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
It is also helping those who want to volunteer to get involved or donate to link up with the right organisations, and signpost businesses to relevant information.
It brings together a wealth of information to help anyone in the community find out what is available, what help is needed, and contact groups and organisations directly.
So far…
  • North Somerset Together is now working directly with 17 local community networks which between them have around 2,000 volunteers supporting vulnerable people right across North Somerset
  • Network partners include parish and town councils, mutual aid groups, local churches, schools and other groups
  • We have received over 950 direct referrals to the North Somerset Together phoneline and webform since the service went live
  • Most referrals are for people needing help with shopping or prescriptions collections
  • A further 3,500 people who have registered with DWP have been passed onto their local community network to establish their needs and put support in place
  • Within this group NSC has distributed 192 urgent food parcels on top of just over 1,000 people who are receiving government food parcels
  • We are working with Voluntary Action North Somerset to deliver training to the network volunteers
  • We are linking the wider voluntary sector to the networks to ensure that they have access to more specialist support for example around household finances, benefits or mental health
  • Within the local networks a wide range of other responses are being developed including online youth work and church services, local food preparation and delivery, food bank collections and PPE production for care homes
  • We have worked with health colleagues to join up support from community health services and for people being discharged from hospital
Find out more at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/together where there is also a range of information about mental, physical and financial wellbeing, and information about how to get involved as a volunteer or donate.
There is a telephone service too for those who don’t have access to the internet - 01934 427 437.

Council Tax support.

We are offering help to any residents having difficulty paying their Council Tax during the coronavirus crisis.
Anyone having problems paying should contact the council to discuss either a payment holiday or reduced payment arrangement or be directed to other welfare assistance.
Please use the ‘contact us’ form on the council’s website: https://forms.liberata.com/revenues-and-benefits/contact-us/north-somerset.
Anyone without internet access can call 01934 888 144. Due to the high level of calls we’re receiving you may be in a queue to speak to an adviser.

Support to businesses.

We continue to administer the business grant schemes for the estimated 3,500 eligible businesses in North Somerset. So far we have processed 2,034 claims and paid out over £24m. The schemes come in the form of a small business grant fund and a retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund. Grants are between £10,000 and £25,000 depending on circumstances.
We are making daily payments but many North Somerset businesses are still missing out on government money to support their business. Please encourage anyone you know who may be eligible to take up this offer. Once their eligibility has been confirmed, payment will be made between seven and 10 days.
If they have any further questions on this or other support you can apply here, can contact North Somerset Council’s Economic Development Team on 01934 426 266, email business@n-somerset.gov.uk or Twitter: @innorthsomerset
There are also other support schemes available – go to www.n-somerset.gov.uk/together to find out more.

Covid-19 testing and contact tracing system.

An expanded testing service and a new contact tracing system were announced by the Government last week. Eligible workers can register direct for a test at www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested once they have followed a series of steps to check whether it is appropriate for them to be tested.
The new national contact tracing system will help to prevent the onward spread of infection. We will support the roll out of contact tracing and respond to further details over the coming days about which staff and what expertise will be included in the service.
Health facilities. Despite messages about staying home and protecting the NHS, our health colleagues are keen to emphasise that hospital A&E departments are still available and should still be used whenever emergency care is needed.
Mental health support. Support is available for anyone struggling with their mental health during social isolation. A small working group has been established to respond to the emotional and mental health needs arising from COVID-19.
Key tasks for the North Somerset working group include:
  • Understanding changes in the North Somerset population’s mental health needs
  • Ensuring that information about local mental health support and self-help tools are promoted
  • Supporting the community and voluntary sector organisations to support increasing mental health needs.
The group have recently produced two leaflets to help people during this period, looking at how the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” can help improve mental health and identifying the support that is available for those who are feeling lonely.

Health trainer service.

Our team of Health Trainers can help people to make changes to their health and wellbeing.
If you know someone who’d like to get active, lose weight, eat well, quit smoking or drink less alcohol, put them in touch with the team. They’ll discuss options, helping them to make changes and achieve their goals. They’ve supported thousands of people in North Somerset to make positive changes already.
To speak to one of our Health Trainers, please contact them on one of the numbers listed here:

Drug and alcohol services.

Ongoing support for people recovering from substance misuse is being ensured by staff quickly establishing new arrangements for more than 300 individuals meaning that they continue receiving prescribed methadone or buprenorphine (to treat opiate dependence) during the COVID-19 crisis.
This work means the risk of people not getting their medication if pharmacy capacity reduces further is greatly reduced and will also significantly reduce the spread of infection.
The North Somerset specialist drug and alcohol service (We Are With You):
  • is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Most appointments, including initial assessments, will be conducted by phone (01934 427 940)
  • people needing appointments about prescribed medication or wishing to use the needle exchange can still be seen face-to-face in the We Are With You building (35 Boulevard, Weston-super-Mare)
  • if you are concerned about your use of alcohol and/or drugs, or you are worried about someone else please call We Are With You on the number above
  • the We Are With You website provides a lot of useful information and offers the opportunity to get online support
  • Talk to Frank also provides a lot of useful information on alcohol and drugs.

Essential services.

These are still being provided by North Somerset Council during the coronavirus pandemic. Key services such as social care, community meals, waste and recycling and highway maintenance are still operating in these challenging times.
  • Recycling and waste services. Our contractor Biffa are continuing to perform well with kerbside collections during the crisis and their efforts are being widely acknowledged by residents. Many councils have stopped collecting garden waste, but we have been able so far to continue this service by redeploying staff from the recycling centres and also from our grounds maintenance contract with Glendale. There has been some debate nationally about whether councils should re-open recycling centres, often prompted by an increase in fly-tipping. We are pleased to report that we have not seen any increase in fly-tipping at the moment, and don’t consider a trip to a recycling centre to be an essential journey. Our approach currently is to focus on our kerbside work but we will keep that position under review and be mindful of any pressure from government to respond differently in the coming weeks.
  • Roadworks – we have reviewed our roadworks programme to help keep its workers and the public safe during the current restrictions. Critical repair and maintenance works are still being carried out so that the highways network remains safe for key workers, emergency services, delivery vehicles and people who need to shop or get to work. Our LED street lighting replacement programme is also continuing.
  • Public transport – bus operators are seeing a 90 per cent decline in patronage. First (the main operator in our area) timetables have been amended to run around 40 per cent of vehicles/drivers. The focus is on key workers and journeys to work. We continue to operate home to school transport for children of key workers and vulnerable children and some provision is being redirected to provide key worker transport.

Personal protective equipment (PPE).

We have purchased our own supply of PPE and the first instalment has now arrived. The items will be used as a last resort when there aren’t any alternatives to ensure we have sufficient supplies to meet any urgent need.
If any businesses can contribute PPE then please contact the council at care.connect@n-somerset.gov.uk or 01275 888 801.
Keeping services running. We are using technology to ensure our services continue to run effectively and our community is kept informed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook Live

Last Friday we hosted our first Facebook Live event which was led by Deputy Leader Cllr Mike Bell and Director of Public Health Matt Lenny. It focused on health and wellbeing matters relating to Covid-19 and was an interactive session where members of the public had the opportunity to ask questions. We had universally positive feedback from the residents who watched it. We have another one planned with our Executive Members on Friday 1 May at 3pm.
Arrangements for holding public meetings of North Somerset Council committees are also changing. Cllr Ash Cartman, our executive member who has democratic services in his portfolio said: “Following changes to government rules as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, we’ll be using video conferencing to hold all upcoming public meetings ‘virtually’.”
This includes Full Council, Executive; Planning and Regulatory Committee; Licensing Committee; and policy and scrutiny panels.
Councillors will use Microsoft Teams to take part in the meetings and make decisions on agenda items as required and the meetings will be streamed live on the council’s YouTube channel.

Free bike loan for key workers.

North Somerset Council's Borrow a Bike scheme is now being used to help key workers get to work. The scheme, which usually gives North Somerset residents the opportunity to loan a bike for two weeks, is now temporarily available for key workers only.
The change enables key workers to borrow a bike for up to three months with no charge and means that they can observe social distancing whilst making essential journeys. Run by the council’s partner Bicycle Chain, who are still able to open as per government guidelines, there are a range of bikes available including hybrids, folding and electric bikes.
The scheme is funded by North Somerset Council, through the Department for Transport’s Access Fund, and was originally designed to help people get back into cycling with the associated health and environmental benefits. However the bikes are now proving a very useful travel option whilst lockdown measures are in place.
Loves Café in Weston has been loaned one of our electric bikes with attachable trailer to trial food delivery around town. They are making food for key workers, providing a veg box scheme and delivering hot meals. The e-bike and trailer combo is a great sustainable alternative to a car, and the assistance from the battery makes cycling up hills a bit more doable (they do still have to pedal though!)
Key Workers interested in taking up the offer should complete the form at https://betterbybike.info/loanbikes. All bikes are collected from Bicycle Chain in Weston-super-Mare.

Education and children’s services

Vulnerable children. Around 8 per cent of vulnerable pupils (using the government definition) are attending primary and secondary schools in North Somerset and 11 per cent of vulnerable under-5s are using early years settings. We would like to see more vulnerable children using the schools which are open to support their learning and wellbeing.
We've got a well-established system in place to track all vulnerable children to ensure schools and settings are in regular contact with those who aren't attending - and we have over 90% coverage in terms of responses from schools about our pupils. We're working to increase that all the time.
We've put processes and resources in place to help parents identify a suitable place for their children to attend. They should always start by contacting their normal school or setting, but we can help if the school is not open or able to support them.
Our social work and vulnerable learners teams are working together to encourage and support more parents to take up this offer.
One of the key reasons vulnerable children aren't taking up the offer is parents’ concerns about them being outside the home. The government messaging begins from the principle that the safest place for a child is at home, and parents have taken that really seriously.
We're also looking forward to further guidance from the government on the offer of IT equipment to enable disadvantaged pupils to participate in their online learning offer.

Foster care update.

We are making a plea for temporary foster carers – to provide safe and loving homes for children and young people.
Since the launch of the campaign, we’ve had around 50 enquiries. If you know anyone within your community who might be able to dedicate time to support a vulnerable child or young person in need of care, support and a loving home please encourage them to get in touch with our fostering team to find out more. Call 01275 888 999 or email fostering@n-somerset.gov.uk
Potential applicants need the following as basic criteria before we can go to an in-depth enquiry:
  • a spare bedroom(s)
  • personal and/or professional child care experience
  • time to provide 24/7 care and support for a vulnerable child or young person for up to 24 weeks.
We can then find out more about their home, family and circumstances before deciding to proceed if suitable for our children and young people.

Adult care

Bed collection campaign. Medequip, our community equipment loan provider, has launched a bed collection campaign to help support our NHS. Do you have a loaned bed from Medequip you no longer need?
Please contact your local Medequip Centre on 01934 416 019 for safe collection and to help others in need!

Updates from beyond the council

Quartet Community Foundation.

We have received some good news from the Quartet Community Foundation who are supporting voluntary organisations across the West of England area during the coronavirus crisis.
To date Quartet has raised over £827,000 in donations, and given out over 80 grants totalling over £410,000, helping groups and their beneficiaries in North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
A local group to benefit is the Community Scrapstore who have been awarded £4,680 through the Coronavirus 2020 Response Fund. This funding will help to pay for volunteer time, pack resources and cover membership costs. It will also contribute to the Scrapstore’s running costs for two months while they are closed to the public as a result of Coronavirus.

North Somerset COVID-19 cases:

  • As of 2pm on Monday 27 April there have been 205 cases of Covid-19 in North Somerset.
  • The true number of cases is likely to be much higher, and following Thursday’s announcement about testing for all key workers, the numbers are likely to increase over the coming weeks as further cases are identified. The South West continues to have the lowest number of cases in the country and North Somerset’s figures are relatively low in the region. However, we must do all we can to prevent further spread as people still have the same susceptibility to the virus no matter where they live.
  • Local authority numbers of confirmed cases are reported on this dashboard and updated each afternoon.
  • The numbers of individuals who are shielding is likely to increase. NHS England has written to GPs and hospitals to review and update the list of shielded individuals and groups. It is likely this will result in an increase in numbers of those needing to shield and the council will adjust its services and support accordingly.

Council news

All the council’s news releases are available at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/news and you can also follow us on our Facebook and Twitter accounts which feature several updates each day.

Nationally

VE Day 75. The majority of the community celebrations due to take place on the bank holiday weekend of 8 – 10 May should be cancelled or postponed say national organisers. Solo pipers and town criers should continue to mark the occasion from a safe and suitable location. It is hoped that all the events planned can be moved to the weekend of 15 – 16 August when we will be able to celebrate VE Day and VJ Day, both momentous points in our history. Find out more at: https://www.veday75.org/
There’s also information on the British Legion website including a call for a UK-wide rendition of Dame Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ at 9pm on Friday 8 May: https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/stories/ve-day-singalong

Contact details:

    • North Somerset Together has been set up to help residents who have no support from family or friends and who are socially isolated. They can access the support they need during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond by visiting www.n-somerset.gov.uk/together or ringing 01934 427 437.
    • For the latest information and support available during the Covid 19 pandemic visit www.n-somerset.gov.uk/coronavirus

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