A selection of up to date, informative case studies that aim to help local authorities as they navigate the Coronavirus pandemic.
We have gathered a wide range of COVID-19 communications examples from councils around the country for you to use and adapt in our Communications Support section.
Adult social care
- Adult social care commissioning practice resource (various)
The Care and Health Improvement Programme have developed examples of innovative local approaches to supporting adult social care's COVID-19 response.The snapshots showcase local commissioning approaches to creating extra or different provision, financial pressures, PPE, provider engagement, partnership working and innovation.
- COVID-19: Portsmouth's approach
Local councils and health partners across the country have come together to respond to the pandemic in order to meet the needs of their local population in innovative and transformational ways. Portsmouth have shared their story with the Care and Health Improvement Team, outlining the steps they took to provide other systems with useful hints and tips.
Local councils and health partners across the country have come together to respond to the pandemic in order to meet the needs of their local population in innovative and transformational ways. Portsmouth have shared their story with the Care and Health Improvement Team, outlining the steps they took to provide other systems with useful hints and tips.
Leadership during COVID-19
- There is a long history of integrated health and social care commissioning functions within Portsmouth with joint roles within Portsmouth City Council (PCC) and Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The benefits of this integration have been felt during the system’s COVID-19 response, particularly it’s approach to managing and supporting the care market as well as resolving operational issues quickly and collaboratively.
- There is trust within the system; ‘leaders don’t need to be around the same table all the time’.
- In the immediate term, strategic element of day jobs ‘has to take a ‘back seat’ and it’s the operations that takes priority’. It is about letting operational managers get on and do their jobs, but giving them the ‘air time’ to raise issues as they arise.
- The senior team looked at what needed to be delivered and who was best placed to do it; processes were stripped back, hierarchy removed and staff deployed to where their skills were best suited.
- No command and control; staff given the autonomy to make decisions.
- Daily Sitrep calls take place every morning with the PCC senior leadership team to discuss any immediate or arising risks across the system, such as staffing capacity and PPE. These are focused discussions and any issues to be resolved are either taken off-line or addressed at the ‘problem-solving’ daily afternoon operational call.
- A member of the senior leadership team is available 7 days a week to give confidence and provide assurance to operational managers.
Streamlining services: social care
- Work was underway to review and enhance the duty social work response, but COVID provided the reason to ‘do it quickly’.
- Previously it had been staffed by a rota of 30+ social workers/ assistants, but there was a lack of ownership and specialist skills as a result. Therefore a dedicated duty team was established.
- Calls now go straight through to a social worker rather than an admin desk first.
- The redesign has been shaped around COVID-19 and the team are working closely with ‘It is much more joined up than it would have been without COVID-19’.
- Feedback has been positive and unlikely to revert to the old model; the demand might change but the team is set up to respond to any demand more effectively.
- Like every area, Portsmouth quickly realised the impact of COVID-19 on its workforce could be significant. There were two strands to their approach to address the challenge: the immediate, logistical response and the longer-term strategic piece.
- A list of volunteer staff and their skill set was collated, including reablement assistants, community nurses, OTs, social workers, domestic and catering staff. Relationships were built with unit managers and HR to develop process for recruiting and deploying the right staff.
- A member of staff was seconded from the CCG to co-ordinate the redeployment; where the gaps were in the community and how to fill them. Standby lists of staff created for weekends and bank holidays that both in-house and private providers can call upon if they need to.
- A manager from the inhouse reablement service was put in place to manage the strategic element, working with the HR and Learning & Development teams, as well as wider system partners. For example, developing training packages and linking in with health and social care colleges to think about how students can gain work experience, whilst building resilience into the system now and in the future.
- Portsmouth system known for a long time that improvements needed to the intermediate care and admission avoidance offer in order to have a truly ‘Home First’ model, but delivering this at pace was hindered by the pressure of having to ‘deliver the here and now issues’.
- COVID-19 and the Discharge Requirements provided the remit to transform at pace and remove some of the organisational barriers that had been in the way.
- Quickly enacted a ‘pull’ model and pulled social work staff out of the Integrated Discharge Service at the acute hospital back into the community where they could assess people within 24 hours of discharge from the hospital.
- Now have a central hub (dealing with both step-up and step-down referrals) with ‘hotlines’ for hospital and community in-reach teams . Everything is dealt with once people are out of the hospital (with the exception of some Mental Capacity Act assessments).
- Processes in place so if too much demand for hub, then can refer to the duty social work team for support and weekly catch-up calls with the team.
- Portsmouth uses live data and the clock starts as soon as a person is declared Medically Fit For Discharge (MFFD).
- Length of stay has reduced from 4-5 days to less than 1 day in the week commencing 27 April 2020.
- Between 19 March 2020 and 5 May 2020 293 people have received a package(s) of COVID-19 care
- 83per cent of these have been domiciliary care packages with an average duration of 6.7 days.
- 7.8per cent have been short stay nursing care, 7.8per cent short stay residential care and 1.7 have been to a rehab/ D2A bed.
Managing COVID-19 in a care home
- Portsmouth City Council own and run four care homes and one supported living unit. These are for long-term residents, as well as those who require bed-based reablement and/or assessment of their on-going needs (Discharge 2 Assess pathway).
- The D2A pathway is mainly from the local acute, a 997 bedded District General Hospital.
- Tragically, 30 residents have died as a result of COVID-19 across two of the units. This has taken an emotional toll on staff who cared for them and continue to care for others. Despite a lack of testing, staff absences and confusing guidance, the decisive, pragmatic decision-making by managers has undoubtedly saved lives.
- One unit that has had 16 deaths, now only has 3 symptomatic residents and no new cases for 6 days* (*Since the original interview, both units have had no residents become symptomatic for 20 days and no staff for a week or more).
Containing an outbreak: the practical steps
- Cohort Residents- Where space allows it, cohort residents so communal spaces are clearly divided, but still practice social distancing.
- For example, in one unit people who were ‘walking with purpose’ were cohorted andthe three communal spaces were divided into ‘COVID positive, symptomatic and asymptomatic. In another unit, this approach wasn’t possible as there is only one communal space so everyone was placed in isolation and staff wore masks to prevent transmission’.
- Work with partners to give ‘one version of the truth’- Supply of PPE was resolved well locally, but the confusing and conflicting guidance on when and how to use it c reated unnecessary worry and challenges. The council and CCG worked together to give a single message to staff.
- The Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) team from Solent CCG visited the homes to provide training and advice for staff.
- Accepting Hospital Discharges- Be clear about the COVID status of anyone coming into the home and whether they are still within the 14 day isolation period.
- Have conversations with system partners about where is the most appropriate place for them; be pragmatic.
- If at all possible, use spaces flexibly to ensure people continue to be isolated for 14 days. For example, make use of other units, or different floors if cohorting measures are in place.
- Staffing- Work with partners to redeploy staff. Social workers, OTs, physiotherapists, nurses, domestics and catering staff were redeployed from community roles to support units. A risk assessment was completed pending a DBS check. Staff booklets were produced to set expectations and support staff working in unfamiliar environments.
- Portsmouth overstaffed units and put an Assistant Manager on each floor. This provided resilience if staff were absent or had to be sent home and when they didn’t staff could provide 1:1 care in peoples’ rooms. For example, one unit was persistently 46.8 per centdown on its establishment, but Care Corridors were created so staff would only provide care between three rooms and those caring for symptomatic residents would not provide care for those who were asymptomatic.
Emotional support and wellbeing
- Recognising the emotional impact the pandemic is having on staff and putting measures in place to support them is key. Staff have shown ‘unbelievable resilience and come in with a problem-solving mentality’ .
- It is also important to manage expectations. Staff strive to provide the gold standard of care, but if people are having to be kept in isolation you can’t meet all aspects of their care plan. For example, it is not always possible to take people outside for their daily walk.
- The ‘hard stuff’- there is a comprehensive support offer within Portsmouth City Council, such as e-learning on mindfulness and a counselling service. There are now well-being champions for each residential unit providing training and support to staff.
- The ‘soft stuff’ is as important- Make daily contact with staff to check how they are, create alternative forums for support ie. WhatsApp groups and virtual team meetings. Formal supervision was suspended for two weeks and replaced by informal one to one supervision is. Shorter supervision, centred on wellbeing is taking place for both staff in work and those socially distancing at home using video conferencing facilities.
- Find things to celebrate and bring enjoyment to people. For example, in one unit all staff have dyed their hair the colours of the rainbow in response to a challenge set by a resident.
- ‘People feel supported at every level; if we can get through this together we can get through anything’.
Emotional support and wellbeing: relatives
- It is a very difficult time for family and friends who are concerned about the safety of their loved ones. Communication has been key, particularly due to the media interest around the number of residents who have sadly died. The homes work closely with the council’s communications team to ensure that relatives are informed prior to any news story hitting the press.
- A well-being champion has been established in each home to provide a single point of contact for relatives. They provide regular emails and telephone updates; the relatives of those who are currently unwell get a call at least daily.
- Skype video calling is offered to all residents and their relatives. This was being used before, but activity has increased dramatically.
HIVE: The Community Response
Background and vision
- HIVE Portsmouth, a community ‘connector’, was created in 2018 and has a directory of 670 organisations. This is not a directory of contact details, but links and relationships.
- HIVE has connected organisations and encouraged them to work together by adapting their approach and purpose to meet local need and improve community resilience; ‘People work together for the greater good’.
- There are strategic partnerships in place; one with the Multi-speciality Community Provider (MCP), consisting of HIVE, the CCG and Primary Care Network (PCN) and, most recently, the council.
- There is a shared strategic vision built on the understanding of the need for a paradigm shift to the social care model, focused on building independence and self-reliance as an alternative to traditional services.
- HIVE became the coordinator of the community response. Council and CCG staff have been deployed to assist and there are no organisational boundaries: ‘the pathway is seamless’.
- There are two phases to Portsmouth’s response to COVID-19:
- Address the immediate need ie. Ensure people have food and medication (7,000 people were identified as those people who were being advised to follow national shielding advice. There was no debate about who was ‘responsible’ for them).
- Develop local area ‘hubs’ to build local resilience and a legacy. This was part of the strategic vision and is now being developed at pace.
- Standard operating procedures were developed rapidly with strategic partners. By the 27th March 2020 HIVE was co-ordinating the delivery of food packages, prescriptions and well-being telephone calls. All of these are free to people receiving them.
- Central referral process for people, health professionals and social care, triaged by customer-focused staff. The support offer is continually reviewed and adapted depending on the referrals coming through.
- Within weeks HIVE has built an ‘army’ of 920 volunteers, coordinated offers of support from local businesses, donations and developed a whole logistisc centre.
- Within threeweeks, there had been:
- 2,156 food parcel deliveries
- 541 prescription deliveries
- 3,550 wellbeing calls
- It’s not just about numbers…communities have come together, hidden carers have been identified and wellbeing calls have lead to people experiencing a mental health crisis get the right help.
The key to success
- Strong, strategic partnerships based on trust and a shared vision.
- ‘It’s about people, personalities and communication’
- Speak to people with lived experience; services should adapt and work together to meet local need.
- ‘Don’t ask for permission; ask for forgiveness’
- Recognise the value of local businesses in building a community response. Their input can have themost impact in the long-term.
- ‘When we talk about leadership, we are talking about staff working at the coal face’. It’s the people on the ground who get it, so let them get on with it.’
Download the full case study
- Discharge to assess (Warwickshire)
The health and care system in Warwickshire has maintained, and strengthened, its ‘discharge to assess’ model through the COVID-19 period by remaining aligned to its core principle of maintaining a person centred Home First approach. The experience of joint working in a Warwickshire County Council led Better Care Fund project with the local NHS partners’, which remedied poor performance around delayed transfers of care (DTOC), meant that it had a strong foundation from which to respond to COVID-19.
The health and social care partnership had invested significant time and effort over the past two years in understanding the actual flow of their system and how they could make things better, and improve their support to people, including reducing DTOC. Having built these strong relationships, as the pandemic hit, the system was able to have potentially difficult conversations without fear or trepidation. The relationship with their provider market was crucial too, understanding the market, its pressures and the opportunities was a key enabler to their partnership preparedness and response.
Two key pathways were undertaken as part of the model. To read more on this and the success factors that supported this work please continue to: COVID-19 good practice case study: Discharge to assess in Warwickshire
- North Yorkshire and York: Outbreaks in Care Homes
North Yorkshire County Council and City of York Council work jointly through the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) to respond to, and tackle, Covid-19. In particular, they have worked together (and locally within their own patches) to address care home outbreaks, alongside NHS and care sector colleagues. Their approach has focused on bespoke local “wrap-around” support to care providers and securing additional local testing capacity.
Regular direct contact, testing and PPE were quickly identified as core components of any response to outbreaks. To understand where these resources should be allocated, they have used daily quantitative and qualitative data to track current and emerging outbreaks, working closely with PHE. Daily calls to all care settings were put in place from May to August. During the first phase of the pandemic, North Yorkshire alone had 118 PHE notifications, inclusive of queries as well as outbreaks. The data and work with PHE has allowed them to compare across other Authorities and identify that, for most of the first wave of the pandemic, they sat at the average levels for England. Also using the data, they have analysed outbreaks in different types of care settings, i.e. residential and nursing, extra care; identifying settings where there have been multiple/continuous outbreaks over the last few months. They have found overall that 30 per cent of care settings have had outbreaks, with some experiencing more than one outbreak.
This data analysis and findings have then been followed up by conducting ‘Deep Dives’ in a number of homes to identify further support needed. Projections have also been made on time periods where there needs to be isolation enforced. This has been communicated via provider bulletins to share their developing local approach to testing, monitoring the risks.
Learning to date has been that:
- Good multi-agency work is crucial, whether that is in a care home or, as part of wider outbreak management, other workplace or school settings
- Having a “flying squad” – for example, North Yorkshire’s Quality Improvement Team, working with care providers to problem-solve and provide on the spot training & advice has been essential
- Risk stratification and constantly checking the numbers and trends has helped
- Developing a local approach to testing –and asking Government for more local control – has helped
- Webinars and e-bulletins have helped massively with training and awareness raising.
Key characteristics have been:
- Expanded hardship scheme for providers
- Sharing of the national £600m Infection Control Fund with all providers, across residential/nursing and home care providers
- PPE training and emergency panel across the LRF
- Daily calls to all care homes and extra care schemes
- Care Home Gold and Silver meetings every weekday: NYCC, CYC, NHS, Independent Care Group (care providers), CQC and Infection Control services
- Directory of interventions to provide practical support (including help with staff and resident cohorting, infection control, recruitment, etc)
- Care Market Resilience Plans
Richard Webb - Corporate Director of Health & Adult Services, North Yorkshire County Council, Richard.Webb@northyorks.gov.uk and Sharon Stoltz – Director of Public Health, City of York Council, email@example.com
- Proud to Care London – building on the North Central London Proud to Care initiative (London)
Recognising the predicted impact of COVID-19 on the adult social care workforce we extended the North Central London Proud to Care initiative to cover all London. The aim of the initiative was to recruit additional care workers to support providers during the crisis.
The campaign – a partnership between councils across London has benefited from an astonishing amount of free advertising, including locally led advertising campaigns, including e-newsletters, twitter, Facebook, and on council websites, supported by influencers such as Sadiq Khan, NHS London and the Fire Brigade tweeting directly or re-tweeting posts. Free advertising has been offered by 4 major recruitment sites (Reedonline.co.uk, CV Library, Talent.com, Zip Recruiter), digital advertising spaces from Clear Channel UK and JC Decaux and on some of the massive electronic boards at locations around London. This saw 823 people register in the first week and over 2,000 by mid-May, demonstrating that Londoners want to work in care;- interestingly around 1 in 2 had previous care experience and there was a high proportion (around 1 in 3) of younger applicants, which is generally a demographic the care sector finds difficult to recruit.
You can find out more - and register - on the Proud to Care London website.
Children, young people and education
- Bradford early years (0-19) COVID-19 family support pack
Partners across Bradford city council produced 14 pieces of guidance aimed at families and workforce to support their well-being during the Coronavirus outbreak. The subjects covered range from antenatal advice on having a healthy, happy pregnancy through to school aged activities. The initial intention with the guidance was to provide practitioners with consistent advice whilst they received and made phone calls to families in the district. However, these expanded in to some of the guidance being focussed directly at families.
The production was facilitated by a multi-disciplinary group including children’s social care, prevention and early help, better start Bradford, our 0-19 years’ service provider, dietetics and infant feeding specialist. The guidance is now available on the council and partners’ websites. It is also available in print form for distribution:
- in family booking and discharge packs via maternity services
- through outdoor visits
- through the food distribution networks
- through VCS staff providing direct support for families.
For further information, email Duncan.Cooper@bradford.gov.uk
- Bradford COVID-19 Support for Houses in Multiple Occupation:getting key messages out where they are needed
People living in shared houses and bedsits are often some of the most vulnerable people in our community and at particular risk from poor living conditions. The coronavirus outbreak has made this worse with a greater risk of infection, especially where people are sharing kitchens and bathrooms. Following agreement at the councils Bronze command meeting, the Housing Operations team worked with Public Health and Marketing and Communications to produce two posters to display in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) across the district. One poster provides general advice which includes advice that everyone should make a plan in case they fall ill. They were also advised to share their contact details and other useful contact numbers with their landlords (and others if it is safe to do so). The other poster gives advice on how to use a shared kitchen and bathroom safely.
So far over 5,000 posters have been distributed either by post, or by hand for some of the larger blocks of flats in the city. The posters have been sent to the landlords of each HMO along with a letter asking them to display the posters in prominent positions within their HMOs and providing other advice to help them support and protect their tenants and themselves.
Getting the posters to the landlords has proved a logistical challenge as although the Service had clear contact details for the properties that hold a licence (about 325 HMOs), contact details for the remainder (about 1400) have had to be verified using a number of databases. It’s been a real team effort!
For more information, email Kathryn.Ingold@bradford.gov.uk
- Art packs and virtual activities for children (Reading)
Reading Borough Council's Culture Education Partnership has sought to ensure every child and young person in Reading has the opportunity to participate in quality cultural activities during the current pandemic. The strategic partnershave collaborated on an art pack initiative – providing the materials needed to be creative at home. The art packs have gone to children that have been identified with an Education Health Care Plan or other significant needs. In total, nearly 1000 children and young people should benefit. Partners involved include; Reading Borough Council, Aspire2, Jelly, Reading Museum, Museum of English Rural Life and Brighter Futures for children(Reading's children service).
Reading have also produced free online imagination virtual experiences and activity stories for families to join in. These are short adventures that encourage physical activity and entertainment. This set of digital activities are aimed at primary age children and under 5's and are available through the Reading Play Facebook page and YouTube channel.
- Healthy Eating Group for Young People (Northamptonshire)
Northamptonshire County Council’s Adolescent Support Service Healthy Eating sessions via Zoom; providing an alternative to their face-to-face Healthy Eating group, which ran successfully prior to lockdown. The objectives of the group were to bring young people together via technology to learn about healthy eating and how to cook some basic dishes and to give them a chance to come together and talk about how lockdown had impacted on them and help them feel less isolated.
Parents/Carers were asked to complete a referral form so they could supervise and ensure homes had adequate safety equipment. The sessions were initially offered to groups of up to 5 young people at a time, with each group offered over 4 sessions. Each session would begin with a check in and getting-to-know-you activity, the team also discussed the importance of hand washing focusing both on food preparation hygiene and impact of COVID-19. After the cooking demonstration the young people would follow the instructions, using the cooking tips and ideas given during demonstration.
Getting hold of individual ingredients was difficult at the start, so packet ingredients were often used but other recipes showing how to make dishes from scratch were also provided. The initial welcome session was used to establish group rules and learn about kitchen hazards as a group. In addition to cooking, the group studied food labelling, discussed ingredients and the benefits of a healthy diet. Each week the group would play a new ‘healthy eating’ related game. This engendered a positive sense of competition – with the young people involved racing to fetch home items for “Supermarket Sweep” and trying to think of original foods in word games. There was lots of laughing and banter.
The Adolescent Team felt the aims of the group were met and all the young people enjoyed the sessions. At the outset, there was some anxiety about joining a group online, but with coaxing and encouragement from practitioners, participants gained confidence as sessions progressed. The sessions helped reduce the feelings of isolation among the group, which enjoyed the interaction and being able to chat with peers in the same situation. The group also provided the facilitators a virtual pathway to check in on the young people and assess their well-being and safety.
- Learning resources to support the home-schooling of primary school aged children (Leicestershire)
Leicestershire County Council’s Family Learning Team have made easy-accessible resources available to parents and carers across Leicestershire who are currently home-schooling young children during isolation. To support the GoLearn! Community, the team has adapted the online system they use for adult learners looking for training and development, to open the platform up for younger learners. The Learning Team has published free educational resources and activities online on the Family Learning page of the services VLE (Moodle). The page is open for anyone to use and family fun activities will continue to be added online throughout the summer. The council is encouraging residents across Leicestershire to take advantage of this useful resource to support children’s learning.
- Leeds Museums and Galleries launch learning resources for children and adults (Leeds)
Leeds Museums and Galleries have been making resources available on-line to support home-learning for children and adults. The Leeds Discovery Centre, has been using Facebook to deliver videos by their Learning and Access Officer, examining artefacts from the city collection, enabling her to interact with online visitors, with opportunities to ask questions about the objects and vote on which objects to examine. The City Art Gallery is also making videos available about artists, their style and techniques. This is part of the award winning Leeds Curriculum, hosted on the online education website MyLearning.
Originally designed to support KS2 teachers, it is now available and promoted to parents as a home schooling resource covering a range of subjects, including a recently added history of 100 years of Leeds United FC, which has a unique archive of images. Lotherton Estate near Leeds is marking Florence Nightingale’s bicentenary through their Facebook page, a timely anniversary to celebrate in the current climate. Leeds City Museum has also recently launched the Museum Window project, inspired by a regular activity running 1933-1954, giving residents an opportunity to create their own museum displays at home to share online via social media.
- Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership (Norfolk)
Organisations in Norfolk have succeeded in driving up contact to Children’s Social Care by 42 per cent and increased hits on health website support pages by 95% as a result of a joint communications campaign to safeguard vulnerable children. The Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership campaign pooled the skills and resources of young people and key agencies across the county to co-produce, create and share messages in a variety of ways to ensure children and young people were kept safe.
It was launched after Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services reported a marked drop in referrals and contacts into social workers during the first two weeks of lockdown after schools, colleges and early years’ providers closed to the majority of children. There was concern that some children were particularly vulnerable as they were living largely behind closed doors, away from their normal activities and the adults outside their immediate families who would regularly interact with them and notice if something was wrong.
The campaign, which has been seen by more than 850,000 people across the county, has had a clear impact, with calls to Norfolk County Council’s Children’s Services front door increasing by 42% after the first phase of the campaign and calls to Just One Norfolk (run by Norfolk Children and Young People’s Health Services and whose number was included in Phase 3), also rising by approximately 20% during the period. The Just One Norfolk website also saw a 95% increase in total users, including attracting more than 2,900 new users during the campaign.
Young people helped co-design elements of the campaign with partners, including Norfolk County Council Children’s Services and Adult Services, a range of health organisations and Norfolk Constabulary. The work included: graphic design of a range of social media assets and posters, radio adverts, video content, editorial for local print and broadcast media, resource packs for schools, and text messages and postcards sent direct to families.
The campaign had three core strands – See Something, Hear Something, Say Something; #YoungInNorfolk and; #We’reStillHere. The See Something, Hear Something, Say Something Campaign raised awareness of the signs that a child is not being looked after and let people know what to do if worried about a child or young person. The second phase focused on supporting young people to come forward if they had fears for themselves or friends. Close working between the County Council which set up a dedicated phoneline to receive calls from young people and Norfolk Healthy Child Programme, which expanded their ChatHealth Service to respond to safeguarding concerns, ensured young people had someone to reach out to. The services were advertised by a video which young people helped to shape via a weekly Zoom focus group. The third phase of the campaign contacted parents using #We’reStillHere to remind them that Norfolk services are still here to support anyone who might be struggling. It reached out to families via text message and postcards delivered to homes, as well as social media.
By working together, the group have been able to achieve a wide reach, including:
- Social media assets with a reach of almost one million people, over a range of platforms
- Social media engagement across the whole campaign of 12,314
- Over 70,000 text messages sent via a text blast
- Over 7,500 postcards mailed to family homes
- 480 spots of 30 second radio adverts and coverage of the campaign launch on local radio stations
- Five press releases featured in local newspapers – including interviews and coverage on BBC Radio Norfolk and commercial radio news
There are plans to maintain the partnership approach to communication into the next phase so that the council continue to creatively reach children and families and support them with emerging challenges such as - online exploitation, support for young carers, domestic abuse, emotional health and wellbeing, transition back to school and thanking and recognising young people for their positive contributions during lockdown both to each other and wider safeguarding in their communities.
- 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.
- South Gloucestershire Youth Services during the Covid-19 pandemic (Gloucestershire)
The universal and open access youth services in South Gloucestershire are in their second year of a three year contract. A lead provider model is in place with ten providers, from the Voluntary and Community Sector and Town and Parish Councils, delivering youth services in the South Gloucestershire area.
With this context, youth services in South Gloucestershire were able to mobilise quickly when the country went into lockdown to ensure that children and young people were staying safe and well.
Strong multidisciplinary working across the statutory partners and commissioned services enabled youth workers to remodel their service delivery to reach out to young people through a range of online, phone and face to face activity. On request from the local police force, youth workers went out to local spaces to engage with young people, providing a youth worker-led response, rather than a police-led one.
Partnership working has been credited as a facilitator for the approach. Youth workers from multiple different organisations came together and moved beyond traditional organisational boundaries to support young people. Pairs of youth workers from different organisations went out together to deliver street based youth work. Open access based youth workers also provided 1-2-1 weekly telephone support to young people who had been identified as vulnerable, drawing on the engagement skills of workers.
At the same time, craft packs were produced and delivered to doorsteps for young people; giving the opportunity for young people to learn new skills but also give the young people something to focus on whilst they are talking to the youth workers. Feedback from families was that the opportunity to do something with their child was a fun and welcome change, even sparking creativity in themselves.
With some young people, face to face work continued throughout, working with statutory services to keep children safe. Youth centres are also now re-opening with feedback from children and young people stating how keen they are to see the youth work teams and their friends ‘in person’ again. However, a lot of learning can be taken from the online world which has improved accessibility for some young people, where they may have struggled to attend youth provision in person before, such as young parents or those with additional needs.
One of the youth services providers has also been hearing the experiences and voices of children and young people through their ‘we the 33%’ online conferences.
In addition to new ways of using technology, the teams have seen a real improvement in partnership working and showing how it is possible to share information about young people in a safe way, improving multidisciplinary support and rapid mobilisation.
If you want to learn more about the work in South Gloucestershire – contact Sharon.Adams@southglos.gov.uk
- STEAM programme and Digital Divide campaign (Camden)
Camden Council’s STEAM Programme brings together the borough’s businesses, schools and other key institutions to:
- Highlight Camden’s unique STEAM economy and the skills needed for the roles of the future
- Encourage greater fusion in creative, digital and scientific education
- Mobilise business resources to drive skills and careers education
- Tackle under-representation and provide all Camden young people with access to the opportunities available locally.
In response to COVID, the Camden STEAM programme developed a Virtual Work Experience programme, in recognition of the significant positive impact work experience has on young people’s outcomes, particularly on those from disadvantaged backgrounds. The closure of schools and the unavoidable disruption to pupils’ education is a challenge for all students, but particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds; the barrier to opportunities, such as work experience, is likely to be a determining factor to the way inequality widens as a result of the pandemic.
Camden partnered with national education charity Speakers for Schools, who developed the first Virtual Work Experience programme if its kind in the UK, designed to make it simple for employers to put together a high-impact, engaging placement. The Camden STEAM team and Speakers for Schools worked closely with nine high-profile local employers signed up to the STEAM Pledge (Google, Francis Crick Institute, Central Saint Martin’s, Skanska, CSJV, Springer Nature, HS2, Camden Council and Regent’s Place) to develop tailored placements for Camden school students
250 local students in Years 11, 12 and 13 took part in the Virtual Work Experience programme in June and July. During the placements, students worked in teams to tackle real life business challenges and took part in workshops and masterclasses such as CV writing and buildinga personal brand. There were also mentoring opportunities available to help young people in the future.
Google was the first company to sign up to this programme, offering 107 placements and 35 Google mentors to help support the students taking part.
All students taking part were required to submit an application and a teacher reference, with places prioritised for students eligible for Pupil Premium and students who are of Black, Asian and Minority ethnic backgrounds.
The Council worked closely with schools, asking them to focus on encouraging applications from prioritised students’ groups and those who haven’t previously had work experience.
For more information on the Council’s STEAM team head to www.camden.gov.uk/camden-steam
The Council is also running a Digital Divide campaign, which calls on businesses to donate spare laptops and iPads for vulnerable students, who do not have access to a device at home. They are also working with schools, community groups and local businesses to find ways to ensure pupils have Wi-Fi connections in their homes.
- Supporting Children Back to School Podcast (Shropshire)
Shropshire Council created a podcast for schools in their area to help staff support the return of children back to school following the first lockdown.
The podcast provided detailed examples of what to think about and how to engage with whole classes, groups and individuals. The council wanted to encourage school staff to talk to children about their experiences and how to respond to children when they talked about their experiences, including how to respond to stories of abuse, trauma or neglect.
Podcasts were shared via the Shropshire Council YouTube Channel to host the work. Support from IT colleagues to develop the podcast, working in partnership Children’s Social Care and Education Improvement Service.
School staff have fed back that this was valuable, it gave them confidence and techniques to encourage children to open up and talk about their experiences. The podcast had received 426 views in November (2020).
To help ensure the success of this project, the Council’s education improvement service sent out a weekly newsletter out to all schools, which helped to promote the podcast and reinforce key messages. The council also worked closely with their Special Educational Needs teams and Education Psychology teams to promote this project in the schools they were working in.
The council’s biggest challenge around producing the podcast was working remotely, which made the process take longer – in particular, as podcasting was new to those involved. In the past Local Authority Officers would have gone into schools to deliver face to face training for this kind of work, however the benefit of using podcasts instead was that materials were more accessible to staff, who could listen at a time convenient to them.
Off the back of the success of this project, podcasts have since been used in other areas of the practice including training for foster carers, induction sessions for new staff and short key learning briefings for staff.
Contacts: Donna Chapman, Workforce Manager, Children’s Services, Shropshire Council, Donna.firstname.lastname@example.org; Caroline Ewels, Safeguarding Officer, Education Improvement Service, Shropshire Council, Caroline.email@example.com
- Supporting mental health in young people and children – HeadStart Hull (Hull)
Hull City Council’s HeadStart Hull programme provides early intervention for young people's mental health and has played an important role since the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak. The website, which has been coproduced with young people in Hull, is a trusted source of information on emotional health and wellbeing and offers resources and information for young people, parents for professionals.
The site has been updated with a range of information and tips to support the emotional wellbeing of children, young people and their families during social isolation and social distancing. The council have continued to work with parent peer mentor volunteers to gain their input on parenting resources.
In supplying these resources and information, HeadStart Hull have sought to provide young people and parents tools to address mental health difficulties which, for many, have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The website has also provided a platform to update young people, parents and professionals on changes to service delivery where needed (including disruptions during the lockdown) and offers a space for young people to write blog posts about their experiences with mental health. Feedback from a number of those who have posted indicates that this has proven a helpful activity.
- Virtual Children’s Centre Offer (Kensington & Chelsea)
Children’s Centres are part of the new Family Hub model at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and have adopted the ‘whole family approach’. Using this model, RBKC work with families to understand their needs and ensure they receive timely and effective support, while working with partners to ensure families do not need to repeat their story. A lead practitioner will bring other professionals around the family as needed. The Team around the Family Hub (TAFH) consists of statutory and voluntary sector partners working to support families in the borough. Their joint focus and shared objectives were key in offering a holistic approach to supporting families during the pandemic.
With one centre remaining open as an operational hub the service reassessed its targeted groups and extended them to include:
- Brief Intervention Families (38 families being supported)
- All New Births Children with SEBD (70 packs)
- Travellers/Refugees/ families at Women’s refuge (75 packs)
- Mothers with low mood/anxiety (50 packs)
- Existing targeted families who regularly attend groups (190 wellbeing calls per week)
The centre was staffed and acted as a distribution/collection point for:
- Food Bank/ Vouchers
- Wellbeing/activity packs (over 2000 made and distributed)
In line with national guidance all face-to-face group work ceased. A virtual timetable of activities was delivered via TEAMS.Sessions included sign & rhyme, targeted support, messy play and story times.In partnership with Maternity Champions, pregnant mothers had access toonline interactive antenatal classes and coffee mornings.
The Family Information Service was pivotal in signposting families to access information and guidance. A variety of resources were uploaded and partners encouraged to use this as the main point of information dissemination, the link went on all communications Kensington and Chelsea.
With a vast amount of provision moving to virtual/telephone calls, whilst this keeps communication lines open and offers support and guidance it is risky for a number of reasons including safeguarding concerns, isolation and inability to gain visual insight into the whole home.
As lockdown eased through comprehensive risk assessments and adhering to guidance, RBKC were able to provide a triaged, by appointment ‘safe space’ service at 2 centres. Initially with colleagues in Health Visiting and Midwifery service then extended to social workers, SALT and other partners needing to see a family or child in person.
At the time of writing ‘safe space’ opportunities are being extended into schools, leisure and voluntary sector venues.This maximises the opportunity to see families and offer targeted support through self-baby weighing, baby massage, developmental and communication assessments.
A pathway to fast track issues through the Health Visiting Hub and access to the Breastfeeding Lead for support via video link or telephone call means mothers/ babies get the help when they need it most.
Over 600 mothers were allocated a Link worker, received a new birth pack with regular check-ins for those offering discussions and support around:
- Health and wellbeing
- Importance of immunisations
This experience has been challenging for the service, partners and families but the RBKC have used the lockdown period to contemplate new ways to deliver services now and in the future, including what can be changed or done differently? Given the experience outlined above, RBKC have found there is a place for technology as well as traditional face to face groups.
Contact: For further information about this work, please contact Sadia Ramzan, Children’s Centres Operational Lead at RBKC, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.
- Youth interventions project (Nottinghamshire)
The interventions project is a two-year project jointly funded by the Early Youth Intervention Fund and Nottinghamshire County Council. During Covid-19 the project has targeted young people who were most at risk by providing bespoke 1-1 youth support with complex cases, interventions and targeted outreach work across the county, working with local agencies to coordinate a strategic response to support young people without significant adults in their lives.
The council team worked alongside social care to support young people with complex needs, delivering interventions to stabilise and safeguard, with young people identified through Complex Case and Serious Crime panels. The team have delivered an increase in young people’s aspirations, promoted health and wellbeing and enabled them to have their own voice, talking and providing adventurous activities, academic mentoring, and other electronic home support to young people desperate for a trusted adult willing to spend time with them.
The council’s youth work approach enables them to effectively engage young people and advocate for their needs, empowering them to plan a future during and after this pandemic. Covid 19’s impact on these young people has been disproportionately greater than on others, their poor self-awareness and decision-making skills have made them more vulnerable during this period.
By partnering with key agencies all parties shared intelligence and formulated an evidence-based approach to outreach work. At the start of lockdown, the team communicated a clear message of stay at home, be safe, stay connected and keep calm whilst ensuring that young people who are most at risk were given the opportunity of support from a trusted adult and provided with official public health guidance. The lack of places for young people to go, access to positive activities and vulnerable homelife have meant some young people haven’t always felt safe or have been involved in risky activities.
Through the council team’s presence in the community during lockdown, they have continued to provide activities outside and support young people at home. The approach around informally educating young people about drug and alcohol misuse, knife crime and risky behaviour along with mental and emotional wellbeing and positive relationships has enabled these relationships to flourish. This pandemic has failed to restrict the council’s ability to provide a listening ear and resources to address a range of worries including study/exams and mental health. The resilience and achievements of young people are respected and celebrated, such as finding work, taking up training, volunteering, fundraising for charities and learning new skills.
To learn more about this project, including the range of activities involved with, please read the case study on ‘Youth activity and engagement (Nottinghamshire)’ or contact email@example.com
Community health and wellbeing
- COVID-19 Health Impact Assessment (Coventry and Warwickshire)
A Covid-19 Health Impact Assessment (HIA) was created to identify key factors that may affect the population’s health and wellbeing as a direct result of the Covid-19 outbreak. It is part of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) programme by Coventry City Council and Warwickshire County Council and has been overseen and produced by a project group including members from both Warwickshire and Coventry Business Intelligence and Public Health teams, as well as members from the three local NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG).
The HIA demonstrated significant impacts across a wide range of health and wellbeing indicators.The two key findings of the report were:
- An integrated recovery: The analysis shows that health and wellbeing has been deeply impacted by changes across all four quadrants of the King’s Fund Population Health model. The implication is that recovery cannot just be contained to one sector and has to be connected across all four to have the biggest chance of success.
- The double impact: The harm from Covid-19 has been unequally distributed across the population and is likely to continue to be so whilst still circulating. The analysis shows that the wider impacts from the pandemic and lockdown will fall more heavily on communities most directly affected by the disease itself.
The report has been used across the local health and care system to inform recovery and an associated action plan has been developed which is overseen by the Coventry and Warwickshire Health and Care Partnership.
The success and speed of the project was a result of two key factors.Firstly, using Microsoft Teams as a collaborative tool helped group members work together effectively; with multiple members from different organisations working on the same document at the same time. Also, having buy in and agreement from leadership within each contributing organisation facilitated rapid work that could cover a wider range of indicators than if a single organisation had written the report.
For further information please contact Duncan Vernon, Public Health Consultant, at Warwickshire County Council at Duncan.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Identification of groups who are vulnerable to the wider health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 in Bradford
In Bradford we worked to define, quantify and understand needs and support for groups who are vulnerable to the wider health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and the control measures. This was a collaborative work between members of the Public Health Team and the Bradford COVID-19 Scientific Advisory Group (CSAG). Whilst everyone is affected by measures to control COVID-19, some groups are experiencing disproportionate health, social and economic impacts. COVID-19 both amplified the existing inequalities in society, and created new risks and impacts for people who may not previously have considered themselves to be vulnerable.
The following groups were identified as particularly vulnerable to wider health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19. These categories overlap (some people face multiple vulnerabilities) and are likely to change throughout the COVID-19 response.
Poverty and unemployment
- Households and children living in poverty
- Households with food poverty/insecurity
- Households with insecure or poor quality housing or in HMOs
- Homeless people
- Self-employed people and their households
- People with precarious employment and their households
- Unemployed or furloughed people
Health and disability
- People with long term health conditions
- People with physical disabilities or communication difficulties
- People with autism or learning disabilities
- People with mental illness
- People with alcohol or drug use problems
- People with an unpaid caring responsibility
- People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds
- Recent migrants’/ asylum seekers and refugees
- Central and Eastern European people
- Roma and traveller people
- Pregnant women and new parents
- LGBT people
- Single person households (especially single over 70)
- Lone parent families
- Digitally excluded people
- People at risk of domestic violence or abuse
- Children at risk of safeguarding concerns
- People who have recently left prison
- People experiencing gambling harms
- People who are engaged in or at risk of sex working
Six categories of needs were identified to guide service provision and support.
- Basic needs (including food, housing, financial)
- Physical and mental health
- Education and Development.
For each of the vulnerable groups identified, we worked to:
- understand the needs and impacts
- map current support in place and gaps
- identify options for further support.
This work can be used as a framework to recognise groups who are particularly vulnerable to health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and to guide support and monitoring.
For more information, emailKathryn.Ingold@bradford.gov.uk
- Bradford COVID-19 alcohol booklet
In Bradford, a 16-page alcohol booklet was produced and been distributed to over 8,000 homes across the Bradford district during the COVID-19 outbreak. The booklet provides information and advice about making healthier choices about alcohol. It was put together amid concern over increased alcohol misuse during the COVID-19 pandemic with studies indicating that some people are turning to alcohol to handle the stress, anxiety and boredom of lockdown. According to a recent survey from Alcohol Change UK, one in five drinkers has been drinking more frequently since the coronavirus lockdown.
The booklet includes information on safe drinking limits and methods of reducing or controlling alcohol intake such as keeping drink diaries and making reduction plans. Alongside information and self-help materials, it also includes information about where to get help if a person finds that they are struggling to cut down on their alcohol consumption without support.
The guide was developed by local drug and alcohol recovery service New Directions, whose services are delivered through Project 6, Bridge and Change Grow Live, in collaboration with Bradford Council. Working with the public health intelligence team, households identified at a higher risk of alcohol related harm were identified and sent a copy of the booklet.
For more information, emailOlukemi.Adeyemi@bradford.gov.uk
- Communications as a tool for wellbeing (Broxtowe)
Broxtowe Borough Council have developed a detailed overview of their communications strategy around supporting employees and residents during COVID-19. The resource, Supporting Our Employees and Residents Through COVID-19, covers various dimensions of the councils’ approach to internal and external communications including:
- Morale boosting briefings, with embedded tips on mental and physical health
- A staff wellbeing survey
- Calls to vulnerable residents
- Sharing online resources including eBooks and other resources with at home activities ideas
- Scheduled social media updates around support available
- Celebrating VE Day, virtually
- COVID-19 used to encourage people to quit smoking (Hertfordshire)
The move to remote-only stop smoking consultations in Hertfordshire has been twinned with a drive to encourage more people to give up because of the increased risk of complications from COVID-19. Referrals almost doubled.
Just as it has in other areas, the pandemic has caused a huge upheaval in stop smoking services. Face-to-face consultations were stopped in March with weekly support now only being provided remotely via phone calls in Hertfordshire.
But Hertfordshire County Council’s stop smoking service also saw the pandemic as an opportunity to engage smokers. The service has adapted the Quit4Covid branding produced by the Smokefree Action Coalition to reach out to new clients.
GPs sent text messages out to patients who they knew smoked with the warning that they had an increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and urging them to quit as soon as possible. The text then went on to provide details of how to get in touch with the local stop smoking service.
Social media assets were created to push the message on Facebook and Twitter, while the service also worked with district councils, mental health services, the prison and hospital trusts to promote the message.
Executive Member for Public Health, Localism and Libraries Councillor Tim Hutchings supported the campaign and talked about it on local radio and sent out a press release. More recently, Quit4Covid stickers have been placed on food packs going out to people who are shielding.
The service normally receives 350 new referrals a month, but in the space of six weeks more than 850 referrals came in. Clients, who are entitled to up to 12 weeks of support, reported that accessing support remotely was often easier than face-to-face appointments, which require extra time for travel.
The council report that most referrals came through the text messages sent out via GP surgeries, but the other routes were also effective.
The success meant the number of clinic hours provided by the council’s health improvement team had to increase from 75 hours per week to over 200. GP surgeries and pharmacies, because of the demands being placed on them, had had to largely stop taking on new stop smoking referrals.
To support demand, staff from other areas of health improvement work; the clinics and support the council were operating in prisons and hospitals stopped; and staff temporarily increased their hours.
The approach was not without difficulties though, for instance, the service was concerned about the risk of certain groups missing out as the on-site hospital and prison clinics had to stop and, whereas over the phone services remained available for hospital patients, this was not something the service could do for people in prison.
The use of carbon monoxide breath testing also had to stop. This seems to have had a particular impact on referrals from midwives, who use carbon monoxide testing to identify where patients are smoking and can then provide support to stop. The number of referrals coming from midwives dropped following these measures, which was presented as a concern.
Staff from the service also identified that it was, on occasion, more difficult to build rapport with clients without the opportunity to interact face-to-face but that this could sometimes be helped by extending the time spent talking on the phone. To help reinforce what clients learned during consultations, a the service had also began asking clients to repeat what they have been told or learned over the phone.
At the time of writing, the service were looking to continue building on the work being done. Radio adverts and the use of flyers in pharmacy medicine packages stressing the Quit4Covid message were to be trialled and the team had also planned to look into whether video consultations should be used.
Council Stop Smoking Specialist and Manager
Hertfordshire County Council
- Drive-thru vaccination clinics for children (Isle of Wight)
The Isle of Wight school nursing service was part way through its vaccination programme when lockdown came. With schools closed and social distancing rules in place, nurses could not use their offices for vaccinations, so the team organised to set up a drive-thru service.
Two pods were sourced from the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, each with running water and toilet facilities. They were then used to set up drive-thru vaccination clinics that were rotated around the island, based in council car parks in Newport, Sandown and Ryde. A gazebo was also erected with chairs for those who arrived on foot or by public transport.
The team started with the year nine students, who were still to get their MenACWY and three-in-one booster vaccinations, to test out the new approach. They then moved onto year eight students who needed their HPV vaccinations – both doses of HPV are given to that year group on the Isle of Wight. The first dose had been given, but not the second dose.
If consent forms had not already been filled in, consent was obtained over the phone before they arrived. This helped to keep the process smooth when it came to vaccination day as only a date and signature were required from the parent or carer on arrival.
Strict protocols were also put in place. Students were assessed while in their cars to make sure they were fit and healthy for the immunisation and then they were brought into the pod to reduce the amount of contact time they had with nurses.
The drive-thru service proved hugely successful. Around 1,200 students received their vaccinations and by the start of August the HPV programme had been completed.
Uptake rates were 85 per cent for the first dose, which is around the national average, and 70 per cent for the second.
The two-staged approach to the roll-out of the drive-thru centres, starting with the year nine before moving onto the year eight students, allowed the service to perfect its approach.
When it was first launched nurses were given 20 minutes to vaccinate each child. By the time the team came to vaccinate the year eight students they had managed to reduce this by 50 per cent so only 10 minutes was needed per vaccination. This meant they could do over 60 vaccinations a day across the two pods.
Following the HPV drive-thru programme for 2020, the service is planning its vaccination programme for the next school year. This will now include the flu vaccinations for year seven students as part of the extended offer this winter.
Isle of Wight 0-19 Health Visiting and School Nursing
- Finding new ways to deliver sexual health services (Dorset)
Dorset Council was going through a tendering process for its sexual health services when the pandemic hit. It meant changes to the service had to be brought in in super-quick time to help it cope. This included phone and video triaging and consultations and the introduction of online STI and contraception ordering.
The existing providers – Dorset Healthcare, the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch and Dorset County Hospital NHS Trusts – worked together and were awarded the contract for sexual health services in March 2020 with a start date of October.
The three organisations had already been working together over the past few years to create a more integrated service design across Dorset. This was being delivered from two central hubs and five satellite clinics.
One of the key requirements of the contract was to explore how to increase effectiveness and efficiency by introducing new ways of working such as better triaging processes as well as a more comprehensive digital offer.
In line with national guidance, the providers had to stop all face-to-face contacts except for emergency cases or for vulnerable clients. These were held at the two main hubs, while the satellite clinics were temporarily closed. Those that needed to come in for face-to-face contact were given set appointment times and only entered the buildings at the correct time. Staff ensured social distancing measures were in place and wore the appropriate PPE.
For other residents wanting routine support, an online system was set up. The providers worked with the online testing provider Sexual Health 24 to provide STI testing kits and routine oral contraception for residents.
Emergency contraception was available as a priority using a click-and-collect process, except where the service user was deemed vulnerable (in these service users, would be invited in). Telephone and video consultations were also brought into triage clients more effectively and reduce face-to-face contact time.
The digitaloffer has been well received and at the time of writing (2020) 1,000 STI tests and about 400 contraceptive prescriptions were being issued each month.
Feedback has been extremely positive with 95 per cent of users reporting they were satisfied with the service. The telephone triaging and video consultations are also working well and successfully reduced footfall within the clinics.
The pre-assessment element of the call also minimised the amount of time that each patient was required to spend in clinic, by using the pre-assessment element of the triage and clients and staff reported that they were pleased to cut down on travelling time, which was required for face-to-face appointments. As Dorset is a largely rural county, this was particularly helpful for people who would otherwise need to travel large distances.
At the time of writing, the service was beginning to move to the recovery phase and was assessing to what extent it could re-open its satellite clinics and was planning to review the impact of the amended service, flagging that, over time, certain key groups might have lost out more than others (e.g. under 18s or men who have sex with men). By understanding what worked and where improvement was needed, the service highlighted it would respond and adapt accordingly.
Assistant Director Public Health
Public Health Dorset
- Implementation of an Ethics Advisory Group in response to COVID-19 (Northamptonshire)
Northamptonshire County Council’s Public Health team is leading on the development and mobilisation of a multi-agency Ethics Advisory Group (EAG) as part of the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) COVID-19 response within the county. The EAG has been set up to provide assurance and guidance that critical decisions made during the COVID-19 pandemic, are carried out in accordance with established ethical principles using an agreed ethical framework. The group is advisory only and is intended to support ethical decision making within local health, care and government organisations. The group does not provide individual level ethical advice or decisions.
The group is formed of members from across Northamptonshire, and includes representatives of: The acute and community trusts; District and Borough councils; HealthWatch; Adult Services; Public Health; Primary care; and the University of Northampton. The group is already seen as a valuable addition to the local system. Key to its success has been the level of multi-disciplinary engagement during a time when capacity could have been a challenge. This ongoing commitment has led to engaging discussions, with a wide range of views from different representatives.
The first meeting was held at the start of April and the group has been meeting weekly since. Colleagues and organisations across the local Health and Care system can submit requests for ethical advice on population based decision making. All requests pass through a screening process before being referred for discussion within the EAG. If the request passes the screening process, the core team collates any relevant guidance or evidence and develops a checklist of questions in line with the ethical framework. Following the meeting, a response covering all of this information and a general consensus of the discussion and advice, if reached, is written up, sent back to the requester and disseminated across the Strategic Co-ordination Centre as appropriate.
The development of the EAG has received positive feedback from the local system and has been pivotal in ensuring ethical and moral considerations are taken into account when we are making critical decisions as part of the COVID-19 response. The group will continue throughout all stages of the pandemic response and we are reviewing how to continue long term as part of local population health management.
For more information, contact us on email@example.com
- Investigating the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) residents (Birmingham)
Birmingham City Council is leading work locally to review the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and working with partners on what needs to change in the response. The council convened an urgent meeting of the city's Health and Wellbeing Board with a call out to the public through social media for questions and concerns leading to more than 600 questions being received – highlighting the scale of local concern. The Board invited several additional observers from BAME community organisations and senior equalities leads from NHS partners.This important meeting represented the start of a conversation and also fed into the national review where the questions raised were collated and sent to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care along with a link to the audio recording.
The special Health and Wellbeing Board was broadcast live through audio link, at one point being streamed live by 400 people and the recording has subsequently been downloaded by many others. The Board openly and honestly worked through a synthesis of the questions submitted and following the meeting the Chair of the Board has written to everyone who submitted a question with a personalised response to their specific questions. The key themes included concerns about discrimination in service provision and clinical decisions in NHS settings, questions about the reasons behind the differences in death rates in different ethnic groups, issues with the perceived delays in identifying the differences and concerns about BAME staff as well as patients, questions about engagement and commitment of the Board to tackling health inequalities.
Feedback from communities following the special meeting has been incredibly positive, although in many cases there was not a definitive answer citizens appreciated the open and authentic responses from the members of the Board, and subsequent to the board there have been further small engagement sessions with different ethnic communities to provide follow up question and answer sessions alongside the pre-existing weekly engagement sessions with faith and community leaders.
Following on from the meeting, the NHS have reviewed its approach to communication and engagement and looked at what more can be done to support BAME patients who have other risk factors for increased mortality such as poorly controlled diabetes. Across the Board partners have reviewed the visibility of BAME individuals in media and engagement materials, particularly in NHS trusts in survivor and patient stories.
The Special Health and Wellbeing Board exploration of the current understanding of ethnicity and COVID-19 has provided a unique opportunity for citizens to voice concerns to senior officers and partners and hear an open and honest discussion in the response. Prior to this meeting the Health and Wellbeing Board routinely invited questions from citizens but had relatively poor uptake, it is hoped that following this meeting the level of citizen engagement will be maintained and grow.
- Mental Health 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.
- Mental health Q&A session for residents (Kingston)
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Kingston Council invited residents to submit questions on mental wellbeing for a mental health Q&A session. Questions were put to a panel of mental health experts and answered as part of a recording now available on YouTube. A range of questions were asked, including:
- How will mental health services be able to offer support to those already in the system and those not in the system once the worst of the crisis is over?
- Will teachers need support to change the focus of lessons once students return to school?
- Should teams be offering virtual appointments during this time, and how can clinicians be supported?
- What can those without outdoor space (and unable to go outside as they are shielding and vulnerable) do to protect their mental health?
- How can our workplaces support employees gradually returning to work?
- What advice should you give to help a friend who is struggling?
- What advice do you have for residents trying to recover from a situation during COVID-19 such as experiencing anti-social behaviour that has psychologically affected them?
This session provided residents a valuable opportunity to gain valuable information and advice on issues of concern to them and to engage and learn from a broader dialogue on mental health and implications of COVID-19.
- Online sexual health testing ‘set up almost overnight’ (Liverpool)
An online sexual health testing and contraceptive ordering system was created almost overnight in Liverpool as the nation went into lockdown. Other parts of the service have also been overhauled, including the way support is delivered to people after an HIV diagnosis.
Liverpool’s sexual health service had virtually no digital offer when the lockdown came. It meant its providers had to build an online offer from scratch.But this was done and achieved in days of lockdown being announced.
LiverpoolUniversity Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Axess sexual health clinic, set up an digital ordering system for STI testing kits and contraception with the help of the online service provided by Sexual Health 24.
Clients could have the items posted out to them or come to the clinic in person to collect them if it was an emergency. People who needed emergency appointments could still get face-to-face consultations if needed.
Meanwhile, Merseycare, which runs the community contraception services, Abacas, also made testing kits for pregnancy and STIs available via a postal service with clients triaged via a telephone and video consultation system.
The support service for people who tested positive for HIV moved to a virtual service for both individual and groups sessions. This service provides everything from emotional support to advice on finances and housing.
And Brook, which runs a specialist young people’s service, provided support digitally, including delivering online education to schools via Zoom.
Feedback from clients was positive. The online ordering of tests and contraception proving particularly popular, with new orders coming in each day during the lockdown period.
The move to online ordering also had the added benefit of allowing the service to prioritise urgent cases for face-to-face consultations.
The digital offer from Brook was also popular and demonstrated high levels of participation and engagement. The online lessons were delivered to the children of key workers and vulnerable families with feedback showing 100 per cent of pupils were happy with the format.
Challenges cited by the council included contending with staff redeployments and the fact some were shielding. A further difficulty was that the provision of routine long-acting reversible contraception was disrupted.
These digital offers will remain ongoing within these sexual health services.
The Axess service, for example, is now exploring new ways to deliver the tests and contraception ordered online. To date it has been relying on the postal service, but in the future it could make use of click-and-collect services in community locations.
Advanced Public Health Practitioner and Sexual Health Lead
Liverpool City Council
- 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 viewhere 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.
- Providing support to new mothers through digital technologies (Hampshire)
Health visiting services were told to stop face-to-face contacts for all but the most vulnerable mothers during lockdown. But Hampshire County Council managed to keep providing support through the innovative use of digital technologies. This service was run by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust.
In line with national guidance, home visits continued for the most vulnerable clients, including those where safeguarding concerns had been raised.
Health visitors used the digital video service, Visionable, to carry out routine one-on-one appointments to replace home visits, while groups supporting parents and the mental wellbeing of new mothers were carried out via Zoom.
The child health clinics, which provide drop-in support for new mothers in group settings, were suspended due to social distancing restrictions. But the service already had a text messaging support service – Chat Health – for parents of under fives that provided support.
Meanwhile, the Knowing Me, Knowing You groups, run in partnership with the local talking therapies service to provide peer support for mothers with postnatal depression, were moved online.
The online groups were set up with three weeks of lockdown being announced and included access to health visitors and psychologists with nursery nurses to support parents with play activities for the children.
Feedback from those who have been supported throughout the pandemic has been very positive, including from questionnaires.
Still the project was not without challenges as facilitators found that they needed to adapt their skills to meet challenges of working on an online setting, including the need to provide additional instructions e.g. around keeping cameras on, ensuring all group participants had opportunities to speak and addressing barriers for those who did not have access to the technologies or data to attend sessions.
There were also concerns that virtual appointments made it harder for health visitors to pick up on the early signs of problems, such as mental health difficulties or domestic abuse.
At the time of writing, health visiting services are in the process of returning to business as usual. The council have increased the offer of face-to-face contacts and have prioritised those not previously seen face to face for antenatal or new birth contacts during COVID-19; those new to the area; and those more vulnerable and in need of additional support.
Where appropriate, some aspects of the virtual service will be maintained. Some women said they were more comfortable in a virtual setting or found this an easier method to attend appointments.
Deputy Director Operations Children and Families Service
Southern Health NHS Trust
- Top Tips for staying at home (Hertfordshire)
Hertfordshire County Council worked with Norfolk County Council and UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change to develop evidence based Top Tips for staying at home, with an aim to promote resilience in the population during the lockdown. The Top Tipshave been extended with additional information on council webpage. The council are now developing specific aspects of the campaign to help residents develop life skills e.g. using a tablet to stay connected etc. and these will be available shortly.
This work began at the start of the pandemic when people were starting to shield and the wider population went into lockdown. It was aimed at the population as a whole and circulated on social media with further information and links on our website. The individual Top Tips were developed into leaflets, which were circulated in food parcels for residents who were shielding, as these were felt to be important key points to support their mental health and wellbeing during this difficult time. At the time of writing, individual tips are in the process of being extended to support the development of life skills and linking these with local initiatives and services that can support people to develop these new skills e.g. Be connected – which involves training around how to use an iPad, including to connect with family members.
Overall the Top Tips have been very well received and have been circulated to residents, the workforce and also specific groups e.g. people who are shielding, Gypsies and Travellers and BAME communities among others. The main learning from this work was to link the information supporting the Top Tips to existing support programmes (where available) to support the development of life skills rather than phasing and extending the information over time.
More information on this project is availableon Hertfordshire council's website.
Contact: Michelle Constable Michelle.Constable@hertfordshire.gov.uk
Compliance and enforcement
- Local authority COVID-19 compliance and enforcement good practice framework
Councils across the country have been adapting existing compliance and enforcement practices and systems for these new circumstances. MHCLG have produced a documentaimingto capture some of the Covid-19-specific compliance and enforcement learning and make it more easily available to all authorities.
- Coordinating compliance and enforcement (Doncaster)
As a unitary, Doncaster's Public Health Team hold daily Incident Management Team meetings (IMT) which identify live list cases from NHS Test and Trace that involve care homes, schools, businesses and general locality links. The IMTs are multidisciplinary meetings with council representatives from environmental health, communities, adult's and children's services, education, as well as Public Health England and the NHS. Cases, clusters or outbreaks can be escalated to a multi-disciplinary investigation team (MDT) if appropriate. A joint Environmental Health and Trading Standards enforcement team investigate any alleged Covid regulation non-compliance which comes through from the central email point of contact or from the Police.
A weekly summary enforcement meeting, attended by the Police's licensing enforcement officers, representatives from the Council's Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Licensing and Communities teams is held to identify anyparticular issues of concern and agree appropriate action.
The Council has also stood up its Tactical Coordinating Group (Silver) and, where called upon, hold Bronze locality meetings to discuss Covid issues in one of 5 localities within the Borough which have given rise for concern. This work ensures that incidents are not missed, there is no duplication of response and there is a joined-up approach to data sharing.
- Covid-Safe award (Lancaster)
Lancaster City Council Covid-safe award is a free-to-join award-based scheme.For businesses to achieve the award they apply via the council website completing 15 carefully selected questions designed to make the business consider key areas of government guidelines which apply to their business.The questions are changed to reflect government changes in regulations or guidelines.Questions are designed around: infection control, social distancing, contact recording, staff training and information and customer management. Applicants are also asked to upload a comprehensive Covid-19 risk assessment (if applicable),to show that they have thought about which procedures they need to implement, as well as upload photographs as evidence that key measures are in place.Lancaster City Council then check records to see if they have already benefitted from a Covid Advice visit and if they have any concerns. Where there are concerns follow up visits take place.
Successful businesses receive:
- a certificate to put on the window / door preferably at the entrance,
- posters for various areas at the premises
- postcards to be left at pay areas or table for customers to take away.
The marketing left at the business has a “QR” code allowing customers to give feedback on their visit which is its unique selling point.Poor feedback will trigger a visit by the Covid-Safe team. The scheme keeps the council and businesses in touch, helping businesses with any changes to guidelines, ensuring they remain compliant and that they understand customer concerns.
Unannouncedvisits by a member of the team also ensure that they keep compliant, and where they still fall short after feedback their certificate will be removed. From the launch on1October, Lancaster has issued over 70 awards, with businesses being extremely positive about being part of something that will help customers feel safe in their premises and encourage them to return. The aim of the scheme is to reassure customers that when lockdown restrictions are lifted they can return to the high streets city centre shops, bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants and other venues, helping boost the local economy as well as send messages that businesses have a responsibility to carry out the necessary risk assessment, safety measures and staff training to operate safely.
- Deploying Marshals intelligently (Manchester)
Manchester City Council (MCC) has deployed teams of Security Industry Authority accredited stewards from an events crowd management company to act as MCC Marshals. They were originally used within the City Centre when retail and hospitality reopened in the summer and reintroduced at the start of the second lockdown on 5 November.
Currently there are three mobile teams, split by area, covering the city’s district centres during the day on a 7-day rota, two additional daytime teams patrolling the city centre on foot, and one mobile evening team which cover key identified areas throughout the city, Thursday to Sunday. This level of resource is reviewed on a weekly basis to identify and target areas requiring an increased presence and take account of any changes in guidelines which could increase footfall. Areas are identified by reviewing the feedback from marshals, MCC Compliance, Neighbourhood Managers and local partners including the police.
The marshal teams have been given two online forms to complete to either give a general overview of an area or to report a business for non-compliance. These are shared with MCC Compliance on a daily basis to triage and allocate to the relevant team to follow up as necessary. The completed forms and actions are collated into a weekly report which is shared with partners.The combined intelligence from the marshal teams is used to identify trends and inform any changes of approach.
- Engagement based on local intelligence (Brent)
Diwali is the five-day festival of lights, celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains around the world. Part of this celebration would normally include visits to temples by individuals and their families for prayers. Brent Council received intelligence that certain temples may breach coronavirus restrictions. This led to engagement with all the temples through writing, virtual meetings and visits to ensure the coronavirus restrictions were followed. The London Borough of Brent mutually agreed with all 11 temples based within the Borough to close during Diwali weekend and that, if any were to open it would be for individual prayers only with a limited capacity and attendance times would be pre-arranged. Officers who patrolled the streets over the weekend reported that the agreement was adhered to.
- Face to face communication through Marshals scheme (Bradford)
City of Bradford deployed over 100 marshals across the city in one of the biggest schemes to date. Their responsibilities ranged from encouraging the use of face masks when entering shops to offering sanitisers to the public, offering more advice and reassurance and patrolling open spaces to encourage social distancing. Some were also equipped with mounted LED monitors with advice and guidance called ‘iWalkers’ and were also supported by iVans: vans with mounted LCD screens displaying guidance and advice.
- Integrating decision making (East Sussex)
From March 2020, East Sussex County Council became quickly aware that enforcement and compliance needed to be co-ordinated across Sussex to avoid disjointed and fragmented enforcement if departments kept to their traditional boundaries. As a result, a weekly liaison group was formed between both County’s (East & West) Trading Standards Services, District/Borough Environmental Health leads, Brighton & Hove City Council (Unitary Authority) and Sussex Police.
A model protocol was designed, based on the restrictions current at that time, with police leading on movement restrictions, environmental health on food businesses and trading standards on non-food retail businesses. In addition, weekly intelligence sharing meant that each agency was, and still is, aware of each other’s activities. There was also a single point of contact to exchange enquiries/complaints received from the public and businesses to ensure the most appropriate agency dealt with each issue.
The group gained representation on the Public Health Operational Cell weekly meeting ensuring updates on enforcement and compliance were shared and discussed in a timely manner – this led to a clear protocol for considering the issuing of Directions.
- Partnership at the strategic level (Lancashire Resilience Forum)
With rates rising rapidly in Lancashire, effective partnership working and leadership of the Lancashire Resilience Forum (LRF) has been pivotal in providing a platform for bringing together a number of workstreams including Public Protection services and other regulators including the police, trading standards and the fire service, to focus on compliance. Under the LRF, the various partners came together to look at creative ways to support and promote business compliance, share experiences on enforcement such as direction orders, outbreak management and interpretation of the guidance as well as mobilising resources to protect the public. Intel and good practice is shared as we work closely with our Directors of Public Health and PHE – all focusing on health protection and reducing the infection rates of Covid. Collectively the group have looked at risks and made recommendations for a blanket approach across the county. Some of these bold decisions included restrictions on events over 30 people across the county to minimise the risk of infection. The LRF has been working with the Local Enterprise Partnership, local Business Improvement Districts and the business community to promote compliance. At the time of writing they have completed nearly twelve thousand visits to premises to check Covid compliance resulting in 44 closure orders.
- Pooling resource between authorities (Oxfordshire)
Oxfordshire has a two-tier local authority structure, consisting of the county council (Oxfordshire) and [five district councils). The Oxfordshire councils have implemented a comprehensive, system wide approach to COVID Compliance and Enforcement work across the county, including:
- Creating a new COVID Secure Team, consisting of Environmental Health Officer and COVID Compliance Support Officers, working across the county improving compliance and providing additional capacity to supplement each local authority’s core teams.
- Establishing a mutual aid arrangement providing a pan-Oxfordshire pool of officers with experience in infectious disease outbreak controls to support incident control teams. Pooling night-time officers to monitor, support and report on city centre activity in the evenings.
- Centralised information gathering to allow the core council teams to access records in each area and support data collection on a county wide basis enabling effective tasking of the COVID Secure team.
- Creating a weekly operational managers forum to share information and discuss interpretation of the legal requirements to promote consistency.
The COVID Compliance work across the councils is overseen by the COVID Compliance sub-group of the Oxfordshire Health Protection Board. This sub-group meets weekly and is tasked by the Health Protection Board and Director of Public Health. Using data from contact tracing and ‘soft’ intelligence from partner organisations means the overall compliance activity is targeted at the most significant areas of risk (e.g., types of premises, geographical priorities, etc). The arrangements are underpinned by the delegation of enforcement powers from the county council to each district council and an agreement setting out which organisation will lead on the different aspects of the compliance work.
- Trusted voices through social media (Liverpool)
The Communications and Marketing team at Liverpool City Council have actively been using their social media channels to keep residents, businesses and elected members up to date on the latest Covid-19 developments. They have been reinforcing messages around good behaviour through the use of infographics, video, blogs, podcasts and a city-wide advertising campaign. The recent messaging and communications activity around the mass testing pilot has helped lead to a major reduction in Covid-19 cases across the city and the wider region, resulting in LCR being the first region to move from Tier 3 to Tier 2.
- Working with police (Greater Manchester)
The Environmental Health Department were receiving multiple complaints about a large supermarket with particularly heavy foot fall at breakfast, lunch and in the evening and located in a high student population area. The supermarket also contained a fast-food restaurant, well used by younger people.
Complaints focused on the number of customers not wearing face masks in the supermarket and a lack of enforcement action being taken, a lack of social distancing controls and that reduced store capacity was not being observed.
To foster sustained compliance and mitigate risk of tying up police resources in one problem area, environmental health instigated a multi-agency approach working with the local metropolitan district council, Greater Manchester Police and the supermarket in question. Greater Manchester Police and neighbourhood compliance officers spent a full day on the premises assisting store employees to monitor and challenge the use of face masks by customers entering the store. The supermarket was grateful for the assistance and have since ensured trained employees work at the entrance every day, that customers are challenged in the right way to protect public health and that free face masks are available for those customers that do not have one.
Since this work there has been a reduction in complaints, better implementation of Covid-19 controls overall and the Council now has a better, more direct and responsive working relationship with the store.
- Working with the voluntary sector (Enfield)
Enfield Council are using their established and trusted Health Champions, made up of staff and long-term volunteers from local voluntary and community sector organisations, to help people stay safe during the pandemic and that those who need to extra support know where and how to access it. In addition to the public health training provided by Enfield Voluntary Action, Enfield Council has provided training on Covid-19 messages and guidance; helping to debunk some of the myths, concerns and confusion that surrounds the government guidance and advice.
More Health Champions are being recruited by Enfield Voluntary Action using National Lottery Funding and will be commissioned by the City Bridge Trust to be trained in delivering health messaging in Enfield. Enfield Council have also supported a pilot project with three Health Champions to launch “Youth Alive”- a programme designed to link young people who might be struggling with problems at home, school or personal life or who simply want to try something new, with activities and services in their local community.It is for young people aged 10 to 19 living, working or studying in the Edmonton area.
- Further Case Studies
If you have a successful or innovative example of compliance and enforcement in your area which could be included in this document, we would like to hear from you. Please email: SaferPlaces@communities.gov.uk and put “Case Studies” in the subject line with details.
Culture, entertainment and other activities
- ‘Culture at home’ (Craven)
Skipton Town Hall, run by Craven District Council, has put together ‘Culture At Home’, a huge collection of online resources for arts and culture, shared on the council website.
The Craven Museum team has also been running an online roadshow, showcasing their own most-loved treasures from home, via social media, and encouraging other Craven residents to do the same. Finds included a soldier’s record book, dating from 1890-1898, which was found under the floorboards of a family home in Skipton. Videos of some of the artefacts shared can be viewed the council’s Facebook page.
- Fun and entertainment pop-up events (Northumberland)
Northumberland County Council has found a new way to engage with remote and less advantaged communities. Working in partnership with local charities and other partners, they are now offering fun pop-up events to reduce isolation, get people active and raise spirits in a novel way.
Working with local charity, Bad Apples NE they collectively delivered over 500 Easter Eggs to families in south-east Northumberland, a fun event with volunteers in fancy dress and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service distributing the eggs.
The local community enjoyed that event and through feedback, the council’s Communities Together team saw the appetite for more outreach activity– resulting in a weekly neighbourhood pop-up socially distanced disco, allowing better engagement where communities had become hidden behind closed doors during lockdown. The team worked with partners such as NHS Health Trainers, libraries, and local businesses who contributed to family activity packs and ideas on feeling active and well. The events offer an opportunity to get people outside and moving in a safe way and communicate with the community, finding out what sort of events they wanted in the future, and what would help improve health and morale. Future ideas include pop-up cookery demonstrations, storytimes, and comedy shows, to appeal to different groups. Ensuring continued and open dialogue about needs, co-producing events with local communities so they have influence over their own lives and places.
The Northumberland Communities Together team are keen to continue this work in the future, facilitating co-operation between the community, different council departments and the voluntary sector to help a community who would not normally organise entertainment themselves and may not be fully engaged with health and well-being opportunities. It will also continue to provide a way for residents to build relationships with the council and partners about what support and services they actually want and need.
If you would like to know more about this project for your own council you can contact the Northumberland Communities Together Team at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Supporting local tourism (Brighton & Hove / Southampton)
With the tourism sector facing a period of stasis travel restrictions and lockdown measures, some councils have engineered virtual tourism experiences, which are helping to keep potential visitors and residents engaged in what their respective areas have to offer. Brighton and Hove Council are offering virtual tours of the Brighton College, Seafront and the Royal Pavilion, museums, while Southampton City Council has announced that a number of museums, galleries and galleries will also be open for virtual tours. Visit Southampton is also seeking to support the city’s tourism sector by helping to make residents aware of the benefits that activities and attractions typically thought of as being for ‘tourists’ can have for them. Its website lists shops available for home delivery, as well as restaurants that offer takeaway or are now running stalls where residents can buy essential supplies.
- Virtual access to arts, museums, libraries and more (Reading)
Creative teams from the museum, libraries, archives, arts and leisure have completely changed the way they are providing their service through a variety of digital platforms offering much needed fun, educational, health and wellbeing content and advice remotely to the heart of the community. These transformational approaches have received an overwhelming positive response giving people an opportunity to actively engage and enjoy themselves during these difficult and isolated times.
Reading Council has been proactive in this space, providing new digital offers, including Reading Culture live and avirtual museum hub. Reading Culture Live, created in collaboration with Reading UK CIC, brings together in a virtual venue, performances and activities from a wide range of Reading’s arts and cultural organisations. It offers a variety of resources and online events, streamed live as well as providing pre-recorded locally-made cultural content. The virtual museum also offers diverse content, updating its collection each week. Since the start of the crisis, the museum team has been experimenting with new digital content to increase and deepen their engagement with the community.As of 23 March 2020 these have been viewed or downloaded over 50,000 times, representing a 206% increase from before the lockdown. Social media engagement has similarly increased by 258% from before the lockdown, with over 1.2million views. There has been lots of user feedback and appreciation, especially for the VE Day hub and online Animal exhibition, the team’s next big effort is for Windrush Day in June.
Reading Libraries services have also created abank of online storytime readingsfor families to watch in the comfort of their own homes and avariety of ebooks, eaudio and emagazines are alsoavailable with instant online joiningwww.reading.gov.uk/elibrary.Online borrowing from the library' s digital resources is up 121% from pre-crisis levels and online story times are now getting 1,000 views inside 24hrs.Since lockdown started the service has had over 500 people join the library online and instantly, and nearly 10,000 downloads from their online collection - more than double what would have otherwise happened. The libraries serviceshave also introduced a ‘library pays when customer borrows’ stipulation on a range of stock, which has been greatly popular.
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 Video Carephones Service (Kent)
Kent County Council rolled out a digital inclusion support package across the locality to alleviate pressures on vulnerable and shielded people who experienced heightened risk of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The support package was supplied in partnership with assistive care technology provider Alcove and a health and care transformation consultancy Rethink.
The partnership provided 2000 Samsung 10-inch tablets to vulnerable individuals and clients eligible for social need identified through the council’s adult social care practitioners. The tablets provided an easy and accessible one touch video calling service for those that found themselves digitally excluded and lacking digital skills to access everyday technology. Each device had a built in smart SIM card that established a connection with the strongest signal, not requiring the user to rely on a Wi-Fi connection to operate.
This helped to break down barriers for the user to engage with family members, friends or council staff. This reduced the need for face to face interactions while supporting individuals to remain connected to the support they needed including the usual number of appointments. This approach enabled the safeguarding and preservation of wellbeing of users, while enabling the continuation of social connections with those closest to the individual.
The tablet used the Alcove enabled app, which is screen locked to the device, to access the simple video calling software through a grid of preapproved 6-8 contacts. This provided an easy level of functionality and prevented cold calls, providing the individual peace of mind over unsolicited calls. Those contacts only needed to download the app or respond to calls via internet browser to engage with the user in a simple and accessible way.
The device was ready for out of the box use and posted to the individual. Once charged and turned on, it was ready to launch. As a level of further support, the grid of contacts included a technical support option that was available from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. The accessibility of the tablet was intended to help grow and build confidence in users, allowing them to develop their digital literacy and in doing so, help increase their ability to use technology to make other improvements in their everyday life.
At the time of writing, Alcove and Rethink were exploring the possibility of linking the device to other pieces of equipment to build capacity to improve the offer and develop and encourage individuals to further their appetite for digital learning.
Feedback from the early stages of the pilot showed that there has been a rapid increase of quality interactions and improved social opportunities for those vulnerable residents. There are also positive cost implications for the council in terms of saving travel costs and improving the council’s sustainability and climate contributions. It has also allowed staff to deliver services in a more efficient, effective and safe way, providing them with enhanced time resource to commit to other areas of work.
Contact: Dave Harris, Senior Commissioner & SRO of Kara Project, Dave.Harris2@kent.gov.uk
- Discretionary grant application system (Lewes and Eastbourne)
Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Councils partnered with a digital solutions company, Ascendant Solutions, to develop a discretionary grant application system for businesses, which has helped to distribute grants quickly and securely to businesses since the COVID-19 outbreak.
The grants system accepted and reviewed e-applications using an online portal, which collects and overlays multiple sources of data (including from commercial datasets) to check that claims are valid. On the applicants’ side, there were two main steps in this process: one, to register with the portal; and two, to complete form associated, including providing the data requested. All applicants were asked supply their business rate account number – which provided a first point of validation to ensure that only legitimate businesses would be able to claim. Once completed, applications were checked and validated by a number of pre-determined algorithms that verified the business identity of the applicant and, based on the data supplied (and commercial data sets, available through Ascendant Solutions), assessed their eligibility for a grant. Further information on the grant application process is available here.
The assessment phase of the process involved a RAG rating system where, depending on the data supplied by the applicant and outcome of the algorithm’s assessment, applicants would be given a RAG rating. Businesses within the ‘Green’ file who met all the automated checks and eligibility criteria were automatically passed for payment as they weren’t considered a risk, so received their grants immediately; The cases in the ‘Amber’ file were considered low risk, but in need of further checks as some basic data or information was missing from the original application which wouldn’t necessarily mean the business wasn’t entitled; and the ‘Red’ was considered higher risk as it contained applicants that required thorough checking and often, further information and evidence if grants were to be provided at all. Additional information on the grant assessment process and outcomes of this project can read here.
With this mostly automated system, Eastbourne and Lewes processed 2,642 grants (to the value of near £34.1m in total) by the first week May, 2020. Had grants been administered manually, the councils estimated that it would have taken approximately 20 FTEs to carry out achieve this result; whereas the total number of council staff supporting this work numbered 5 (supported by 3 staff from Ascendant Solutions, who developed the system).
The system also helped to save the councils time on processing claims from ineligible applicants. This was accomplished in the first instance via disclaimers, which clarified the data requirements and in doing so, discouraged applications from businesses that were unlikely likely to meet the scheme criteria. The requirement to supply business rate account numbers and the RAG system itself provided an extra assurance by helping identify ineligible and ‘riskier’ claims. These measures helped to protect against exploitation of the grants system, which presented a risk to many councils across the UK due to the pressure to distribute grants quickly.
Lewes DC and Eastbourne BC identified very early on the political and public pressure to accelerate the process of getting the system up and running as a major challenge to this project. During this development phase, the council effectively managed expectations by maintaining a presence at Cobra meetings with other agencies which included the chamber of commerce, which helped to reassure parties on all sides that progress way being made and was on track – and that payments would be processed with greater security and efficiency than would be the case than if they were to process grants manually.
Beyond this, the councils’ ability to manage the pressure associated with this project has been credited to effective partnership working with the private sector. Trust between the partners helped to maintain honest conversations and to arrive at mutually agreed goals early in the process; and decision making was also made easier due to the involvement of small teams on both sides. Given the unprecedented nature of the working environment, both partners also stressed the importance of being prepared and willing to change and adapt and, for the councils, the importance of choosing a partner they knew could ‘get things done right’ and quickly. In this case, Ascendant Solutions was selected on the basis of its technical expertise and access to necessary data; but also its capacity to deliver at speed.
- Emergency planning tool (VIPER)
Essex Online Partnership (EOLP) is a technology partnership with membership from all 15 Essex Local Authorities, Essex Fire & Rescue, and Essex Police. EOLP and the Essex Resilience Forum jointly adopted a project to develop a data tool, VIPER (Vulnerable Intelligent Persons Emergency Response), which would allow emergency planning responders to coordinate efforts utilising real time data in unprecedented times. This tool has utilised a pre-released category B vulnerable people dataset during the Coronavirus pandemic to join up emergency responders across Essex to coordinate actions and minimise harm and risk to life for residents.
- Inspiring Residents (Cheshire West and Chester)
Cheshire West and Chester Council launched Inspire Cheshire West as an interactive online space for residents to share stories of how neighbourhoods are pulling together during COVID-19, from small acts of kindness to flourishing new community initiatives.
The site was set up by the Council using its Participate Now online engagement hub. It allows residents to say thank you to people who have made a difference to them and share ideas for how to make the most of staying at home, from tips to boost health and wellbeing and keep children entertained, to practical suggestions on looking after the garden and rustling up tasty meals that make the most of the food shop.
Teams from the Council also share their ideas on the site, with services including museums, libraries, recycling and countryside rangers providing fun ideas for crafts, activities, cookery and wellbeing. This mix of contributions from residents and Council staff is an example of how the Council and its communities are working together in a more equal partnership against the COVID-19 challenge.
In its first two weeks the site received more than 1,500 unique visitors and 116 separate stories and ideas were posted. These have ranged from celebrating local networks of volunteers providing support such as shopping and dog walking for their community, to the four-year-old who set up a Kindness Bakery to make cakes for his neighbourhood to pick up for free every day.
The site has been publicised through news releases and advertising, but also by pushing out the stories and ideas hosted on the site through the Council’s social media, encouraging people to visit the site and share their own experiences. This in turn has raised the profile of the Council’s engagement hub and increased the number of residents who have registered on it.
- Local Lockdown – A digital approach to co-ordinating volunteers for Covid-19 CityReach Testing (Leicester)
Leicester was the first city in the UK to enter a local lockdown. Leicester City Council had to respond rapidly to ensure vital Covid-19 tests were available to the residents of the City.
Local mobile testing units had already been established as part of the national lockdown efforts, but there was a clear need to substantially ramp up the capacity to reach and test city residents more directly. Leicester City Council responded by establishing an outreach operation to distribute and collect testing kits door to door in the community. The outreach operation became known as CityReach and as of 1September 2020 has resulted in 40,438 tests being delivered.
One crucial part of this operation was the recruitment and co-ordination of local volunteers to complete this seemingly mammoth task.
Building on Leicester City Council’s long-established engagement with the committed local voluntary and community sector, the council were able to work with many partners to publicise the need for volunteers.
Leicester City Council’s Digital Transformation team were able to utilise a recently purchased Software as a Service platform called Assemble, to digitally recruit, manage and co-ordinate the large influx of willing volunteers.
In the first few weeks of the local lockdown, over 500 volunteers had signed up to help.
The process is simple thanks to the technology we had implemented:
- Volunteers can sign up online and gain immediate access to their own account on the volunteer portal
- volunteers can access the portal via a free mobile App or desktop browser
- the portal presents a calendar to volunteers showing all the available CityReach sessions and signing up to a session is a straightforward one-click process
- volunteers can contact session organisers directly via the portal should they need to
- volunteer leaders can contact their volunteers safely and securely.
Utilising the digital volunteer platform has enabled a self-serve process for volunteers and saved a huge amount of time and resource that would have been required without it. Working from home under Covid-19 circumstances, two members of the Digital Transformation team created the online adverts and applications forms, automatic recruitment and welcoming communications, scheduled in available volunteer sessions and enabled volunteers to self-serve and book on to the sessions they could attend.
We experienced some initial teething problems with the App and with embedding the new digital process with volunteers, as this was all new to them too, however after a few days the App was working well, we had delivered quick online user guides to help volunteers become confident using the online portal to sign up to their sessions.
As of 1 September 2020, the volunteer platform has 635 volunteers signed up and has co-ordinated 6,280 volunteer hours.
This digital platform puts Leicester and its fantastic volunteers in great stead for the months ahead as testing continues to be a major priority in trying to control Covid-19 and navigate us through the recovery.
For more information about this case study, please contact email@example.com
- 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.
- Rideshare app (Sevenoaks)
The Sevenoaks District Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) have pooled resources for a new digital solution, which is helping residents to travel in ways that observe social distancing measures. The LSP is led by Sevenoaks District Council and comprises others including Kent County Council, the local NHS, Police Service, and a range of VCS and faith sector partners, such as Age UK, and Sevenoaks’ network prover, Go Coach.
The partnership has pooled resources to implement a CIL funded mobile application (developed by ViaVan) that uses Go-Coach buses to provide an on-demand transport service for residents. This service, named ‘Go2’, uses Go Coach’s vehicles to provide an affordable, rideshare service, which offers residents’ transport on ‘as needed’ basis (e.g. to purchase groceries or medication). Go2 has extended the traditional service footprint area to ensure that residents in otherwise isolated areas are connected to nearby hospitals and other key community assets—and so NHS Workers and Police Community Support Officers who rely on public transport are still able to commute to work. Passenger safety is maintained by ensuring passengers are able keep 2m distance between each other by using 28 passenger capacity buses (at a minimum) and restricting the number of people to no more than 10 per trip at any given time.
The app can be download via iOS and Google Play stores. Residents can also access the service via a dedicated phoneline, so all community members (including anyone who does not have access to or is unable to use the app) can still access this transport option. The council and VCS are using online platforms, e.g. Facebook,to promote the service across the district.
The service proven highly popular with residents, which maintains a five star rating on iOS and received more than 500 passengers within the first 8 days of operating.
- The AiDa virtual chatbot (Cheshire West and Chester)
The artificial intelligence AiDa Assistant has been live on the Cheshire West and Chester website for around a year. Website visitors are invited to open the digital assistant chat and either ask a question or state their issue, with AiDa responding and guiding them to the information they need.
On the 24th March 2020 Bot queries grew by nearly 600%, reflecting the coronavirus lockdown and the increasing numbers of local people contacting the Council online as a result. Because AiDA was able to cover simple queries the Council’s contact team were able to be redirected tomake outbound calls to 5000 vulnerable and shielding people.
The 300+ Coronavirus questions asked to date have been used to create a dedicated covid-19 skill within the chat bot which is currently answering questions at 90% plus success rate. The Bot also provides real time content updates from other trusted sources (such as .GOV.UK) meaning that it remains accurate but also that the Council does need not to continually update this fast changing, important and complex content.
- Video presentation: Technology as a foundation to respond (Kirklees)
Kirklees Council harnessed technology to add value to their response to dealing with COVID-19. In March 2020, the council’s IT team launched a Technology Strategy that outlined how technology would be used to deal with the outbreak and associated challenges. This video presentation-from Head of IT, Terence Hudson—shares key principles that underpinned that strategy: getting the basics right, empowering people to become ‘digital citizens’ and connecting people, business and technology.
Emergency food provision
- DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant: Healthy Start Food Vouchers Campaign (Hertfordshire)
Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) were allocated £ 924,073 as part of the DEFRA Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies. A small proportion of this money (less than £5000) was spent on a campaign to promote the uptake of the Healthy Start Food Vouchers (HSV). These were provided weekly to those eligible and could be spent on fruit, vegetables, milk and vitamins.
In Hertfordshire, as in the rest of the UK, the uptake of this voucher scheme has seen a consistently and somewhat surprisingly downward trend over the last few years, meaning those facing food insecurity who may be eligible were not accessing the support.
At the end of September, through the co-ordinating efforts of just one part-time benefits adviser the council started promoting the voucher scheme in several ways…
- News articles and newsletters
- Network engagement with Health, Housing and Children Services
- The display of posters in Job Centres, health centres
- Social Media posts
- Sending information to Health Visitor Teams
- Engagement with food banks
Between the middle of October and the middle of November (2020), the numbers in receipt of HSV increased from 3,555 to 4,871, with every district seeing an increase in take-up. As a percentage of those entitled, the council went from being 10% below the national average that September (39% of those eligible making a claim, against a national average of 50%) before the promotional campaigns started, to being 15% above it by November.
To allow for the increase in value of these vouchers in April from £3.10 to £4.25, putting a value of £4 per head for each applicant gave an annual gain of £270.400 in additional income going into 1300 of Hertfordshire’s lowest income households with children. There was also an increase of around 173 households (worth £36,000 per year) between the end of September, when the council started the campaign, and October. As vouchers are doubled in value for children under 1, the actual gain may be substantially higher than £300,000 (the council’s dataset did include how many of the new recipients were parents of new-born children or parents who had missed out in the past)
The council used remaining elements of the Defra funding to place a self-help benefit calculator on their Money Advice Unit webpages, (which also included a short on-line universal credit training course used by 1800+ people), provide specialist training on Universal Credit to Citizens Advice staff and extend their support to families with disabled children by 4 hours per week.
The aim was to make the project sustainable, so that it became an embedded and intrinsic part of the multi-agency support offered to families and did not require annual campaigning.
After just two months, the work had generated over £300,000 a year in extra income for local families.
- Emergency food provision during a local lockdown - a digital solution (Leicester)
At the start of the national lockdown Leicester City Council created many ‘cells’ to divide and conquer the vast swathe of existing and emergent work ahead of us. One of these cells aimed at tackling the emerging need for emergency food provision across the city.
A robust and scalable emergency food provision strategy and process was required in Leicester and a centralized model was established using a single Hub to store and distribute emergency food packages. One of the core components required was a digital solution capable of handling emergency food requests, food parcel picking, packing and delivery logistics.
Leicester City Council’s Digital Transformation team along with colleagues in IT Development rapidly designed and developed a digital solution using the Granicus digital platform for the front end with a sophisticated SQL database behind it. We launched an end to end digital solution at the beginning of April 2020.
The digital solution includes an initial e-form request for emergency food and fuel to be submitted by front line staff in social care and customer support settings following eligible requests from residents for the service. Fuel requests are automatically triaged through to the Community Support Grant team and food request are sent into the food provision system. Once food requests are received, the delivery admin team assign the request to a delivery driver based on the resident’s location and a daily picking report is produced for the hub to pick the food parcels ready for collection and delivery by the drivers.
The delivery drivers work from daily delivery schedule reports and any undelivered parcels can be marked in the system and flagged for re-delivery the next day.
Since go-live, the Hubs management team collaborated with internal IT colleagues and Government Digital Services (GDS) to add a triage section for shielding residents. The process captures information from those who wish to register for priority supermarket delivery slots and shares data accordingly with the central scheme to get the customers registered with the supermarkets.
A real-time read only database has been built so that the front line can track the status of food orders as they progress through the system.
Additionally, a Power BI reporting suite was built to automate the provision of management information relating to this process, including tracking demand through the service based both on the types of request, frequency of deliveries and locations of the recipients. The suite has been made available to all relevant staff and management allowing them 24/7 access to this information and removing the need for report requests or production. This feed of data is totally automated and barring one off requests for specific information, no human effort is required to maintain.
As of 2 September 2020 over 31,900 food deliveries have been made to the residents of Leicester.
For more information about this case study, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Food and farming charity (Greenwich)
Greenwich Council have produced with the food and farming charity Sustain, a short paper with information on food for vulnerable people. It is free to download and aims to inform strategic emergency planners, local authorities, food partnerships, Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) and voluntary sector groups – especially those working in partnership how to organise food provision – at large scale – for vulnerable people needing to self-isolate or stay at home during Covid-19.
It can be found on the Sustain website, Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.
Topics that the paper cover include, a short summary of the scale of food needed and by who, charts to show food response pathways for vulnerable individuals, details of Greenwich food boxes, thoughts on revitalising the meals on wheels system and food shops & market trading.
Sustain has also put together advice on how local authorities can respond to food vulnerability during Covid-19and Sustainable Food Places are gathering examples of how areas around the UK are supporting access to food during Covid-19.
- Food distribution hub: Supporting residents and business through partnerships and local sourcing (Tower Hamlets)
Tower Hamlets food distribution hub is helping provide food to vulnerable residents with urgent needs. The hub is run by redeployed staff and volunteers recruited by the Volunteer Centre Tower Hamlets.
As of 12 May, the team has packed and delivered food to 9,632 people across 2,898 households in Tower Hamlets. The distribution hub delivers parcels to people who have used the council's dedicated phoneline and online self-isolation form to ask for help with access to food. This may be because they have been identified by the NHS as being at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus or have other vulnerabilities that mean they need help while self-isolating. The council’s phoneline and online self-isolation form can also support people who need access to medication, are experiencing social isolation or are concerned about money and debt.
They have also been supporting local foodbanks who are helping people who have lost their income. Along with supporting fundraising for First Love Foundation and Bow Food Bank, the council have been helping to increase their food supply by linking them with partners who have made generous donations. These include Investec, Aramark, The Felix Project and Fareshare. The Greater London Authority and the Red Cross also donated two large consignments of food, which was shared among local food banks and community support groups. Alongside food donated to the hub, Restore donated 1,000 boxes to help them pack food parcels for residents.
To supply residents with food and ensure that food delivered by the government for the extremely vulnerable is nutritionally balanced, they have sourced additional food locally. Supporters have included:
• Lidl in Limehouse
• Tesco in Bethnal Green
• Sainsbury’s in Whitechapel
• Limehouse Super Store
• Kacha Bazar Cash and Carry in Mile End
• Savers Plus in Bethnal Green
• Prescott Thomas
• The London Bread and Cake Company Ltd.
Aldi now allows the food hub to place bulk food orders in advance and Tesco has set a Booker account so they can access food supplies at wholesale prices. They have also had offers to help deliver food from Mears, Surelock Security and the London Fire Brigade.
- Food distribution network and stock management system (Oldham)
In March 2020, Oldham Council was given a statutory duty to coordinate food, self-care, medical supplies and other forms of necessary assistance to vulnerable groups in response to COVID-19. The council facilitated this through 5 geographical Virtual Hubs to coordinate food, medicines, mutual aid, volunteering and community intelligence and an Emergency Helpline to act as a front door and triage.Each hub had a population footprint between 30,000 – 40,000 residents.
The Council partnered with Oldham Food Bank and Action Together, which led to the establishment of a comprehensive food distribution network to support the 5 hubs. The centres are also heavily supported by a volunteer offer.Their roles range from coordination, supporting processes, managing doorstep deliveries of food and products,packing and delivering.
This included pathways to Age UK Oldham, CAB, Housing Providers, Early Help, Mental Health, Benefits and Advice and Welfare Rights.As well as a strongpathways and relationship with the Community Pharmacies, CHASC and primary care.
Due to this strong response from the voluntary sector and the community, donations had increased rapidly to an amount where the food that the network was distributing in a day was the same amount that was delivered in a week pre-COVID.
There was a need to get a handle of the current stock held in the distribution centres and the constant supply that was increasing daily. What was being donated, how long was a particular item’s lifecycle, where did it need to be stored?
Oldham Foodbank, the Council and Action Together were approached by local digital solutions company Live & Now who donated their time and resources to develop a stock management system that would allow the centres to fully understand what was coming through the doors.
The system allowed volunteers to scan barcodes on the items to create inventories on the food received. This provided them with an in-depth understanding of nutritional value, lifecycles and stock volume. As parcels were received and sent out, each one was scanned in and out allowing the centre to know exactly what the flow of parcels and donations were.
Through the system this gave Oldham Foodbank and the council the advantage of knowing what they had at any one given time and allowed them to alter communications strategy to the public if they had too much of one item to diversify the nutritional value of food parcels. It also gave them an increased awareness to prevent any unnecessary waste.
And above all the system could track where each parcel had been delivered providing a complete picture of the need in the community and a better understanding of citizens.
Through the helpline and stock management system the council provided support through:
- 4914 answered calls via the Helpline (as at 05/06)
- 5217 distributed food parcels (as at 05/06)
The Emergency Helpline and the virtual hubs, and their relationship with the Oldham Foodbank have been a valued asset for the council and discussions are being had to identify how they should become business as usual after COVID-19 due to the single point of contact and the deep understanding and insight into the community they provide.
Finances and economy
- ‘Rediscover your royal borough’ campaign (Windsor and Maidenhead)
Not sounding like a council, and user-generated content, were the hallmarks of this successful campaign. Louisa Dean, head of communications at the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, explains how the council encouraged people to return to local high streets and attractions to support the post-pandemic economy.
- Reopening the borough with the ‘Summer of Love’ campaign (Kensington and Chelsea)
Holly Garner and Parveen Devi, communications officers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, share their innovative approach to getting people back to the high street, and boosting the local economy, as part of the post-pandemic recovery.
Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Community Response Fund has been helping community initiatives across the borough by providing emergency funding to respond to issues as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.The fund was originally created through a Council contribution of £250,000 which was matched by a donation from the Westminster Foundation, creating a pot of £500,000 available to community initiatives.
Organisations that have benefitted include Share, which supports homeless people in the Chester area.With its charity shop and café currently closed because of the pandemic, Share’s funding from the Council and other streams have allowed it to continue to provide an important service for vulnerable people. Food deliveries, as well as other things like toiletries, clothing, books and magazines, have helped homeless people cope with their already challenging circumstances.
Three key strengths to the approach that has been taken have been around:
- The speed of decision making meaning that grants were being paid out within three days of applications being received. This quick decision making also encouraged further applications.
- Including both the Council and the Westminster Foundation in the decision making process, whilst liaising with funders across the borough, created a shared strategic oversight of grant making.
- Mapping the awarding of grants against geography and high level focus (food, mental health, children and so on) also meant that gaps could be easily identified and groups approached to address them. This mapping is now proving useful in supporting the recovery model.
- COVID-19 secure support for businesses in Bradford
As lockdown restrictions eased and shops and businesses prepared to re-open, Bradford Council worked with businesses and partners to provide guidance and support. The aim was to ensure that non-essential retail businesses were able to open and operate in a safe way. The partners included Bradford, Keighley and Ilkley Business improvement district (BID), the Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses.
These were all utilised to urge retailers to adhere to the COVID-19 secure guidelines and to provide a fire safety reminder for businesses preparing to re-open. The supports provided included:
- safety advice on the council website
- Stay Connected email communications
- social media and news releases.
- advice on regular hand washing, contactless payments where possible, maintaining social distancing guidelines, limited use of public transport and the use of face coverings on public transport.
- provision of COVID-19 risk assessment for business owners
- requirement for businesses to demonstrate the control measures they had put in place to deliver a safe shopping and working environment and ensure compliance with social distancing rules, in relation to themselves, their staff and customers.
The council also proactively engaged with the two shopping centres in Bradford and one in Keighley resulting in around 70 schemes. The schemes were designed to enable social distancing and to assist shops to open and people to move about, while minimising the risks of transmission of the virus. The schemes included widening pavements, dropping kerbs, temporarily removing parking bays, making roads one way, and removing street furniture and planters. Signage and general information explained and reminded customers of social distancing rules to ensure they kept a two-metre distance from another customer. In addition, floor markings indicated the twometre distance and wardens were deployed at major retail areas to monitor and support social distancing measures.
Finally, a trial of park lets has been proposed, which are short term/temporary measures to help businesses adapt to social distancing requirements. A parklet is a pavement extension which provides more space and amenities for people using a street, particularly bars, cafes and restaurants. These are usually installed in parking spaces, to offer a place to stop, sit rest while taking in the activities of the street. They are generally temporary installations, designed for quick and easy removal for emergencies or road maintenance.
For more information, email Kathryn.Ingold@bradford.gov.uk.
A targeted approach council to tax collection (Lewes and Eastbourne)
COVID-19 has resulted in rising unemployment (and underemployment) across the UK – a result being that many residents are now struggling to pay council tax. This poses a challenge for councils, who rely on council tax as a significant source of income, but in collecting these payments, do not wish to push residents into further hardship.
Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough Councils have introduced an ethical debt collection system, which has helped to resolve this dilemma by making it possible to identify residents who are genuinely struggling to pay their debts versus those who have the ability to pay.
The system works by matching individual bureau credit files against Council Tax residents data in order to identify if residents with outstanding council tax debts have continued to pay priority and/or non-priority debts and those who are not paying either. Based on that information, the system then classifies residents as belonging to one of three groups:
- residents who are financially stable paying priority and non-priority debts
- residents who are paying non-priority creditor debts
- residents in significant debt who may be facing hardship.
In this way, Lewes DC and Eastbourne BC have been able to reduce incidents of tax avoidance while helping to connect vulnerable residents with support.
This system, which was developed by Ascendant Solutions within the space of a week, has proven immensely effective. Three weeks after its launch, the councils have received £200,000 in outstanding council tax payments which otherwise wouldn’t have been collected; the split of overall income is as follows - £100, 000 from residents who immediately paid on receipt of a letter (no follow up call required); and £100,000 from residents who received the letter and who spoke with an advisor on the telephone and made payment, in some cases meaning a new instalment plan was agreed.
Residents in all categories receive an auto-generated letter requesting payment, however the message varied depending on the group. Letters to residents in groups 2 and 3 offer links to potential sources of support around managing debt and building income and owing that residents in group 3 may struggle to make payments at all, the letter sent to this group also offers contact details for hardship assistance. It is understood that residents in the first group have the financial resources available to pay so residents in this group do not receive these additional details.
- 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.
- Grants and web-based services for local business (Barnsley)
Barnsley Council quickly started distributing grants to businesses who need support from the Government scheme just days after the support package was announced, paying out over £19M to 1762 businesses by early April. Enterprising Barnsley, the business support arm of the council, is continuing to provide a central source of information on their website for national and local business support in response to COVID-19.
Enterprising Barnsley has continued to build on their web-based services for local businesses, with a suite of offers to support them into recovery and beyond.
This has included online video content via Facebook Live, for example reporting on their work with URBACT to create a digital economy in Barnsley and gearing up for retail reopening in June. They have also started to offer webinars via their Launchpad service, their free one-to-one support for start-up and newer businesses, replacing their usual classroom based courses. These have been opened up to anyone wishing to participate, covering topics such as using social media for business and a series of start-up modules for those new to starting a business. Barnsley envisage continuing to offer these services on-line for the foreseeable future.
Enterprising Barnsley’s key account managers have maintained constant contact with key businesses in the area using Zoom and other online tools to manage relationships and offer business support, using those tools to link with other parts of the council, such as advice from regulatory services on safe working and negotiating public transport problems.
The council have found the channel-shift to online business support has been highly effective and something they plan to maintain and expand as they explore online service delivery to reach more Barnsley businesses across a range of sectors. Now focusing on recovery, the team at Enterprising Barnsley are continuing to adapt, developing the Barnsley Inclusive Knowledge Economy strategy which aims to build a knowledge economy with fairness, shared prosperity and opportunities for all at its core, and they will soon launch new offers to support and encourage digital innovation in the borough.
If you would like to know more about the support on offer you can contact the team at email@example.com
- Online business directory (Oxford City Council)
In March 2020, due to the coronavirus lockdown, many businesses were forced to completely shut down face to face operations. The main source of food at that time was supermarkets, but they were under immense pressure to continue regular supply and provide online delivery slots. Several small local businesses across Oxford decided to try to maintain supplies to customers by focusing on online ordering and delivery, and the City Council looked to take on a supporting role of those efforts to continue operating under the new lockdown restrictions.
The Council’s Economic Development and City Centre Management team was in touch with businesses city wide to alert them to the support that was available to them including loans, grants and rate relief, and created a Survey Monkey powered questionnaire to help better understand how businesses were adapting ways of working to operate under lockdown, and how the council could best help.
The response led the team to launch anonline business directoryto help promote those that were still available by operatingonline andproviding their services via the internet or by telephone. The initial businesses to feature included fresh food providers, and restaurants and cafes that were available for online delivery or takeaway. This meant that, from a residents’ perspective, the directory brought together local businesses to provide a holistic offer to those on the vulnerable and shielded list, and to those who wanted to support local business.
The directory proved so popular that the initial 60 businesses quickly increased to include additional commercial offers as the lockdown restrictions impacted more and more sectors. Book stores, photography studios and architects were some of those that were added to the ever-growing directory list.
Similar initiatives to promote Oxford businesses operating online were also created by local organisationsIndependent Oxford,Bitten OxfordandDaily Info. The council created links to them on the directory, which was being promoted via a coordinated social media campaign to increase awareness and its popularity.
The directory provided users with an easy to use interface with a content list of various services ranging from fresh food to revised hospitality offers. It featured links to websites, social media pages, contact details, emails and important information such as delivery options and opening times.
The links and collaboration that have been created through this portal have been substantial. For instance, a group of market traders combining their offer of products into a single online portal, and a bike courier service first connecting with local traders to be their delivery service and then creating an online local supermarket itself offering fresh produce shopping so that residents have a spontaneous food delivery service to use.
The success of the Oxford initiative prompted other councils and organisations to launch similar directories with Boston Council and a team brought together by Newcastle Building Society replicating the approach.
By the start of June, the directory had more than 275 businesses signed up and the web page has received tens of thousands of page views, becoming, for a period, the busiest on the Council’s website.
As lockdown eases, the Council is working with businesses to review thedirectory andagree what its best role is going forward.
Iain Nicholson, City Centre Manager,INICHOLSON@oxford.gov.uk
- Engagement with MPs (Devon)
At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Leader of Devon County Council established a weekly (virtual) briefing for all Devon MPs. This meeting is chaired by the Leader with input from Council's Chief Executive, Director of Public Health, Chair and Chief Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group, Police, Economic Development and a nominated Leader and Chief Executive representative from the 8 Devon District Councils on the response, reset and recovery arrangements from COVID-19.
At the time of writing, the group intends to continue to meet to provide MPs with the opportunity to engage on local outbreak management as Devon County Council is one of 11 Beacon Councils for this across the country. As a two-tier area, the Leaders of the County Council and the 8 Devon Districts meet on a weekly basis and have created the 'Team Devon' approach to their response to Covid-19. This approach involves collaboration between policy development and the delivery of service responses such as shielding, business rate discretionary grants, rough sleeper support, economic recovery and more recently local outbreak management.The approach has helped to bring together and share resources across Devon to help enhance services provided.
- Remote council meetings (Various)
Despite these unprecedented times, local authorities still need to deliberate and make decisions about the future of their localities, enable democratic participation from applicants and residents, maintain momentum on major developments in their boundaries while adhering to social distancing and new government regulations during the COVID-19 emergency. The LGA’s caseRemote Council Meetings: Case studies hubsets 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.
Each case study on this webpage offers a summary of the approach taken and lessons learned.
- Virtual family court proceedings (Dorset)
Dorset Council have worked with local judges and numerous internal stakeholders to embed a digital solution to enable Family Courts to continue despite the lockdown restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak.Family Courts provide vital services to the children and families of Dorset and are a vital cog in the process in ensuring the most vulnerable children can be safeguarded through issuing proceedings under the Children Act. Hearings within the family court are not traditionally run electronically, requiring, in most cases, physical face to face meetings involving social workers, judges, the other parties to proceedings and legal representatives.
Dorset were requested by the local Designated Family Judge on Wednesday 18March to provide an electronic solution to enable the provision of safeguarding, with a deadline set for Monday 23March. The responsibility for this would usually fall with the courts; however the court was not able to facilitate the processes required, so passed responsibility to the local authority. Though the council had limited requirements and was not familiar with all the necessary stakeholders, the first court hearing was able to take place the following day.
The council has attributed this achievement to the following:
- Quickly building relationships and establishing a common collaborative internal team across Children’s Services, the Child Care Legal Team, ICT, Property and Estates – primarily through MS Teams.
- Understanding the problem– must have MVP requirements, documenting a process to elicit requirements and identify misunderstandings ASAP:
- Hearing must be recorded
- Hearings can last a whole day
- Available for judges, social workers, other parties and legal representatives
- Some parties may not have access to the required technology – venues needed where they can easily join the hearing
- Working with colleagues to ascertain tools that could meet the requirement, adopting common sense and pragmatism – the decision was to use Skype, which at the Council is a tried and tested technology (Dorset Council had only recently started to use MS Teams and staff did not yet have expertise in the platform; and their Skype rooms did not then support MS teams – for this reason, MS Teams was discounted).
- Skype recording - Skype Video conferencing units with 1 room in Weymouth 1 in Ferndown – available to be booked by DC on behalf of families and their solicitors. The Skype rooms are simple to use – with one click, participants can join the meeting. It is understood that Dorset was the first local authority in the UK to provide this level of support to parents in care proceedings, something which was recognised by the senior judiciary;
- Skype calls working with the judges and DC legal teams – training them on the calls
- 1:1 Training and support for key users- Judges, legal admin
- Adapting to changing requirements – after go live, the requirement emerged that legally the judge needed to record the call rather than the DC legal admin’ team. DC enabled federated access for our legal admin staff which allows the judges, who sit in a different organisation to record (note MS Teams does not allow this).
Reflecting on the implementation of the new system, the Dorset Council have highlighted that a good understanding and prioritisation of requirements is essential to a successful agile delivery need to exercise common sense and pragmatism (focus on the most important requirements first and be prepared to adapt to evolving needs). With this, they have impressed the importance of pulling together a design for review and comment as early as possible; adding that “often issues get picked up at this early stage rather than post development – in our case we documented a process map and shared it”. A further learning takeaway was that the customer should remain the focal point. In this case, that meant ensuring hearings could continue, with appropriate tools to get the job done and ensure that safeguarding responsibilities could continue – “bells and whistles can always follow”.
Having made the system work in the current environment, the council are looking to it might be continued; including whether the solution can adopt capabilities from other platforms. With the easing of lockdown measures, the future direction of this work will hinge on what the court decides but the Council have expressed in enthusiasm toward working with Judges and the Court IT and admin’ teams to achieve whatever is required to secure the best outcomes for children and others within the legal system.
Justin Hoffmann, Programme Manager, Digital and Change, Dorset Council firstname.lastname@example.org
- Climate change case studies (various)
Climate change case studies and notable practice are available via the LGA Climate Change webpage. Toward the bottom of the page there are several grey boxes with examples of good practice linked to each. For example, under Climate action: transport and energy, there are examples from councils in the transport and energy areas.
If you have examples of good or notable practice to contribute, please let us know at email@example.com.
Housing and Homelessness
- Bradford COVID-19 Support for Houses in Multiple Occupation - getting key messages out, where they are needed
People living in shared houses and bedsits are often some of the most vulnerable people in our community and at particular risk from poor living conditions. The coronavirus outbreak has made this worse with a greater risk of infection, especially where people are sharing kitchens and bathrooms. Following agreement at the councils Bronze command meeting, the Housing Operations team worked with Public Health and Marketing and Communications to produce two posters to display in Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) across the district. One poster provides general advice which includes advice that everyone should make a plan in case they fall ill. They were also advised to share their contact details and other useful contact numbers with their landlords (and others if it is safe to do so). The other poster gives advice on how to use a shared kitchen and bathroom safely.
So far over 5,000 posters have been distributed either by post, or by hand for some of the larger blocks of flats in the city. The posters have been sent to the landlords of each HMO along with a letter asking them to display the posters in prominent positions within their HMOs and providing other advice to help them support and protect their tenants and themselves.
Getting the posters to the landlords has proved a logistical challenge as although the Service had clear contact details for the properties that hold a licence (about 325 HMOs), contact details for the remainder (about 1400) have had to be verified using a number of databases. It’s been a real team effort!
For more information, emailKathryn.Ingold@bradford.gov.uk
- Call Before You Serve (Derby)
The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it mass redundancies, loss of overtime, no sick pay etc. which all put extra strain on a person’s ability to pay their bills including their rent; leaving tenancies in crisis. The Corona Virus Act put a temporary halt to eviction proceedings, which threw the whole landlord community into crisis – never had there been a better time for a landlord focused service based within Local Authorities.
The Council saw the opportunity to take an upstream prevention approach and offer alternative options for private landlords, so as to retain a huge proportion of existing stock ana build trust with future Landlords.
Call Before You Serve (CB4YS) encourages landlords, who are experiencing issues with their tenancies / tenants, to make contact with CB4YS, as early as possible, before they actually serve the legal notice to end the tenancy or during the pandemic when they can't physically issue a notice.
The CB4YS officer investigates what measures can be introduced to re-stabilise that tenancy and prevent the notice from being served (either now or when it is possible) or in some cases to rescind the notice altogether.
CB4YS is a communication shift away from the negative toward the positive. It aligns the Private Rented Sector (PRS) landlord with the Residential Provider landlord who, as a council, we work so closely with.
A tenancy saved is one less home to procure in the PRS moving forward.
There are many far reaching benefits of this project including:
- Alleviation of early intervention workload for partner Local Authority officers by acting as the main point of contact for landlords in the first instance.
- Significant cost saving on interim/ temporary accommodation and bed & breakfast.
- Increased signposting, uptake & promotion of Local Authority offered services such as tenancy deposit, social lettings schemes & landlord accreditation.
- Increased networking among landlords with property portfolios ready made to work with tenants on housing benefit, therefore increasing PRS supply to participating authorities.
- Encouraging innovative thinking in other organisations. CB4YS is working with the probation service to address the issue of when offenders go into prison for short sentences and lose their rental home resulting in costly intervention when they are released.
Since CB4YS started Landlords in PRS have been more willing to work with the council, they simply need help and assistance from a service that understands their issues and has the skills and attitude to help resolve them.
- CB4YS found that if Landlords feel listened to and are given the correct information, kept updated and feel included that they are much more willing to work through the problems than evict their tenants.
- Landlords, by working with CB4YS, are often willing to forgo thousands of pounds of rent arrears and bad experience.
- Court can be a lengthy, costly and stressful time for Landlords with no real prospect of recovering any monies owed so they see CB4YS as a valuable partner to getting things moving forward.
- For Local Authorities the huge benefit to keeping a positive relationship with the landlord community ensures we do not lose them as a valuable housing provider.
- A common theme in the CB4YS caseload is that people remain stable tenants until hit by hard times or have changes in their circumstances such as those brought by COVID-19. If the tenants CB4YS see were in fact housed in social housing instead of the PRS, the Local Authority would be offering the tenant support as soon as issues were identified with their payments and a lot of pre tenancy support too. However, often in the private sector issues do not come to light until it is too late that is why an early intervention service like CB4YS is vital.
The main reason for the success of CB4YS is that it sees all properties that are currently being rented by tenants on benefits or a low wage (or anyone that would need to access Local Authority assistance should they be given notice ) as current ‘housing stock’. CB4YS have found that respecting the stock already available and by using upstream prevention and offering alternative options for private landlords, it is possible to retain a huge proportion of existing stock and build trust with future Landlords.
Contact: For further details about this service, please contact Helen Scott, Decent and Safe Homes (DASH) Officer – Call B4 you Serve, at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone:01332 641408.
- COVID-19 household plan
Coronavirus (COVID 19) will affect all households and families in some way. This could be either through disruption to work and school patterns, or potentially through household members catching the virus itself. Every household in the Bradford District received a letter asking them to make a ‘Household Plan’ (developed by Public Health with partners). Residents were asked to think about and record as a group the key issues that would keep them safe, where they may need to make changes and share information.
Households were advised to document the following information in their household plan:
- contact details
- who provides services to the household (covering food, housing and utilities)
- who can support and help your household, and who you can support
- any important medical or benefits details • discussion about how you can all stay well - physically, mentally and emotionally
- plans on how to care for anyone who has symptoms or becomes ill with the virus.
Households also received a letter with advice and tips on how to stay well and what to do if someone develops symptoms, is ill or needs other types of crisis or social support. Easy read and British Sign Language versions were also made and distributed for the Bradford District population.
For further information emailDuncan.Cooper@bradford.gov.uk
- DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant: Emergency Food Response and Rough Sleepers Allocation (Leeds)
Leeds City Council (LCC) was allocated £1.051m through DEFRA’s Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies.
Of that allocation, LCC focused £50,000 across 13 key organisations working to support rough sleepers in Leeds, both in temporary emergency accommodation but also in other types of provision. The funding covered support for those new to, and those returning to the street. Funding also included agencies working to support specific groups of people who are more likely to have to rough sleep, such as destitute asylum seekers and those with no recourse to public funds, as well as female sex workers. In terms of supporting people entering new tenancies, Leeds Housing Options, Engage and Beacon were all provided with support.
Engagement with agencies who support the on-street population was crucial both in terms of defining the priority populations but also the interventions which would be most beneficial. As a result, agencies included in funding conversations included those working with destitute asylum seekers, economic migrants, female sex workers, and those with no recourse to public funds.
£50,000 was allocated across the themes below and then to the organisations identified as currently working to support rough sleepers during the pandemic. These include local authority teams and third/community sector organisations.
Funding themes included:
- Providing essential items to support those newly entering emergency accommodation
- Enabling those housed in temporary accommodation to people remain engaged and able to follow guidance
- Providing essential items to those new or returning to the street in terms to prevent Covid infection to support personal safety and encourage engagement with key services
- Providing certain essential items to assist those who have secured new housing post emergency accommodation.
Specific items that were purchased with this support included:
- Disposable face masks and hand sanitiser
- Rape alarms and torches
- Warm clothing and shoes
- Hygiene and distraction packs (for those in hotels or in social isolation)
- Power packs for mobile phones
- Android phones (to enable access to relevant Apps like NHS Covid-19, Drink Coach, One You Leeds, Mindwell, etc.)
- Travel cards (to enable people to get to appointments)
- Female sanitary products
- Welcome pack for those entering new tenancies (include basic food, hygiene and other items)
- Helping people socially isolate effectively if requested to do so
- Holistic support to rough sleepers, through drug, alcohol and offending reduction service (Stevenage)
Stevenage’s No More Service takes a holistic approach to help clients reduce alcohol consumption, and drug use and offending, as well as supporting people with ‘complex needs’. A co-operative approach with partners with police, probation, mental health services, prisons, Adult Social Care, housing providers, and courts, as well as the charitable and voluntary sector all play a vital role. A Support Worker is assigned to review and assess issues and support needs, develop a support plan, and make coordinated referrals to other agencies. Due to the holistic nature of the model innovative responses are able to be provided for the individual’s needs.
In the first two weeks of lockdown, demand increased by 157%, 48 rough sleepers were helped into accommodation, whilst contact with 12 high-risk offenders changed from quarterly reviews to several contacts per week.
A grant secured within two days funded phones and credit for clients to maintain vital contact.
‘No More’ grasped the opportunity the crisis presented, to engage the temporarily accommodated rough sleepers and help break long-term habits associated with attachment to the streets and the cycle of offending and addiction. Every rough sleeper was offered a ‘No More’ Support Worker, with support continuing even if clients were evicted as consistency in offering help is especially important for this client group. The team, used daily conversations with clients to ‘know more’ about the who they were helping and respond to demand.
Key lessons include:
- Coping skills developed to manage addiction and mental health needed adapting
- High-risk offenders, already restricted, were further isolated
- For some, the situation simulated prison, potentially triggering related emotions and behaviour
- As services reduced, clients lost existing contact and support
- Long-term rough sleepers had to adapt to temporary accommodation rules
- Anti-social behaviour complaints resulted from clients and neighbours being at home for longer, requiring conflict resolution
- Clients adapting methods of substance use needed harm reduction advice
- 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).
- Surrey Homeless Multi-Agency Group (Surrey)
The Surrey Homeless Multi-Agency Group (MAG) was established to better support Surrey’s homeless population during COVID-19 and in the longer term.
The membership includes representatives from local Integrated Care partnerships, Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System (primary care), Adult Social Care (ASC), Surrey Heath CCG (Quality), Public Health (Substance Misuse, Homeless Public Health Agreement), Surrey and Borders Partnership (Mental Health), Criminal Justice System (Office and Police and Crime Commissioner) and District & Borough Housing Teams.
The group first met in April 2020 with an aim to:
- Support the health needs of newly accommodated rough sleepers
- Reduce the wider health impact of COVID-19 on people facing homelessness and reduce avoidable admissions to hospital and A+E
- Ensure outbreaks are reported and managed in line with regional PHE guidance
- Support partners during transition from lockdown so they are better positioned to provide the wrap around support needed to allow people get and retain newly acquired accommodation
The Homeless MAG has enabled oversight of the COVID-19 response in relation to homelessness by all relevant support agencies represented. Issues concerning access to primary care, mental health or substance misuse were reviewed by the group so as to better identify how existing provision could provide a solution. The group also linked up to address resource gaps and joint issues, including around reporting and funding (enabling additional resources to be identified); managing discharge from hospitals, mental health care facilities and prison release; as well as complex situations e.g. where individuals need high support accommodation, which requires additional resources.
The Homeless MAG enabled a homeless triaging pathway that has been distributed amongst all district and borough housing teams and has also supported the development of the homelessness section of the Local Outbreak Plan. It worked collaboratively with housing managers across all 11 Boroughs and Districts to monitor number of cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases amongst this population, reduce transmission and ensure that any outbreaks are handled appropriately. This helped to identify and resource suitable units to ensure people were able to self-isolate as needed. It also offered a pathway to share learning from COVID-19 positive cases that arose.
This approach will inform support provided during recovery and beyond and so the Homeless MAG have identified longer term opportunities to address systemic issues identified through the Surrey Adults Matter programme. This fed a longer-term plan to support the national ambition of ending homelessness by 2024.At the time of writing, the group had begun planning around to carry forward the collaborative work taking place, with plans to cover issues including:
- Enabling a partnership response to plan for and source accommodation and support for those leaving temporary accommodation following the COVID-19 lockdown
- Developing integrated, long term high-support accommodation options to support people with challenging behaviour who are currently difficult to house or with no housing options;
- Resourcing appropriate and sustainable, multi-agency outreach to enable people to engage fully in their own recovery;
- Developing multi-agency discharge pathways for prisons and hospitals which take account of the duty to refer, as well as capitalising on opportunities to engage more fully in people’s ongoing recovery;
- A mental health and wellbeing pathway to ensure people who are homeless are supported before the point of crisis and the services they receive from all partners are trauma-informed
- A targeted and flexible primary health homeless service to maximise impact of existing provision and develop additional primary care outreach options
- Cross-sector leadership which agrees a practical vision to end rough sleeping in Surrey agreed by all key partners and a programme of activity in place to deliver the vision
The group recognised the importance being sensitive to the demands placed on frontline housing teams during their planning process. This line of thinking informed the planning process above, which was undertaken in consultation with housing managers and means adopting a phased approach to address these issues.
Some key achievements of the Surrey Homeless MAG are:
- Simplification and acceleration of access to community substance misuse support
- People were better able to access crisis mental health support
- Enhanced understanding and use of GP and other primary care offers for homeless people
- Provision of assistance with practical help, including putting specialist security in place in potentially volatile emergency housing
- Enhanced understanding of services available through the third sector
- Provision of suitable land and pods to better enable individuals to appropriately self-isolate in the event of increased COVID-19 cases
- Supported an outreach proposal for the provision of the flu vaccine at suitable community locations to improve access for rough sleepers and those in emergency / temporary accommodation.
Inclusion and community cohesion
COVID-19: Faith & Communities Response (Essex)
As part of the initial crisis response to the pandemic, the Essex Strategic Coordination Group (SCG) established a Faith & Communities Working Group to ensure that multi-faith perspectives were considered in the coordinated effort to plan for Excess Death Management (EDM) response.
The group was primarily made up of representatives from faith organisations across the county and met weekly. An additional group of officers from across the greater Essex footprint was established to support this work.
The group has since pivoted and has been established as a standalone Tactical Co-ordination Group (TCG) as part of the recovery phase. The remit of the group is to provide information and advice to faith & community groups and also to inform development of future resilience/recovery/pandemic response work. The scope of the TCG has been broadened to cover all those characteristics protected by the Equality Act.
Key focus areas for the TCG include providing guidance and communications on areas such as reopening of places of worship, restarting of ceremonies and marking key religious, cultural and community events as easement continues.
A vital aspect of the TCG’s work will also be the identification and prioritisation of specific areas of focus that look to tackle the impact of COVID-19 on minority, disadvantaged & high-risk groups across Essex; emerging trends among or affecting different faith and community groups and emerging tensions within local communities.
The Faith & Communities TCG has brought together faith and community leaders to work with pubic services in a way that had not been seen before. The rapid response, deployment and delivery of the work was underpinned by a collaborative mindset and a desire to want to have collective impact. Key activity to date includes:
- A guidance document for those working as part of the EDM project that gave details on usual rites and funeral practices of each major faith, alongside the current advice and guidance being issued by national faith bodies.
- Advice and guidance for communities on practicing faith and on current guidelines/restrictions for funerals.
- A three-tier Bereavement Support Package, available on the ECC website.
- A Chaplaincy support package for staff working in and connected to the temporary mortuary site.
- Communication materials about the Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Team (PMART) that would be activated to respond to deaths in the community if the usual system could not cope.
- Advice and guidance for both taxi drivers (who are at high risk from COVID-19) to and their customers.
- Advice and guidance for places of worship to help them in preparing for reopening and in advance of (at the time) the potential for being able to reopen for private prayer.
There were practical challenges to this work. The first was ensuring that products were approved by all authorities involved, usually Essex County Council, Southend and Thurrock, at what was often quite short notice. The group also worked hard to ensure that all public sector partners, particularly district councils were kept informed and that the group were able to utilise their expert local knowledge to both provide direct the work and help spread key messages into local communities.
The second was the lack of prior warning of government announcements to changes in restrictions, coupled by delays to any associated guidance being issued.This resulted in needing to provide a short notice and immediate response to these announcements and working to make sure that key messages were being provided to the community.
- Muslimburials 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:
- Extend hours of operation at cemeteries to allow multiple burials a day
- Limit the number of people attending funerals to 10 mourners
- 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.
- Newham Borough Council Covid-19 Health Champions (Newham)
Newham Borough Council has brought together a group of COVID-19 Health Champions as part of their response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 Health Champions role was created for two reasons: to ensure that key COVID-19 messaging was reaching all communities in the Borough and to hear back from residents about their experiences in order to improve the response from the council.
Drop-in sessions hosted by the public health team, are held two times a week, induction sessions are held every other week. Champions receive messages through WhatsApp broadcast and email on most days. These include infographics about key aspects of COVID-19 such as the latest rules on socialising, what happens if a child is sent home from school, how to get a test. These are sent as JPEGs so that they can easily be shared with the wider communities. Champions also receive a badge, a fridge magnet and a window sticker so that they can show they are champions – and so that they can feel part of the wider group.
COVID-19 Health Champions ask questions and share concerns directly with the Champions team. Any queries are answered by Public Health team or relevant colleagues quickly (usually within a few hours. These questions also influence the policy and delivery of COVID-19 support in Newham. For example, feedback about concerns around venues not adhering to guidelines result in quick action from the environmental health team. Feedback about test centre experiences have influenced training and support for staff in those centres.
The Champions share the information they receive with their peers, colleagues, friends and family – and to feedback questions and concerns from the wider community. This is happening in a number of ways including champions’ own WhatsApp and email groups, school newsletters, zoom catch-ups with parents and children, print outs in windows and on doors, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. The programme works with the Mutual Aid in Newham to get messages out as well. The infographics are available in a range of languages including Bengali, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), French, Guajarati, Lithuanian, Hindi, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Romanian, Tamil, Somali and Urdu. All of the infographics are available through a google drive so that it is easy for champions to download them.
Champions now also share and support each other through a WhatsApp group and at the drop in sessions. They are sharing their own stories of COVID, answering each other’s questions and often sending words of encouragement.
With the volunteers from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, Newham are able to have a broad reach across the community. Since the launch of the work, more than 410 people have registered. More than 100 champions attended the council’s recent summit to celebrate their work and develop the ideas further.
Newham is now launching a young champions programme, seeking to recruit young people to share information with their friends and families, and to feedback questions and concerns for the council to respond.
Newham has supported more than 30 councils to develop their programmes, including hosting two ‘how to’ sessions for other councils. Newham has now convened a best practice sharing session for other co-ordinators and will continue to support other boroughs to develop their programmes.
- Virtual ESOL Feels Like Home Group (Barnsley)
Barnsley’s refugee, asylum seekers and migrant communities are particularly vulnerable, and Barnsley’s Feels Like Home service provides community support for people who don’t speak English as a first language. The group’s members are often living in poverty, with limited social networks and are already dealing with PTSD and other mental health difficulties. These groups often have limited IT equipment, no TVs, and—due to language and access barriers—may experience difficulties receiving complex messages about COVID-19 that are crucial to their safety and that of the broader community.
In this climate the ESOL group Feels Like Home, run by the Barnsley Museums, is now more important than ever. The group has gone virtual, with weekly English and support video sessions as well as a social media support network for 60+ group members. The ESOL has run crucial extra sessions on understanding the virus, how to socially distance and how the NHS works.
In partnership with the Refugee Council, the group have created an emergency resource pack, which explains how to access services and get support if English is not your first language.
With Sheffield having a much bigger third sector supporting BAME communities than Barnsley, council staff have tapped into this resource and identified charities willing to extend to Barnsley and linked members to this support – for example, to source tablets with mobile WIFI for two single male group members that now have internet access.The group have achieved a lot in a short amount of time with limited resources, supporting a small but very vulnerable community to keep them safe and informed.
This work has been shortlisted for a best museum collaboration award with the Cultural, Health and Wellbeing Alliance for working with different community groups and the refugee council. The group also took part in the council’s first digital Mayor’s Parade, whichhad over 50 entries from local community groups. The parade was shared on Facebook and viewed by 8,000 people, with engagement rising to over 24,000 in days.
For further information about this work, please contact: SueThiedeman@barnsley.gov.uk .
- Working with the community to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough)
The population of Peterborough is predominantly white British but almost 30% is “non white British” putting it on a par with places like Nottingham, Blackburn and Darwen, Reading and Bedford. There are many different languages spoken including, Arabic, Asian (East, West, South and central), European, Russian and Portuguese. Religious beliefs are also wide ranging including, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu. In order to communicate the government messages around COVID, the Council developed its own community led approach, which was aimed at those “hard to try” groups the mainstream messaging did not immediately appeal to.
The Council had developed a network of trusted community leaders (15-20 community champions) over years of integration work in the area. They took the mainstream messages from the Government and Public Heath and distilled it into key messages, agreed with the Director of Public Health. The community champions then translated this information into many languages and produced videos which were shared with the different communities through their usual communications channels, such as Facebook groups, religious networks, Whats App, word of mouth and on the Council website.
The community champions network met regularly in order to review how messages were being received, if there were any issues/suggestions and how to overcome them. The network continued to evolve, and more organisations/groups were linked in to increase its reach. The Faith groups network met fortnightly to discuss how they could help change people’s behaviour. Targeted messages were given to 10-15% of the Asian/Pakistani Muslims in the five city mosques every week at Friday prayers. In order to reach female members of the congregation, the council joined forces with GLADCA and ESOL organisation working with Asian women in further education.
To target the newly arriving Eastern European arrivals, Council officers, supported by community organisations like PARCA (Peterborough Asylum Seekers and Refugees Community Association) undertook weekly street visits to share information. Likewise, homeless charities provided support to rough sleepers including information, sanitisers and face masks plus details on where they could go to be tested.
The Council is constantly reviewing its approach and work is currently underway to reach the Black population by working with the 11 Black churches to deliver information through sermons and live streaming videos. Again community leaders have been very supportive of this approach. The next group to be targeted is young people.
Initially the council used the public health data to identify those at risk, but this is only split into White British, White other and Asian. The Council has taken this further and used its own household data to identify further groups it wanted to target. An ethnicity “deep dive” is also taking place using a public health analyst to look at each category and break it down by age, gender and geography so that individual streets can be targeted.
The Council is also developing videos and information based on personal stories to target certain neighbourhoods. Using a local driving instructor to share his story of catching COVID and how it changed his view. It is hoped developing more of these with well known local figures will help to make people stop and think about their behavior.
Start with a few dedicated community champions, maybe just two or three who can make the local connections. It was hard to do this at first (over a decade ago) when the agenda was more about “prevent” but now given that COVID is nondiscriminatory people are more willing to listen and get involved.
The Council needs to own the approach. It is too easy to let the voluntary sector do this when a local authority led approach can ensure all departments, agencies and organisations are joined up.
Contact: Jawaid Khan, Head of Community Resilience and Integration, Cambridgeshire County and Peterborough City Council
Supporting vulnerable residents
- Cumbria County Council: Reaching and supporting the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic brought an urgent need to provide support and assistance to families and individuals struggling with a wide range of issues across Cumbria County Council’s 2,613 square miles. The launch of a one-stop support helpline proved key in communicating important information and providing access to essential services. To date, more than 27,000 residents have been supported by the council’s COVID-19 emergency helpline.
Read the full case study:Cumbria County Council: Reaching and supporting the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic
Area Action Partnerships – Durham’s community hub approach (Durham)
Durham County Council’s Community Hub is a powerful example of a locally led partnership working at pace to respond to and support its community’s evolving needs. Underpinned by an ethos of self-help, community empowerment and continual learning, the Council have ensured that the Hub’s achievements go beyond supporting those in need, by also having the potential to transform future service delivery and shape the Council’s relationship with its communities and partners going forward.
In response to the outbreak of Covid 19, Durham County Council worked closely with a number of partners - including local voluntary and community organisations, general practitioners, other local health services staff, local DWP teams, the NHS GoodSAM app – and across all council teams to provide speedy and comprehensive support to shielded and vulnerable residents in the county. This numbered over 90,000 people, spread over a large council are. While initially focused on securing food supplies, the hub became a more nuanced response to different and complex needs emerging over time such as metal health and social isolation, operating on a ‘no wrong door’ basis.
In the early weeks of the pandemic the Council responded quickly by setting up a central call centre, utilising staff redeployed from other non-critical council services to support their population and particularly those in need of immediate help. To deliver services, a central hub was created, operating into local communities across the north and the south of the county to respond locally with help and advice. The Hub quickly provided initial support for those identified as needing immediate help (26,000 on the shielded list, 75,000 identified as having multiple social vulnerabilities). Durham’s approach of continual learning and transformation meant that it was able to respond quickly as needs changed and new responses were required, for example from hearing from many people with short term food needs, to people getting in touch with more complex mental wellbeing support needs.
The Hub’s approach built on an existing structure of Area Action Partnerships (AAPs) with community working and voluntary sector involvement. The Council devolved additional grant funding to these AAPs to support local community resilience and growth Building on these existing strong relationships with partner and community organisations was key to Durham’s successful cross-organisational and multi-agency approach. Local areas and communities were able to direct funding to where it was most needed based on local knowledge, networks and intelligence. This collaboration meant the Council was able to maximise place-based resources to help directly, or signpost to appropriate agencies or community groups, quickly engaging with those services and overcoming the barriers that may have previously existed. Examples of this include the creation of the Chat Together service to tackle social isolation, digital access to library services, through to provision of more holistic ‘wrap around’ support to individuals’ with multiple needs.
The longer impact and benefit for Durham Council has been that it now has an even more enhanced understanding of its communities and how to help its more vulnerable residents. For example, by having contact with residents previously unknown to the Council, and as a result of redeployed staff gaining an enhanced understanding of Durham’s communities (as well as new skills) which they will take back to their substantive roles.
The Council’s continual learning approach has been a real strength. It built in opportunities to review and change as necessary – using tools such as lean process reviews and equality impact assessment to ensure continuous improvement and to inform future service delivery. Durham Council was still able to respond at pace by ensuring evidence-based decisions making and accepting that things could change day-to-day. Culturally, the Council’s ‘can do’ attitude helped positively overcome obstacles that had previously been difficult to move. There is now a focus on reviewing this activity to ensure the learning and positive processes, behaviours and practices are embedded, mainstreaming or adapted as appropriate. This is evident through the fact that Durham is continuing to develop and improve the way they engage with partners to understand the needs of more vulnerable residents and respond appropriately, in relation to the pandemic and beyond.
For further details: Alan Patrickson, Director of Neighbourhoods and Climate Change, email@example.com
- Community Champions (Cheshire West and Chester)
Building on the groundswell of people coming forward to volunteer as part of the community response to the pandemic, Cheshire West and Chester have developed a new voluntary role of community champions.
These are recognised individuals who will:
- Provide communities with messages about COVID-19 to share locally and across wider networks
- Develop a network of people who can feedback about businesses / settings that are operating well within COVID-19 secure guidance or not
- Develop the network to support other messages as the pandemic evolves
Next steps in developing the champions network will be to promote engagement with younger audiences and boost the numbers of young people signing up. We will also explore methods of more creative messaging – using vlogs, videos, audio, quotes - to extend the reach and impact of the information being shared through the champions network.
To date over 300 local people and organisations from across the borough have signed up as Community Champions, mainly individuals with close links to community groups and charities. These champions have been brought together virtually to discuss the role, for the Council to recognise contribution they are making and also for the Council to gain feedback on the process and messaging.
- Community Response Hub – A Partnership Approach (Lewisham)
The COVID-19 Community Response Hub was a collaboration between Lewisham Council and four VCS organisations that each gave up much of their normal operations in March 2020. They combined their expertise in coordinating a borough-wide service in the face of the first national Covid-19 lockdown. Their aim was to coordinate emergency support across the borough to people who needed food, friendship or practical help.
The partnership came about because proactive leaders in the VCS and Council were seeing the upcoming emergency, experiencing a growing demand on their own services and then discussing what needed to be put in place to meet the need.
Once the partners had met, the hub was set up very quickly. Within a week there was a website and a phone line that people could call for access to emergency support centred around three key offers: food parcels, practical help and befriending.
There were over 14,000 referrals, including
- >11,000 for food;
- 1400 for befriending;
- 500 practical assistance requests
More than 2400 volunteers registered with our Hub Partners and about 700 of those volunteers were matched into roles.
- They pooled their resources, knowledge and expertise. Partners drew on their networks and assets to work collaboratively, organise food deliveries, and manage befriending, donations and volunteers.
- The Hub supported those shielding during the wait for the government’s shielding information to come through, as a phone line and website was up and running.
The demand for help with food rapidly escalated as more people were plunged into food poverty. There were concerns that the Hub would not be able to respond to the demand, as there were national shortages of many essential items for a while.
The Hub extended its partnerships to boost donations and support. A Surplus Food Hub was set up to take bulk surplus food donations and a storage depot was sourced. The size of the operation escalated to 1.5 tonnes of surplus food delivered each week to around 12 community organisations.
The partnership succeeded in getting food parcels out quickly to many hungry people and aimed to make sure that delivery was coordinated to avoid duplication. To date the Hub has distributed over 50 tonnes of surplus food.
The experience and trust gained of working in partnership enabled the development of new partnership initiatives such as a collaborative fundraiser and has enabled us to design a post-hub service.
The Hub reached new communities; respectful collaborations between organisations of different sizes is productive for all partners and can contribute to making the best use of limited resources. Organisations embedded in local communities can be agile and Council staff can provide essential links in cross-sectoral work.
This allows for a more holistic approach to supporting individuals as we prepare for recovery. A casework approach with open-access provision for people waiting to be referred could be effective where individuals need help accessing a wider range of services.
For further information on this work and the organisations involved, please see the following links:
- Lewisham Local
- Rushey Green Time Bank
- Age UK Lewisham & Southwark
- Voluntary Services Lewisham
- Lewisham Food Bank
- Community Connections Lewisham
- Lewisham’s Covid-19 Response Hub video
Contact: Sakthi Suriyaprakasam, Community Development Service Manager at Lewisham Council, on Sakthi.Suriyaprakasam@lewisham.gov.uk or 020 8314 3310
- DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant: Approach and distribution of DEFRA funding to Districts (Kent)
During COVID-19, Kent County Council (KCC) was allocated £1.67m through DEFRA’s Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies. This funding has been distributed across a range of projects and programmes to help those on low incomes and at risk of homelessness.
Across Kent, the districts, boroughs and the county council worked together to try and ensure that those facing financial hardship remained supported through these difficult times, focusing on those most in need.
KCC received £1.67m and recognised that initial food need had been overtaken by financial hardship. Given this, KCC decided to spend £200,000 via the Kent Community Foundation to provide hardship grants to individuals identified by voluntary organisations across the county. This spending was also to provide core support grants to voluntary sector organisations dealing with financial hardship. While there was a focus on food banks in particular, other organisations were also given funding, such as those offering financial advice and support.
The remaining money was split 50:50 between the county and districts.
KCC used their allocation to provide hardship grants largely via the Kent Support and Assistance Service, but also via Health Visitors with a focus on families in poverty.
The remaining 50% of funding was allocated to districts and boroughs using the same formula the government had previously used to distribute the money nationally. With the view that districts were best placed to use local knowledge dynamically, £735,000 was shared between 12 district authorities. All areas have provided emergency grants to individuals, with targeted funding at foodbanks. Local flexibility has also enabled a tailored approach – examples include:
- Homeless starter packs/new home starter vouchers and larder vouchers for those starting a new tenancy or struggling with key essentials
- Support for rough sleepers
- Support for Alzheimers and Dementia support services for people on a low income
- Volunteer drivers and community transport schemes
- Befriending services/reducing social isolation for people on low incomes
- Community connectors to keep in regular contact with Voluntary Sector Services providing Covid support
- Advice on how to manage debt and increase incomes
- Local food and supermarket provision to support people on low incomes or those facing short-term loss of income, crisis or other upheaval including domestic abuse.
- DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant: Local Welfare Provision (Liverpool)
Liverpool City Council (LCC) was allocated £ 903,782 through DEFRA’s Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies.
LCC had seen its Local Welfare Provision (LWP) scheme face extraordinary pressures as a result of COVID19, including an increasing number of households at risk of destitution.
LCC’s LWP had seen an increase in crisis payments (known locally as Urgent Needs Awards) of 59% over the first 6 months of 2020. At the time of writing, this increase had resulted in a total of just under 8,000 awards, averaging £95. In the funding period between July and end September (2020), COVID-19 funding had supported the Council to make around 3,500 Urgent Needs Awards. These payments were made to residents who qualified for low income benefits, with no immediate funds for essentials. Most commonly, these emergency funds were needed as a result of waiting for state benefits, or because of having incurred an unforeseen cost. To contextualise this, demand was even higher in the first quarter, under lockdown, and up around 97% on the previous year.
The second element of the LWP scheme was for furniture and white goods, providing basic items such as beds, cookers, fridges, pans, plates, etc. to households without funds for these essential items. The Council spent £1.355M on this element of the scheme during the first six months of the year.
A unique COVID 19 pressure during the second quarter of the scheme was assisting those formerly homeless citizens who were assisted by the ‘Everybody In’ initiative to move on to permanent social housing. In total £295K was provided between July and September (2020) to support this initiative;183 Awards were made providing on average furniture and white goods to the value of £1,615 to equip new homes with essentials.
Total expenditure on LWP in the second quarter was just under £1.19M, which was supported by the funding of £0.9M in DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant for Food & Essential Supplies.
- DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant: Local Welfare Provision (Southampton)
Southampton City Council (SCC) was allocated £ 333,850.43 through DEFRA’s Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies. This funding was mainly used to strengthen the pre-existing Local Welfare Provision.
SCC has maintained a Local Welfare Provision (LWP) offer funded each year by the Council for £185K. Of this, funding is given to support a drop-in advice service; provide local food bank support; and a local rent deposit scheme.
SCC also work with a local charity (SCRATCH) that runs a re-use furniture scheme, that is also funded by the Council to manage a public ‘Welfare’ phone line. This phone line enables access to information, signposting to advice and access to food bank vouchers. The service also acts as a referral point for a wide range of agencies in the city who are working with vulnerable families and individuals who are in crisis and in need of need of support to pay for basic utilities (gas/electric etc). Support being issued as utility top-ups (and occasionally cash payments) via paypoint and white goods.
Additional finance as part of the DEFRA grant has been used to strengthen this pre-existing LWP offer, with additional support going into local food projects, for furniture, household items and white goods. Having maintained their LWP, SCC had a strong existing offer, referral route and public access phoneline already in place to assist in supporting those in emergency or experiencing crisis due to the COVID pandemic.
DEFRA funding has also been used to support council departments working with those most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19, including Independent Domestic Violence Advocates; Children’s Social Care and Looked After Children; Adult Social Care and Homelessness and Outreach teams.
SCC have also allocated DEFRA funding for grants for community groups/buildings and set aside a small amount as a contingency fund should they need to repeat the levels of support provided during the first lockdown in March 2020, in particular to source and provide food parcels and staff for the Community Support Hub phoneline for those who are vulnerable/shielding.
- DEFRA Emergency Assistance Grant: Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (Cambridgeshire)
Cambridgeshire County Council (CCC) were allocated £540,869 though DEFRA’s Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential Supplies. Part of this funding was distributed to Cambridgeshire’s Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (CLAS), which provides a range of financial support from information and advice, to discretionary assistance, including access to low cost re-used and refurbished household items, clothing and food vouchers.
Historically, CLAS has had an annual budget of £300,000. The scheme provides information and advice services, combined with practical support. This practical support includes supermarket vouchers, new cookers and mattresses, recycled goods, furniture and paint.
There are 190 locally based organisations that regularly work with and are partnered with CLAS and are interested in coordinating their responses to supporting families and people in hardship. Many of these are participate in the 4 charity networks that met weekly throughout the first lock down to share intelligence on issues in real time and collectively problem solve.
During the first national lock down, the charity networks that first identified the changing profile of clients seeking help, approaching food banks and food share schemes. These were people who had never navigated the benefits system and were not familiar with welfare entitlements. They had experienced a sudden and drastic loss of income and are learning how difficult it is to manage with very limited resources. This was later confirmed with analysis from CCC on the profile of clients using these services.
Data covering the period of April – August 2020 showed a significant increase in the number of 2 parent families who accessed grants from CLAS. This covered all of the different 2-parent family types e.g. those with children and those without children as well as families over 60, indicating a substantial shift in the service users.
The purchasing of school uniforms proved to be a particularly costly item for families in hardship, especially for large families. For example, a family with 1 child would be expected to spend 28% of their monthly Universal Credit payment on uniforms. This rises to 55% for a family with 4 children.
A combination of reduced wages while on the furlough scheme and reduced wages due to zero-hour contracts saw the percentage of CLAS grants being given to families who are in work increase from 17% in 2019/20 to 25% in April-August 2020
At the time of writing, 38% of the CLAS grants given were for Supermarket vouchers. This was a 90% increase compared to previous years, which had reduced the average grant from £179 to £162. However, one of CLAS’s grants, the COVID grant, had used 73% of this grant money on Supermarket vouchers, with the average value of a COVID-19 supermarket voucher grant £120 compared to £102 in previous years.
By the end of August 2020, almost half of the grant received had been spent on families and people with COVID-19 related hardships; for example, loss/drop in incomes of over 20%, those on Universal Credit and struggling to make ends meet, particularly with regards to shopping.
The Council, alongside partners, worked to target families and contacting agencies such as Age UK, Citizens Advice, GP Surgeries, schools and mutual aid groups, to reach as many people as possible. Families who had been receiving holiday lunches were actively contacted to see if they wanted to continue to receive support.
CLAS continues to support vulnerably families and individuals through debt advice on rent arears, benefit advice on claiming Universal Credit, financial management and how to avoid housing eviction.
- Gloucester’s Asset Based Community Development approach (Gloucester)
Gloucester City Council’s community level response to COVID-19 was underpinned by Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approach – a bottom up, place based framework, which identifies and harnesses community strengths (‘assets’) to achieve community goals.
In Gloucester, the starting point for this approach was to utilise the relationships that the council had established with community organisations and individual community members; and the relationships they shared with each other. With this orientation, the council played a supporting role as a service provider but held a primary role as a ‘connecting organisation’ and facilitator of action: working proactively alongside Gloucestershire County Council to develop a Help Hub, which connected individuals who needed help with others who could provide help; and with elected members, community leaders and the newly formed Gloucester Community Building Collective, to mobilise community members in support of each other.
Gloucester Community Building Collective had been established with a core purpose of connecting residents and growing community capacity, so was well placed to play a leading role in the community response. In anticipation of lockdown measures, the organisation produced guidance for residents to help neighbours help each other, with a form on the back, supplying ‘contact cards’, that residents could post to each other with offers to provide support.
Elected members and community leaders helped mobilise a network of over 500 Street Champions large enough for one to be posted to each street. Street Champions helped to ensure people in their area received support they need by delivery food, medicines and other resources. They also helped deliver 57 ,000 contact cards during the two weeks prior to the national lockdown, with support from ward councillors andpartners like Gloucester City Homes.
Requests for food were received through Street Champions or through the County Council’s Help Hub. Requests for food were triaged with options for free food parcels or paid packages. Business leaders and existing organisations such as Fair Shares and the Tuffley Club formed a ‘Food Consortium’ and provided food parcels, prepared meals and more.
Street Champions also set up their own What’s App groups and private Facebook groups. This allowed neighbours to help each other without the need to go through the Help Hub.
To keep people engaged and stimulated, the Council also worked with the Gloucester Culture Trust and Street Champions network to distribute art packs across the city, providing art activities for residents in care homes through to digital postcards for young people.
Finally, the council helped to remind people that staying connected is important for mental health. To help inspire ways of connecting, Gloucester Community Building Collective worked with BBC Radio Gloucestershire to create a miniseries on how streets were staying connected during social distancing measures. The series included interviews with a group of residents in Barton and Tredworth, who established a weekly community quiz, and the Footlights group in Tuffley, who provider a telephone jukebox service for isolated residents, where they would sing people their favourite song.
The council noted that Gloucester’s chief asset through this were relationships that helped make the above support possible. Flooding from previous years had proven a catalyst for many of the same relationships, which then helped provide a solid foundation for the COVID-19 response. From this the council have reflected it is better to ‘build relationships before they are needed’, so that community members and organisations feel mutually invested and ready to support each other should the need arrive.
The council have still faced challenges with this approach. Part of what distinguishes ABCD from conventional service delivery is that it suggests that people should, where possible, be empowered to ‘do things for themselves’; while organisations are encouraged to ‘do with’ rather than ‘do to’ communities. With this approach, conventional relationships between the community and organisations require a level of restructuring in order that priorities and approaches can be shaped from the bottom up. This can prove difficult when the aims and aspirations of organisations and community members do not align or where service providers are concerned about community members’ capacity to identify or meet their own needs.
To reduce these reservations, Gloucester City Council advise that a helpful starting point for implementing ABCD is to ensure that relevant organisations are trained in ABCD (including lessons in building trust and relationships of non-traditional kinds) and that sufficient psychological safety is cultivated around some of the ‘letting go’ that is required. The council also stressed the benefits from an organisational perspective, including that—in supporting communities to become more self-sufficient— creating interdependence between neighbours, and less dependency on service provision. ABCD offers an opportunity to invest in community capacity, through a cost efficient and sustainable approach for organisations and individuals.
The council heard many stories heard of people who had become friends through the act of supporting each other, including seemingly incidental interactions like shopping deliveries. They were reminded that even the most basic of exchanges can develop into long term support structures, and suggest that sometimes, the most helpful thing a council can do is step back and create space for these relationships to develop.
More information about Gloucester City Council’s ABCD approach is supplied in the report Building Community Capacity and Resilience or visit their website for further details about the Gloucestershire Community Help Hub. Information about the Gloucester Community Building Collective is here.
- 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.
- Overlaying data to identify unmet need (Oldham)
Oldham Council uses a place-based model of care and support, based on geographies aligned to primary care networks. Part of this system entails the Thriving Communities Index, created alongside services, VCSFE groups and elected members, which helped to create a detailed representation of local needs. The index is made up of 30 socio-economic indicators for each neighbourhood, underpinned by a combination of quantitative data (e.g. data from housing churn, A&E admissions, safeguarding and police) and qualitative perception data, derived through workshops. This information informs a map of 115 hyper local neighbourhoods, which is used by the council and partners to understand different needs across the borough and to deliver services appropriately.
Data generated through this index has provided an important comparison point for the council’s COVID-19 helpline, which has then informed the community response. By cross referencing the data from the call database and overlaying the data from the Thriving Communities Index, the council were able to identify and monitor low call engagement zones and, including areas of unmet need. A multi-language communications campaign has been carried out to reach further into these communities, helping to ensure that they have access to the support and resources they need.
This approach has allowed the council and partners to respond efficiently and effectively to residents’ needs. In launching their helpline and by using data from this and the index, the council and its partners have provided more than 3,522 people access to food, medicines and personal goods; in addition, to providing other forms of support, including around mental health, mutual aid, and housing.
In the first 2 weeks the phoneline received more than 2000 calls, with around 100 calls coming into the contact centre daily from those who were under isolation and without a network to support them.
This work is supported by partners including: Oldham Council, Oldham Unity Partnership, Oldham Cares (Hospital, Council, CCGs), Action Together (VCFSE umbrella), Positive Steps, Mind, Trussell Trust and the Inter-Faith Forum.
- Protecting vulnerable and shielded groups – a staged approach (Harrow)
Harrow Council’s community hub is operating according to a staged approach, which seeks to meet the needs of vulnerable and shielded groups in the short, medium and long term. With understanding that circumstances can change quickly in the current environment, the council have categorised short term as relating to daily operations, medium term as relating to week to week operations and long term as relating to anything longer.
The community hub provides support services to any residents considered part of the government defined shielded group as well as others who might not appear on the shielded list but are still considered vulnerable. This includes single parent households, people who are unemployed or underemployed (i.e. part time and casual workers), single pensioners and couples where the age of both parties is 65 or over.
The council are now developing the longer term aspects of their approach. It is anticipated that the composition and number of those requiring support from the hub will change as the outbreak and its implications unfold. As the outbreak and lockdown measures continue, new groups of people will become vulnerable – for instance, people who lose work, have limited or no access to safe housing or people who fall sick themselves. A potential consequence of this is that people in the shielded group may face new obstacles in gaining access to food and essential supplies if support networks they were previously able to rely on shrink or lose capacity over time.
The council are exploring ways that existing data sources can help to identify who is in immediate need of support and who is likely to need support later. Sources to date include databases comprising details of people who have had assisted collections, housing stock (which carries data on the 1200 most vulnerable households in that stock), benefits databases and data provided via Experian, a credit reporting company. Council staff are also speaking with faith organisations, such as local mosques, as a means of identifying individuals and families that might be considered vulnerable.
This delivery framework was developed over several weeks with support from consultancy firm 4OC, who helped to develop the planning and coordination of operations during the initial delivery phase, including by providing IT support. Other partners include members of the council’s VCS network – including the borough’s foodbank and voluntary support groups including CAB, MIND – other social support services and the council’s transport services (Harrow Community Transport), which are working together to distribute food, medicinal supplies and other forms of support.
In considering the main learning takeaway from their approach, the council have impressed that a clear vision should be the starting point for any subsequent action. The council have further committed to keeping community members, partners and other relevant organisations cited on this vision and other aspects of their process. It is hoped that this level communication will enhance coordination across those supporting service delivery and current and potential beneficiaries – helping the council to respond more effectively now and in the future.
For further information about this work, please email Jonathan Milbourn (Head of Customer Services and Business Services at Harrow Council) firstname.lastname@example.org or Catherine Cross (Development Director at 4OC) atCatherine@the4oc.com.
- Risk factors for vulnerable groups - staff resource (Hackney)
Hackney Council have developed abriefing packto 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.
- #StokeOnTrentTogether Consortium (Stoke On Trent)
#StokeOnTrentTogether was established to co-ordinate the response from local residents and organisations to ensure everyone who needs help can receive it, and that everyone who is well and wants to help others, can do so. The #StokeOnTrentTogether consortium includes Stoke-on-Trent City Council; voluntary sector organisations (including Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK, YMCA, VAST (providing services and support to the VCS in Staffordshire), The Hubb Foundation, Disability Solutions, Honeycomb Group and Father Hudson’s); and volunteers.Smaller local level community groups are also part of this and working in their neighbourhoods with councillors playing a key role in linking with these groups.The initiative originally aimed to recruit around 500 volunteers, who were willing to carry out a wide range of tasks such as fetching basic food supplies, prescription collections, gas or electricity meter top-ups, regular conversations and even dog walking.
The initiative has proven to be so successful that it is providing support seven days a week and can be accessed online or over the telephone. Since the launch of the scheme, to the end of April, it has brought together more than 800 volunteers; received over 5,000 calls and made more than 40,000 proactive contacts with residents. More than 3,000 food parcels have been delivered and 500 prescriptions have been collected.
There was a clear vision from the outset around the VCS taking a lead in the community action response and the Council provided support and coordination through an established group chaired by the Council’s City Director. There is a shared web-based system in place which enables partners to access information with a single route for volunteers, and this has also supported social care and other services with a clear option to direct people to local services which individual officers may not be aware of.Given the urgency of the response there was a requirement to trust other organisations assessments – which reduced the time and complexity of referral routes.There are some key aspects the Council is looking to maintain in the recovery phase which includes:
A single shared platform for VCS organisations to share learning and knowledge and for volunteers to offer their time - this will be a key part of enabling communities to lead in strengthening their neighbourhood and helping to support those who are most vulnerable Maintaining a shared vision for community action in the city which all partners can recognise and work towards Trusted assessments and simple referral routes
Recognising the skill set and strengths of each VCS organisation and making best use of these Clear lines of communication at all levels The Council recognised there is a strong Voluntary and Community Sector with good relationships which enabled the response to be pulled together quickly.
- Supporting residents affected by domestic violence (various)
There have been a concerning rise in number of domestic abuse incidents since lockdown measures, with people may be feeling unsafe because they are having to spend more time at home with a house member who is harming them in some way Devon County Council, Cornwall Council and partner agencies have responded to this problem by issuing an online campaign to raise awareness around these issues. Domestic abuse comes in many forms and during COVID-19 some people will be feeling very isolated. The campaign highlights the broad spectrum of actions that count as domestic abuse. It also seeks to reach people who may be experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse and reassure them that a range of help remains available. Victim Care have a helpline and are offering an online live chat service. Live Chat is a web-based support service that is available to victims in Devon and Cornwall 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is anonymous, confidential and free to use. To access it visit www.victimsupport.org.uk or visit the Victim Care website – www.victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk.
A number of other councils have responded by injecting funds into organisations seeking to address domestic abuse. The London Boroughs ofBarking and Dagenham,Lambeth,RichmondandSouthwarkandCambridgeshire Country Council andDerbyshire County Councilhave awarded additional funding to organisations such as Refuge, for instance, so that they are better equipped to respond to the needs of vulnerable residents during these unique times.
Councils seeking to increase uptake of domestic abuse services may wish to consult this report, which offers findings and analysis on project that accomplished this in Kent. Other resources connected to this project include nudge cards, a workshop video and video from the police involved. This work was carried out by the LGA, Kent County Council and the Behavioural Insights Team.
Test, trace and local outbreak management
City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s current alert level is high (Tier 2). The COVID infection rate continues to rise in most areas although it remains at much higher levels in central areas of Bradford.
The testing rate is 455 per 100,000 (Sep 30 – Oct 6th), previous week 221. This is the highest testing rate in Yorkshire.
On a weekly basis, public health colleagues produce a report from the core data with information fed in from local sources such as the Youth Service. This produces a rich picture of the situation locally. There are nine workstreams driving operational response which fall into the themes of: engagement and enforcement; testing and contact tracing; outbreak control; education settings; communications; data and intelligence. The report comes in on a Wednesday, actions are decided and workstreams act. A particular success has been the home testing. Volunteers, the Red Cross and the Council work together to decide where to target resources based on the report from Public Health colleagues. A key aspect of Bradford’s door to door work which is unique, is the time spent on the doorstep. This makes time for conversation about any doubts over testing and ensures the resident is confident in using the tests. They also answer any questions on self-isolation rules and pick up reports of any issues which assists with enforcement.
If English is not the resident’s first language the teams are equipped with 16 languages spoken between them and Bradford are trialling videos in different languages to aid these conversations. There is a 99 per cent return rate of home testing with on average 1500 test kits handed out each week. An added value of home testing which is not necessarily shown.
In late January, local authorities were asked to prioritise private, voluntary and independent early years settings and childminders in their community testing programmes. Early years providers have remained open to all children and young people throughout the latest national lockdown.
In response to this, Calderdale used a targeted approach to community testing, this included the Early Years Private, Voluntary and Independent Sector and Childminders. To achieve this the Public Health team have worked closely with the Early Years team, the School Transport team, and the local Health Visiting service
Calderdale is a small Local Authority by population; however, it has a large and hilly geographical area made up of both small market towns and very small villages within a large rural area in the South Pennines.
Calderdale’s approach has been to train staff both in group provision and in childminders’ home businesses, adopting the Train the Trainer model and train their own staff to self-administer the LFT. The Public Health team and the Early Years team have delivered online Zoom training, created a training video through the local college, provided written information, and provide ongoing face to face support (virtual) and telephone support as required.
Tests are delivered from a central location through the School Transport team to each provision, thus acknowledging the difficulties providers have in traveling to community testing sites during their long working days and reducing the amount of unnecessary journeys.
Results of tests are recorded and reported locally, and any positive tests are immediately reported to the Public Health team for actions pertaining to the setting and to the local Test and Trace team for follow up of contacts outside of the setting. The local Test and Trace team offer support for self-isolation, with financial support offered locally to anyone who would be eligible for national support had they tested positive through PCR.
The pilot started fully on Jan 4th 2021, and has since rolled out more widely to the sector. Calderdale now have 48 per cent of providers accessing the tests with more providers requesting them weekly. Feedback from the sector is also very positive, as staff have reported feel more confident about their workplaces and to the support they are offering to their families and children.
The main challenge for the Public Health and Early Years team has been the staff time commitment to this roll out as this snowballed to be more time than envisaged. However, as the systems are now up and running this has reduced significantly, with a much more manageable workload.
- Charnwood Borough Council
Since business closures were introduced in March, Charnwood Borough Council’s regulatory services team have worked closely with their businesses community to support them to understand and comply with the law. As part of this supportive approach, enforcement action is used only as a last resort.
In response to the first phase of businesses closures back in March, Charnwood pulled together a team of environmental health officers (EHOs), enforcement officers and licensing officers to offer proactive support. Going out on visits to the high street, the team were able to check what essential businesses needed to operate in a COVID-secure way. Support included providing them with business guides via email and leaflets and stickers to help queue management and promote social distancing.
As businesses started to re-open regulatory services worked closely with the council’s high streets and market and town groups. High-street helpers (employees seconded from other parts of the council) were deployed across the borough’s high streets, offering advice to the public with and supporting queue management. Work was also done alongside the Loughborough Business Improvement District (BID) to support the re-opening of the night-time economy, for example providing pubs and bars with floor stickers.
Tailored guidance was developed for the hospitality sector, setting out measures needed to be COVID-secure, and support with risk assessment was provided to businesses to make sure the right safety measures were put in place. Alongside high-street helpers, qualified Security Industry Authority (SIA) licenced Stewards were also deployed to support the hospitality sector throughout July and August. Stewards shared intelligence, for example where social distancing was not been observed, with the police and council who could then undertake compliance visits. A case study of Charnwood’s marshal scheme has been published on gov.uk.
The vast majority of pubs and bars were compliant, but in some cases, warnings were given and enforcement action was needed. For example, the police issued a £10,000 fine to a pub which was holding a large gathering in a marquee without any social distancing.
Support has been given to the local University to put in place COVID-secure plans, ahead of students returning. Close work with the University has also helped to manage community cohesion issues.
Multi-agency working has been a vital part of the council’s compliance and enforcement work. A multi-agency Event Planning Oversight Group was established which included the fire service and public health to support and advise event organisers on how to run a safe event.
The council have also worked with the fire service to make sure every contact with businesses counted. Where the fire service went out to visit businesses as part of fire safety work, they took the opportunity to undertake COVID specific compliance checks, feeding intelligence back to the council.
Since April the regulatory service team have worked closely with the Local Resilience Forum and have set up a weekly Leicestershire managers’ meeting which helped to manage the local lockdown. As a two-tier authority – good working relationships with trading standards have also been important to co-ordinate enforcement.
Between April and September, Charnwood’s food team alone has undertaken 440 monitoring checks on businesses, over 100 enforcement visits and provided over 350 COVID specific advice emails as well as over 2000 update emails to businesses.
- Daily COVID-19 Public Health update
When data began being published on COVID-19, the Public Health Intelligence Team began pulling together what was readily available into a summary for the Director of Public Health to take to senior council meetings on a daily basis. At first this information consisted of publicly available data that could be accessed on a regular basis. This was initially based on the number of confirmed cases within the local authority and deaths within hospitals. At this early stage the update consisted of two charts summarising this information with a brief paragraph describing what was happening.
As the update began being circulated more widely within the senior council meetings, more requests for information began coming in to help understand what was happening in the district in relation to COVID-19. At the early stages this centred on modelling of potential cases, when we could expect to see a peak in cases and the number of deaths we may see. After initially applying national modelled estimates to the local population, other local public health teams began working on versions of the model to enable more local use. Through this the daily public health update began describing and explaining the modelled estimates for the district.
The update was also used to draw attention to the latest guidance that was being published relating to health and care Once the initial modelling work had been done it became apparent that the data that was publicly available was only telling a part of what was going on - in particular deaths within hospitals. To fill in these gaps, the public health department then worked with the councils Registration service to receive the daily numbers of deaths relating to COVID-19 and where these deaths were occurring.
As issues began being discussed nationally around deaths, particularly in issues around excess deaths, deprivation and our BAME communities, the Public Health Intelligence Team began receiving extracts on all deaths, inputting the data and updating analysis on a weekly basis and supporting more specific pieces of work in these areas.
The daily public health update has developed over time to be a reactive update to help address any issues that have arisen over time. These have included outbreaks in care homes, testing of staff and the inclusion of data from the new test and trace system. The update is now circulated on a daily basis to senior managers within the council and wider to our senior partners in the NHS.
For more information, emailKathryn.Ingold@bradford.gov.uk
- Enhanced support to an area of intervention (Solihul)
On 6 September, Solihull’s status changed from enhanced support to being classified as an area for intervention. The Council worked with Public Health England to establish the right level of response based on data at a granular level. Their Council Leader played a key role in messaging to local MPs and the Elected Mayor of their Combined Authority throughout. Attendance of Bronze meetings became attendance of Gold Meetings over two days but despite the fast pace, Solihull had a clear direction and took ownership of the decision to become an area of intervention. They credit this to the preparation and understanding created by the network they had established with key partners.
Solihull found it was important not to reinvent the wheel in terms of valued forms of communication during the initial lockdown in March. The Director of Public Health briefs the political Group Leaders weekly; taking them through the epidemiology and answering any questions. Directors of Public Health also hold a regular briefing with their Members who have a health scrutiny role and take the opportunity to answer any questions. They had been using a COVID-19 Members Inbox for any Councillors to use to raise any questions with officers. This had been due to be stepped down, but with the local outbreak has been continued and is a system which Members are now familiar with and confident in.
Worth a specific mention in Solihull’s experience is the role of their Regional Convenor. They found they gave support, insurance as well assurance. They found it invaluable having someone from local government who understood the mechanics to provide this support as well as bridging local to national. The Regional Convenor has also enabled shared learning opportunities with others in the region and shared insight at the Strategic Coordinating Group meetings.
A culture of no surprises and scenario planning right from the start was key in Solihull’s experience to prepare them for what was to come. Therefore, communications with all key players has been essential.
More definition on what going into intervention means and more lived experiences of being in this crisis will be important going forwards in terms of the leadership narrative given to their team, partners and political leadership.
- Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is determined to reduce its level of COVID, but to do this balancing the wider health, economic and social impacts. There have been an increasing number of COVID incidence rates across Greater Manchesterover recent weeks and some areas are amongst the highest in the country. In addition, Greater Manchesterincludes a disproportionately large number of vulnerable people living in some of the most deprived and overcrowded wards in England and one of the largest student populations in the UK with almost 70,000 students coming for the start of term, including many international students.
Greater Manchesterbelieves that taking national guidance and tailoring it to a locally coordinated and consistent approach will best drive the optimal management of COVID-19 over the next 12 plusmonths. Greater Manchesterbenefits from a strong governance structure and devolved health and social care system that can help design and deliver the next phase at scale and speed. Nineout of 10 boroughs have already begun locally supporting contact tracing, and an Integrated Greater ManchesterLevel 1 Contact Tracing Hub was launched on 8 June as part of collaborative, whole system approach which has led to the contact tracing of 2,644 complex settings or cases. According to national test and trace data, the Greater ManchesterL1 hub has successfully reached 98 per cent of identified contacts, 95 per cent of which were referred from national contact tracing. We firmly believe that localised approaches for test and trace are more likely to achieve successful outcomes as local public teams can use local knowledge to be more effective and quicker in preventing and containing outbreaks. The GM system has been designed by the collaboration of DPHs across GM alongside colleagues from NHS and including other public services such as GM Fire & Rescue Service. Key features of our successes to date have been:
- Improved response rates - receiving calls from a local number are less likely to be perceived as scam calls.
- The enablement of an inbound telephony service where residents can call into the local service which is not a function of the national service.
- The ability to talk to residents with local knowledge and signpost them to local support including self isolation payments, shielding support and signposting to testing facilities.
- Closer connection to local outbreaks.
- Reduction in multiple calls to households with data hubs able to identify connections more effectively
- A more cost effective system with the total GM resource and overhead cost to support tracing and engagement in communities is estimated at £20m over 12 months with an estimated £200k for implementation
- Lessons from school testing (Lancashire, Manchester and Birmingham)
Star Academies undertook pilots of daily testing in three of their schools (one in Lancashire, one in Manchester and one in Birmingham) towards the end of 2020. This case study explores the lessons learned from this pilot.
Star Academies schools had all been impacted badly by COVID-19 in the autumn term with 11,000 positive cases identified from September, about 400 of which were staff. The majority of positive cases had been found in their secondary schools. The prevalence was found to be lower in their primary schools where whole bubbles were required to self-isolate.
Ahead of starting this pilot there were concerns about the impact of false positive cases and that there could be a sharp increase in the number of those having to self-isolate.
Initially the pilots of daily testing had a take up of around 30 to 50 per cent across the three schools. The number of tests however increased each week as confidence in this system grew. Star Academies received a great deal of support from both the army and local authorities, they were supported and shadowed by administrative staff.
They were able to undertake weekly testing at an average school with four bays, testing 100 pupils in 90 minutes.
The level of training required was very low. It was imperative that key staff learned the processes and steps, but this could be achieved quickly. Based on Star Academies experience remote support from the army in giving training on the processes and steps would have been sufficient in preparing staff. In terms of staffing Star Academies found considering school administration staff first to be the best approach, as well as those who would be familiar with the school such as their invigilators. They found finding staff for this kind of testing manageable.
The importance of providing reassurance to families concerned about the testing process was a clear lesson taken from Star Academies experience, in particular those families who are worried about having to self-isolate for a number of reasons. This was necessary when asking for parental consent for their children to participate in the testing process. They found that speaking to parents as well as writing to them was effective. Organising a Zoom briefing for parents proved to be invaluable in providing that reassurance.
In all three schools they found the number of students in self-isolation was reduced by a half. There were absentees who had refused to come into school in September who returned as confidence in the testing programmes increased. They also found most year 7 to year 11 students were able to self-swab easily.
Many chose to self-isolate with their children instead of consenting to testing, Star Academies found a 50 per cent consent rate was very good in the schools they were undertaking these pilots in. Therefore, the amount of children needing to be tested was significantly lower than the total number of pupils at the school.
Star Academies of course stressed the importance of this school testing as a part of a co-ordinated response to COVID-19 and that it should not happen in isolation of wider testing efforts.
- Local contact tracing case studies (Various)
A series of contact tracing case studies are available on our website.
- Local Track & Trace (Leicester)
Following the launch of the NHS Test and Trace initiative organisations were asked to collect details on all individuals that enter and exit buildings to assist with the national response.
Leicester City Council (LCC) had no way of collecting this data across the multiple buildings we operate and needed a simple and integrated solution. Without this there would have been a scattered, decentralised response utilising a variety of systems, storage frameworks, and conventions that in addition to being very labour intensive would have made it impossible to collate the data and respond to requests quickly.
LCC’s Digital Transformation (DT) and IT teams quickly created a process that linked multiple e-forms with an SQL database and allowed read/write privileges to allow for dynamic updating based on entries by reception staff in our buildings. The database produces daily reports and auto deletes data over 21 days old in line with GDPR requirements.
The system successfully launched in early July and is running concurrently with the NHS app. This ensures full capture of those who don’t wish to download the NHS app or have access to a mobile device and provides LCC with a complete local dataset for analysis.
As buildings and services gradually re-open the solution continues to expand in scope and value in support of Covid-19 recovery and preventative initiatives.
For the full version of this case study please visit the Testing, Contact Tracing and Outbreak Management Khub. For more information about this case study, please contact: email@example.com
- Test, trace and local outbreak management K-Hub
We have put together aKnowledge Hub (K-Hub) site, which provides information specifically for councils. It serves as a document library, an area for best practice examples, and provides information on the LGA’s support offer and webinars. It is based around the Framework for the Local Outbreak Plans that has 7 themes. The best practice from the 11 Beacon Councils will be published on the knowledge hub.
Any questions, examples of best practice that you would like to share, please firstname.lastname@example.org visit ourCOVID-19: test, trace and local outbreak management webpagefor more of the latest information.
- Self isolation case studies (various)
A series ofcase studies onself-isolationfrom various councils.
The local team was set up in August to improve the completion rate of- and the compliance with test and trace for positive COVID-19 cases in Calderdale.
The team had a very short lead time prior to going “live” and as one of the first Local Authorities to take this on, there was always an expectation that things would develop and change as the programme moved forwards. The team were recruited from within the area, with a focus on a variety of spoken languages and local knowledge.
Via the local contact tracing team, residents who identified that they needed support to self-isolate have been listened to and assisted by local Covid hubs, who have helped to identify specific needs such as grocery shopping or food parcels, emotional wellbeing, dog-walking, prescription collection – and more complex issues which have arisen have been passed on to the relevant agencies.
As the government scheme to offer financial assistance to those impacted by self-isolation was implemented, Calderdale began to develop plans to establish and expand this on a local level.
Calderdale offered discretionary financial support to individuals to help with their self-isolation period either as a positive case or as a contact. More recently this has included those who have used lateral flow testing. This has definitely been seen as helpful by people across the community.
There has been a vast amount of work in the areas of the borough that have the highest rates, encouraging people to do the right thing in order to protect their community. This included work with the Calderdale Places of Worship network, public health messages in other languages and in other media such as GEO news, street engagement, sharing of videos made by people in the community (e.g. someone who is a grave-digger in the Muslim cemetery pointing out how much busier he has been, encouraging people to self-isolate, follow the rules).
One of the challenges the contact tracing team faced was our inability to contact contacts of positive cases. The National system does not allow us to do this at the moment and we know from experience that those individuals identified as contacts of positive cases find it difficult to self-isolate – for example, they have children to take to school/childcare.
There are ongoing challenges with those who do not qualify for discretionary financial support and we are working towards a resolution with our partners in the voluntary sector.
The ethos Calderdale quickly adopted was that of a listening ear and the ability to hold more personal conversations with the residents we spoke to. The team aim to work with residents to help them to self-isolate.
Kent County, Districts and Boroughs
Kent County Council has been working closely with all 12 Kent District and Borough Councils on supporting people to self-isolate.
A ‘Covid-Finance Working Group’ has been set up between the County Council and representative District Chief Executives and staff to oversee the numerous Covid-19 grants, and based on need, to advise how best to allocate funds between County and Districts.
In relation to self-isolation, some of the funding has been distributed on a formula basis where appropriate i.e. using deprivation or infection rates, with other funding being allocated for specific projects or activity such as using KCC’s community wardens to deliver essential items, information, advice and guidance to those in self-isolation.
In addition, we have worked collectively on public communications, “through Kent Together” promoting the importance of sticking to the rules if required to self-isolate and publicising the support that’s available.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council (FHDC) were quickly able to mobilise the track and trace payments by ensuring systems were in place to address both the discretionary funds and the funds linked to low income benefits criteria for those individuals required to self-isolate from either being positive from Covid or coming into contact with positive cases.
Where individuals had been told to self- isolate through the track and trace app they were automatically able to access their account ID through which they could then link to the Councils form to apply for a self-isolation payment. As a digitally enabled local authority FHDC ensured that their website was well set up to allow application for payments to be made. Use of the PHE eligibility checker helped in making decisions in validating claims and awarding payments.
The discretionary fund was very quickly utilised, and a waiting list built which was then revisited when further funding became available. Some applicants had not lost money and so no payments were awarded, and decisions were made to award these payments to those experiencing extreme hardship.
There were many cases however where letters were sent to individuals (e.g. school staff including school cleaners etc.) where no app had been used and therefore an account ID was available.
The team received many enquiries on how to access track and trace payments for these cases. In some situations, this required a call to 119 by the individual or use of the PHE helpline or tracing back where the letter had come from.
The team at FHDC also helped many clients who were finding using online systems hard to manage by talking them through how to fill in the form live time. This enabled many more people to be helped and ensured efficient and effective spend of the track and trace payments.
Maidstone Borough Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council had similar experiences and were able to set up digital applications very quickly where each qualifying criteria for the payment was covered.
This helped to make the process easy for customers to complete and upload the necessary proofs required, whilst still self-isolating. They also ensured contact centre teams were able to take calls and complete applications over the phone for those customers without digital access.
All proofs were then requested by phone or email direct from the customer by the dedicated Test & Trace team. The Council Webpages were also updated with all the details around Test & Trace, including a link which takes the customer straight to the application form.
A large volume of customers were without the correct NHS number. They were all contacted in person or by email and provided with the link for NHS Test & Trace, or signposted to 119 to register their details and obtain an NHS number to submit with their application. In many cases extended the time period on their application was extended so customers could obtain the NHS Number.
There is a dedicated team dealing with the Test & Trace applications and part of this process was to contact customers by phone or email to request additional information to support their claims. This helped to keep processing times low and ensured payments could be sent quickly, supporting residents who were self-isolating to remain at home.
As part the process, anyone who did not meet the main application criteria, but might have met the criteria for the Discretionary Payment, was advised to submit an application for us to consider or was signposted to additional support groups.
Test andtrace payments have been highlighted via different social media platforms and press releases. Updates are also sent out via economic development teams to inform local employers in the area of the scheme, so they could signpost their staff if they were unable to work as a result of to self-isolating as their earnings would be affected as a result.
Liverpool City Council
Liverpool City Council set up The Good Neighbourhood Volunteering Scheme at the beginning of the first lockdown due to COVID-19 and the restrictions that where put in place.
The Good Neighbourhood Scheme was a volunteer programme to help support residents within the Liverpool City region. In just over a few days we were inundated with local Liverpool people wanting to help and had received 3,000 applications.
Liverpool City council worked alongside Liverpool Charity and Voluntary Services (LCVS) to help manage the programme and place volunteers into specific roles to help vulnerable residents. These specific roles were – emergency food delivery drivers, Befriending calls and volunteer shoppers.
The main objective when setting up the volunteer programme was to help as many vulnerable residents in the city through the unprecedented situations COVID -19 presented at the start of the year. Our current data shows that since the beginning of the pandemic Liverpool City Council/LCVS have helped over 8,000 residents gain access to food and supplies and set up over 400 calls for lonely residents to have a chat whilst feeling isolated in lockdown.
The programmes main success came from the sheer amount of people within the city offering up their support and time to help the vulnerable.
Another big factor to the success of the programme was the working relationship Liverpool City Council had with LCVS. LCVS already had a great knowledge of volunteering and connections with some of the best locally trusted organisation.
These locally trusted organisations helped the programme as they came with background knowledge and expertise in their specific areas along with good relationships and understanding with the residents. These success factors are reflected in the number of people we helped in the city.
The main challenges faced with the programme was starting from a blank page with the need to turn things round relatively quickly because of the urgency of the situation. Once the process and the programme were up and running and placing volunteers with vulnerable residents, we realised there needed to be a more robust and feasible way of monitoring and tracking activity.
The solution to this was a digital software application programme which helped LCC in a more coherent approach moving forward. We also did not have an in-house volunteer manager and management system in place, this meant we had to compile all the information and systems from scratch which took time and resource, but was effective and achievable from the skill set within the events team.
There are a number of factors, which affect residents’ ability to self-isolate during COVID-19. They include job security, employer support / ability to work from home, having the space to isolate from others, sufficient income, and support with everyday tasks such as shopping. Many people do not engage with test, trace isolate when the consequences of isolating are so great.
In Newham, we are evolving our local contact tracing team into a stay at home support service where every resident who tests positive receives a welfare check. The service will have supportive conversations with residents to help build trust, understand the barriers they face to isolating and link them to isolation support that has been developed locally.
Local offers to support isolation have been co-produced with VCFS and residents and refined as a result of feedback:
- Reconsidering the language used around isolation and using ‘stay at home’ rather than ‘isolate’
- At the point of testing: Providing postcards for distribution at rapid and PCR testing sites with information about what to do next, including staying home (see PCR postcard below). Posters are also displayed in the testing booths.
- Newham COVID-19 Helpline: Our local helpline is the single point of contact for residents on all things COVID-19 including support available from the Government, council and voluntary sector. The multilingual team assist residents to complete the online Self-Isolation Support Payment and links them to other support including the Red Cross Hardship Fund, Microgrants and Newham Food Alliance. A voluntary sector partner runs the Helpline. It is open 9am-7pm, 7 days a week, and can be accessed by phone or email.
- Microgrants: Residents who are not eligible for the self-isolation support payment can apply for a microgrant. This gives them £200 for two weeks (with a discretionary £100 for dependents). It is administered in two parallel programmes – one by a voluntary sector partner and one my OurNewhamMoney – ensuring that if residents contact the council’s financial support service they can access the support without having to go elsewhere.
- Financial signposting: Residents who apply for the Self-Isolation Support Payment are signposted to our financial support service, OurNewhamMoney. This is to help them access immediate financial support. Applicants who are unsuccessful for the support payment are again signposted to OurNewhamMoney, as well as the Newham COVID-19 Helpline and microgrants.
- Newham Food Alliance (NFA): For residents experiencing financial challenges and disruption during self-isolation and need support accessing food, the NFA will deliver two weeks’ worth of food (once a week). When they contact the NFA front door team, residents will also be linked to other services e.g. support with accessing benefits.
- Accommodation offer: Some residents won’t be able to self-isolate at home. We are offering residents 10 days of free accommodation (including transport, food, regular medical checks and wifi) for either the person who is COVID-19 positive or those they live with who are COVID-19 negative.
- Engaging businesses: Helping businesses to understand their responsibility for supporting employees to self-isolate.
- Infographics: Provide infographics that summarise guidance and support available with clear, consistent explanatory messaging. These include how to isolate at home and are available in multiple languages and easy to share formats.
We continue to engage with residents to hear their views, understand what would help them, and enable people to self-isolate as well as protecting the people they live with.
Warwickshire ‘lets do the right thing’ campaign.
The COVID-19response in Warwickshire has been centred around a public behaviour change campaign called 'let's do the right thing' to help people adopt behaviour to stay as safe and well as possible during the pandemic.
The campaign includes self-isolation, what it is and when it applies. Warwickshire have used social media, outdoor advertising, graphics, and community engagement to spread the message.
The purpose of this has been to raise awareness of the importance of self-isolation and when it's necessary, as well as signposting people to support to overcome some of the barriers to doing it.
Support includes a council hotline for people who are isolated and vulnerable, volunteer networks to help with food and medicine collection, COVID directory, and signposting to district and borough councils for isolation payments.
As the campaign has evolved the message has shifted a little, thanking people for their compliance with guidance and bringing it back to working together.
- 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 temporarilywidening pavements at some of the busiest parts of the borough. The councilare 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 measureswill take roadsdown from two-lane to one-lane for vehicles.The extra width of the temporary pavements will allow pedestrians to queue safelyfor essential supplies from food storesand pharmacies, and topass each other whilesocial 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 Pathfor cyclists or joggersbetween 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 concerningHammersmith & Fulham Council’s social distancing approach.
- Covid unlocking signs (Pembrokeshire)
Pembrokeshire County Council have developed a range of ‘COVID-19 Unlocking Signs’, which are available to download via the council website. The signage covers themes including hygiene, social distancing and building flow and is part of a broader campaign to preserve community safety as lockdown measures ease. Messages are communicated in both Welsh and English in order to reach a broad audience and, in saving businesses from having to produce their own signs, have proven a popular resource for businesses located within the county.
- Online footfall assessment tool (Newcastle)
Newcastle City Council has worked with partners to develop an online tool How Busy is Toon focused on the main high street, Northumberland Street, that helps residents to keep safe when coming into the city centre by providing data to help ensure where and when social distancing is possible.
It has been developed in partnership between the council, teams at Newcastle University and the NE1 business improvement district.
The website uses real time information from computer vision cameras that tracks footfall data from this particular street in the city centre updating information every five minutes. The technology and equipment were intended to gather routine footfall data by the University’s Urban Observatory for high street data and since lockdown they have been utilised for this COVID-19 purpose to help residents resume normality while staying safe.
The tool uses a traffic light system based on the real time information to advise people on how easy it is to social distance in the city centre at a certain time:
GREEN: The data shows that footfall in the city centre is low and there is sufficient space to safely social distance.
AMBER: Our data shows that footfall in the city centre is average and may be getting close to capacity within the social distance measures.
RED: Our data shows that footfall in the city centre is high and you are advised to delay or postpone plans to visit.
The site also has real-time information about car parking spaces in the city centre to help residents plan their journey.
Howbusyistoon had a soft launch in July 2020 to test the concept and the public’s reaction.
There have been more than 25,000 visits to the sitewith interest shown from users in expanding the scheme into other areas of the city which the team are actively investigating.
Contact: Jenny Nelson, Digital Newcastle Programme Manager, email@example.com
- Reopening safely – Businesses, universities and events (Charnwood)
Since business closures were introduced in March, Charnwood Borough Council’s regulatory services team have worked closely with their businesses community to support them to understand and comply with the law. As part of this supportive approach, enforcement action is used only as a last resort.
In response to the first phase of businesses closures back in March, Charnwood pulled together a team of environmental health officers (EHOs), enforcement officers and licensing officers to offer proactive support. Going out on visits to the high street the team were able to check what essential businesses needed to operate in a COVID-secure way. Support included providing them with business guides via email and leaflets and stickers to help queue management promote social distancing.
As businesses started to re-open regulatory services worked closely with the councils high streets and market and town groups. High-street helpers (employees seconded from other parts of the council) were deployed across the boroughs high streets, offering advice to the public with and supporting queue management. Work was also done alongside the Loughborough Business Improvement District (BID) to support the re-opening of the night-time economy, for example providing pubs and bars with floor stickers.
Tailored guidance was developed for the hospitality sector setting out measures needed to be COVID-secure and support with risk assessment was provided to businesses to make sure the right safety measures were put in place. Alongside high-street helpers, qualified Security Industry Authority (SIA) licenced Stewards were also deployed to support the hospitality sector throughout July and August. Stewards shared intelligence, for example where social distancing was not been observed, with the police and council who could then undertake compliance visits. A case study of Charnwood’s marshal scheme has been published on gov.uk.
The vast majority of pubs and bars were complaint, but in some cases warnings were given and enforcement action was needed for example the police issues a £10,000 fine to a pub which was holding a large gathering in a marquee without any social distancing.
Support has been given to the local University to put in place COVID secure plans, ahead of students returning. Close work with the University has also helped to managed community cohesion issues.
Multi-agency working has been a vital part of the council’s compliance and enforcement work. A multi-agency Event Planning Oversight Group was established which included the fire service and public health to support and advise event organisers on how to run a safe event.
The council have also worked with the fire service to make sure every contact with businesses counted. Where the fire service went out to visit businesses as part of fire safety work, they took the opportunity to undertake COVID specific compliance checks, feeding intelligence back to the council.
Since April the regulatory service team have worked closely with the Local Resilience Forum and have set up a weekly Leicestershire managers meeting which helped to manage the local lockdown. As a two tier authority – good working relationships with trading standards have also been important to co-ordinate enforcement.
Between April and September, Charnwood’s food team alone has undertaken 440 monitoring checks on businesses, over 100 enforcement visits and provided over 350 COVID specific advice emails as well as over 2000 update emails to businesses.
A preventative approach to workforce wellbeing (Dorset)
Partners from Dorset’s integrated care system created a coordinated wellbeing offer to support colleagues as they face unprecedented challenges during COVID-19. Coordinated by Public Health Dorset (a partnership between Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council) and Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, organisations worked together to identify any gaps in their existing wellbeing offers and put further resources and support in place.
Focusing on three stages – preparation, action and recovery – the plan takes a preventative approach, helping people to look after their own wellbeing and to spot signs of emotional distress early to prevent mental health issues escalating. Additional emotional support and therapy services have been implemented to respond to colleagues’ experiences of trauma and bereavement.
Three levels of support have been implemented – individual, team and ‘red zone’ support for those on the frontline of COVID-19. Some of the key elements of the wellbeing offer include:
- a library of online mental health resources
- a toolkit for managers
- implementing Mental Health First Aid with additional support for the first aiders
- online ‘helping people to help others’ training targeted at volunteers and staff redeployed to COVID-19 helplines, based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing, healthy conversations and peer support
- a single bereavement support offer for the whole Dorset system
- increased access to psychological therapy colleagues experiencing distress and trauma
- a range of infographics and posters to communicate the key information
Tailored wellbeing support has also been provided to the care and education sectors.
- Local Government BAME workforce risk assessments (Various)
While work is being done nationally to understand why people from BAME communities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, many local authorities have been carrying out supplementary risk assessments and conversations with their BAME employees to find out what additional support can be put in place to manage the safety of these staff at work. Some examples of risk assessments and additional support are shared below:
- Bristol City Council – BAME staff counselling offer: Letter 1
- Bristol City Council – BAME staff counselling offer: Letter 2
- Camden Council – individual risk assessment for those at increased risk from COVID-19
- Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust - BAME safety assessment for schools staff
- All Wales NHS and social care – COVID-19 workforce risk assessment for vulnerable groups
- London Councils – Model risk assessment for at risk staff
- Managing workplace ‘bubbles’ in critical services (Mansfield)
Anticipating the measures that are likely to be put in place as part of the Government’s Track and Trace system, Mansfield District Council are implementing a workforce planning system for managing staff in critical, frontline jobs, where maintaining social distancing may not be possible.
The model relies on splitting staff into teams or shift groups with alternate working days or shifts. As far as possible, these teams or shifts will be fixed so that contact should only happen between the same ‘bubble’ of individuals. This means that each employee only works with a few others which should therefore mitigate the risk of whole departments needing to self-isolate under the Test and Trace system and protect critical services. The approach is explained in the infographic.
- Promoting staff wellbeing (Harborough)
Harborough District Council responded promptly to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure staff had health and well-being support during this difficult and unprecedented time. A well-being response cell was initiated to:
- provide appropriate health and well-being support during the Covid-19 crisis
- provide ‘virtual’ social activities, and to
- help staff to keep in touch whilst working virtually and flexibly and help to return to normal working practises as part of the recovery phase.
Harborough District Council benefits from a large team of qualified mental health first aiders who volunteer to make themselves available for colleagues to contact if they have concerns about their own mental health or that of a colleague. Mental Health first aiders listen to and support colleagues, helping them to find appropriate guidance and advice.
A suite of learning resources has been created for staff to access remotely via an online toolkit. Modules on offer include: Coronavirus, managing remote workers, email stress, a healthy lifestyle and mental health awareness.
Harborough District Council developed further health and well-being support by initiating a closed Facebook group, which is optional for council staff to join with the purpose of encouraging social engagement between colleagues whilst all working remotely. Run by the Active Harborough team, who specialise in delivering fitness, rehabilitation and sports programmes on behalf of the council, the content generated on the Facebook group has really encouraged staff social interaction. Facebook posts span from exercise challenges and tutorials, weekly quizzes, and poetry competitions to craft activities. Live exercise workouts, mindful sessions and yoga classes have also been delivered in collaboration with local instructors.
The Facebook group has grown to more than 94 members out of a workforce of 233. However, staff members who are not on Facebook do not miss out. Competitions and links to exercise sessions are also shared on the Council intranet, and everyone is encouraged to join the fun.
Other provision for staff well-being includes staff health and wellbeing page on the Council’s intranet, which has a whole host of resources, guidance and interactive activities, a dedicated employee assistance helpline and website, which is accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Counselling sessions held over the phone, stress risk assessments and one to one support from team managers are also available.
For more information about this case study or any other Harborough District Council services, please contact:firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting staff wellbeing (Rutland)
Following the onset of COVID-19, a large number of Rutland County Council’s staff became remote workers, almost within a day while others continued their frontline roles supporting the community. These being unfamiliar circumstances, there was no existing project plan to consult, however the council gave their best effort to ensure staff felt supported.
At the very start, the council developed two key strategies to promote staff wellbeing:
Acknowledging challenges – The council shared with staff a consistent message “do your best, take care, these are really challenging times – it’s important to look after yourself and your family” and that “it’s also ok sometimes to not feel ok”
Reaching out – staff were encouraged to look out for each other, check in and “talk, talk, talk”.
The council also signposted staff to wellbeing resources, the council counselling service and communicated with staff regularly e.g. with bulletins and a personal message from the Chief Executive on a weekly basis.
The council’s Wellbeing Group has since announced July (2020) as RCC Wellbeing month – packed with daily activities, tips and information designed to help staff develop good working practices that supports their health and wellbeing. With this, they have challenged staff and teams to complete at least one task every day – activities include:
- videos – such as ‘Staying Motivated when you have had enough’,
- resilience programme through the Learning Management System
- wellbeing drop in sessions (carried out through Teams)
- a wellbeing session with one of the Directors
- all-staff quizzes
- turning emails off for an hour
- a ‘positive photo’ competition
- attending remote seminars such as ‘Managing People – How a Crisis Influences behaviour’.
Though social distancing measures have, at the time of writing, begun to ease, the council have continued to ask staff how they are doing and have recently launched a ‘check in’ staff survey, to be run on a fortnightly basis.
For more information, please contact the RCC wellbeing group at email@example.com
- Supporting staff wellbeing during COVID-19 measures (South Somerset)
With the implementation of lockdown measures, South Somerset District Council implemented a range of measures to better ensure staff wellbeing during the pandemic:
- Resilience Plans for all staff: training and support in developing a personal resilience plan
- Carefirst: A confidential, free, 24/7 counselling service together with daily webinars on a range of wellbeing and resilience related issues
- Wellbeing Buddies: Trained SSDC staff, who are there to listen and help
- Mental Health First Aider Training (certified) for Wellbeing Buddies
- Managing Mental Health at Work, training for all managers, provided by MIND
- Stress Resilience & Employee Wellbeing training, for individuals and teams, provided by MIND
- Productivity training for all staff on being productive in a homeworking environment
- Managing remote teams training – manager training to support individuals and teams in a remote environment
- Dedicated wellbeing resources pages on the staff portal
- Regular wellbeing staff surveys and dashboard check ins for all staff
- People managers stepped up their online meetings with staff so that, in addition to the normal monthly one-to-one, they would meet informally with staff members each week to check in and see how they were going.
At the time of writing, the council had also held two wellbeing days, including a day off for staff to work on wellbeing plans and a further day during December to ensure everyone in the organisation had at least a week of respite during the festive season
The council further highlighted the importance of introducing informal interactions that helped teams to stay connected. Teams were encouraged and supported to undertake fun, social activities – including virtual coffee breaks with colleagues, themed meetings, such as “bring a pet meeting”, and virtual birthday parties. To celebrate ‘big’ birthdays and events, teams have been encouraged to put together videos and send to colleagues.Some teams also created buddy groups who create a daily chat so they can check in on each other. Wellbeing activities at the council span at all levels – for example, the Senior Leadership Team met each Monday with their lunch and no agenda, except to catch up.
The council have reported that the steps put in place were valued by colleagues and have helped to sustain their response throughout the various phases of pandemic.
Their approach has continued to be adjusted based on the feedback received from colleagues through the wellbeing survey, dashboard and feedback from managers. Through these mechanisms they have recognised what was put in place was not always well suited to colleagues need, but in maintaining flexibility, they have remained able to make changes as required to better ensure support for everyone in the organisation.
With this approach the council continue to take steps to meet their objectives around being a good and responsible employer. The council noted that their commitment to support their communities and economy during and after the pandemic was made possible by having healthy and committed staff, who have remained willing and able to go the extra mile.
- Cumbria County Council's peer-to-peer reward system
Cumbria County Council launched an innovative peer-to-peer reward system that resulted in more than 1,200 powerful messages of thanks being received by employees from their colleagues:Cumbria County Council - Together we can say… Thank You!
Reports and other good practice resources
- A district response to COVID-19 (Watford)
The case studyprovides information onvarious 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 attachedStronger Three Tier Working paper.
- Civil Resilience Handbook for Councillors (London Councils)
London Councils issued a Civil Resilience Handbook for Councillors in London Local Authorities, which has been updated for current circumstance. This is supplemented by guidance for lead members and ward councillors.
It has been developed to ensure that Political Leaders and Ward Councillors understand their clearly defined roles and responsibilities in relation to civil resilience and that the necessary support arrangements are put in place to enable councillors to fulfil their roles effectively.
It provides practical guidance on the role of Leaders/Directly-elected Mayors, Cabinet Members and Ward Councillors. The main additions recently are to reiterate the need for councillors to adhere to national guidance when it comes to self-isolating and social distancing.
The handbook has now been updated in relation to Covid-19, as Councillors have a key political role to play in preparing for, responding to, and recovering from Covid-19. The handbook now contains a section, about changing working patterns, highlights appropriate communication channels, and lists some decisions about roles within the Cabinet, members need to consider, amongst other information. There are also checklists for leading members and Ward members in relation to Covid-19.
- Emergency response guidebook – multiple themes (Buckinghamshire)
Buckinghamshire Council have shared the details of their COVID-19 response in this document: Our response to coronavirus. The document provides a thorough overview and guide to the council’s emergency programme structure, the members involved—and the shape of that involvement—as well as core initiatives undertaken as part of the response. Examples highlighted include:
- community support and local support hubs, involving partners, volunteers and a volunteer matching service
- a mutual aid programme, which provides local businesses a route to provide resources for and support others in need
- a ‘resilience fund’ for local business that are not eligible for government business grants or business rates holidays
- support for the voluntary sector, including toolkits for community groups managing volunteers and an online directory
- an Olympic lodge, which has been repurposed as a new social care facility
- social care webinars and other guidance tools
- a school brokerage system and support tools for school staff
- the creation of a wellbeing pack for families
- communications strategies
Councils seeking further information regarding the programme outlined can contact Roger Goodes, Service Director Policy and Communications, at
- Example position statement (Bath and North East Somerset)
Bath and North East Somerset published a position statement for councillors that set out how the council had responded to the pandemic by:
- declaring a major incident so that delegated authority for decision making to the Head of Paid Service enabled focus on supporting the community
- establishing clear governance arrangements put in place to manage the incident and support required
- addressed the needs of the most vulnerable by setting up the Compassionate Communities Hub
- paid out business support grants to eligible businesses and included further additional measures that had been taken.
The position statement collated all the appropriate information into one clear and concise document. There are a number of examples of good practice within the report, including the following:
The council response to the pandemic was split between workstreams and guided by a business continuity framework which ensured a focus on maintaining critical services.
The council worked in partnership with Virgin Care, the CCG and an independent network to set up the Compassionate Community Hub – it has access to 2,400 volunteers and is an excellent example of a strong working partnership across different organisational boundaries.
The council recognised that not all residents have access to online media and used local radio stations to get key messages out and the Leader and Chief Executive wrote to all 84,336 households in the area providing information.
Other examples of good practice highlighted in the position statement include the setting up of a virtual library, free e-bike loans for key workers and virtual music lessons for children missing out on school-based music lessons.
The council is now looking at how the internal recovery can start, and the Leader has established a new Economic Recovery Board with key businesses and business groups to look at external recovery. The recovery work has been split into two distinct workstreams Internal Recovery (Council focus) and External Renewal (Community and Business focus).
- International local authority responses to COVID-19
The following links and contacts relate to responses to COVID-19 by local authorities from European Union countries and elsewhere in the world. With COVID-19 giving rise to a range of common themes and issues, these resources may help to inform responses by local authorities in England and Wales.
- Council of European Municipalities and Regions COVID-19 pages
- EU Committee of the Regions exchange platform
- ESPON Local & Regional Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis
- Intelligent Cities Covid-19 webinars ELAN (European Local Authorities Network) survey on COVID-19 measures (March 2020) – Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- LGA overview of responses to COVID-19 by European LGAs and local authorities (March 2020) – Contact: Richard.Kitt@local.gov.uk
- European Associations of local and regional government
United Kingdom:LGA,COSLA, WLGA
International / global
- Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF)
- United Cities and Local Government (UCLG)
- Cities for Global Health
- OECD Local Study: the territorial impact of COVID-19 and managing the crisis across levels of government
- OECD Policy Response to Coronavirus: City policy response
- US Mayors survey (focusing on equipment shortages)
Contact: For further information relating to this list, email Dominic Rowles, Deputy Head of the LGA Brussels Office, at email@example.com
- Lambeth response to COVID-19– multiple themes (Lambeth)
Lambeth Council have shared details of their response to COVID-19 in Lambeth united: Our response to Covid-19. The report provides a comprehensive outline of activity undertaken during the first months of the response. It covers a large number of activity areas, including digital technologies; communications; the local economy and jobs; financial resilience; the voluntary sector and community response; and more.
- Recovery briefings
The University of Manchester’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute is developing a weekly briefing for LRFs, councils and others involved in the planning and implement of recovery renewal strategies. These briefings cover a range of recovery issues, including highlighting emerging practice from around the world. This collection of briefings have been collated on the University’s website; if you would like to receive the weekly briefing directly, you can sign up here.
- Ways of Working strategy (London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham)
In March 2020, like every council workforce, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham’s (LBHF) way of working changed dramatically. Pre-COVID-19, 95 per cent of the workforce was office-based but this completely shifted due to the pandemic with 70 per cent becoming home-based almost overnight. The new working arrangements presented a real opportunity for LBHF to develop and implement new ideas, initiatives and flexibilities to build a more resilient and productive organisation.
While the shift to homeworking was prompted by necessity, the overwhelming popularity of homeworking amongst most staff has made LBHF reconsider the council’s workforce strategy and seek to establish a new balance for workers, that is not based on the outdated concept of ‘presenteeism’ in the office. With homeworking becoming the norm, the council is keen to take the opportunity to reduce premises costs, travel costs, their climate and ecological impact, alongside other benefits for staff like earlier or later start times, much lower staff sickness and make the most of technological advances like MS Teams.
With this in mind, LBHF have completely recast their workforce strategy – the People Plan – to focus it strategically against the new post-Covid-19 environment. One strand of the revised People Plan is a new Ways of Working (WOW) guide designed to support staff with the changed work environment.
Through the revision of the People Plan LBHF sought to fast-track an organisational culture change. The plan is purposively wrapped in the positive: the council is striving for improvements whilst achieving efficiencies. The overnight move to majority homeworking has accelerated the culture change programme. Myths attributed to homeworking are being dispelled, with a trust model being embedded that is already realising benefits such as fewer absences, greater staff engagement and substantial uplifts in staff wellbeing according to regular temperature check surveys.
The council believes a real strength of their People Plan is the authenticity it has due to the robust business plan that wraps around it. This has been a real enabler in securing active buy-in from members and senior officers. Communicating and engaging with members was crucial, regularly providing them with updates on staff redeployment, workforce resilience and the assurances that the move to homeworking has not adversely affected productivity.
Lots of effort went into supporting staff and managers in adapting to homeworking arrangements. Using the London Councils’ framework for managing staff in a crisis, the council revised its policies and procedures. The council also created a microsite ‘Road to Recovery’ on the internal intranet, which is a one stop shop for staff with the council’s guidelines, policies and FAQs. A central tenet behind the People Plan and WOW guide is engagement with staff with a focus on their resilience and wellbeing. LBHF established ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’, a weekly one-hour session for up to 250 staff discussing how to effectively manage your wellbeing.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought council finances into even sharper focus, and further emphasised the need for councils to achieve efficiencies and make cost savings. The revised People Plan has identified £15 million savings, through initiatives like reimagining the council’s property strategy given the much-reduced requirement for office space, an agency reduction programme, and a voluntary redundancy scheme to help reshape and remodel the workforce.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic there has been a paradigm shift in terms of London boroughs’ approach to sharing their ideas, proposals and policies. HR and OD teams across the capital have embraced a collaborative approach and in doing so have created capacity across the boroughs by minimising the duplication of work.
A by-product of the move to homeworking was a closer and more productive relationship with the trade unions. This, along with five established ‘H&F Way’ staff working groups, have helped progress the council’s ambitious culture change programme.
It is clear in 2021 there will be no return to the way LBHF worked in February 2020. It is clear the longer-term future will be a hybrid of homeworking and office attendance to accommodate fully individual, team and the organisation’s needs.
The importance of open lines of communication with elected members cannot be overemphasised. Engaging members and building trust though being proactive and innovative. What really helped at LBHF was having a clear strategy with a golden thread. Having a ‘people plan on a page’, no matter how short or long, really helped as it gave everyone something to refer to. The council were very aware of ‘action addiction’ – the tendency of responding instinctively, rather than maintaining a strategic focus. Initially responding to an emergency, you have to be reactive, however, it’s important to put a strategic hat back on as soon as possible.
Clarity of communications and engagement with staff is incredibly important. This is an ongoing process with the council reviewing homeworking arrangements on a monthly basis.
Contact: Dawn Aunger, Assistant Director Transformation, Talent and Inclusion firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tips for managing teams remotely
- Tips for managing remote meetings
- Rethinking the workplace - webinar
- Effective chairing of remote meetings - webinar
The LGA provides councils with support on workforce improvement and this has focused on specific help during the pandemic for more information see our web pages.