6 May 2020
It is now six weeks since the Government first announced a series of measures designed to support our NHS and, ultimately, save lives by limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Although this has been widely accepted by people up and down the country as the right thing to do, it has been an incredibly challenging time for us all. Almost overnight, we have all had to live our lives very differently - and do so as we continue to be physically separated from our loved ones.
It is also important to recognise that, for some, this has been even more difficult than it has been for the majority. Key workers, putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the most vulnerable people in society. Those facing ongoing uncertainty with their future employment and financial circumstances. People continuing to work, trying to balance it with home schooling their children.
Additional strain placed on some individuals and families living in unhealthy relationships, faced with an increasing risk of domestic violence and abuse. Those living in flats, or without a garden, while the sun has been out. I would like to thank everybody for their commitment to the restrictions - but particularly those whose circumstances have made doing so even more difficult. We are doing everything we can to make sure that, where necessary, extra help is in place to support those who need it the most.
In recent days, there has been some promising news reported nationally that the country is starting to get to grips with the pandemic. However, we are far from through this crisis.
Vulnerable people are still at risk across and beyond our borough. Significant challenges remain, and COVID-19 continues to be a threat to many of our family members and neighbours. Our collective progress to date is direct result of the physical distancing and other measures, guided by the science, which everyone has commendably stuck to, and we need to maintain them. We cannot let our guard down. I would appeal to you all to continue to follow the medical advice as it develops - and in doing so, help keep ourselves, our communities safe and our front-line workers safe.
As we continue to manage the immediate response, it is important not to forget the longer-term impact that COVID-19 will have on individuals, on businesses, and on society as a whole. It is likely that all of us will continue to face new challenges, new ways of working, new ways of behaving; and, for the Council, new ways of delivering the services that our communities need. We will all need to adapt. Work is underway to plan for that transition. This needs to take account of emerging government guidance, likely changes in the way that people go about their daily lives; and without losing sight of the priorities that we developed with our residents in creating a new Council Plan.
We are working hard to make sure that our communities are supported as effectively in the future as they supported today.
The Council’s five-point plan for tackling COVID-19 remains under constant review, but I would like to update you on some of the progress we have made so far.
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- Protecting our most vulnerable residents
It is a priority of the Council to ensure that all of our residents and care providers are as safe and as healthy as possible.
We are working in partnership with charitable, voluntary and community groups, grassroots groups and neighbourhoods across the borough to ensure that none of our residents go without essential supplies and the broader support they need. Residents who are isolated, vulnerable or who are struggling to afford food or medicine can continue to visit the Live Well Cheshire West website, or contact us on 0300 123 7031, for a range of key information and available support.
PPE stocks are in national short supply, with government stockpiles insufficient to meet local demand. The Council is making significant investment to ensure that, where they cannot secure enough PPE through their established providers, our 200 care providers and their 5,000 staff have the stocks they need to last throughout the pandemic and beyond.
- Working with our communities
Community spirit continues to be vital in getting us all through the challenges that we currently face. A total of £500,000 has been made available to community initiatives, with a £250,000 commitment from the Council matched by a donation from the Westminster Foundation. To date, more than £220,000 has been provided to nearly 60 initiatives across the borough. Further applications to the Community Fund are already being considered, but I would encourage you to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to apply. All applications over £500 will be considered.
A huge number of our residents have already signed up as volunteers to support some of our most vulnerable residents, including through the delivery of our growing number of Community Fund initiatives. They will be critical to us in making sure that people have access to food, medical supplies, social contact and wider support, and I would to thank everyone who has contacted us so far.
- Supporting our local businesses and their employees
We continue to request details from the 6,000 local businesses eligible for a Business Rate Support Grant, which will provide much-needed financial assistance to them at a time of considerable financial difficulty. Business grants of more than £55m have been paid to local businesses to date, and further help is available to them on the Let’s Talk Business website.
This is undoubtedly an equally difficult time for employees, and Work Zones are helping people who are coming out of work as a result of COVID-19. They may want a temporary job in one of the expanding sectors and our teams are on hand to help with job matching with local employers. For help transferring into a new role, there is an online job matching form to complete and we will be in touch to discuss their requirements.
I would also encourage employers to get in touch with their current recruitment demands by emailing email@example.com, as our Work Zones can help to source potential employees to meet current recruitment demands across a range of sectors.
- Keeping Council services running
Council staff continue to work around the clock to make sure that our key front-line services are protected - from maintaining our roads and parks, to supporting local schools and businesses, and safeguarding hundreds of vulnerable children, adults and families across the borough. At the same time, many of our staff have volunteered to be redeployed to services under additional pressure as a result of COVID-19.
- Communicating with our residents
At this uncertain and worrying time, we want to make sure that all our residents and businesses continue to be updated, and know where they can find information and advice.
You can find everything you need to know by visiting the Council's website.