Councils are doing remarkable work to address the challenges brought by COVID-19. We have seen the local government sector pool its resources, respond to new problems and innovate solutions.
We are building a diverse, current and informative range of case studies that will be of help to local authorities as they navigate this changed environment, while showcasing some of the important work being carried out by the sector.
Help us add to this collection by sending your examples of council-led good practice to [email protected]. Please view our case study FAQs for general guidance on writing case studies for this webpage.
We have gathered a wide range of COVID-19 communications examples from councils around the country for you to use and adapt in our Communications Support section.
Adult social care
- Adult social care commissioning practice resource (various)
The Care and Health Improvement Programme have developed examples of innovative local approaches to supporting adult social care's COVID-19 response. The snapshots showcase local commissioning approaches to creating extra or different provision, financial pressures, PPE, provider engagement, partnership working and innovation.
- Covid-19: Portsmouth's approach
Local councils and health partners across the country have come together to respond to the pandemic in order to meet the needs of their local population in innovative and transformational ways. Portsmouth have shared their story with the Care and Health Improvement Team, outlining the steps they took to provide other systems with useful hints and tips.
Local councils and health partners across the country have come together to respond to the pandemic in order to meet the needs of their local population in innovative and transformational ways. Portsmouth have shared their story with the Care and Health Improvement Team, outlining the steps they took to provide other systems with useful hints and tips.
Leadership during COVID-19
- There is a long history of integrated health and social care commissioning functions within Portsmouth with joint roles within Portsmouth City Council (PCC) and Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The benefits of this integration have been felt during the system’s COVID-19 response, particularly it’s approach to managing and supporting the care market as well as resolving operational issues quickly and collaboratively.
- There is trust within the system; ‘leaders don’t need to be around the same table all the time’.
- In the immediate term, strategic element of day jobs ‘has to take a ‘back seat’ and it’s the operations that takes priority’. It is about letting operational managers get on and do their jobs, but giving them the ‘air time’ to raise issues as they arise.
- The senior team looked at what needed to be delivered and who was best placed to do it; processes were stripped back, hierarchy removed and staff deployed to where their skills were best suited.
- No command and control; staff given the autonomy to make decisions.
- Daily Sitrep calls take place every morning with the PCC senior leadership team to discuss any immediate or arising risks across the system, such as staffing capacity and PPE. These are focused discussions and any issues to be resolved are either taken off-line or addressed at the ‘problem-solving’ daily afternoon operational call.
- A member of the senior leadership team is available 7 days a week to give confidence and provide assurance to operational managers.
Streamlining services: social care
- Work was underway to review and enhance the duty social work response, but COVID provided the reason to ‘do it quickly’.
- Previously it had been staffed by a rota of 30+ social workers/ assistants, but there was a lack of ownership and specialist skills as a result. Therefore a dedicated duty team was established.
- Calls now go straight through to a social worker rather than an admin desk first.
- The redesign has been shaped around COVID-19 and the team are working closely with ‘It is much more joined up than it would have been without COVID-19’.
- Feedback has been positive and unlikely to revert to the old model; the demand might change but the team is set up to respond to any demand more effectively.
- Like every area, Portsmouth quickly realised the impact of COVID-19 on its workforce could be significant. There were two strands to their approach to address the challenge: the immediate, logistical response and the longer-term strategic piece.
- A list of volunteer staff and their skill set was collated, including reablement assistants, community nurses, OTs, social workers, domestic and catering staff. Relationships were built with unit managers and HR to develop process for recruiting and deploying the right staff.
- A member of staff was seconded from the CCG to co-ordinate the redeployment; where the gaps were in the community and how to fill them. Standby lists of staff created for weekends and bank holidays that both in-house and private providers can call upon if they need to.
- A manager from the inhouse reablement service was put in place to manage the strategic element, working with the HR and Learning & Development teams, as well as wider system partners. For example, developing training packages and linking in with health and social care colleges to think about how students can gain work experience, whilst building resilience into the system now and in the future.
- Portsmouth system known for a long time that improvements needed to the intermediate care and admission avoidance offer in order to have a truly ‘Home First’ model, but delivering this at pace was hindered by the pressure of having to ‘deliver the here and now issues’.
- COVID-19 and the Discharge Requirements provided the remit to transform at pace and remove some of the organisational barriers that had been in the way.
- Quickly enacted a ‘pull’ model and pulled social work staff out of the Integrated Discharge Service at the acute hospital back into the community where they could assess people within 24 hours of discharge from the hospital.
- Now have a central hub (dealing with both step-up and step-down referrals) with ‘hotlines’ for hospital and community in-reach teams . Everything is dealt with once people are out of the hospital (with the exception of some Mental Capacity Act assessments).
- Processes in place so if too much demand for hub, then can refer to the duty social work team for support and weekly catch-up calls with the team.
- Portsmouth uses live data and the clock starts as soon as a person is declared Medically Fit For Discharge (MFFD).
- Length of stay has reduced from 4-5 days to less than 1 day in the week commencing 27 April 2020.
- Between 19 March 2020 and 5 May 2020 293 people have received a package(s) of COVID-19 care
- 83per cent of these have been domiciliary care packages with an average duration of 6.7 days.
- 7.8per cent have been short stay nursing care, 7.8per cent short stay residential care and 1.7 have been to a rehab/ D2A bed.
Managing COVID-19 in a care home
- Portsmouth City Council own and run four care homes and one supported living unit. These are for long-term residents, as well as those who require bed-based reablement and/or assessment of their on-going needs (Discharge 2 Assess pathway).
- The D2A pathway is mainly from the local acute, a 997 bedded District General Hospital.
- Tragically, 30 residents have died as a result of COVID-19 across two of the units. This has taken an emotional toll on staff who cared for them and continue to care for others. Despite a lack of testing, staff absences and confusing guidance, the decisive, pragmatic decision-making by managers has undoubtedly saved lives.
- One unit that has had 16 deaths, now only has 3 symptomatic residents and no new cases for 6 days* (*Since the original interview, both units have had no residents become symptomatic for 20 days and no staff for a week or more).
Containing an outbreak: the practical steps
- Cohort Residents- Where space allows it, cohort residents so communal spaces are clearly divided, but still practice social distancing.
- For example, in one unit people who were ‘walking with purpose’ were cohorted and the three communal spaces were divided into ‘COVID positive, symptomatic and asymptomatic. In another unit, this approach wasn’t possible as there is only one communal space so everyone was placed in isolation and staff wore masks to prevent transmission’.
- Work with partners to give ‘one version of the truth’- Supply of PPE was resolved well locally, but the confusing and conflicting guidance on when and how to use it c reated unnecessary worry and challenges. The council and CCG worked together to give a single message to staff.
- The Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team from Solent CCG visited the homes to provide training and advice for staff.
- Accepting Hospital Discharges- Be clear about the COVID status of anyone coming into the home and whether they are still within the 14 day isolation period.
- Have conversations with system partners about where is the most appropriate place for them; be pragmatic.
- If at all possible, use spaces flexibly to ensure people continue to be isolated for 14 days. For example, make use of other units, or different floors if cohorting measures are in place.
- Staffing- Work with partners to redeploy staff. Social workers, OTs, physiotherapists, nurses, domestics and catering staff were redeployed from community roles to support units. A risk assessment was completed pending a DBS check. Staff booklets were produced to set expectations and support staff working in unfamiliar environments.
- Portsmouth overstaffed units and put an Assistant Manager on each floor. This provided resilience if staff were absent or had to be sent home and when they didn’t staff could provide 1:1 care in peoples’ rooms. For example, one unit was persistently 46.8 per cent down on its establishment, but Care Corridors were created so staff would only provide care between three rooms and those caring for symptomatic residents would not provide care for those who were asymptomatic.
Emotional support and wellbeing
- Recognising the emotional impact the pandemic is having on staff and putting measures in place to support them is key. Staff have shown ‘unbelievable resilience and come in with a problem-solving mentality’ .
- It is also important to manage expectations. Staff strive to provide the gold standard of care, but if people are having to be kept in isolation you can’t meet all aspects of their care plan. For example, it is not always possible to take people outside for their daily walk.
- The ‘hard stuff’- there is a comprehensive support offer within Portsmouth City Council, such as e-learning on mindfulness and a counselling service. There are now well-being champions for each residential unit providing training and support to staff.
- The ‘soft stuff’ is as important- Make daily contact with staff to check how they are, create alternative forums for support ie. WhatsApp groups and virtual team meetings. Formal supervision was suspended for two weeks and replaced by informal one to one supervision is. Shorter supervision, centred on wellbeing is taking place for both staff in work and those socially distancing at home using video conferencing facilities.
- Find things to celebrate and bring enjoyment to people. For example, in one unit all staff have dyed their hair the colours of the rainbow in response to a challenge set by a resident.
- ‘People feel supported at every level; if we can get through this together we can get through anything’.
Emotional support and wellbeing: relatives
- It is a very difficult time for family and friends who are concerned about the safety of their loved ones. Communication has been key, particularly due to the media interest around the number of residents who have sadly died. The homes work closely with the council’s communications team to ensure that relatives are informed prior to any news story hitting the press.
- A well-being champion has been established in each home to provide a single point of contact for relatives. They provide regular emails and telephone updates; the relatives of those who are currently unwell get a call at least daily.
- Skype video calling is offered to all residents and their relatives. This was being used before, but activity has increased dramatically.
HIVE: The Community Response
Background and vision
- HIVE Portsmouth, a community ‘connector’, was created in 2018 and has a directory of 670 organisations. This is not a directory of contact details, but links and relationships.
- HIVE has connected organisations and encouraged them to work together by adapting their approach and purpose to meet local need and improve community resilience; ‘People work together for the greater good’.
- There are strategic partnerships in place; one with the Multi-speciality Community Provider (MCP), consisting of HIVE, the CCG and Primary Care Network (PCN) and, most recently, the council.
- There is a shared strategic vision built on the understanding of the need for a paradigm shift to the social care model, focused on building independence and self-reliance as an alternative to traditional services.
- HIVE became the coordinator of the community response. Council and CCG staff have been deployed to assist and there are no organisational boundaries: ‘the pathway is seamless’.
- There are two phases to Portsmouth’s response to COVID-19:
- Address the immediate need ie. Ensure people have food and medication (7,000 people were identified as those people who were being advised to follow national shielding advice. There was no debate about who was ‘responsible’ for them).
- Develop local area ‘hubs’ to build local resilience and a legacy. This was part of the strategic vision and is now being developed at pace.
- Standard operating procedures were developed rapidly with strategic partners. By the 27th March 2020 HIVE was co-ordinating the delivery of food packages, prescriptions and well-being telephone calls. All of these are free to people receiving them.
- Central referral process for people, health professionals and social care, triaged by customer-focused staff. The support offer is continually reviewed and adapted depending on the referrals coming through.
- Within weeks HIVE has built an ‘army’ of 920 volunteers, coordinated offers of support from local businesses, donations and developed a whole logistisc centre.
- Within three weeks, there had been:
- 2,156 food parcel deliveries
- 541 prescription deliveries
- 3,550 wellbeing calls
- It’s not just about numbers…communities have come together, hidden carers have been identified and wellbeing calls have lead to people experiencing a mental health crisis get the right help.
The key to success
- Strong, strategic partnerships based on trust and a shared vision.
- ‘It’s about people, personalities and communication’
- Speak to people with lived experience; services should adapt and work together to meet local need.
- ‘Don’t ask for permission; ask for forgiveness’
- Recognise the value of local businesses in building a community response. Their input can have the most impact in the long-term.
- ‘When we talk about leadership, we are talking about staff working at the coal face’. It’s the people on the ground who get it, so let them get on with it.’
Download the full case study
- Proud to Care London – building on the North Central London Proud to Care initiative (London)
Recognising the predicted impact of COVID-19 on the adult social care workforce we extended the North Central London Proud to Care initiative to cover all London. The aim of the initiative was to recruit additional care workers to support providers during the crisis.
The campaign – a partnership between councils across London has benefited from an astonishing amount of free advertising, including locally led advertising campaigns, including e-newsletters, twitter, Facebook, and on council websites, supported by influencers such as Sadiq Khan, NHS London and the Fire Brigade tweeting directly or re-tweeting posts. Free advertising has been offered by 4 major recruitment sites (Reedonline.co.uk, CV Library, Talent.com, Zip Recruiter), digital advertising spaces from Clear Channel UK and JC Decaux and on some of the massive electronic boards at locations around London. This saw 823 people register in the first week and over 2,000 by mid-May, demonstrating that Londoners want to work in care;- interestingly around 1 in 2 had previous care experience and there was a high proportion (around 1 in 3) of younger applicants, which is generally a demographic the care sector finds difficult to recruit.
You can find out more - and register - on the Proud to Care London website.
Children, young people and education
- Art packs and virtual activities for children (Reading)
Reading Borough Council's Culture Education Partnership has sought to ensure every child and young person in Reading has the opportunity to participate in quality cultural activities during the current pandemic. The strategic partners have collaborated on an art pack initiative – providing the materials needed to be creative at home. The art packs have gone to children that have been identified with an Education Health Care Plan or other significant needs. In total, nearly 1000 children and young people should benefit. Partners involved include; Reading Borough Council, Aspire2, Jelly, Reading Museum, Museum of English Rural Life and Brighter Futures for children (Reading's children service).
Reading have also produced free online imagination virtual experiences and activity stories for families to join in. These are short adventures that encourage physical activity and entertainment. This set of digital activities are aimed at primary age children and under 5's and are available through the Reading Play Facebook page and YouTube channel.
- Learning resources to support the home-schooling of primary school aged children (Leicestershire)
Leicestershire County Council’s Family Learning Team have made easy-accessible resources available to parents and carers across Leicestershire who are currently home-schooling young children during isolation. To support the GoLearn! Community, the team has adapted the online system they use for adult learners looking for training and development, to open the platform up for younger learners. The Learning Team has published free educational resources and activities online on the Family Learning page of the services VLE (Moodle). The page is open for anyone to use and family fun activities will continue to be added online throughout the summer. The council is encouraging residents across Leicestershire to take advantage of this useful resource to support children’s learning.
- Leeds Museums and Galleries launch learning resources for children and adults (Leeds)
Leeds Museums and Galleries have been making resources available on-line to support home-learning for children and adults. The Leeds Discovery Centre, has been using Facebook to deliver videos by their Learning and Access Officer, examining artefacts from the city collection, enabling her to interact with online visitors, with opportunities to ask questions about the objects and vote on which objects to examine. The City Art Gallery is also making videos available about artists, their style and techniques. This is part of the award winning Leeds Curriculum, hosted on the online education website MyLearning.
Originally designed to support KS2 teachers, it is now available and promoted to parents as a home schooling resource covering a range of subjects, including a recently added history of 100 years of Leeds United FC, which has a unique archive of images. Lotherton Estate near Leeds is marking Florence Nightingale’s bicentenary through their Facebook page, a timely anniversary to celebrate in the current climate. Leeds City Museum has also recently launched the Museum Window project, inspired by a regular activity running 1933-1954, giving residents an opportunity to create their own museum displays at home to share online via social media.
- Online event to gauge young people's experiences of coronavirus crisis (Hackney)
Over 40 young people joined an online event with the Hackney Young Futures Commission on Saturday 2 May called 'Hackney's COVID Conversation', which was attended by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Hackney. The online webinar was facilitated by youth-led charity My Life My Say and began with introductions by Commission Chairs Jermain Jackman and Shekeila Scarlett, followed by an open discussion around the question 'What worries you the most about COVID-19?'.
A variety of issues were raised, including mental health, digital poverty, education and employment, health and wellbeing, the impact of domestic violence and the length of lockdown. Young people shared their honest experiences and spoke about their thoughts and fears around the ongoing coronavirus crisis. During the event the Mayor of Hackney made a commitment to the Commission and young residents of Hackney to directly follow up on the issues raised and ensure that young people are contributing to the decisions being made during this time.
- Situational reporting (Various)
Many local authorities are collecting data from providers to understand how children’s services providers are faring during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Commissioning Alliance (including 15 London based local authorities and the Home Counties) have developed one such initiative in the form of a COVID Situational Reporting Tool. This tool collects data in an efficient and streamlined way and in doing so, supports local authorities to provide ongoing support to care and education providers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the approach, providers are asked to complete a short survey on a weekly basis, with questions designed to identify those providers experiencing specific issues/risks or who are in need of support. The survey also provides some high-level information about the number of young people and staff with COVID-19 to support strategic planning.
To help support a coordinated national strategy in response to COVID-19, the Commissioning Alliance are making this information available to all local authorities in England. Sharing data in this way aims to reduce the reporting burden on providers that respond to multiple local authority requests for information.
- Supporting mental health in young people and children – HeadStart Hull (Hull)
Hull City Council’s HeadStart Hull programme provides early intervention for young people's mental health and has played an important role since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. The website, which has been coproduced with young people in Hull, is a trusted source of information on emotional health and wellbeing and offers resources and information for young people, parents for professionals.
The site has been updated with a range of information and tips to support the emotional wellbeing of children, young people and their families during social isolation and social distancing. The council have continued to work with parent peer mentor volunteers to gain their input on parenting resources.
In supplying these resources and information, HeadStart Hull have sought to provide young people and parents tools to address mental health difficulties which, for many, have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The website has also provided a platform to update young people, parents and professionals on changes to service delivery where needed (including disruptions during the lockdown) and offers a space for young people to write blog posts about their experiences with mental health. Feedback from a number of those who have posted indicates that this has proven a helpful activity.
- Waltham Forest Young Advisors / Youth Independent Advisory Group (Waltham Forest)
Feelings of social isolation and disconnect remain common side effect of lockdown measures for people of all ages. Access to digital technologies and social media have helped to ameliorate some of these effects, however, while providing an effective platform to reinforce the importance of social distancing. Streetbase, Waltham Forest Council's peer-to-peer outreach team for young people, has been utilising its social media accounts for this dual purpose. This Young Advisor-led team have created virtual support network for young people on their Instagram page and are sharing more advice on health and wellbeing on their Twitter accounts: @wfyoungadvisors and @wfyiag. These platforms are also being used to explain the rules of social distancing and to remind young people that the best way to keep themselves and their families safe is to stay at home.
Through these groups, young people aged 14-25 years old have become involved in the council’s Youth Mayoral Team and have become London Youth Assembly Members. This group works locally with other organisations such as CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), Public Health & NHS, plus the LBWF Culture & Events team, Housing and Regeneration, as well as local businesses and local community groups. The groups works on a wide range of issues from Youth Voice, Reducing violence, Bullying & peer pressure through to Job & Business skills and Life Chances.
- YouTube tutorials for primary school aged children (Bradford)
The Curriculum Innovation team at Bradford Council, which supports primary schools with the computing curriculum, has begun making YouTube videos that set fun tasks that children can do at home. The challenges for primary school aged children can be completed at home with everyday technology that they are likely to have around, with some tech free alternatives to use.
The challenges set already include creating a treasure hunt using QR codes, challenging children to make a digital photo collage showing the signs of spring with pictures taken in their own garden or yard or on their daily walk. A new challenge will be added every weekday and parents are encouraged try the challenges with their children too.
Culture, entertainment and other activities
- Celebrating VE Day 75, virtually (Reading)
Councils have helped to maintain a sense of community connection by devising innovative ways to celebrate historic and cultural events, virtually. Reading Borough Council. To celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the council’s libraries, archives and museum services produced and hosted a variety of creative online events and activities, including a virtual curator surgery #AskARdgCurator focusing on Second World War memories and questions; a Berkshire-wide virtual exhibition 'Through their eyes' a WW2 microsite, with home front eye-witness stories from Berkshire during the war and a VE Day Celebration Pack for families to download.
- ‘Culture at home’ (Craven)
Skipton Town Hall, run by Craven District Council, has put together ‘Culture At Home’, a huge collection of online resources for arts and culture, shared on the council website.
The Craven Museum team has also been running an online roadshow, showcasing their own most-loved treasures from home, via social media, and encouraging other Craven residents to do the same. Finds included a soldier’s record book, dating from 1890-1898, which was found under the floorboards of a family home in Skipton. Videos of some of the artefacts shared can be viewed the council’s Facebook page.
- Fun and entertainment pop-up events (Northumberland)
Northumberland County Council has found a new way to engage with remote and less advantaged communities. Working in partnership with local charities and other partners, they are now offering fun pop-up events to reduce isolation, get people active and raise spirits in a novel way.
Working with local charity, Bad Apples NE they collectively delivered over 500 Easter Eggs to families in south-east Northumberland, a fun event with volunteers in fancy dress and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service distributing the eggs.
The local community enjoyed that event and through feedback, the council’s Communities Together team saw the appetite for more outreach activity– resulting in a weekly neighbourhood pop-up socially distanced disco, allowing better engagement where communities had become hidden behind closed doors during lockdown. The team worked with partners such as NHS Health Trainers, libraries, and local businesses who contributed to family activity packs and ideas on feeling active and well. The events offer an opportunity to get people outside and moving in a safe way and communicate with the community, finding out what sort of events they wanted in the future, and what would help improve health and morale. Future ideas include pop-up cookery demonstrations, storytimes, and comedy shows, to appeal to different groups. Ensuring continued and open dialogue about needs, co-producing events with local communities so they have influence over their own lives and places.
The Northumberland Communities Together team are keen to continue this work in the future, facilitating co-operation between the community, different council departments and the voluntary sector to help a community who would not normally organise entertainment themselves and may not be fully engaged with health and well-being opportunities. It will also continue to provide a way for residents to build relationships with the council and partners about what support and services they actually want and need.
If you would like to know more about this project for your own council you can contact the Northumberland Communities Together Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Supporting local tourism (Brighton & Hove / Southampton)
With the tourism sector facing a period of stasis travel restrictions and lockdown measures, some councils have engineered virtual tourism experiences, which are helping to keep potential visitors and residents engaged in what their respective areas have to offer. Brighton and Hove Council are offering virtual tours of the Brighton College, Seafront and the Royal Pavilion, museums, while Southampton City Council has announced that a number of museums, galleries and galleries will also be open for virtual tours. Visit Southampton is also seeking to support the city’s tourism sector by helping to make residents aware of the benefits that activities and attractions typically thought of as being for ‘tourists’ can have for them. Its website lists shops available for home delivery, as well as restaurants that offer takeaway or are now running stalls where residents can buy essential supplies.
- Virtual access to arts, museums, libraries and more (Reading)
Creative teams from the museum, libraries, archives, arts and leisure have completely changed the way they are providing their service through a variety of digital platforms offering much needed fun, educational, health and wellbeing content and advice remotely to the heart of the community. These transformational approaches have received an overwhelming positive response giving people an opportunity to actively engage and enjoy themselves during these difficult and isolated times.
Reading Council has been proactive in this space, providing new digital offers, including Reading Culture live and a virtual museum hub. Reading Culture Live, created in collaboration with Reading UK CIC, brings together in a virtual venue, performances and activities from a wide range of Reading’s arts and cultural organisations. It offers a variety of resources and online events, streamed live as well as providing pre-recorded locally-made cultural content. The virtual museum also offers diverse content, updating its collection each week. Since the start of the crisis, the museum team has been experimenting with new digital content to increase and deepen their engagement with the community. As of 23 March 2020 these have been viewed or downloaded over 50,000 times, representing a 206% increase from before the lockdown. Social media engagement has similarly increased by 258% from before the lockdown, with over 1.2million views. There has been lots of user feedback and appreciation, especially for the VE Day hub and online Animal exhibition, the team’s next big effort is for Windrush Day in June.
Reading Libraries services have also created a bank of online storytime readings for families to watch in the comfort of their own homes and a variety of ebooks, eaudio and emagazines are also available with instant online joining www.reading.gov.uk/elibrary. Online borrowing from the library' s digital resources is up 121% from pre-crisis levels and online story times are now getting 1,000 views inside 24hrs. Since lockdown started the service has had over 500 people join the library online and instantly, and nearly 10,000 downloads from their online collection - more than double what would have otherwise happened. The libraries services have also introduced a ‘library pays when customer borrows’ stipulation on a range of stock, which has been greatly popular.
- Virtual library (York)
Since the COVID-19 outbreak started, online library memberships have grown by as much as 600 per cent in some areas. With online books and other digital services proving of special interest to residents during lockdown measures, the City of York Council has provided library service partners (Explore York) £17,000 of funding to expand the range of virtual services available. The additional funding will grant library members access to:
- an extended range of e-books and e-audiobooks
- Press Reader, including access to 7000+ daily newspaper and magazine
- Virtual Rooms Explore, which uses video conferencing software to create a virtual space for group discussion (including local book groups and artists spaces are in the future), and
- support for residents who are isolated, vulnerable and/or residents with limited access to virtual content due to lack of skills/experience with technology or lack of broadband (currently in development).
Cyber and digital solutions
- Addressing cyber security gaps in a heightened risk environment (Bexley)
Never has the work of councils been so vital to the most vulnerable in our society, and never have the digital communications and services that councils’ use been so critical to their efforts. Yet even at this busy time it’s worth remembering that cyber threats have not gone anywhere, and many criminals will see the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to extort ransoms. This fact – when combined with the increase in vulnerabilities that distance working and new partnerships bring, and our increased reliance on digital services – means that the risk associated with a cyber incident is greater than ever. The London Borough of Bexley provides an insight into the cyber security gaps which led them to seek a major change of strategy, and how the team overcame these challenges and significantly raised its level of cyber security.
- Community funding campaign (Gedling)
Gedling Borough Council’s recent funding campaign has drawn in substantial funding in support of local residents in need of food during the crisis. The campaign funding target, which started at £20,000, was met within the first 48 hours and this target was subsequently revised as £25000. This target was also achieved and resources are now being distributed to food banks supporting the council’s COVID-19 response.
The campaign’s success is owed, in part, to clear and simple campaign strategy, involving multiple technologies and handful of messages, shared via different platforms. Spacehive provided the crowd funding platform and campaign messaging was spread through traditional press, social media and, most effectively, email. Using multiple platforms helped the council to engage a more diverse audience and maximise reach.
The campaign email was sent to 19,000 subscribers, had a 51% open rate (9,620 users) and the link was clicked through by nearly 1,000 users. The email had a strong, emotive subject line and a clear call to action. The council used the image of a local foodbank in the email and created strong branding around our ‘Giving for Gedling’ logo, which was used for several campaigns as part of the COVID-19 response. The familiarity of this branding helped to reassure residents that the email came from a trusted source and therefore ameliorate concerns it might be a scam.
The social media aspect of the campaign was managed through Orlo, an online engagement platform, involving three main platforms, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The posts were short, with a strong brand and clear call to action. Facebook proved the most successful as it used by most community members.
The communications and broader strategy surrounding this campaign were developed by the council’s communications team in collaboration senior management and leadership.
The non-technological aspects of this campaign are explored under Finance and economics. See this good practice category for more.
- Digital inclusion and COVID-19 (Leeds)
The importance of digital inclusion has taken on a new urgency as people are advised to stay at home to shield themselves or family members. More and more people are coming together online to keep in touch and stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis. But people who don’t have access to the internet, or the skills and confidence to use it, are becoming increasingly disadvantaged and isolated.
Leeds Council’s 100% Digital Leeds team have identified a citywide responsibility to engage with professionals and practitioners, staff and volunteers, community based assets and people with lived experience of tackling barriers to inclusion. With many Conversations with these groups do not focus on ‘digital’, they focus on people: who are they, what are the important issues in their lives, what do they enjoy and what challenges do they face? The team’s first priority is to listen and our second priority is to learn. They spend time in communities, listening to people with lived experience of poverty, inequality and exclusion and work to build relationships based on trust, respect and understanding.
The 100% Digital Leeds team have engaged with over 200 community groups and organisations over the last two years of the 100% Digital Leeds programme. In talking to organisations and getting to know communities that are most affected by social and digital exclusion, the team have been able to work with them to find the right approach. They take a ‘furthest first’ approach, focusing on the most vulnerable in line with the council’s ambition to reduce inequalities and improve the health of the poorest the fastest. During lockdown, the team have focused on making sure that partners had the tools to continue to connect with and support their service users to be more independent and live better lives. More information on the 100% Digital Leeds response to COVID-19 is available.
- Digital solutions and everyday processes (Monmouthshire)
Monmouthshire County Council have launched several new workstreams and projects to improve digital literacy among staff throughout their transition to remote ways of working.
Connecting our Workforce: Prior to the covid-19 outbreak, mcc had a large proportion of frontline workers (spread across leisure services, highways operations and catering & cleaning) who did not require any form of digital links with the council to carry out their role. following the lockdown, these workers required accounts to access the council’s internal coronavirus communications hub to check in on internal resources for digital guides, tutorials, mental health and wellbeing tools. This led to an informal advancement of digital literacy within the staff body, further access to over 700 staff to digital tools and a knock-on effect of digital education for those residents and businesses working with the council.
Remote Interviews: The council has also embraced the Microsoft Teams platform to keep in touch with employees on a daily basis through video calls weekly catch ups and question sessions with colleagues and senior members. An example of one of these meetings is presented in the recording.
This technology has also allowed key service areas to remotely interview people for crucial key frontline services. for instance, the social care team held 4 interviews in one day where the team interviewed the candidate and also ran a presentation exercise with 30-minute preparation time. The team appointed an early help duty & assessment team manager into post the following day.
Talent Bank: The team have also utilised Microsoft Forms and SharePoint platforms to undertake a skills audit of the staff workforce in order to gauge soft skills and other crucial abilities or connections staff have. This has allowed the council to redeploy staff into roles that adds value to the organisation and best suit them.
- Discretionary grant application system (Lewes and Eastbourne)
Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Councils partnered with a digital solutions company, Ascendant Solutions, to develop a discretionary grant application system for businesses, which has helped to distribute grants quickly and securely to businesses since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The grants system accepted and reviewed e-applications using an online portal, which collects and overlays multiple sources of data (including from commercial datasets) to check that claims are valid. On the applicants’ side, there were two main steps in this process: one, to register with the portal; and two, to complete form associated, including providing the data requested. All applicants were asked supply their business rate account number – which provided a first point of validation to ensure that only legitimate businesses would be able to claim. Once completed, applications were checked and validated by a number of pre-determined algorithms that verified the business identity of the applicant and, based on the data supplied (and commercial data sets, available through Ascendant Solutions), assessed their eligibility for a grant. Further information on the grant application process is available here.
The assessment phase of the process involved a RAG rating system where, depending on the data supplied by the applicant and outcome of the algorithm’s assessment, applicants would be given a RAG rating. Businesses within the ‘Green’ file who met all the automated checks and eligibility criteria were automatically passed for payment as they weren’t considered a risk, so received their grants immediately; The cases in the ‘Amber’ file were considered low risk, but in need of further checks as some basic data or information was missing from the original application which wouldn’t necessarily mean the business wasn’t entitled; and the ‘Red’ was considered higher risk as it contained applicants that required thorough checking and often, further information and evidence if grants were to be provided at all. Additional information on the grant assessment process and outcomes of this project can read here.
With this mostly automated system, Eastbourne and Lewes processed 2,642 grants (to the value of near £34.1m in total) by the first week May, 2020. Had grants been administered manually, the councils estimated that it would have taken approximately 20 FTEs to carry out achieve this result; whereas the total number of council staff supporting this work numbered 5 (supported by 3 staff from Ascendant Solutions, who developed the system).
The system also helped to save the councils time on processing claims from ineligible applicants. This was accomplished in the first instance via disclaimers, which clarified the data requirements and in doing so, discouraged applications from businesses that were unlikely likely to meet the scheme criteria. The requirement to supply business rate account numbers and the RAG system itself provided an extra assurance by helping identify ineligible and ‘riskier’ claims. These measures helped to protect against exploitation of the grants system, which presented a risk to many councils across the UK due to the pressure to distribute grants quickly.
Lewes DC and Eastbourne BC identified very early on the political and public pressure to accelerate the process of getting the system up and running as a major challenge to this project. During this development phase, the council effectively managed expectations by maintaining a presence at Cobra meetings with other agencies which included the chamber of commerce, which helped to reassure parties on all sides that progress way being made and was on track – and that payments would be processed with greater security and efficiency than would be the case than if they were to process grants manually.
Beyond this, the councils’ ability to manage the pressure associated with this project has been credited to effective partnership working with the private sector. Trust between the partners helped to maintain honest conversations and to arrive at mutually agreed goals early in the process; and decision making was also made easier due to the involvement of small teams on both sides. Given the unprecedented nature of the working environment, both partners also stressed the importance of being prepared and willing to change and adapt and, for the councils, the importance of choosing a partner they knew could ‘get things done right’ and quickly. In this case, Ascendant Solutions was selected on the basis of its technical expertise and access to necessary data; but also its capacity to deliver at speed.
- Emergency planning tool (VIPER)
Essex Online Partnership (EOLP) is a technology partnership with membership from all 15 Essex Local Authorities, Essex Fire & Rescue, and Essex Police. EOLP and the Essex Resilience Forum jointly adopted a project to develop a data tool, VIPER (Vulnerable Intelligent Persons Emergency Response), which would allow emergency planning responders to coordinate efforts utilising real time data in unprecedented times. This tool has utilised a pre-released category B vulnerable people dataset during the Coronavirus pandemic to join up emergency responders across Essex to coordinate actions and minimise harm and risk to life for residents.
- Low code platform for community response services (Adur and Worthing)
Adur and Worthing Councils have developed two online community response services using a low code platform that allows digital services to be operated with minimum coding skills.
They have built a request for community support service. The pathways within this service provide information on who is isolated, if they are in need of urgent food and which neighbourhood hub is nearest in order to direct the closest volunteers to assist.
The register to volunteer service is aimed at anyone wanting to assist locally. By collecting volunteer DBS or photo ID they can on board volunteers with the necessary assurances.
- Low code systems and applications (various)
The London Borough of Croydon has developed applications (apps) to support its COVID-19 response. One app facilitates the management of key services; another uses the Netcall App Share to accept and processes grant applications by local businesses. The grants app received 500+ applications on the day of its launch alone.
Both apps were developed within a matter of days and use low code platforms: a form of software that uses a visual builder interface to build systems, rather than extensive coding. This means apps and other systems can be developed simply and with efficiency (though low code platforms also provide the option to incorporate additional coding as required). The council is now looking at further ways of using low code solutions to support further operations and has said it would welcome conversations with other councils who wish to learn from these projects.
Other councils are also using low code platforms, including Cumbria, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Adur & Worthing. Adur & Worthing have developed a volunteer registration service and service that connects residents with community support using the software. The volunteer service collects volunteer details including DBS and photo ID, so that volunteers can be onboarded and with necessary assurances, while the community response service collects information about the person requesting assistance including if they isolated, whether they have an urgent food and which neighbourhood hub is nearest in order to direct the closest volunteers to assist. These services have contributed to greater efficiency at Adur & Worthing and were developed quickly – with the community response service created in less than 48 hours.
Online bookings system for council services (Lincoln)
The City of Lincoln Council has created a new system to protect the safety of staff and residents, which has helped to ensure that people can access vital services at the council while observing social distancing measures.
The council have implemented an online booking system to prevent people waiting in queues or waiting areas. The booking system has also helped to minimise the number of staff required in City Hall, while maximising the use of resources. To accommodate residents that face access difficulties or who have reservations about entering public facilities, the council have offered alternative contact channels, such as the option to video call for appointments.
The bookings system implemented uses a Microsoft Bookings app, provided through the council’s Microsoft 365 subscription. After making the decision to use this app, the council scheduled a meeting with their Microsoft partner, who provided an overview of the software. Two council staff who attended that session then trained a small group of customer service agents on how to use the system. Using an Agile approach, the minimum viable product was ready within the week, allowing the customer services team to start taking bookings on behalf of customers for ten different services.
Primary considerations when deciding what software would be suitable was that the data had to be secure and that the product would be easy to use. The Microsoft bookings app satisfied these criteria and also supported the council’s preference for a product that would support the council’s development and transition around the ‘new normal’. The council said that they would continue to use the data gathered during this pilot project to inform future phases. At the time of writing, the council was looking to expand the use of the system across a range of services and to adapt processes to suit this model (including use of Microsoft Teams).
The implementation of the booking system has helped the council to achieve minimal presence in their corporate buildings and has been penned as a potential long-term approach to reduce space requirements. It was also being considered as a way support out-of-hour bookings such as evenings and weekends, which may help to meet new demands and working requirements.
The council has also looked at how this booking system and other Microsoft PowerApps could be support other processes, including bookings for internal services such as inductions, training and appointments with support services.
Fraser Trickett, Organisational Change Lead, [email protected]
- Plymouth Good Neighbours scheme (Plymouth)
Plymouth City Council have helped community groups and charities gain access to resources they need—including buildings, fleet services and volunteers—through the Plymouth Good Neighbours Scheme. The council run initiative achieves this via an online platform, which invites these groups to raise specific support requests, while asking potential volunteers (individuals and businesses) to share what skills and resources they have to offer. Using this information, the council are able to facilitate suitable matches between those who offer support and those who request it. The result is a mutually effective COVID-19 response – supported by community groups and charities with greater access to the resources they need and volunteers, deployed in ways that match their skills and interests.
The platform also invites individuals and groups to share ways that they are currently supporting the community. This information is collected to help avoid acts of duplication that might otherwise lead to a waste of resources.
- Prototype code for coronavirus service support, available to local authorities (Buckinghamshire / Camden)
Buckinghamshire Council and the London Borough of Camden have joined forces, alongside FutureGov - a digital transformation consultancy firm - to create new code in support of their COVID-19 response. The code provides a prototype for online services, which people can use to search and request COVID-19 related support in their area e.g. the delivery of groceries and prescription items (for people who are self-isolating).
This code has is shareable between local authorities and is now available to councils on GitHub. FutureGov have announced they will provide technical support.ew accordion content.
- Providing community support, digitally – Tutorial video (Nottinghamshire)
Nottinghamshire County Council have produced this video recording, which provides a comprehensive overview of how they are using digital technology to coordinate their community response. The recording explains that the council have established central hub comprising the details of all volunteers in Nottingham, requests for support and misc. offers of support e.g. hotels with additional rooms that can be used for housing. It also covers how their system works, including information sharing with districts, retrospectives (successes and challenges), learning takeaways and signposts to relevant tools and advice.
- Rideshare app (Sevenoaks)
The Sevenoaks District Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) have pooled resources for a new digital solution, which is helping residents to travel in ways that observe social distancing measures. The LSP is led by Sevenoaks District Council and comprises others including Kent County Council, the local NHS, Police Service, and a range of VCS and faith sector partners, such as Age UK, and Sevenoaks’ network prover, Go Coach.
The partnership has pooled resources to implement a CIL funded mobile application (developed by ViaVan) that uses Go-Coach buses to provide an on-demand transport service for residents. This service, named ‘Go2’, uses Go Coach’s vehicles to provide an affordable, rideshare service, which offers residents’ transport on ‘as needed’ basis (e.g. to purchase groceries or medication). Go2 has extended the traditional service footprint area to ensure that residents in otherwise isolated areas are connected to nearby hospitals and other key community assets—and so NHS Workers and Police Community Support Officers who rely on public transport are still able to commute to work. Passenger safety is maintained by ensuring passengers are able keep 2m distance between each other by using 28 passenger capacity buses (at a minimum) and restricting the number of people to no more than 10 per trip at any given time.
The app can be download via iOS and Google Play stores. Residents can also access the service via a dedicated phoneline, so all community members (including anyone who does not have access to or is unable to use the app) can still access this transport option. The council and VCS are using online platforms, e.g. Facebook, to promote the service across the district.
The service proven highly popular with residents, which maintains a five star rating on iOS and received more than 500 passengers within the first 8 days of operating.
- Video conferencing & Messaging Guide (Norfolk)
Norfolk County Council have released this Video Conferencing & Messaging guide, which may be of help to councils as they adapt to new ways of working remotely. Topics covered include video conference best practice and etiquette, recommended platforms for different contexts (conferencing and messaging) and specific guidance for Teams and Zoom. The guide also lists and number of useful tips around ‘what not do’ in relation to communications platforms.
- Adapting bereavement services (Craven)
Craven District Council’s Bereavement Services team continued to hold funeral services for up to five close family members, throughout the pandemic, despite most services in neighbouring authorities being closed to the public entirely. Craven’s Bereavement Services, which includes a crematorium and cemetery in Skipton, serves residents in Lancashire and West Yorkshire as well as Craven.
Services were maintained despite the Bereavement Services team having to work at reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements in their small office. Skipton’s cemetery has also remained open, and procedures were put in place to ensure any religious requirements could be met.
The Bereavement Services team has worked closely with funeral directors across Craven, Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire and has now been able to extend the number of people allowed to attend a service, to 10. Six people are also allowed to stand outside the chapel for the service, with outside speakers broadcasting the service. All those who attend must observe the correct social distancing.
All services can also be viewed remotely via webcasting facilities, allowing other family members and friends to be part of the service.
The Book of Remembrance Chapel remains closed for the time being, however, the book is available online at www.remembrance-books.com/skipton/book-of-remembrance.html
Over the next few weeks the Bereavement Services team will start to accept bookings for the interment or scattering of loved ones’ cremated remains.
Working closely with funeral directors, registrars and other local authorities has been key to the management of this service and the Council has been part of a Local Resilience Forum Management of Mortality Group and a Funeral Management Group.
- Muslim burials and rites (Blackburn with Darwen)
Councils are working with local communities to ensure the religious needs of residents are met when someone passes away in the context of social distancing and potential community transmission.
Blackburn with Darwen Council identified issues around Muslim burial rites and requirements very early, including swift burial, visitation, washing and shrouding of the deceased, burials rather than cremation, congregations for burial and the need for women to be lowered into the grave by immediate blood relatives. To address these issues the Council established a strong partnership with key local organisations including the Blackburn Muslim Burial Society, Lancashire Council of Mosques, and local councillors. Together the Partnership engaged directly with Mosques, scholars, Imams, residents and the community to find acceptable solutions.
The Partnership sent out a joint communication to the community which outlined the agreed position on key issues, including commitments to:
- Work with the NHS and Coroners service to ensure death certification is timely
- Evaluate all Mosque body washing and preparation facilities to prevent infection risks
- Train volunteers to provide body washing, preparation, transport and deep cleaning
- Source appropriate equipment including PPE, shrouds and vehicles for transportation of bodies
- Prepare graves in advance to meet future need.
The Partnership meets virtually every week to share information, updates, and to ensure they are keeping up with developments in this dynamic situation. The local authority leads public communications with support from the Partnership, which help to disseminate advice, guidance and to myth bust.
The work of the Partnership is shared with the Local Resilience Forum and national bodies including the National Burial Council to create consistency where possible.
- Extend hours of operation at cemeteries to allow multiple burials a day
- Limit the number of people attending funerals to 10 mourners
Emergency food provision
- Emergency food provision hub and warehouse (Leeds)
Leeds City Council are using a warehouse facility as a central hub for their emergency food provision system. This facility provides a coordination point for fleet vehicles and food deliveries, while packaging food parcels in a space large enough to maintain social distancing.
Between 16 March and 27 April, 10,083 food parcels were packed and provided through this facility, including 1,111 deliveries on April 21 alone.
This emergency food provision is available for families and individuals who are experiencing difficulties in accessing food due to reasons including financial constraints, self-isolation or being part of the shielded cohort. Leeds Council have published this flyer to alert residents to how they can access this service, including a note of who is eligible.
Requests can be made for a volunteer to collect and drop off, for direct delivery to homes (with a contactless drop), or for customer collection from a local 'provision hub', including foodbanks, community hubs (Armley, Compton Centre, Dewsbury Road and Merrion), third sector organisations, schools and children's centres.
This large scale operation is helped by partners such as Fareshare, Food Banks, Food Aid Network, Re think food and schools. Local schools and their catering services are also playing a central role in helping to ensure that vulnerable children and families have access to food, including school meals.
Further details on Leeds emergency food provision system (and other aspects of the council’s approach) are outlined in this briefing note.
- Food and farming charity (Greenwich)
Greenwich Council have produced with the food and farming charity Sustain, a short paper with information on food for vulnerable people. It is free to download and aims to inform strategic emergency planners, local authorities, food partnerships, Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) and voluntary sector groups – especially those working in partnership how to organise food provision – at large scale – for vulnerable people needing to self-isolate or stay at home during Covid-19.
It can be found on the Sustain website, Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.
Topics that the paper cover include, a short summary of the scale of food needed and by who, charts to show food response pathways for vulnerable individuals, details of Greenwich food boxes, thoughts on revitalising the meals on wheels system and food shops & market trading.
Sustain has also put together advice on how local authorities can respond to food vulnerability during Covid-19 and Sustainable Food Places are gathering examples of how areas around the UK are supporting access to food during Covid-19.
- Food distribution hub: Supporting residents and business through partnerships and local sourcing (Tower Hamlets)
Tower Hamlets food distribution hub is helping provide food to vulnerable residents with urgent needs. The hub is run by redeployed staff and volunteers recruited by the Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets.
As of 12 May, the team has packed and delivered food to 9,632 people across 2,898 households in Tower Hamlets. The distribution hub delivers parcels to people who have used the council's dedicated phoneline and online self-isolation form to ask for help with access to food. This may be because they have been identified by the NHS as being at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus or have other vulnerabilities that mean they need help while self-isolating. The council’s phoneline and online self-isolation form can also support people who need access to medication, are experiencing social isolation or are concerned about money and debt.
They have also been supporting local foodbanks who are helping people who have lost their income. Along with supporting fundraising for First Love Foundation and Bow Food Bank, the council have been helping to increase their food supply by linking them with partners who have made generous donations. These include Investec, Aramark, The Felix Project and Fareshare. The Greater London Authority and the Red Cross also donated two large consignments of food, which was shared among local food banks and community support groups. Alongside food donated to the hub, Restore donated 1,000 boxes to help them pack food parcels for residents.
To supply residents with food and ensure that food delivered by the government for the extremely vulnerable is nutritionally balanced, they have sourced additional food locally. Supporters have included:
• Lidl in Limehouse
• Tesco in Bethnal Green
• Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel
• Limehouse Super Store
• Kacha Bazar Cash and Carry in Mile End
• Savers Plus in Bethnal Green
• Prescott Thomas
• The London Bread and Cake Company Ltd.
Aldi now allows the food hub to place bulk food orders in advance and Tesco has set a Booker account so they can access food supplies at wholesale prices. They have also had offers to help deliver food from Mears, Surelock Security and the London Fire Brigade.
- Food distribution network and stock management system (Oldham)
In March 2020, Oldham Council was given a statutory duty to coordinate food, self-care, medical supplies and other forms of necessary assistance to vulnerable groups in response to COVID-19. The council facilitated this through 5 geographical Virtual Hubs to coordinate food, medicines, mutual aid, volunteering and community intelligence and an Emergency Helpline to act as a front door and triage. Each hub had a population footprint between 30,000 – 40,000 residents.
The Council partnered with Oldham Food Bank and Action Together, which led to the establishment of a comprehensive food distribution network to support the 5 hubs. The centres are also heavily supported by a volunteer offer. Their roles range from coordination, supporting processes, managing doorstep deliveries of food and products, packing and delivering.
This included pathways to Age UK Oldham, CAB, Housing Providers, Early Help, Mental Health, Benefits and Advice and Welfare Rights. As well as a strong pathways and relationship with the Community Pharmacies, CHASC and primary care.
Due to this strong response from the voluntary sector and the community, donations had increased rapidly to an amount where the food that the network was distributing in a day was the same amount that was delivered in a week pre-COVID.
There was a need to get a handle of the current stock held in the distribution centres and the constant supply that was increasing daily. What was being donated, how long was a particular item’s lifecycle, where did it need to be stored?
Oldham Foodbank, the Council and Action Together were approached by local digital solutions company Live & Now who donated their time and resources to develop a stock management system that would allow the centres to fully understand what was coming through the doors.
The system allowed volunteers to scan barcodes on the items to create inventories on the food received. This provided them with an in-depth understanding of nutritional value, lifecycles and stock volume. As parcels were received and sent out, each one was scanned in and out allowing the centre to know exactly what the flow of parcels and donations were.
Through the system this gave Oldham Foodbank and the council the advantage of knowing what they had at any one given time and allowed them to alter communications strategy to the public if they had too much of one item to diversify the nutritional value of food parcels. It also gave them an increased awareness to prevent any unnecessary waste.
And above all the system could track where each parcel had been delivered providing a complete picture of the need in the community and a better understanding of citizens.
Through the helpline and stock management system the council provided support through:
- 4914 answered calls via the Helpline (as at 05/06)
- 5217 distributed food parcels (as at 05/06)
The Emergency Helpline and the virtual hubs, and their relationship with the Oldham Foodbank have been a valued asset for the council and discussions are being had to identify how they should become business as usual after COVID-19 due to the single point of contact and the deep understanding and insight into the community they provide.
- Free school lunches continuing while children remain at home (Leicester)
Children in Leicester who would normally be entitled to a free school lunch are still being offered a free meal every day – even though most are currently not at school – with around 550 families taking up the offer each week. The city council’s catering division, City Catering, is preparing food parcels and packed lunches, which parents and guardians can collect from their child’s school. Each food parcel contains recipe cards and the ingredients needed to prepare five nutritious meals, including school favourites such as tuna pasta bake and tasty leek and potato frittata. Fresh fruit is also included in the weekly parcel, together with homemade biscuits for a sweet treat. The packed lunch, which some schools are offering each day, comprises a ham or cheese sandwich and a piece of fruit. Some schools also send homework with the food parcel, for children who cannot access online activities, and the regular contact helps school teams keep in touch with families who may need any wider support. Families can also still register for Free School Meals online.
- London boroughs collaborate on project to feed the vulnerable (London, various)
A new project involving all 32 London boroughs will see food hubs across London come together to feed vulnerable residents. The collaboration between the city’s three largest food redistribution charities, The Felix Project, FareShare and City Harvest, will work to stock hubs before being distributed to local communities. It is being co-ordinated by the Strategic Co-ordination Group (SCG)—the body leading London’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak—alongside boroughs and the London Food Alliance. The project also depends on teams of volunteers, who receive food deliveries, package them into parcels and deliver them to individual doorsteps, local food banks, charities and community centres.
The project launch aligns with reports from the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) that food banks operating across the UK have seen a major rise in emergency food parcel distribution since the onset of the crisis. Authorities say that more than 50,000 packages have already been distributed to vulnerable Londoners and that responses have been made to 65,000 additional requests for food aid and financial support.
- SSDC Wellbeing Hub (South Somerset)
South Somerset District Council has continued to ensure that communities receive all the help they need during the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes offering extra support in areas where their residents need it most.
A big addition to this extra support is the brand new pop up SSDC Wellbeing Hub, which had been set up to supply food parcels and other supplies to residents of South Somerset in most urgent need. The Hub is making deliveries to residents who are shielding or who fit the criteria where they are recognised as vulnerable.
Many SSDC staff were redeployed to work around the clock to get the Wellbeing hub in place. The project has been led by managers from the Commercial Services team who have worked alongside a wide range of staff from across the Council and partners including Yeovil Town Council, supermarkets (including Tesco and Co-op) and many other suppliers who have offered help and donations, for which they are grateful. Staff from the closed venues at Westlands and the Ninesprings Café used the catering kitchens to split down catering packs of pasta and rice to make more manageable packet sizes to go in the food boxes.
To cope with the ongoing future need, many members of staff have now moved from their usual roles to help the Connect team handle the extra calls that will be coming in to request food parcels, and the entertainment Box Office team will be processing the orders before the Environment Services team go out to deliver them. It’s all hands to the pump and everyone is doing their bit.
A list of questions and answers is set out on the website, along with details of the food parcels available and the contact number to place an order.
Up until 18 June, the Hub had distributed 923 food and vital supply parcels to those residents most in need.
Finances and economy
- Campaign funding for food banks (Gedling)
Gedling Borough Council’s recent funding campaign has drawn substantial funding in support of local residents in need of food during the crisis. The campaign funding target, which started at £20,000, was met within the first 48 hours and this target was subsequently revised as £25,000. This target was also achieved and resources are resources have now been distributed to food banks supporting the council’s COVID-19 response.
The campaign was the result of a combined effort by the council’s communications, leadership and management teams and support from others, including local churches. The communications strategy was clear and simple and involved a handful of messages, shared via multiple platforms. The council employed traditional press, social media and, most effectively, email, which helped to engage a diverse audience and maximise reach. The technological aspects of this campaign are explored in greater depth under Digital solutions (see this good practice category for more).
The council have cited the following additional factors as contributing to the success of the campaign:
- The campaign was launched on a Friday afternoon. This was considered the most opportune time as residents as most residents would have more time to be able to donate and get involved over a weekend.
- The campaign involved multiple stakeholders. Leaders of all parties and local church leaders were involved in the approval process for the press release, which helped to encourage broad levels of support.
- The first donations came from all forty-one of Gedling’s councillors, who each donated £250. This action served to kick start the campaign while showing the community that the campaign enjoyed cross party support.
- The Mayor of Gedling, Councillor Barnes was the representative of the campaign launch, along with local church leaders. Donations were requested in the Mayor’s name rather than that of the council, which served to humanise the campaign. Having a popular spokesperson helped to add sincerity to the message and encourage the feeling of donating to a trusted person rather than an organisational entity.
- The generosity of community members. During these uncertain times, many people many people are looking for ways to help others.
The council have also reinforced the importance of setting realistic targets. The revised target of £25,000 took longer to reach than the £20,000 raised at the outset of campaign and required greater resource. The council have speculated that this is likely because most willing donators would have seen the campaign when it was first launched and would have already donated. The project evaluation therefore recognised that extending appeals can make targets more difficult to achieve, though this one remained successful.
- Community fund – supporting community groups and food banks (East Suffolk)
East Suffolk Council launched a new community fund of more than £70,000 in the first week of the crisis in response to the impact of coronavirus on vulnerable residents. The Council initially allocated £1,000 from each of the 54 ward councillors' 2020/21 Enabling Communities Budgets towards an East Suffolk COVID-19 Community Fund and the majority of councillors agreed to contribute a further £1,000 each. In addition, each of the eight Community Partnership areas in the district have allocated £2,500 to the fund to tackle social isolation.
The council has also provided £5,000 to each of the three biggest food banks in the District and is working with Suffolk partners, including to Community Foundation, to co-ordinate funding to support VCSE organisations.
The fund, which now totals over £120,000, will enable community groups and organisations to mobilise support for those residents who are most at need as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The fund is managed by the East Suffolk Council Funding and Communities teams. It provides financial support for new and existing groups who are helping vulnerable people to stay safe and to relieve the financial hardship of residents during these uncertain times. Funding can be used in many ways, including the support of pop-up food banks, buying essential goods or services for individuals, supporting telephone befriending services or providing funding for fuel to enable Good Neighbour Scheme volunteers to deliver medicines across the district.
Grants of between £50 and £2,500 are available for projects, which support local residents who are struggling due to the virus. Larger requests for funding will be considered under exceptional circumstances.
More than 30 projects have been funded so far, including Access Community Trust for a free hot food service for 75 residents each day in Lowestoft, Framlingham Town Council/Hour Community to support 10 ‘cocoons’ in the Town each of which has a coordinator and a number of volunteers to support the residents in that cocoon, the Aldeburgh, IP17, Leiston and Melton Good Neighbour Schemes to expand their work to support local people and a number of pro-active Town and Parish Councils in the area to set up a response including, Bungay, Bromeswell, Corton, Earl Soham, Levington & Stratton Hall, Southwold/Reydon and Woodbridge.
The additional funding will enable additional groups to access funding to support their local response and existing groups to apply for a second phase of funding depending on how long their services are needed – what is clear is that there is a really dedicated and pro-active voluntary and community sector in the District who are helping thousands of people every week.
- Crowd funding, support funds and financial relief (Lambeth, Staffordshire, Manchester)
Councils are pooling funds to support their communities through the current health crisis in different ways. Lambeth Council’s Crowdfund page has previously operated to provide access to funding for projects that promote inclusive growth, inequality and “strong and sustainable neighbourhoods”, with a precondition that the owners of the project are able to put forward funding equal to that which they are requesting. These criteria maintain, however have been adjusted for present circumstances. Residents are now able to apply for funding for all range projects that aim to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 within their communities – from food and prescription delivery services to information sharing – and it is anticipated that that a degree of flexibility may be exercised with regards to the criteria around matching funding levels. Residents are eligible to apply for up to £5000 through this scheme.
Staffordshire County Council has launched its COVID-19 Support Fund, which provides county councillors £2500 each to support new and existing volunteer and/or community groups in their area, with no match funding required. The emphasis of this support fund is providing community and volunteer groups the means to maintain, adjust and/or develop activities that help members of vulnerable groups feel safer, more resilient and better connected.
Manchester City Council have also announced funding measures, with a key focus being to relieve financial stress within vulnerable communities. Among the steps taken, the council have dedicated £200,000 toward the provision of emergency food services; £200,000 toward supporting carers and £500,000 for emergency Council Tax Support for people experiencing hardship but who may be ineligible for existing schemes. The council have also allocated £700,000 toward lunches for school-aged children. This is an intermediary measure, to support children in need before the national lunchtime meals scheme takes effect on 20th April.
- Delivery of business grants (Barnsley)
Barnsley Council delivered grants to businesses from the Government scheme days after the April 2020 business support package was announced. Barnsley Council has to date paid out over £19M to over 1762 businesses in Barnsley in business grants, ahead of receiving money from central government, which arrived on Thursday 2 April.
Enterprising Barnsley, the business support arm of the council, is providing a central source of information on their website for national and local business support in response to COVID-19.
Working with the council’s finance team, a process was quickly established to drive grant enquiries to an online form, resulting in faster pay outs to support Barnsley’s economy and business owners in need of support. Setting up a new online chat system on the Enterprising Barnsley website allowed the team to deliver a contact centre style function to manage enquiries and provide clear information to over 540 businesses in the first two weeks of the crisis.
Further support is being provided by Barnsley Council’s Employment & Skills team, who have set up a helpdesk, working closely with Enterprising Barnsley to provide a one stop shop of support for businesses and workers.
- Economic Resilience Cell (Wirral)
Wirral Council assembled a ‘COVID-19 Economic Resilience’ response team, bringing together multi-disciplinary expertise from across the local authority and partner organisations, to speedily develop an action plan to support the local economy. The group coordinated a rapid response to distribute Government funds in the form of business grants, business rate relief and other sources of financial support for residents and the self-employed, including council tax reduction. The priority was to act fast to help struggling businesses to remain in operation.
To get the business grants scheme up and running quickly, the team had to overcome a number of challenges which included: developing a robust yet user-friendly online claim process to enable businesses to be able to supply their bank details and make a claim quickly, securely and easily; creating a comprehensive set of advice and FAQs as guides for both our call centre staff and businesses via our website; being agile and responsive to government guidance, which was evolving on an almost daily basis, and keeping our guidance and new processes up to date as a result; working remotely and having to quickly establish new ways of working and decision-making within a dedicated workstream.
The commitment to support businesses as quickly as possible was balanced by a need to develop processes that reduced risk to the authority. Legal, audit and technological solutions were developed at pace and senior officers had to be pragmatic when asked for key decisions at daily Economic Resilience Cell meetings. These Cell meetings enabled senior officers to have oversight, track progress and steer the response team.
The team quickly and successfully established and launched the online application process to businesses on 30 March, enabling us to start processing claims in readiness to begin distributing grant payments as soon as Government released funding to Councils on 1 April.
Staff from across the local authority with roles or skills in processing and auditing were redeployed on a full time basis via our newly established COVID-19 Internal Agency response to validate claims, while other staff with previous business rates knowledge and experience were brought together to act as an escalation team and support existing business rates officers with the higher demand and volume of work. Weekend working was put in place to maintain the momentum that had been generated and to enable the distribution of grant payments immediately following the launch.
Working in partnership with Wirral Chamber of Commerce, the Council and Chamber promoted the grants scheme through a dedicated COVID-19 Business Support Helpline, online, social media channels and local press to raise awareness within the business community. Further support was provided by the Federation of Small Businesses, Local Enterprise Partnership, Combined Authority and other stakeholders. A closely co-ordinated effort and working together at pace made it possible for Wirral Council to distribute more than £24m to 2,200 businesses within the first ten days of launch.
- Emergency support for businesses (Harborough)
Harborough District Council (HDC) has proven quick to organise urgent financial support for businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council has been contacting businesses throughout the district, which may be eligible for a business grant to help them at this time of crisis. Since early April 2020, more than 1,270 businesses within the district have received a share of nearly £16.6m in emergency support, equating to 87% of the total value of available grants (figures correct on 28 April, 2020).
HDC responded swiftly to the challenge of connecting with local businesses to facilitate the grant payment process. More than 15 council staff were re-deployed from their usual work to telephone businesses in an intensive initiative to engage with business owners and help them access government funds. Businesses were asked not to contact the council to avoid un-necessary email and telephone traffic and resulting duplication in grant applications. This encouraged a structured and smooth operation, as staff worked through council collated data to contact businesses and offer them unique application reference codes to prevent fraudulent activity.
HDC, Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council and North West Leicestershire District Council have a shared Revenue and Benefits team. This Revenue and Benefits partnerships team has worked together to process payment applications quickly and efficiently.
Business owners have submitted feedback to HDC, complimenting the speed and efficiency of the staff and the robust service provided. Businesses furloughed and no longer accessing business emails and telephone calls are being reached via Facebook messages and posts directly from the council, asking them to provide contact details to facilitate discussions regarding grant funding opportunities. Advice and support is also available to businesses via the Harborough District Council Hub website.
For more information about this case study or any other HDC services, please contact: [email protected]
- Emergency support scheme (Southwark)
Southwark Council made temporary changes to the Southwark Emergency Support Scheme so that people requiring urgent support can apply. Anyone who has experienced a sudden loss or reduction in income and cannot meet their household’s basic needs is eligible to apply. For example, people who are on a zero hours contract, or have lost their job, and are now without work, or if someone has applied for Universal Credit but had not received their first payment or people where their income has fallen but your benefits haven't yet changed can seek assistance.
The council has injected an additional £1.5 million into the scheme’s budget to meet likely demand. This scheme is discretionary with limited funding available, so awards are limited to one per household. People are normally helped with goods or services rather than cash, so the council might help with food vouchers or help with energy bills.
More information about this scheme can be found on the Southwark Council website.
- Emergency response funding (Brighton & Hove)
Many third sector organisations are confronting the simultaneous challenge of heightened demand for their services and resource deficits – caused and/or exacerbated by the current health crisis. Ready access to emergency funding is proving helpful in this environment; as in Brighton & Hove, where community and volunteer organisations can now apply for short term loans and emergency support via the council established a 2020-2021 COVID-19 emergency fund. Community and voluntary organisations are eligible for grants of up to £5000 each in support of any running costs, small capital costs or specific costs required for to adapt to current circumstances. The fund is supported by £150 000 from Brighton & Hove City Council’s Third Sector Investment Programme and will be distributed across three tranches. In the first instance, priority is being given to organisations who are providing support to vulnerable people whose vulnerability is not aligned with the government’s seriously vulnerable criteria.
- Environmental Health & Licensing – Business Restrictions, Proactive Campaign (Burnley)
When business restrictions were introduced on 21 March, Burnley’s Environmental Health & Licensing team, a service outsourced via the strategic partnership with Liberata UK Ltd, embraced their new regulatory role, working with local businesses and partners to protect the public in the fight against COVID-19.
The approach involved building on existing strong partnership working arrangements. Dual enforcement at premises subject to closure has involved collaboration with Trading Standards through an agreed Lancashire protocol. Pre-existing relationships with the local police and businesses ensured smooth management of closure at licenced premises. The Pennine Night-time Noise Service partnership – involving neighbouring councils - has continued to operate, and its scope was usefully extended to pick up visits to premises potentially open at night.
Alongside closure, there was mounting confusion and concern about social distancing measures in place at the food and non-food shops and businesses that continued to trade, including taxi offices. These concerns were heightened within some of the deprived parts of the borough and within BAME communities. Ensuring engagement with local businesses and communities to support safe, pre-Ramadan shopping practices was also highlighted as an issue.
On 20th April the Environmental Health and Licensing Team began a proactive campaign in retail premises. The team:
- Identified priority areas based on local deprivation data and low `confidence in management` ratings in the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme.
- Liaised with local communities including local Imams, BAME groups and councillors via WhatsApp & receiver messages to raise the profile of the work within priority areas
- Established a graduated enforcement model
- Produced a checklist - based on government guidance - to ensure consistent officer advice incorporating signage, floor markings, one-way systems, plexiglass screens, additional cleaning, contactless payments, restriction on entry and queuing
- Produced poster packs for display in the premises (English, Urdu & Bengali) and shared information via the Council website and with partners
- Deployed 7 visiting officers to engage local communities in priority areas
- Redeployed a civil enforcement officer to carry out street patrols
- Dedicated back office resources to provide telephone advice and support to businesses and administrative support to keep track of the project
As a result of this work, the team have carried out more than 191 pro-active visits. They were also able to identify a minority of these for further follow up work including potential enforcement activity. In the first 40 days and 40 nights of business restrictions, 350 business interactions have occurred. The team have found increased use of floor markings, plexiglass screens and other recommended measures within local businesses and feedback from local business owners has been positive. The take up and use of posters has been encouraging.
Ethical council tax collection (Lewes and Eastbourne)
COVID-19 has resulted in rising unemployment (and underemployment) across the UK – a result being that many residents are now struggling to pay council tax. This poses a challenge for councils, who rely on council tax as a significant source of income, but in collecting these payments, do not wish to push residents into further hardship.
Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Councils have introduced an ethical debt collection system, which has helped to resolve this dilemma by making it possible to identify residents who are genuinely struggling to pay their debts versus those who have the ability to pay.
The system works by matching individual bureau credit files against Council Tax residents data in order to identify if residents with outstanding council tax debts have continued to pay priority and/or non-priority debts and those who are not paying either. Based on that information, the system then classifies residents as belonging to one of three groups:
residents who are financially stable paying priority and non-priority debts residents who are paying non-priority creditor debts residents in significant debt who may be facing hardship.
In this way, Lewes DC and Eastbourne BC have been able to reduce incidents of tax avoidance while helping to connect vulnerable residents with support.
This system, which was developed by Ascendant Solutions within the space of a week, has proven immensely effective. Three weeks after its launch, the councils have received £200,000 in outstanding council tax payments which otherwise wouldn’t have been collected; the split of overall income is as follows - £100, 000 from residents who immediately paid on receipt of a letter (no follow up call required); and £100,000 from residents who received the letter and who spoke with an advisor on the telephone and made payment, in some cases meaning a new instalment plan was agreed.
Residents in all categories receive an auto-generated letter requesting payment, however the message varied depending on the group. Letters to residents in groups 2 and 3 offer links to potential sources of support around managing debt and building income and owing that residents in group 3 may struggle to make payments at all, the letter sent to this group also offers contact details for hardship assistance. It is understood that residents in the first group have the financial resources available to pay so residents in this group do not receive these additional details.
- Grants and web-based services for local business (Barnsley)
Barnsley Council quickly started distributing grants to businesses who need support from the Government scheme just days after the support package was announced, paying out over £19M to 1762 businesses by early April. Enterprising Barnsley, the business support arm of the council, is continuing to provide a central source of information on their website for national and local business support in response to COVID-19.
Enterprising Barnsley has continued to build on their web-based services for local businesses, with a suite of offers to support them into recovery and beyond.
This has included online video content via Facebook Live, for example reporting on their work with URBACT to create a digital economy in Barnsley and gearing up for retail reopening in June. They have also started to offer webinars via their Launchpad service, their free one-to-one support for start-up and newer businesses, replacing their usual classroom based courses. These have been opened up to anyone wishing to participate, covering topics such as using social media for business and a series of start-up modules for those new to starting a business. Barnsley envisage continuing to offer these services on-line for the foreseeable future.
Enterprising Barnsley’s key account managers have maintained constant contact with key businesses in the area using Zoom and other online tools to manage relationships and offer business support, using those tools to link with other parts of the council, such as advice from regulatory services on safe working and negotiating public transport problems.
The council have found the channel-shift to online business support has been highly effective and something they plan to maintain and expand as they explore online service delivery to reach more Barnsley businesses across a range of sectors. Now focusing on recovery, the team at Enterprising Barnsley are continuing to adapt, developing the Barnsley Inclusive Knowledge Economy strategy which aims to build a knowledge economy with fairness, shared prosperity and opportunities for all at its core, and they will soon launch new offers to support and encourage digital innovation in the borough.
If you would like to know more about the support on offer you can contact the team at [email protected]
- Lancashire COVID-19 Community Support Fund (Lancashire)
To help deal with the impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak - particularly for some of the most vulnerable within Lancashire, the Lancashire COVID-19 Community Support Fund has been launched which provides grants of up to £5k to voluntary, community and faith organisations (as well as parish and town councils) across Lancashire. This funding is made available to support the following priorities:
- Food/care package delivery to vulnerable people self-isolating
- Delivery of services and projects supporting the most vulnerable, such as older people (e.g. a telephone support/friendship service or delivering online activities to help reduce isolation)
- Emotional and mental health wellbeing, including domestic abuse
- Financial Inclusion, support to access benefits and debt advice
This support fund has been made available from £220k which has been provided by the Local Authorities in Lancashire as well as £783k which has been sourced from the National Emergencies Trust. In addition, personal and business donations are made possible via an online website. As of 5 June 2020, 227 grants had been paid out to local voluntary, community and faith organisations. This equates to £900k of funding, which is now being used to support some of the most vulnerable in Lancashire to deal with the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak.
- London Community Response fund (London - various)
The Greater London Authority and the City Bridge Trust have also established a new emergency fund, London Community Response, to provide resources and funding to voluntary organisations that are facing resource shortages (including a lack of access to volunteers and staff and financial difficulties) due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The fund was kickstarted by an initial donation of 1m by each of the Greater London Authority and the City Bridge Trust members. Hackney, Islington, Hammersmith and Fulham councils have joined the fund in the time since, bringing the total number of funders to 60 (as of June 2020). London Community Response has provided civil society groups with funding to continue operations, such as food and essentials distribution. It is the intention of the funders that, as the emergency scheme develops, the nature of support provided will continue to diversify. The fund is coordinated by London Funders.
- Online business directory (Oxford City Council)
In March 2020, due to the coronavirus lockdown, many businesses were forced to completely shut down face to face operations. The main source of food at that time was supermarkets, but they were under immense pressure to continue regular supply and provide online delivery slots. Several small local businesses across Oxford decided to try to maintain supplies to customers by focusing on online ordering and delivery, and the City Council looked to take on a supporting role of those efforts to continue operating under the new lockdown restrictions.
The Council’s Economic Development and City Centre Management team was in touch with businesses city wide to alert them to the support that was available to them including loans, grants and rate relief, and created a Survey Monkey powered questionnaire to help better understand how businesses were adapting ways of working to operate under lockdown, and how the council could best help.
The response led the team to launch an online business directory to help promote those that were still available by operating online and providing their services via the internet or by telephone. The initial businesses to feature included fresh food providers, and restaurants and cafes that were available for online delivery or takeaway. This meant that, from a residents’ perspective, the directory brought together local businesses to provide a holistic offer to those on the vulnerable and shielded list, and to those who wanted to support local business.
The directory proved so popular that the initial 60 businesses quickly increased to include additional commercial offers as the lockdown restrictions impacted more and more sectors. Book stores, photography studios and architects were some of those that were added to the ever-growing directory list.
Similar initiatives to promote Oxford businesses operating online were also created by local organisations Independent Oxford, Bitten Oxford and Daily Info. The council created links to them on the directory, which was being promoted via a coordinated social media campaign to increase awareness and its popularity.
The directory provided users with an easy to use interface with a content list of various services ranging from fresh food to revised hospitality offers. It featured links to websites, social media pages, contact details, emails and important information such as delivery options and opening times.
The links and collaboration that have been created through this portal have been substantial. For instance, a group of market traders combining their offer of products into a single online portal, and a bike courier service first connecting with local traders to be their delivery service and then creating an online local supermarket itself offering fresh produce shopping so that residents have a spontaneous food delivery service to use.
The success of the Oxford initiative prompted other councils and organisations to launch similar directories with Boston Council and a team brought together by Newcastle Building Society replicating the approach.
By the start of June, the directory had more than 275 businesses signed up and the web page has received tens of thousands of page views, becoming, for a period, the busiest on the Council’s website.
As lockdown eases, the Council is working with businesses to review the directory and agree what its best role is going forward.
Iain Nicholson, City Centre Manager, [email protected]
- Providing relief through business rates grants and discretionary grants (Craven)
Craven District Council’s Revenue & Benefits team has managed to pay out £22.64m to 1,936 businesses since the beginning of April. Working with the Council’s web development officer, the team developed an online form in the very early days of the crisis which helped process the payments more quickly, with more on this available here: https://www.cravendc.gov.uk/business/business-rates/business-rates-government-grants/
The team has now drawn up a policy for the distribution of discretionary grants, and an online form for businesses to apply for these easily and quickly.
Local businesses have been very grateful for the speed and ease by which they have been able to apply for and receive the grants, which have helped keen them afloat.
- Suffolk Emergency Fund (Suffolk)
The Suffolk Emergency Fund was established in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The fund delivered over £200,000 to over 40 grassroots projects within its first week of operating. Of that amount, over £55,000 was awarded for the provision of emergency food supplies; £47,000 was given to charities providing emergency support and advice; over £40,000 was provided to support befriending schemes for the elderly and good neighbourhood schemes; and further £20,000 has been distributed for projects addressing domestic abuse, family crisis, homelessness, bereavement and other important ongoing issues currently on the increase due to the present crisis. As of April 2020, the fund had received more than £400 000.
The fund was launched by the Suffolk Community Foundation (SCF) in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust and supported by Community Action Suffolk, Suffolk Association of Local Councils, East Anglian Daily Times, Suffolk County Council, District and Borough Councils and all those involved in Suffolk's Home, But Not Alone service (see 'Care and support to vulnerable residents' tab).
- Engagement with MPs (Devon)
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Leader of Devon County Council established a weekly (virtual) briefing for all Devon MPs. This meeting is chaired by the Leader with input from Council's Chief Executive, Director of Public Health, Chair and Chief Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group, Police, Economic Development and a nominated Leader and Chief Executive representative from the 8 Devon District Councils on the response, reset and recovery arrangements from COVID-19.
At the time of writing, the group intends to continue to meet to provide MPs with the opportunity to engage on local outbreak management as Devon County Council is one of 11 Beacon Councils for this across the country. As a two-tier area, the Leaders of the County Council and the 8 Devon Districts meet on a weekly basis and have created the 'Team Devon' approach to their response to Covid-19. This approach involves collaboration between policy development and the delivery of service responses such as shielding, business rate discretionary grants, rough sleeper support, economic recovery and more recently local outbreak management. The approach has helped to bring together and share resources across Devon to help enhance services provided.
- Remote council meetings (Various)
Despite these unprecedented times, local authorities still need to deliberate and make decisions about the future of their localities, enable democratic participation from applicants and residents, maintain momentum on major developments in their boundaries while adhering to social distancing and new government regulations during the COVID-19 emergency. The LGA’s case Remote Council Meetings: Case studies hub sets out notable examples and resources of councils that have piloted virtual meetings using various video conferencing platforms, including Zoom and Microsoft Teams, signposting you to key points to consider and contacts. Examples cited include:
Adur and Worthing Councils: Using Zoom for council meetings Ashfield District Councils: Hosting a Zoom AGM meeting
Each case study on this webpage offers a summary of the approach taken and lessons learned.
- Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council: Zoom for public meetings
- Devon County Council: Using Microsoft Teams for meetings, sharing documents and more
- Lancaster and Wyre Councils: Microsoft Teams Live Events
- Newark and Sherwood District Council: Using Microsoft Teams and YouTube for virtual meetings
- Norfolk County Council: Testing Microsoft Teams Live Events
- Virtual family court proceedings (Dorset)
Dorset Council have worked with local judges and numerous internal stakeholders to embed a digital solution to enable Family Courts to continue despite the lockdown restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak. Family Courts provide vital services to the children and families of Dorset and are a vital cog in the process in ensuring the most vulnerable children can be safeguarded through issuing proceedings under the Children Act. Hearings within the family court are not traditionally run electronically, requiring, in most cases, physical face to face meetings involving social workers, judges, the other parties to proceedings and legal representatives.
Dorset were requested by the local Designated Family Judge on Wednesday 18 March to provide an electronic solution to enable the provision of safeguarding, with a deadline set for Monday 23 March. The responsibility for this would usually fall with the courts; however the court was not able to facilitate the processes required, so passed responsibility to the local authority. Though the council had limited requirements and was not familiar with all the necessary stakeholders, the first court hearing was able to take place the following day.
The council has attributed this achievement to the following:
- Quickly building relationships and establishing a common collaborative internal team across Children’s Services, the Child Care Legal Team, ICT, Property and Estates – primarily through MS Teams.
- Understanding the problem– must have MVP requirements, documenting a process to elicit requirements and identify misunderstandings ASAP:
- Hearing must be recorded
- Hearings can last a whole day
- Available for judges, social workers, other parties and legal representatives
- Some parties may not have access to the required technology – venues needed where they can easily join the hearing
- Working with colleagues to ascertain tools that could meet the requirement, adopting common sense and pragmatism – the decision was to use Skype, which at the Council is a tried and tested technology (Dorset Council had only recently started to use MS Teams and staff did not yet have expertise in the platform; and their Skype rooms did not then support MS teams – for this reason, MS Teams was discounted).
- Skype recording - Skype Video conferencing units with 1 room in Weymouth 1 in Ferndown – available to be booked by DC on behalf of families and their solicitors. The Skype rooms are simple to use – with one click, participants can join the meeting. It is understood that Dorset was the first local authority in the UK to provide this level of support to parents in care proceedings, something which was recognised by the senior judiciary;
- Skype calls working with the judges and DC legal teams – training them on the calls
- 1:1 Training and support for key users- Judges, legal admin
- Adapting to changing requirements – after go live, the requirement emerged that legally the judge needed to record the call rather than the DC legal admin’ team. DC enabled federated access for our legal admin staff which allows the judges, who sit in a different organisation to record (note MS Teams does not allow this).
Reflecting on the implementation of the new system, the Dorset Council have highlighted that a good understanding and prioritisation of requirements is essential to a successful agile delivery need to exercise common sense and pragmatism (focus on the most important requirements first and be prepared to adapt to evolving needs). With this, they have impressed the importance of pulling together a design for review and comment as early as possible; adding that “often issues get picked up at this early stage rather than post development – in our case we documented a process map and shared it”. A further learning takeaway was that the customer should remain the focal point. In this case, that meant ensuring hearings could continue, with appropriate tools to get the job done and ensure that safeguarding responsibilities could continue – “bells and whistles can always follow”.
Having made the system work in the current environment, the council are looking to it might be continued; including whether the solution can adopt capabilities from other platforms. With the easing of lockdown measures, the future direction of this work will hinge on what the court decides but the Council have expressed in enthusiasm toward working with Judges and the Court IT and admin’ teams to achieve whatever is required to secure the best outcomes for children and others within the legal system.
Justin Hoffmann, Programme Manager, Digital and Change, Dorset Council [email protected]
Health and wellbeing
- Communications as a tool for wellbeing (Broxtowe)
Broxtowe Borough Council have developed a detailed overview of their communications strategy around supporting employees and residents during COVID-19. The resource, Supporting Our Employees and Residents Through COVID-19, covers various dimensions of the councils’ approach to internal and external communications including:
- Morale boosting briefings, with embedded tips on mental and physical health
- A staff wellbeing survey
- Calls to vulnerable residents
- Sharing online resources including eBooks and other resources with at home activities ideas
- Scheduled social media updates around support available
- Celebrating VE Day, virtually
- Implementation of an Ethics Advisory Group in response to COVID-19 (Northamptonshire)
Northamptonshire County Council’s Public Health team is leading on the development and mobilisation of a multi-agency Ethics Advisory Group (EAG) as part of the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) COVID-19 response within the county. The EAG has been set up to provide assurance and guidance that critical decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic, are carried out in accordance with established ethical principles using an agreed ethical framework. The group is advisory only and is intended to support ethical decision making within local health, care and government organisations. The group does not provide individual level ethical advice or decisions.
The group is formed of members from across Northamptonshire, and includes representatives of: The acute and community trusts; District and Borough councils; HealthWatch; Adult Services; Public Health; Primary care; and the University of Northampton. The group is already seen as a valuable addition to the local system. Key to its success has been the level of multi-disciplinary engagement during a time when capacity could have been a challenge. This ongoing commitment has led to engaging discussions, with a wide range of views from different representatives.
The first meeting was held at the start of April and the group has been meeting weekly since. Colleagues and organisations across the local Health and Care system can submit requests for ethical advice on population based decision making. All requests pass through a screening process before being referred for discussion within the EAG. If the request passes the screening process, the core team collates any relevant guidance or evidence and develops a checklist of questions in line with the ethical framework. Following the meeting, a response covering all of this information and a general consensus of the discussion and advice, if reached, is written up, sent back to the requester and disseminated across the Strategic Co-ordination Centre as appropriate.
The development of the EAG has received positive feedback from the local system and has been pivotal in ensuring ethical and moral considerations are taken into account when we are making critical decisions as part of the COVID-19 response. The group will continue throughout all stages of the pandemic response and we are reviewing how to continue long term as part of local population health management.
For more information, contact us on [email protected]
- Investigating the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) residents (Birmingham)
Birmingham City Council is leading work locally to review the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and working with partners on what needs to change in the response. The council convened an urgent meeting of the city's Health and Wellbeing Board with a call out to the public through social media for questions and concerns leading to more than 600 questions being received – highlighting the scale of local concern. The Board invited several additional observers from BAME community organisations and senior equalities leads from NHS partners. This important meeting represented the start of a conversation and also fed into the national review where the questions raised were collated and sent to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care along with a link to the audio recording.
The special Health and Wellbeing Board was broadcast live through audio link, at one point being streamed live by 400 people and the recording has subsequently been downloaded by many others. The Board openly and honestly worked through a synthesis of the questions submitted and following the meeting the Chair of the Board has written to everyone who submitted a question with a personalised response to their specific questions. The key themes included concerns about discrimination in service provision and clinical decisions in NHS settings, questions about the reasons behind the differences in death rates in different ethnic groups, issues with the perceived delays in identifying the differences and concerns about BAME staff as well as patients, questions about engagement and commitment of the Board to tackling health inequalities.
Feedback from communities following the special meeting has been incredibly positive, although in many cases there was not a definitive answer citizens appreciated the open and authentic responses from the members of the Board, and subsequent to the board there have been further small engagement sessions with different ethnic communities to provide follow up question and answer sessions alongside the pre-existing weekly engagement sessions with faith and community leaders.
Following on from the meeting, the NHS have reviewed its approach to communication and engagement and looked at what more can be done to support BAME patients who have other risk factors for increased mortality such as poorly controlled diabetes. Across the Board partners have reviewed the visibility of BAME individuals in media and engagement materials, particularly in NHS trusts in survivor and patient stories.
The Special Health and Wellbeing Board exploration of the current understanding of ethnicity and COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for citizens to voice concerns to senior officers and partners and hear an open and honest discussion in the response. Prior to this meeting the Health and Wellbeing Board routinely invited questions from citizens but had relatively poor uptake, it is hoped that following this meeting the level of citizen engagement will be maintained and grow.
- Mental health Q&A session for residents (Kingston)
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Kingston Council invited residents to submit questions on mental wellbeing for a mental health Q&A session. Questions were put to a panel of mental health experts and answered as part of a recording now available on YouTube. A range of questions were asked, including:
- How will mental health services be able to offer support to those already in the system and those not in the system once the worst of the crisis is over?
- Will teachers need support to change the focus of lessons once students return to school?
- Should teams be offering virtual appointments during this time, and how can clinicians be supported?
- What can those without outdoor space (and unable to go outside as they are shielding and vulnerable) do to protect their mental health?
- How can our workplaces support employees gradually returning to work?
- What advice should you give to help a friend who is struggling?
- What advice do you have for residents trying to recover from a situation during COVID-19 such as experiencing anti-social behaviour that has psychologically affected them?
This session provided residents a valuable opportunity to gain valuable information and advice on issues of concern to them and to engage and learn from a broader dialogue on mental health and implications of COVID-19.
- Mitigating risk of infection in care homes (West London Alliance and partners)
With people who live and work in care homes disproportionately represented among the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, councils are taking steps to prevent incidents of infection. West London Alliance local authorities and North West London (NWL) Health have issued a joint approach to focus on this task. Local authority commissioners are at the forefront of this approach. They check in with care homes daily to understand their needs and any challenges that they may be facing. If resource gaps are identified, commissioners will endeavour to support care homes by helping to facilitate additional PPE, staff or other support as required. Local authorities within the NWL area are offering further support to care homes in the form of advisory support around infection control, PPE and other issues relating infection control. In instances where a higher level of support is needed NWL Health have formed a specialised team to provide face to face support as required.
- Mental Health Champions (Cheshire East)
Cheshire East Council has appointed two councillors as ‘Mental Health Champions’. The aim is to help combat the distress, isolation, anxiety and worry many will feel during the coronavirus outbreak – across the communities of Cheshire East and internally within the council. A role description has been agreed focusing on promoting and raising awareness of the wide range of advice and information available on the Council’s online platform ‘Live Well Cheshire East’ and a dedicated helpline set up through the NHS Foundation Trust. The Mental Health Champions will also work with the Cabinet Members for Adult Social Care and Health on the development of future council policies to ensure they help to support positive mental health. The Council have already signed up to the Time to Change pledge working to change the way we all think and act about mental health problems.
- Promoting resident wellbeing (Hertfordshire, Leicester, Brighton & Hove City, Leicestershire)
With lockdown measures and self-isolation measures linked to a concerning rise in anxiety and depression, among other health problems, a number of councils have stepped in to provide residents with new tools to support mental and physical wellbeing. Hertfordshire have a dedicated page offering contacts for a range of mental health contacts, tips and resources, including links to free wellbeing courses and workshops, an NHS mental health check-in quiz and additional support tools.
Leicester City Council and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) are supporting their local Youth Advisory Board by sharing the group’s #TenSecondTips on social media platforms. A selection of these tips, can be view here and range from self-care strategies to new skills and exercises and. Tips are shared as short video clips, presented by young people themselves by CAMHS clinicians and youth workers. The clips received more than 5,000 by 22 April.
Brighton & Hove City Council’s Healthy Lifestyles is supporting people of all ages and abilities to stay active in isolation. They’ve created a variety of online resources and challenges hosted on their Facebook page, including their Walking Challenge Group for those who are able to get out of the house for exercise and their Active for Life Personal Challenge workouts, which can be done in your living room or garden.
Leicestershire County Council are also encouraging walking as a way to support physical and mental wellbeing via their dedicated walking page Where to walk in Leicestershire. This page provides access to local maps and walking guides as well as guidance around how to stay safe and observe social distancing measures while walking.
- Promoting staff wellbeing (Harborough)
Harborough District Council responded promptly to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure staff had health and well-being support during this difficult and unprecedented time. A well-being response cell was initiated to:
- provide appropriate health and well-being support during the Covid-19 crisis
- provide ‘virtual’ social activities, and to
- help staff to keep in touch whilst working virtually and flexibly and help to return to normal working practises as part of the recovery phase.
Harborough District Council benefits from a large team of qualified mental health first aiders who volunteer to make themselves available for colleagues to contact if they have concerns about their own mental health or that of a colleague. Mental Health first aiders listen to and support colleagues, helping them to find appropriate guidance and advice.
A suite of learning resources has been created for staff to access remotely via an online toolkit. Modules on offer include: Coronavirus, managing remote workers, email stress, a healthy lifestyle and mental health awareness.
Harborough District Council developed further health and well-being support by initiating a closed Facebook group, which is optional for council staff to join with the purpose of encouraging social engagement between colleagues whilst all working remotely. Run by the Active Harborough team, who specialise in delivering fitness, rehabilitation and sports programmes on behalf of the council, the content generated on the Facebook group has really encouraged staff social interaction. Facebook posts span from exercise challenges and tutorials, weekly quizzes, and poetry competitions to craft activities. Live exercise workouts, mindful sessions and yoga classes have also been delivered in collaboration with local instructors.
The Facebook group has grown to more than 94 members out of a workforce of 233. However, staff members who are not on Facebook do not miss out. Competitions and links to exercise sessions are also shared on the Council intranet, and everyone is encouraged to join the fun.
Other provision for staff well-being includes staff health and wellbeing page on the Council’s intranet, which has a whole host of resources, guidance and interactive activities, a dedicated employee assistance helpline and website, which is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Counselling sessions held over the phone, stress risk assessments and one to one support from team managers are also available.
For more information about this case study or any other Harborough District Council services, please contact: [email protected]
- Public health messaging on bin trucks (Richmondshire)
Richmondshire District Council’s nine strong fleet of bin trucks took to the roads in April with a special ‘stay home, save lives’ message emblazoned on their sides. The authority took up the chance to promote the national NHS message to its residents through the vehicles. The North Yorkshire council serves some very remote rural communities where residents may not have been receiving the key public health messages to the same extent as those living in local towns, so the bin trucks are a useful method to get those messages mobile and visible to all. Roadvert, the advertising company assisting this operation, is working in partnership with Public Health England to get the message out to residents. All signage was fitted observing social distancing measures.
- Top Tips for staying at home (Hertfordshire)
Hertfordshire County Council worked with Norfolk County Council and UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change to develop evidence based Top Tips for staying at home, with an aim to promote resilience in the population during the lockdown. The Top Tips have been extended with additional information on council webpage. The council are now developing specific aspects of the campaign to help residents develop life skills e.g. using a tablet to stay connected etc. and these will be available shortly.
This work began at the start of the pandemic when people were starting to shield and the wider population went into lockdown. It was aimed at the population as a whole and circulated on social media with further information and links on our website. The individual Top Tips were developed into leaflets, which were circulated in food parcels for residents who were shielding, as these were felt to be important key points to support their mental health and wellbeing during this difficult time. At the time of writing, individual tips are in the process of being extended to support the development of life skills and linking these with local initiatives and services that can support people to develop these new skills e.g. Be connected – which involves training around how to use an iPad, including to connect with family members.
Overall the Top Tips have been very well received and have been circulated to residents, the workforce and also specific groups e.g. people who are shielding, Gypsies and Travellers and BAME communities among others. The main learning from this work was to link the information supporting the Top Tips to existing support programmes (where available) to support the development of life skills rather than phasing and extending the information over time.
More information on this project is available on Hertfordshire council's website.
Contact: Michelle Constable [email protected]
Housing and Homelessness
- Housing pods and other emergency housing measures (Stoke-on-Trent)
Stoke-on-Trent City Council are working with Unitas, their housing repairs and maintenance company, and the Macari Foundation, who provide housing for people who are homeless, to provide safe accommodation for community members in need. The partnership has joined forces to transform a former warehouse into a bespoke accommodation centre; complete with innovative housing pods to meet the needs of residents registered with the Macari Foundation now and in the future.
The site is being renovated to include toilet and shower blocks; kitchen and laundry facilities; and staff facilities, alongside the installation of the first 12 wooden housing pods. Each pod will provide residents with an individual bed and living accommodation (with television), with the added security of having a closable front door. The first tenants moved into the pods in early May (2020) and work is being carried out to add a further 12 rooms with en-suite facilities. Council Leader Abi Brown and Macari Foundation trustee Lou Macari visited the site to view the recently installed pods.
The council has also accommodated more than 70 individuals in a combination of local hotels and temporary accommodation, with both private and social landlords, including use of voids in its own stock. Recognising that many individuals may face additional challenges in maintaining their accommodation, the authority are working with local partners to ensure these individuals get the support they need. Partners involved include Concrete and Brighter Futures, the police, health and the community drug and alcohol service, which are helping to provide in reach support to people residing in hotels as well as ensuring residents in need of food are provided with supplies either by the hotels or Stoke-on-Trent Together, the council’s COVID-19 community response consortium. These support arrangements have meant that very few individuals have lost accommodation and most are now engaging with local services. There have been virtually no complaints from local residents regarding ASB. The council are now jointly developing a recovery plan to try and ensure that no one is forced to return to rough sleeping as lockdown restrictions are lifted.
- Housing Vulnerable People (East Suffolk)
East Suffolk Council are ensuring homeless people in the district can keep safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. In a response to the public health emergency and the government’s request, the council have placed 26 homeless people in emergency accommodation to prevent them from sleeping rough. The emergency accommodation consists of social housing stock, self-contained hotel rooms and private housing which has been furnished with the essentials, including furniture, white goods and food parcels.
The social housing stock became available when the Gateway to Homechoice scheme, which gives residents the opportunity to bid for council and social housing properties, was suspended last month due to COVID-19. This enabled the council to use vacant housing stock to temporarily accommodate homeless people, keeping them safe during the outbreak.
The quick response to the government’s request was made possible by the council’s Housing Needs, Tenancy Services and Repairs and Maintenance teams, who worked together closely, supported by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to ensure that homeless people were allocated vacant accommodation at short notice. All teams continue to work closely with public bodies, partners and organisations to ensure that those placed in emergency accommodation will continue to receive the support they need including food parcels.
The council has also transformed a former sheltered housing property in a record time of seven days to help accommodate vulnerable people. The property, located in Lowestoft, consists of eight flats which have been empty since late 2019 due to them being unsuitable for ongoing use as sheltered housing. The water systems had been drained down, and the heating, electrical and fire detection systems had been decommissioned.
The council’s repair and maintenance team worked with local contractors to bring the property back into use in just seven days. This included installing water cylinders in all flats and reinstating the heating, lift and electrical and fire detection systems. All the flats underwent safety inspections, deep cleaning and various repairs and were fitted with the necessary furnishings, cooking facilities and white goods to ensure they were up to the standard required.
The flats are being allocated to those who are particularly vulnerable at this time, such as rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless.
- Providing safe homes to people in need (Cornwall)
Cornwall Council have been working with partners, charities and businesses to provide safe homes for people in need. Homes that had been built but not yet sold have been repurposed as emergency accommodation, furnished and ready equipped with essential items so that people can relocate quickly if need be. Each new home has been carpeted and provided with beds, bedding, cooking equipment, towels, oven, kitchen equipment, fridge-freezer, washing machine, sofa, table and chairs and small TV. If people housed through this scheme require access to medication or food supplies, they will be supported to access this.
People eligible for housing scheme are people without access to access self-contained temporary accommodation – for instance, families that had previously been living in bed and breakfast accommodation with shared facilities. The project may also provide emergency accommodation for anyone made homeless during the outbreak (and potentially, anyone discharged early from hospital).
Inclusion and community cohesion
- Celebrating Pride, virtually (Bradford)
Bradford is gearing up for its 15th Pride event with its first online festival which is set to be a celebration of the district’s LGBTQ+ community, to have fun and enhance wellbeing during a difficult time. Participants can expect a virtual extravaganza of musicians, drag queens, poets and campaigners on May 9 5pm to 10pm via the Bradford Pride social media platforms, with support from Bradford Council. The virtual event will include a wide spectrum of performers musicians and the Festival will also include messages of solidarity from prominent LGBTQ+ campaigners and activists from the world of sport, politics and the arts. Bradford will be one of the first places in the UK to be hosting a virtual Pride event and it will be an opportunity for people who are isolated to have fun, dance and be inspired to see change, as well as enjoy the musical and other acts participating. The event can be enjoyed on Bradford Pride Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
The council have supported the on-line event through a grant from a fund set up to support local arts and culture organisations affected by the lockdown, which has helped with artists fees and set up costs. Councillor Richard Dunbar is the council’s LGBTQ+ champion and, with a seat on the Bradford Pride committee, was on hand to help access council support in other ways – primarily with press and publicity resources and with links to youth and arts and cultural services. The latter has been particularly valuable in using their networks to engage local artists to participate in the event as performers and supporters and keeping a strong local flavour. Technical support has been provided by a local company on a sponsorship basis, which has helped keep costs low but technical quality high. Contact Councillor Dunbar for more information on how the council have helped make this online event happen.
COVID-19: Faith & Communities Response (Essex)
As part of the initial crisis response to the pandemic, the Essex Strategic Coordination Group (SCG) established a Faith & Communities Working Group to ensure that multi-faith perspectives were considered in the coordinated effort to plan for Excess Death Management (EDM) response.
The group was primarily made up of representatives from faith organisations across the county and met weekly. An additional group of officers from across the greater Essex footprint was established to support this work.
The group has since pivoted and has been established as a standalone Tactical Co-ordination Group (TCG) as part of the recovery phase. The remit of the group is to provide information and advice to faith & community groups and also to inform development of future resilience/recovery/pandemic response work. The scope of the TCG has been broadened to cover all those characteristics protected by the Equality Act.
Key focus areas for the TCG include providing guidance and communications on areas such as reopening of places of worship, restarting of ceremonies and marking key religious, cultural and community events as easement continues.
A vital aspect of the TCG’s work will also be the identification and prioritisation of specific areas of focus that look to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on minority, disadvantaged & high-risk groups across Essex; emerging trends among or affecting different faith and community groups and emerging tensions within local communities.
The Faith & Communities TCG has brought together faith and community leaders to work with pubic services in a way that had not been seen before. The rapid response, deployment and delivery of the work was underpinned by a collaborative mindset and a desire to want to have collective impact. Key activity to date includes:
- A guidance document for those working as part of the EDM project that gave details on usual rites and funeral practices of each major faith, alongside the current advice and guidance being issued by national faith bodies.
- Advice and guidance for communities on practicing faith and on current guidelines/restrictions for funerals.
- A three-tier Bereavement Support Package, available on the ECC website.
- A Chaplaincy support package for staff working in and connected to the temporary mortuary site.
- Communication materials about the Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Team (PMART) that would be activated to respond to deaths in the community if the usual system could not cope.
- Advice and guidance for both taxi drivers (who are at high risk from COVID-19) to and their customers.
- Advice and guidance for places of worship to help them in preparing for reopening and in advance of (at the time) the potential for being able to reopen for private prayer.
There were practical challenges to this work. The first was ensuring that products were approved by all authorities involved, usually Essex County Council, Southend and Thurrock, at what was often quite short notice. The group also worked hard to ensure that all public sector partners, particularly district councils were kept informed and that the group were able to utilise their expert local knowledge to both provide direct the work and help spread key messages into local communities.
The second was the lack of prior warning of government announcements to changes in restrictions, coupled by delays to any associated guidance being issued. This resulted in needing to provide a short notice and immediate response to these announcements and working to make sure that key messages were being provided to the community.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
- Centralising procurement of PPE and cleaning materials for early years settings (Doncaster)
Many early years providers across Doncaster have remained open throughout the coronavirus lockdown to support vulnerable children and the children of keyworkers. All have been making plans to re-open to more children as restrictions are eased and we move into recovery.
They had, however, raised with Doncaster Council that the cost of cleaning materials and personal protective equipment in order to comply with coronavirus guidance was becoming a problem. Not only were more resources required, but prices were being driven up due to demand. For providers who had already taken a significant financial blow from the pandemic, this was proving extremely difficult. Providers also reported problems getting hold of some items.
The council therefore took the decision at an early stage, as part of its co-ordinated approach to support schools and childcare providers, to offer a central point for purchasing a range of high quality PPE items to meet government guidance, materials and other cleaning supplies.
They were able to use their central procurement staff to secure items in bulk using a range of suppliers. This saved time and provided a security of supply for settings who may otherwise have difficulty securing such items. It also reduced costs significantly.
Over 150 individual settings have placed orders including 100 childcare settings and childminders, and over 170,000 items have been ordered.
In addition to cleaning and PPE items, the council’s in-house lithography and digital printing service designed a range of signage, posters and stickers available to purchase to help settings enforce social distancing.
It is intended that this co-ordinated approach will continue during the current circumstances and the items have been added into the ‘Buy Doncaster’ offer, through which schools and other settings can buy all their traded services and associated products from Doncaster Council.
- Essex PPE sourcing service available free of charge to councils (Essex)
Essex County Council is making its PPE sourcing service available, free-of-charge to councils during the crisis. Essex is using its China office and 30-year relationship with Jiangsu Province to help councils identify suppliers, perform due diligence and liaise on prices and minimum quantity orders.
Colleagues in Essex are offering this as a public health service – they are not charging any fees or earning commission so that they can impartially recommend the best solution for councils. They are already working with a number of other councils. If council procurement teams are interested in being involved in this work, they should contact [email protected]. Councils are encouraged to aggregate their requests on a regional basis when they approach Essex.
- Library services printing PPE (Manchester)
A 3D printer in Manchester Central Library is producing personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and social care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before the lockdown the high-tech equipment in the Business and Intellectual Property Centre (BIPC) could be used by local businesses. Staff are now using it to make protective face shields as part of a national effort to donate PPE to those at the frontline through the ShieldNHS scheme.
A single mask takes around 90 minutes to print, and the simple design is being used around the world.
Around 40 headbands have already been made which are ready to be attached to acetate sheets. At the time of writing, BIPC staff had set a target of creating 15 to 20 new shields per day.
The printer is running at the home of a staff member who has also built a second device to double the potential output.
This approach is being adopted by other local authorities, including Stirling Council, whose library staff are making more than 100 face masks a week using their printers.
- PPE distribution network (Nottingham)
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nottingham City Council came under pressure to coordinated and distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to social care settings and other key services to ensure that staff were enabled to carry out roles in a safe and secure way.
The distribution network was initially centred around a paper based, scanning and spreadsheet orientated process detailing deliveries, requests, batch quantity and quality. Stock was manually managed each night by working through dozens of paper records and updating PPE accounts by hand while having to comply with government returns on PPE distribution. Those collecting PPE would require identification at collection with wet signatures.
The digital team were tasked in creating a PPE stock management system to streamline the processes for recording and tracking deliveries. The team sought to make this process as convenient for the users seeking PPE as well as those tracking stock levels by taking a user centred approach to design creating a system with similar features to a mainstream online delivery service.
The customer stage allows users to request the PPE they require by filling out a form that allows account login to remember orders or associated profiles with the approved list of suppliers. The user must enter the number of staff they are providing for, what equipment they need and the size and quantity of supplies required. The user is provided with a summary of the order while they wait for the team to confirm and approve the request.
The team receive the request and triage the order. They will authorise the provider and are able to view previous orders from the user, approve repeat orders and the system gives the team an overview of current demand against the request for certain items to ensure stock is available. Once the team has reviewed the order, they are able to accept, reject or escalate the order. Escalating will forward the order onto a Public Health Consultant who is able to deal with more complex areas and queries.
The customer is then sent the confirmation email and notified when the equipment with be available for collection. While the team at the distribution centre are packaging the order customers are able to log in to their account and track the progress of the package.
At the packaging stage, staff input the batch numbers of equipment, product descriptions, case numbers and contact details for each delivery as this ensures the stock is traceable should they be required to recall faulty equipment. Each package are given a reference number which allows customers to collect the correct package without having to sign for it or provide identification. This leads the case to be closed from the initial request stage of the process.
Further to this process, the system generates power BI dashboards that detail the volume of stock over time periods for various items of PPE. This provides the council with the ability to track stock trends, areas of demand and have a true understanding of PPE provision in the locality.
James Steele, Web Manager, [email protected]
- Successful co-ordination of PPE supply and distribution (Warwickshire)
At the onset of the pandemic, Warwickshire County Council swiftly established a supply chain taskforce to coordinate the county’s approach to ensuring sufficient PPE was available to protect frontline staff. Alongside procuring larger orders of PPE directly and receiving national stocks from DHSC, it began working with local companies, charities, community groups and residents to ensure there was consistent supply and distribution. This included helping businesses re-purpose production lines, which resulted in a steady flow of PPE products each week. A social media campaign helped spread the appeal for PPE donations and manufacturing more widely. A warehousing and distribution function was rapidly established, including a process for requesting PPE, a warehouse with stock tracking, a picking process and appropriate social distancing rules, and a 7 days a week delivery system delivering within 24 hours as standard and within 3 hours for urgent requests.
A consistent supply meant the taskforce could answer every valid request for PPE support from the start. Initially this supported internal staff, social care providers and education/early years settings. It was later expanded to include other key sectors such as funeral directors. Efforts turned to promoting the availability of this support and a second multi-channel communications campaign was created asking any care provider in Warwickshire with less than 48 hours supply of PPE to get in touch.
Over 400 care providers have so far turned to the Council to keep them supplied with PPE. They say it has literally been a ‘lifeline’ to those on the front-line.
More information available at www.warwickshire.gov.uk.
- Universities manufacturing hand sanitiser for councils (Norwich / Birmingham)
The University of East Anglia is helping to supplement the hand sanitiser shortage in Norwich Council by manufacturing mass quantities of the product within now student free chemistry labs. In the time since starting, technicians at the university have produced more than 170 litres of hand sanitiser, to be shared between front-line workers employed by Norwich County Council (and the NHS).
The University of Birmingham, also using its facilities to produce hand-sanitiser, has mobilised to provide this same service for Birmingham City Council.
- Changes to roads and transport infrastructure to promote social distancing and safety (Hackney / Lambeth / Hammersmith and Fulham)
A number of councils are making changes to roads and footpaths to improve road safety and social distancing whilst allowing people to make essential journeys. Hackney Council are focusing efforts on seven sites where residents are experiencing difficulties with social distancing. In these areas, footpaths will be widened with barriers and parking will be suspended to help people walk and shop safely. The council is also temporarily restricting parking on Broadway Market and closing it to through-traffic, to improve pedestrian safety in this high footfall area. The measures will make it easier for residents to maintain social distancing while walking for daily exercise or obtaining essential items, such as food and medicine. At each of the sites, the Council will ensure that deliveries to food retailers can continue as required.
Lambeth Council have likewise implemented an emergency action plan, which involves temporarily widening pavements at some of the busiest parts of the borough. The council are also seeking to extend bus lane hours in busy areas so that cyclists are allowed more space and with this, have safer access to roads. The emergency changes will be followed by longer term work to make safe routes to and from the borough’s town centres, so that residents are more able to travel safely between the town centres. Moving forward, the plans aim to ensure that as restrictions are lifted, the council are able to mitigate against rat running and the expected increase in motor vehicle use.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council are widening pavements in the busy shopping areas of King Street and Uxbridge Road. There have also installed barriers and weighted cones along some roads. The widening measures will take roads down from two-lane to one-lane for vehicles. The extra width of the temporary pavements will allow pedestrians to queue safely for essential supplies from food stores and pharmacies, and to pass each other while social distancing. Wardens will be in the area and will monitor use to ensure people are complying with social distancing requirements.
The council have made social distancing a priority, positioning highly-visible lamp column banners and posters across the borough, which promote the message ‘Stay home, Save lives’. Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Metropolitan Police have also restricted the use of the Thames Path for cyclists or joggers between 10am and 6pm and a queueing system, backed by marshals, is enforcing social distancing on Hammersmith Bridge. Police, marshals and residents have reported much improved social distancing since the changes were introduced.
The BBC have produced a short video concerning Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s social distancing approach.
- Communicating social distancing measures (North East Lincolnshire)
North East Lincolnshire council worked with Grimsby Town FC manager Ian Holloway to publish a video message to address locals directly as a trusted voice in an effort to communicate the need to socially distance and stay at home as widely as possible. The council also published an open letter to residents from community leaders, including local MPs, Council Leader, health service Chief Executives to explain the situation, the council felt that Ian’s direct involvement by video would reach a wider audience.
- Reopening businesses safely – guidance and other measures (Medway)
Medway Council produced a guidance pack for retailers to help them prepare for a safe reopening, in line with government guidelines. The guidance reinforces that each shop is responsible for putting its own plans in place to help protect its staff and customers. Customers are asked to be mindful that shops might have different social distancing measures in place, depending on their size and layout. Some shops might limit the number customers allowed in at once, ask customers to queue outside along the front of the shop or have a one-way system inside the store. Some shops offer contactless payment options and customers are reminded they can now use contactless payment up to £45 after the government increased the spend.
The councils has also introduced a number of its own measures in town centre high streets to further reduce the spread of the virus and protect the public:
- Medway Greeters will be on hand during peak hours to welcome residents back to town centres and encourage people to queue responsibly and follow social distancing guidelines. Enhanced cleaning will be carried out in each town centre high street.
- Public toilets have been reopened and hand sanitiser dispensers have been installed.
- Public bins will be regularly emptied and sanitised.
- Litter picks will be carried out to help keep the streets clean.
- Some benches will be taped off to help comply with social distancing measures.
- Signage will be installed reminding all residents to social distance.
- All Medway Council car parks are open and offer a cashless payment option, provided by RingGo.
- Motorists are encouraged to use the cashless payment option in car parks to protect themselves and others, but the payment machines will be regularly cleaned for those paying by coins.
- A temporary road closure order has been put in place restricting vehicles from driving along Rochester High Street, between 10.30am and 3pm, Sunday to Friday (this has been put in place to protect potential pedestrians queuing in the high street and will be kept under review).
- Existing road restrictions remain in place along the high streets, including on a Saturday in Rochester High Street, between 10am and 4pm
- Social distancing funding (Elmbridge)
Elmbridge has been providing funding through the Elmbridge Civic Improvement Fund (ECIF) to local businesses for a range of projects since its creation in 2009. To date over 290 grants have been approved, allocating more than £1 million. Most grants have been for shop front improvements, but the fund has also been used flexibly to support the creation of the Elmbridge Start Up Fund, Digital High Street Fund and one-off support.
In late April Elmbridge quickly realised that when the time to reopen the high street comes businesses may need some extra help to ensure they can meet all the health and safety requirements. Therefore, in May Elmbridge expanded its existing business funding scheme to allow independent high street businesses to access funding for social distancing measures.
The funding allows business to purchase equipment or signage up to £250, that enable adaptions to their property to protect customers and staff.
• Signage (e.g. customer notices – floor markings)
• Cleaning/hand sanitiser stations
• Flexi-plastic barriers at areas of regular customer interaction (e.g. tills)
• Other social distancing measures recommended by government for high street businesses
A simply application process was created to ensure businesses could access this funding as quickly as possible. Applications received are considered on a weekly basis. As of June 2020 over 60 business have accessed the funding.
- Stay-at-home appeal video (Kent and Medway)
Kent and Medway Council published this short video to encourage people to respect lockdown measures. The video, shared widely on social media channels, repeats a clear ask: that residents “stay home” in order to protect themselves, their communities and those who continue to provide services during the present outbreak. This message is conveyed orally and in sign language and delivered by key workers from across the county, including an NHS nurse, a doctor, local council workers and others whose service remains vital at this time. The video is part of the #KentTogether campaign and includes a reminder that residents can contact the council’s 24-hour helpline if in need of help, medication or other urgent supplies.
Supporting vulnerable residents
Area Action Partnerships – Durham’s community hub approach (Durham)
Durham County Council’s Community Hub is a powerful example of a locally led partnership working at pace to respond to and support its community’s evolving needs. Underpinned by an ethos of self-help, community empowerment and continual learning, the Council have ensured that the Hub’s achievements go beyond supporting those in need, by also having the potential to transform future service delivery and shape the Council’s relationship with its communities and partners going forward.
In response to the outbreak of Covid 19, Durham County Council worked closely with a number of partners - including local voluntary and community organisations, general practitioners, other local health services staff, local DWP teams, the NHS GoodSAM app – and across all council teams to provide speedy and comprehensive support to shielded and vulnerable residents in the county. This numbered over 90,000 people, spread over a large council are. While initially focused on securing food supplies, the hub became a more nuanced response to different and complex needs emerging over time such as metal health and social isolation, operating on a ‘no wrong door’ basis.
In the early weeks of the pandemic the Council responded quickly by setting up a central call centre, utilising staff redeployed from other non-critical council services to support their population and particularly those in need of immediate help. To deliver services, a central hub was created, operating into local communities across the north and the south of the county to respond locally with help and advice. The Hub quickly provided initial support for those identified as needing immediate help (26,000 on the shielded list, 75,000 identified as having multiple social vulnerabilities). Durham’s approach of continual learning and transformation meant that it was able to respond quickly as needs changed and new responses were required, for example from hearing from many people with short term food needs, to people getting in touch with more complex mental wellbeing support needs.
The Hub’s approach built on an existing structure of Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) with community working and voluntary sector involvement. The Council devolved additional grant funding to these AAPs to support local community resilience and growth Building on these existing strong relationships with partner and community organisations was key to Durham’s successful cross-organisational and multi-agency approach. Local areas and communities were able to direct funding to where it was most needed based on local knowledge, networks and intelligence. This collaboration meant the Council was able to maximise place-based resources to help directly, or signpost to appropriate agencies or community groups, quickly engaging with those services and overcoming the barriers that may have previously existed. Examples of this include the creation of the Chat Together service to tackle social isolation, digital access to library services, through to provision of more holistic ‘wrap around’ support to individuals’ with multiple needs.
The longer impact and benefit for Durham Council has been that it now has an even more enhanced understanding of its communities and how to help its more vulnerable residents. For example, by having contact with residents previously unknown to the Council, and as a result of redeployed staff gaining an enhanced understanding of Durham’s communities (as well as new skills) which they will take back to their substantive roles.
The Council’s continual learning approach has been a real strength. It built in opportunities to review and change as necessary – using tools such as lean process reviews and equality impact assessment to ensure continuous improvement and to inform future service delivery. Durham Council was still able to respond at pace by ensuring evidence-based decisions making and accepting that things could change day-to-day. Culturally, the Council’s ‘can do’ attitude helped positively overcome obstacles that had previously been difficult to move. There is now a focus on reviewing this activity to ensure the learning and positive processes, behaviours and practices are embedded, mainstreaming or adapted as appropriate. This is evident through the fact that Durham is continuing to develop and improve the way they engage with partners to understand the needs of more vulnerable residents and respond appropriately, in relation to the pandemic and beyond.
For further details: Alan Patrickson, Director of Neighbourhoods and Climate Change, [email protected]
- Celebrating National Volunteers’ Week, virtually (Telford & Wrekin)
Telford & Wrekin Council themed this year’s National Volunteer’s Week (1-7 June) around ‘A time to say thanks’, taking the opportunity to celebrate and thank local volunteers, sharing their stories to recognise all that they do and inspire others to volunteer.
As well as celebrating volunteers who have been helping the Council support vulnerable residents during COVID-19, the celebration recognised the work of all volunteers, including the Council’s Feed the Birds volunteers, Street Champions, Snow Wardens, Health Champions and events volunteers.
A jam-packed, week-long campaign took centre stage across external + internal channels: 2,500+ ‘Thank You’ e-cards were sent to volunteers and voluntary groups across the borough; electronic road signs lit up with ‘thank you’ messages; a virtual meeting was held for key voluntary groups to share news; 200+ volunteering posts were shared on social media, including 50+ individual volunteer stories; stories were shared with the local media and a special ‘Clap for Volunteers’ was arranged for the Thursday, with staff from across the Council clapping to show their appreciation.
The public celebration generated a reach of 1.2m+ on social reach (370+ comments, 423+ likes/shares), 25k+ video views, local media coverage (including 2 live interviews with volunteers on BBC Radio Shropshire), 1,459 hits to the volunteering web pages to find out more and sign up to volunteer.
- Community shield-local response to COVID-19 (Dorset)
Dorset Council have harnessed the power of community action to create their ‘community shield’. The community shield refers to the local response to COVID-19 in which the council are working with public sector partners and charities across Dorset to respond to the impact of the outbreak. A dedicated section of their community response hub is available both for those who need support and those who want to volunteer. It features a regular response brief, signposts to local groups and printable posters that can be used to share key messages. Dorset has also created a printable poster for those who are self-isolating, advising people who may be intending to visit of the situation and to leave any deliveries outside.
- Doorstep book deliveries and befriending phone calls for vulnerable residents (Warwickshire)
Warwickshire County Council has adapted its libraries service to support vulnerable residents who may be isolated and in need of comfort and connections during the pandemic.
As of May (2020), home delivery book bags for contactless door drops had gone out to nearly 200 shielded people, in addition to 250 existing housebound customers.
Befriending calls, between library staff and residents have been offered to hundreds of people and 200 regular chats now take place. The calls also offer a chance for people to discuss their well-being and staff can refer customers to further support.
People can sign up to a weekly activities and an e-newsletter with information about online resources such as puzzles, book recommendations, local studies, and talks.
Thousands of items have been loaned and downloaded by people staying at home in Warwickshire, with overall downloads since lockdown began on 23 March reaching almost 20,000. Over 20% more eNewspapers were read in Warwickshire in April compared to March and eMagazines downloads have gone up by 20%.
Residents who have signed up for the special services from Warwickshire Libraries have been “overwhelmed” by the support they have received.
For more information go to www.warwickshire.gov.uk/libraries
- ‘Let’s Talk’ service – supporting vulnerable council residents (Hackney)
Let’s Talk is a council ran initiative serving elderly and shielded council tenants in the Hackney borough area, including 400 people within the first month of its launch. Let’s Talk operates via a helpline, which tenants can contact to seek advice or help relating to access to food or prescriptions. They can also call for a one off friendly conversation or to arrange regular catch up calls with a member of the Let’s Talk team. In providing these services, Let’s Talk is helping to reduce some of the effects of social isolation, including feelings of stress, anxiety and/or loneliness, by ensuring people have access to resources they need – whether groceries or conversation. Feedback from residents has been highly positive and the service has been well used, providing for nearly 400 users within the first month.
- Community support structures (Waltham Forest / Manchester)
Community hubs and networks are helping councils support vulnerable groups during the current health crisis. Waltham Forest, for instance, have established a Community Help Network, which offers delivery service for food and prescriptions in addition to (emergency) home repairs and pathways for social connection through technology. These services are delivered by a team of resident volunteers and through partnerships with Age UK Waltham Forest, Eat or Heat and PL84U. Support via the network is available to people above the age of 70, people who are self-isolating and people whose access to support networks is otherwise limited. On week into operating, the network has attracted 1,300 volunteer registrations, their distribution centres are operational and food packages are being delivered. More information on the network is available here.
Manchester City Council’s response incorporates several hubs (including three locality based hubs and a central hub) that provide for people who are medically vulnerable/shielded and people who are social isolating and over 70, or have limited support networks. The offer includes the provision of food packages, fuel assistance (topping up of payment cards), medication support and a calling service to help support people experiencing loneliness. The hubs have attracted interest from local partners, more than 1000 volunteer registrations and calls to the helpline (for enquiries about receiving support) numbered 800+ within its first two days of operating. An overview of the services and workplan Manchester City Council have utilised for their approach is outlined in this resource, which also provides templates for other aspects of the response.
- Models for supporting shielded groups (Bradford)
The City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council have outlined their process for supporting shielded groups in COVID-19 Support process for Shielded Group. This includes models for delivery, the stages of their process and guidance around the support provided (spanning areas including the contact process, food, medication, community safety and community hubs). The models outlined are supported by case studies that highlight how these strategies work in practice.
This resource provides a comprehensive guide to supporting shielded groups that may be useful to councils as they determine how to service the needs shielded groups in their respective areas.
- Online services directory (Durham)
Durham County Council have developed an online directory of local services available to help residents identify the range of services that may be available to people in self-isolation. Contact details are provided for businesses, voluntary groups, charities and other others who provide supports services including the delivery of shopping and prescriptions, posting mail and phone services for those in need of company or support. If residents are unable to locate a service they need via the directory, the directory provides council details so that residents can request that support.
- Overlaying data to identify unmet need (Oldham)
Oldham Council uses a place-based model of care and support, based on geographies aligned to primary care networks. Part of this system entails the Thriving Communities Index, created alongside services, VCSFE groups and elected members, which helped to create a detailed representation of local needs. The index is made up of 30 socio-economic indicators for each neighbourhood, underpinned by a combination of quantitative data (e.g. data from housing churn, A&E admissions, safeguarding and police) and qualitative perception data, derived through workshops. This information informs a map of 115 hyper local neighbourhoods, which is used by the council and partners to understand different needs across the borough and to deliver services appropriately.
Data generated through this index has provided an important comparison point for the council’s COVID-19 helpline, which has then informed the community response. By cross referencing the data from the call database and overlaying the data from the Thriving Communities Index, the council were able to identify and monitor low call engagement zones and, including areas of unmet need. A multi-language communications campaign has been carried out to reach further into these communities, helping to ensure that they have access to the support and resources they need.
This approach has allowed the council and partners to respond efficiently and effectively to residents’ needs. In launching their helpline and by using data from this and the index, the council and its partners have provided more than 3,522 people access to food, medicines and personal goods; in addition, to providing other forms of support, including around mental health, mutual aid, and housing.
In the first 2 weeks the phoneline received more than 2000 calls, with around 100 calls coming into the contact centre daily from those who were under isolation and without a network to support them.
This work is supported by partners including: Oldham Council, Oldham Unity Partnership, Oldham Cares (Hospital, Council, CCGs), Action Together (VCFSE umbrella), Positive Steps, Mind, Trussell Trust and the Inter-Faith Forum.
- Protecting vulnerable and shielded groups – a staged approach (Harrow)
Harrow Council’s community hub is operating according to a staged approach, which seeks to meet the needs of vulnerable and shielded groups in the short, medium and long term. With understanding that circumstances can change quickly in the current environment, the council have categorised short term as relating to daily operations, medium term as relating to week to week operations and long term as relating to anything longer.
The community hub provides support services to any residents considered part of the government defined shielded group as well as others who might not appear on the shielded list but are still considered vulnerable. This includes single parent households, people who are unemployed or underemployed (i.e. part time and casual workers), single pensioners and couples where the age of both parties is 65 or over.
The council are now developing the longer term aspects of their approach. It is anticipated that the composition and number of those requiring support from the hub will change as the outbreak and its implications unfold. As the outbreak and lockdown measures continue, new groups of people will become vulnerable – for instance, people who lose work, have limited or no access to safe housing or people who fall sick themselves. A potential consequence of this is that people in the shielded group may face new obstacles in gaining access to food and essential supplies if support networks they were previously able to rely on shrink or lose capacity over time.
The council are exploring ways that existing data sources can help to identify who is in immediate need of support and who is likely to need support later. Sources to date include databases comprising details of people who have had assisted collections, housing stock (which carries data on the 1200 most vulnerable households in that stock), benefits databases and data provided via Experian, a credit reporting company. Council staff are also speaking with faith organisations, such as local mosques, as a means of identifying individuals and families that might be considered vulnerable.
This delivery framework was developed over several weeks with support from consultancy firm 4OC, who helped to develop the planning and coordination of operations during the initial delivery phase, including by providing IT support. Other partners include members of the council’s VCS network – including the borough’s foodbank and voluntary support groups including CAB, MIND – other social support services and the council’s transport services (Harrow Community Transport), which are working together to distribute food, medicinal supplies and other forms of support.
In considering the main learning takeaway from their approach, the council have impressed that a clear vision should be the starting point for any subsequent action. The council have further committed to keeping community members, partners and other relevant organisations cited on this vision and other aspects of their process. It is hoped that this level communication will enhance coordination across those supporting service delivery and current and potential beneficiaries – helping the council to respond more effectively now and in the future.
For further information about this work, please email Jonathan Milbourn (Head of Customer Services and Business Services at Harrow Council) at [email protected] or Catherine Cross (Development Director at 4OC) at [email protected].
- Risk factors for vulnerable groups - staff resource (Hackney)
Hackney Council have developed a briefing pack to alert their staff to the scale of the COVID-19 health crisis and broader range of issues that are likely to impact vulnerable groups in Hackney. Groups identified as particularly at risk are people above the age of 70, people with a disability, people who are renting (especially if on a low income), people who are self-employed. Demographic and risk factors are presented for each group. The briefing pack highlights that current circumstances may impact groups in different ways, with some more vulnerable to the illness itself and others more vulnerable to its economic consequences (there are also numerous instances where these factors will intersect).
While the data presented in this document is specific to the London Borough of Hackney, it considers common themes and issues that will be relevant to all councils.
- Supporting businesses to reopen safely (Craven)
Craven District Council has worked with Skipton Town Council and Skipton BID to draw up plans to allow Skipton Market to reopen safely from June 10.
The Council devised a scheme to close the High Street to traffic between 10am to 4pm on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to allow safe social distancing. Market stalls will then be able to face towards the road, so that customers queuing for the stalls will not interfere with other customers on the High Street.
Businesses were surveyed in a consultation to share their thoughts regarding road closures and the reopening of the High Street for the market and non-essential shops. A total of 164 businesses responded to the survey, with 62% in favour of the road closure, and 22% against.
Craven District Council is contacting all businesses who requested feedback and further information to help them reopen. The Council has also drawn up a document with advice, guidance and checklists to help retail businesses remain open: https://www.cravendc.gov.uk/media/9383/cdc-retail-opening-advice.pdf
A team of Town Centre Ambassadors, and Craven District Council’s Community Safety Officer, will be present on the High Street when the Market reopens, to assist local residents, visitors and traders – and to liaise with all businesses to try and resolve any matters which might arise on the day.
- Theatre transformed in community hub (Reading)
Reading Borough Council’s culture and leisure team rapidly responded to the current pandemic in transforming one of its main art venues, The Hexagon theatre, into a community hub. Since its opening on 30 March 2020, the hub has provided 1,232 food deliveries and supported hundreds of Reading’s most isolated and vulnerable families, offering support and signposting to organisations that can help.
Since the start of this fantastic initiative, over 20 of theatre, events and leisure staff have given their time to assist the Council’s respond to the urgent needs of the local residents during this emergency situation. The Hub operates 6 days a week and has joined up teams across a whole range of different services in Reading Borough Council to provide a unified service, while helping to support the voluntary sector. The staff are pleased to actively participate and support the health and wellbeing of its community during these unprecedented times. The roles worked at the Hub range from call handling, reporting and triage, food ordering and packing and driving and delivering the food boxes.
- #StokeOnTrentTogether Consortium (Stoke On Trent)
#StokeOnTrentTogether was established to co-ordinate the response from local residents and organisations to ensure everyone who needs help can receive it, and that everyone who is well and wants to help others, can do so. The #StokeOnTrentTogether consortium includes Stoke-on-Trent City Council; voluntary sector organisations (including Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK, YMCA, VAST (providing services and support to the VCS in Staffordshire), The Hubb Foundation, Disability Solutions, Honeycomb Group and Father Hudson’s); and volunteers. Smaller local level community groups are also part of this and working in their neighbourhoods with councillors playing a key role in linking with these groups. The initiative originally aimed to recruit around 500 volunteers, who were willing to carry out a wide range of tasks such as fetching basic food supplies, prescription collections, gas or electricity meter top-ups, regular conversations and even dog walking.
The initiative has proven to be so successful that it is providing support seven days a week and can be accessed online or over the telephone. Since the launch of the scheme, to the end of April, it has brought together more than 800 volunteers; received over 5,000 calls and made more than 40,000 proactive contacts with residents. More than 3,000 food parcels have been delivered and 500 prescriptions have been collected.
There was a clear vision from the outset around the VCS taking a lead in the community action response and the Council provided support and coordination through an established group chaired by the Council’s City Director. There is a shared web-based system in place which enables partners to access information with a single route for volunteers, and this has also supported social care and other services with a clear option to direct people to local services which individual officers may not be aware of. Given the urgency of the response there was a requirement to trust other organisations assessments – which reduced the time and complexity of referral routes. There are some key aspects the Council is looking to maintain in the recovery phase which includes:
A single shared platform for VCS organisations to share learning and knowledge and for volunteers to offer their time - this will be a key part of enabling communities to lead in strengthening their neighbourhood and helping to support those who are most vulnerable Maintaining a shared vision for community action in the city which all partners can recognise and work towards Trusted assessments and simple referral routes
Recognising the skill set and strengths of each VCS organisation and making best use of these Clear lines of communication at all levels The Council recognised there is a strong Voluntary and Community Sector with good relationships which enabled the response to be pulled together quickly
- Supporting residents affected by domestic violence (various)
There have been a concerning rise in number of domestic abuse incidents since lockdown measures, with people may be feeling unsafe because they are having to spend more time at home with a house member who is harming them in some way Devon County Council, Cornwall Council and partner agencies have responded to this problem by issuing an online campaign to raise awareness around these issues. Domestic abuse comes in many forms and during COVID-19 some people will be feeling very isolated. The campaign highlights the broad spectrum of actions that count as domestic abuse. It also seeks to reach people who may be experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse and reassure them that a range of help remains available. Victim Care have a helpline and are offering an online live chat service. Live Chat is a web-based support service that is available to victims in Devon and Cornwall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is anonymous, confidential and free to use. To access it visit www.victimsupport.org.uk or visit the Victim Care website – www.victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk.
A number of other councils have responded by injecting funds into organisations seeking to address domestic abuse. The London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Lambeth, Richmond and Southwark and Cambridgeshire Country Council and Derbyshire County Council have awarded additional funding to organisations such as Refuge, for instance, so that they are better equipped to respond to the needs of vulnerable residents during these unique times.
Councils seeking to increase uptake of domestic abuse services may wish to consult this report, which offers findings and analysis on project that accomplished this in Kent. Other resources connected to this project include nudge cards, a workshop video and video from the police involved. This work was carried out by the LGA, Kent County Council and the Behavioural Insights Team.
- Telephone befriending service (Lincoln) – Vulnerable groups
City of Lincoln Council has launched a telephone befriending service to help those in isolation feel more socially connected. The callers will consist of council employees currently working from home due to Government advice and it is hoped to provide socialisation benefits to both parties during this difficult time. All calls will be verified to give assurance that it is someone from the council calling.
The service aims to provide friendly conversation to pre-identified vulnerable people that may be experiencing reduced social interactions during self-isolation, but anyone who feels they would benefit from regular light-hearted chats can also refer themselves to the service.
The befriending phone line will work in conjunction with the newly established signposting service and is part of a wider joint response from the City of Lincoln Council and community partners to work together to deliver the most impact.
Waste and recycling
- Responsible waste collection (Hounslow)
Hounslow Council has taken steps to preserve the safety of waste and recycling crews by imposing measures intended to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission between crew members. In the current environs, waste and recycling crews now work exclusively with the same team; where ever possible, the person driving collects other crew members on route to the collection rounds (to avoid unnecessary travel to the depot); crew members are asked to stand 5 ft apart when loading the vehicle; hand sanitiser and gloves must be available; the driver off-loads all rubbish at the tip without other team members; the vehicle is cleaned thorough after each use; any crew member who shows COVID-19 symptoms should cease work immediately and should be replaced by an agency worker. These measures were devised in partnership with Recycle 360, Hounslow Council’s waste and recycling provider.
Hounslow have also shared guidance for residents on responsible waste and recycling disposal (pdf).
- Local Government BAME workforce risk assessments (Various)
While work is being done nationally to understand why people from BAME communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, many local authorities have been carrying out supplementary risk assessments and conversations with their BAME employees to find out what additional support can be put in place to manage the safety of these staff at work. Some examples of risk assessments and additional support are shared below:
- Bristol City Council – BAME staff counselling offer: Letter 1
- Bristol City Council – BAME staff counselling offer: Letter 2
- Camden Council – individual risk assessment for those at increased risk from COVID-19
- Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust - BAME safety assessment for schools staff
- All Wales NHS and social care – COVID-19 workforce risk assessment for vulnerable groups
- London Councils – Model risk assessment for at risk staff
- Managing workplace ‘bubbles’ in critical services (Mansfield)
Anticipating the measures that are likely to be put in place as part of the Government’s Track and Trace system, Mansfield District Council are implementing a workforce planning system for managing staff in critical, frontline jobs, where maintaining social distancing may not be possible.
The model relies on splitting staff into teams or shift groups with alternate working days or shifts. As far as possible, these teams or shifts will be fixed so that contact should only happen between the same ‘bubble’ of individuals. This means that each employee only works with a few others which should therefore mitigate the risk of whole departments needing to self-isolate under the Test and Trace system and protect critical services. The approach is explained in the infographic.
Supporting staff wellbeing (Rutland)
Following the onset of COVID-19, a large number of Rutland County Council’s staff became remote workers, almost within a day while others continued their frontline roles supporting the community. These being unfamiliar circumstances, there was no existing project plan to consult, however the council gave their best effort to ensure staff felt supported.
At the very start, the council developed two key strategies to promote staff wellbeing:
Acknowledging challenges – The council shared with staff a consistent message “do your best, take care, these are really challenging times – it’s important to look after yourself and your family” and that “it’s also ok sometimes to not feel ok”
Reaching out – staff were encouraged to look out for each other, check in and “talk, talk, talk”.
The council also signposted staff to wellbeing resources, the council counselling service and communicated with staff regularly e.g. with bulletins and a personal message from the Chief Executive on a weekly basis.
The council’s Wellbeing Group has since announced July (2020) as RCC Wellbeing month – packed with daily activities, tips and information designed to help staff develop good working practices that supports their health and wellbeing. With this, they have challenged staff and teams to complete at least one task every day – activities include:
- videos – such as ‘Staying Motivated when you have had enough’,
- resilience programme through the Learning Management System
- wellbeing drop in sessions (carried out through Teams)
- a wellbeing session with one of the Directors
- all-staff quizzes
- turning emails off for an hour
- a ‘positive photo’ competition
- attending remote seminars such as ‘Managing People – How a Crisis Influences behaviour’.
Though social distancing measures have, at the time of writing, begun to ease, the council have continued to ask staff how they are doing and have recently launched a ‘check in’ staff survey, to be run on a fortnightly basis.
For more information, please contact the RCC wellbeing group at [email protected]
Reports and other good practice resources
- A district response to COVID-19 (Watford)
The case study provides information on various stages of Watford Borough Council’s COVID-19 response. It covers various other dimensions of the council’s approach, including key principles; leadership and management structure; mobilisation; delivery; community engagement and community response. It also shares reflections on preparedness and other learning takeaways acquired during the outbreak – including the ongoing presence of both challenges and opportunities.
- A three tiered COVID-19 approach (South Staffordshire)
South Staffordshire District Council have taken an approach which will bring together the three tiers of their community, parish, district and county, to look at how all stakeholders at each level were supporting their communities. The collection of the data enabled the District to identify if there were any gaps in support being offered to residents. This information enabled the District to provide targeted support.
The mapping data was also used to create a community section on their website plus set up a call centre which answers queries 24/7. To find out more information on how his initiative works see the attached Stronger Three Tier Working paper.
- Civil Resilience Handbook for Councillors (London Councils)
London Councils issued a Civil Resilience Handbook for Councillors in London Local Authorities, which has been updated for current circumstance. This is supplemented by guidance for lead members and ward councillors.
It has been developed to ensure that Political Leaders and Ward Councillors understand their clearly defined roles and responsibilities in relation to civil resilience and that the necessary support arrangements are put in place to enable councillors to fulfil their roles effectively.
It provides practical guidance on the role of Leaders/Directly-elected Mayors, Cabinet Members and Ward Councillors. The main additions recently are to reiterate the need for councillors to adhere to national guidance when it comes to self-isolating and social distancing.
The handbook has now been updated in relation to Covid-19, as Councillors have a key political role to play in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from Covid-19. The handbook now contains a section, about changing working patterns, highlights appropriate communication channels, and lists some decisions about roles within the Cabinet, members need to consider, amongst other information. There are also checklists for leading members and Ward members in relation to Covid-19.
- Emergency response guidebook – multiple themes (Buckinghamshire)
Buckinghamshire Council have shared the details of their COVID-19 response in this document: Our response to coronavirus. The document provides a thorough overview and guide to the council’s emergency programme structure, the members involved—and the shape of that involvement—as well as core initiatives undertaken as part of the response. Examples highlighted include:
- community support and local support hubs, involving partners, volunteers and a volunteer matching service
- a mutual aid programme, which provides local businesses a route to provide resources for and support others in need
- a ‘resilience fund’ for local business that are not eligible for government business grants or business rates holidays
- support for the voluntary sector, including toolkits for community groups managing volunteers and an online directory
- an Olympic lodge, which has been repurposed as a new social care facility
- social care webinars and other guidance tools
- a school brokerage system and support tools for school staff
- the creation of a wellbeing pack for families
- communications strategies
Councils seeking further information regarding the programme outlined can contact Roger Goodes, Service Director Policy and Communications, at
- Example position statement (Bath and North East Somerset)
Bath and North East Somerset published a position statement for councillors that set out how the council had responded to the pandemic by:
- declaring a major incident so that delegated authority for decision making to the Head of Paid Service enabled focus on supporting the community
- establishing clear governance arrangements put in place to manage the incident and support required
- addressed the needs of the most vulnerable by setting up the Compassionate Communities Hub
- paid out business support grants to eligible businesses and included further additional measures that had been taken.
The position statement collated all the appropriate information into one clear and concise document. There are a number of examples of good practice within the report, including the following:
The council response to the pandemic was split between workstreams and guided by a business continuity framework which ensured a focus on maintaining critical services.
The council worked in partnership with Virgin Care, the CCG and an independent network to set up the Compassionate Community Hub – it has access to 2,400 volunteers and is an excellent example of a strong working partnership across different organisational boundaries.
The council recognised that not all residents have access to online media and used local radio stations to get key messages out and the Leader and Chief Executive wrote to all 84,336 households in the area providing information.
Other examples of good practice highlighted in the position statement include the setting up of a virtual library, free e-bike loans for key workers and virtual music lessons for children missing out on school-based music lessons.
The council is now looking at how the internal recovery can start, and the Leader has established a new Economic Recovery Board with key businesses and business groups to look at external recovery. The recovery work has been split into two distinct workstreams Internal Recovery (Council focus) and External Renewal (Community and Business focus)
- Lambeth response to COVID-19 – multiple themes (Lambeth)
Lambeth Council have shared details of their response to COVID-19 in Lambeth united: Our response to Covid-19. The report provides a comprehensive outline of activity undertaken during the first months of the response. It covers a large number of activity areas, including digital technologies; communications; the local economy and jobs; financial resilience; the voluntary sector and community response; and more.
- Recovery briefings
The University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute is developing a weekly briefing for LRFs, councils and others involved in the planning and implement of recovery renewal strategies. These briefings cover a range of recovery issues, including highlighting emerging practice from around the world. This collection of briefings have been collated on the University’s website; if you would like to receive the weekly briefing directly, you can sign up here.
- Spelthorne Borough Council; A borough-wide response to the COVID-19 crisis (Spelthorne)
Spelthorne Borough Council’s emergency community offer, Support4Spelthorne (S4S), was set up in the space of a weekend. It encompasses services including a shopping and prescription service, emergency food deliveries, active signposting and support for all foodbanks; and money/benefits advice through A2Dominion’s Advice Plus service. Hundreds of thousands of residents have been supported through this scheme, which has provided above 13,314 welfare calls and supplied more than 123,276 meals.
The workings behind this operation are explained in this report, Spelthorne Borough Council; A borough-wide response to the COVID-19 crisis. The report provides a detailed overview of multiple aspects of the council’s emergency response, including
- steps taken to prepare for COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown
- how support was provided to community members what was done to maintain other key services
- how staff were supported during the crisis
- how corporate governance and committee management were maintained communicating to stakeholders
- financial implications of the crisis,
- and planning for recovery.