COVID-19: good council practice

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 include an outline of the work taking place and names of any councils (and where applicable, partners) involved.

Communications

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. 

Children, young people and education

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.

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.

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. 

The videos can be found on YouTube by searching using #techawaychallenge or via the Curriculum Innovation team’s Facebook page or Twitter account.

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 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.    

Contact: For more information on this work please contact - Emma Jackson, Digital Design & Information Manager, at [email protected]

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.

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.

Find out more

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.

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.

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
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. Facebookto 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.

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).

Deaths management

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 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

• Sheringhams

• 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.

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.

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.

Find out more  NLGN

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 / Greater London Authority / City Bridge Trust)

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. 

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 and in the time since, 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 further diversify.

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).

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.

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).

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

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.

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.

Procurement

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.

Public health

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.

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.

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.

Social distancing

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. 

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

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.

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.

Social care provider hub (Hertfordshire)

Hertfordshire County Council have set up a ‘provider hub’ to support social care providers as they respond to community needs. The hub is currently supporting 800 social care providers by offering professional advice and support through a helpline, where providers can get answers to questions around government guidance, financial support, PPE, food supplies, staffing issues and access to financial support packets. The helpline is available seven days per week to help ensure these providers have access to the support they need.

The hub also collects information on how care providers are coping and challenges they are facing (including relating confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths) and shares this with the Adult Social Care Board. In sharing this information, the hub has been able to support the delivery of swift public responses alongside public health partners.

Direct payment holders can also get support from the hub if in need of advice about direct payments and degrees of flexibility the council can offer.

#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

 

Learning includes:

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 DagenhamLambethRichmond 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.

Additional information
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.

Successfully solving an insurance issue to help support independent providers struggling with sickness - Leicestershire County Council

Under normal operating practice one of Leicestershire County Council’s responses to provider failure is to place staff into a provider service to assist with delivery of care and / or provide advice, guidance and support to care staff, owners or managers. This has worked successfully in a variety of situations.,/p>

As part of the council's proactive escalation plan during the pandemic, Leicestershire made available a team of council staff able to provide emergency care to support the independent homecare or care home sector.

When the council was considering offering emergency support for a care home (due to high incidence of COVID-19 in the resident and staff group), the council insurance adviser queried the employer liability insurance to cover this, due to the nature of the risk to staff from potential infection. The council therefore could not deploy staff without liability cover.

Colleagues in our local NHS system queried this advice and believed that they could provide the cover required, but as it turned out they too came up against similar issues. In the end, the care home did not need the support requested. However, staff at the council wanted to resolve this unanticipated issue.

Since this problem occurred, the council has worked with the council's legal service, insurers and HR colleagues to develop a process that satisfies all the insurer's requirements to enable future deployment. This has involved developing a protocol which provides for full situational risk assessment; risk management planning; the search for volunteer staffing; and includes variation to contracts, ensuring that staff who volunteer are directly managed and supervised by council managers and do not report to provider managers. This has been a learning experience but the council has successfully problem solved and has overcome these issues.

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).

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

[email protected]

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.