4th May Town Council meeting – update on functions relating to CV-19

Briefing Note for councillors: An update on functions relating to CV-19, as shared with the April Finance & resources Committee

Purpose of Report
To share an operational update on the works carried out over the period affected by CV-19

Staffing

Most staff are working their usual hours to service the Council.
The Town Council reception phone line is operated 10 – 4pm Mon-Fri. At the start of the lockdown period CV-19 related calls were running at 3 or 4 per day, but this has reduced and we now receive between around 2 or 3 per week, which are signposted to the appropriate help. We have been publicising both the Biars support line and the SCC line. Occasional emails have been received requesting help, usually for a friend or family member feared vulnerable. We have been able to resolve these enquires ourselves.

Furlough of staff

Government advice is that it is not expected that local authority staff will be furloughed where the authority has already received funding for pay. At the current time staff are working their usual hours, apart from 2 part-time staff who are not working and cannot be redeployed. Details will be referred to the next HR meeting.
One full time staff member has a reduced workload and has therefore be redeployed to help volunteer efforts, using the TC van for which we have suitable insurance.

Food bank

The food bank has given us a list of foods and items required and not required. Cllr Hodge has used his contact in Tesco to arrange for the shopping to be picked ready for loading by District Cllr Alistair Hendry and Cllr Clayton into the Town Council van. The councillors then deliver it to the food bank, following social distancing advice/PPE at all times.
We anticipate multiple spends of £500 per delivery according to need as dictated by the food bank (up to 10 weekly/bi-weekly deliveries, subject to need, to a total of £5k).

Mobile phones

We have provided Biars with 5 inexpensive pay as you go mobile phones for use by a volunteer network. The total cost is £64, which includes free sims with minutes. The phones will be returned to us once they are no longer required and might be is use in prep for future emergency planning.

Volunteer Group
We have been told that the volunteer community group is seeking a bank account in order to hold funds. Therefore, we have offered the TC’s services to act as a custodian of the group’s money. We are able to offer a caretaker facility without any onerous procedures, to their requirements. This offer has been left with the group.
Rapid response grants

As per the report to members, the CV-19 rapid grants procedure is live on our website and available to constituted groups. There have been some tentative enquiries but no applications as yet.

RFO – Business Support
The RFO had completed the online grant form for business support from the government during the coronavirus crisis. The application was approved and the SDC Finance department is processing a payment of £10,000, which will be paid into the Town Council’s account as soon as possible.

Local Reach

Residents should have now received copies of this special edition of Local Reach, 6 pages of which were commissioned by this TC to promote useful information to c. 15,000 residents in and in the immediate vicinity of Burnham and Highbridge who might not use the internet.
Burnham-on-Sea/Highbridge 12,200 / Brent Knoll 600 /E&W Huntspill 1000 /Berrow 700, plus some additional copies in Mark.
Cost of the publication was £1,788, including postage via Royal Mail. We have received some positive feedback from the public.

(LGR Panel) CV-19 – Somerset County Council
Members might recall that I sit on a panel, working with SCC regarding local government reorganisation and the impact at parish level. Clearly this panel cannot pursue the issues of LGR at the present time. Instead we have met to discuss other community matters, including CV-19. The following information has been shared with the Biars helpline & volunteer community group.

The SCC/five district support line has helped expand on the Govt shielded list through engagement with communities to identify a broader list of vulnerable in Somerset. SCC is currently writing to 17,000 people to offer signposting/support; lining them up with food, support and financial support or similar.

Not all individuals on the shielding list are receiving Govt food boxes. The individuals have to opt in using the e-mail link on the letter. There is a time lag between registering and receiving food, this might mean increased calls on food banks or arrangements with the SCC support line. If there are concerns that boxes are not being delivered as they should have been, then please contact the Somerset Coronavirus Support Helpline on 0300 790 6275.

The 0300 790 6275 line has now been operational for 3 weeks and during that time has received over 1600 calls. The helpline is open 7 days a week from 8 – 6pm and runs in addition to existing Contact Centres
The panel has requested the Community & Resilience cell to share a breakdown of calls per town so we can see how communities compare.
Brokerage work is continuing to contact people on the shielded list to check welfare and to reach out to other people at risk in Somerset via letter and outbound calls. In total over 70,000 people will be contacted in the next week in one format or another. Community Council for Somerset Agents have undertaken 32,407 community support activities since 23rd March.
The support line and cell is continuing close working with Spark Somerset to help join up the county’s approach to volunteering through https://www.corona-helpers.co.uk/ to promote volunteer opportunities and enable individuals to register if they wish to help.
Spark Somerset, who can be contacted via 01460 202970 or SUPPORT@SPARKSOMERSET.ORG.UK , have online resources to help manage COVID-19 support groups safely and effectively. Spark Somerset are delivering a free programme of webinars for Somerset voluntary and community groups. Spark have launched a one-stop shop for all things funding, that’s completely free to access. Visit www.sparksomerset.org.uk/somerset-funding-portal to browse hundreds of funding opportunities by category. You can also join Spark Somerset’s Facebook Group for Somerset Fundraisers.

A query was raised by the panel as to how safe cash transactions were being managed between the vulnerable/volunteers. Methods included:
 Where people knew each other it was down to them to agree a method to exchange cash that ensure social distancing was still adhered to
 Some supermarkets were allowing residents to pay over the phone
 Towns were acting as the conduit between the volunteer and vulnerable to ensure safe movement of money, etc

The panel asked how the lack of PPE was being managed locally. It was confirmed that all doctors surgeries and care homes have been contacted and reassured that PPE is or will be imminently provided.

If you are made aware of any PPE shortage locally, for example in care homes, then if you want to let me know, I will seek to contact the responsible cell for a resolution.

According to the Community and Resilience Cell, the priority continues to be the identification of the vulnerable and ensuring that Somerset has sustainable volunteer networks in place.

Plus, the need to ensure right level of PPE is available across Somerset. The Cell is already starting to think about ease of lockdown and returning to some sort of level of normality, whatever that might look like.

Report author: Sam Winter, Town Clerk
Report Date: 28th May 2020

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