COVID-19: FAQs

Frequently asked questions related to COVID-19.


This page is updated regularly and was last updated on 15 July 2020. All information set out below is correct at time of publication but all links to external government websites should be checked regularly as official advice is likely to be updated as the situation continues to develop.

Contents A-Z

Business rate relief and support for business

Children and young people

Community safety

Deaths management

Domestic abuse

Employment law and workforce

Finance and the economy

Homelessness

Housing

Mental health, mental capacity, isolation and wellbeing

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Planning

Procurement

Public health

Small business grants and retail, hospitality and leisure grants

Supporting the shielded

Supporting local communities

Support for specific groups

Test, track and outbreak management

Transport

Volunteering

Waste and recycling


Business rate relief and support for business

1. What businesses are eligible for the expanded business rate discount?

The MHCLG guidance (paragraph 10) states that properties that will benefit from the relief will be occupied hereditaments that are wholly or mainly being used:

  • as shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues
  • for assembly and leisure;
  • as hotels, guest & boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

Paragraphs 11 to 14 give examples of these uses.

2. Are there any uses which the Government says are not eligible for support?

Paragraphs 16 and 17 of the guidance give the following examples of uses that the Government does not consider to be an eligible use for the purpose of this relief.

  • Properties used to provide financial services (e.g. banks, building societies, cash points, bureaux de change, short-term loan providers), medical services (e.g. vets, dentists, doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors), professional services (e.g. solicitors, accountants, insurance agents/ financial advisers), or post office sorting offices.
  • Properties not reasonably accessible to visiting members of the public
  • Properties occupied by the billing authority or a preceptor.
3. What if a particular business use is not listed in the guidance?

The list set out in the guidance is intended to be a guide for authorities as to the types of uses that the Government considers to qualify for relief.  Paragraph 15 says that authorities should determine for themselves whether particular properties not listed are ‘broadly similar in nature’ to those to those listed in the guidance, if so, to consider them eligible for the relief. Conversely, properties that are not broadly similar in nature to those listed above should not be eligible for the relief.

4. Are builders’ merchants eligible for the expanded business rate discount?

It is the understanding of the LGA that builders’ merchants and similar that provide sale of goods or services "to visiting members of the public" from accessible store units qualify under the definition set out in paragraph 11 of the guidance. This is because they are 'broadly similar in nature' to the examples given in that paragraph, which include hardware stores.”

5. What about premises used for hospitality and leisure purposes?

Working with Tourism Alliance, the LGA have identified some tourism businesses that are not explicitly mentioned in the guidance, but in our view do fall into the intended category. This is an illustrative list to help teams unfamiliar with the tourism sector. The only official guidance on the rates relief is that published by MHCLG, with a key consideration being that the premises are open to visiting members of the public and are wholly or mainly being used for the purposes outlined in paragraphs 10 to 14 of the guidance.  We give the following examples: 

  • Amusement Arcades
  • Vehicle Rental Sites
  • Conference and Exhibition venues
  • Non-local authority Tourism Information Centres
  • Marinas/Boat Hire/Passenger Boat Facilities

Please note that this list was amended from the original version following discussions with MHCLG and feedback from member authorities.

 

6. What is the current advice around business rates?

The Government publishes a regular series of Business Rates Information Letters which provide links to the latest guidelines and developments.

7. Are COVID-19 business rates reliefs compatible with State Aid regulations?

Following discussions with the European Commission, the Government has confirmed that neither the extended retail business rates discount, nor the nurseries business rates discount, is considered to be State Aid. This was announced by MHCLG on 2 April in a further Business Rates Information Letter (6/20). This covers revised guidance for the 20/21 Expanded Retail Discount (paragraphs 22 to 24) and the Nursery Discount (paragraph 18). The Government’s assessment is that neither discount is a State aid. The Government has considered this matter in discussions with the European Commission and is content with this analysis. 

Detailed information on State Aid for the BEIS grant schemes is in the Guidance

The Business Rates Information Letter also says that councils should provide the reliefs to all eligible properties. Local authorities will be fully compensated for the loss of income associated with granting both reliefs and the Government will meet the associated new burdens funding to cover the administrative costs of implementation. A supplementary data collection exercise to provide the necessary data to allow MHCLG to calculate the amounts of section 31 grant compensation due for both discounts was circulated to billing authority contacts for completion and submission by 9 April. 

8. How do business rates relief and business grants impact on Business Improvement Districts levies?

While the amount businesses within a BID pay is based on a percentage of their rateable value, the levy itself is separate to business rates – and therefore rates relief or grants to businesses do not apply to BID levies.

On 1 May 2020 MHCLG announced that an additional £6.1 million will be distributed via a section 31 grant to local authorities to be passed on to BIDs in order to cover funding for 3 months and contribute to their operational costs.

The Government has amended the Coronavirus Act to ensure any BID due to ballot this year is able to extend their arrangements to March 2021. This means BIDs worrying they would not be able to safely hold a ballot, or businesses worrying about voting for an additional levy, are able to delay.

Children and young people

1. How are councils protecting looked after children during the lockdown?

The Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance for children’s social care services. The guidance is intended to support councils in determining how best to support families and protect vulnerable children during the COVID-19 outbreak. It is underpinned by a set of principles which should inform local decision-making and day to day practice with children and families. We are also raising with DfE the need for urgent clarity on where flexibility will be introduced in regulations to support councils to focus on the most pressing safeguarding issues through this period, to make sure that children are kept safe. 

We have been working with the Department for Education and the Association of Directors of Children's Services on guidance and sharing best practice to make sure pupils identified as vulnerable are in school. This includes DfE guidance for school and colleagues to support them keeping children safe, including online, guidance on vulnerable children and young people, updated guidance on school children with new sections on vulnerable children and safeguarding in schools, colleagues and other providers.

2. What can councils do to increase take-up of school places by vulnerable children?

Children with a social worker or an education, health and care plan (EHCP) are classified as ‘vulnerable children’ by the Department for Education’s guidance around school closures, and are therefore able to continue to attend school or childcare. Councils should refer to the guidance when considering their plans. With regard to children with a social worker, the guidance currently states that there is an expectation that these children will continue to attend educational settings unless their social worker decides there is less risk in their home or placement, however we know that the proportion of children attending is currently very low. Councils report that they are working alongside schools to encourage families to send children to school, usually on a risk-assessed basis, and ensuring that they continue to check in with families where children do not attend.

3. What methods are social workers using to keep in touch with children on the risk register but not attending school?

Social workers, alongside schools, are using a range of methods to keep in touch with vulnerable children. This includes phone calls, video conferencing and face-to-face visits where this is appropriate.

4. What is the guidance on home-to-school transport for vulnerable children attending school?

The DfE has published guidance on home-to-school transport for vulnerable children attending school which includes detail around supporting local authorities to ensure the necessary arrangements are in place to support vulnerable children.

Education departments should be aware of the recent guidance issued by the Department for Transport to all local authority transport officers with regards to ongoing support to local bus service providers. So that they can continue to play a central role in communities after this pandemic DfT are urging councils to continue to pay bus and coach operators for tendered services, including home to school transport, at the levels before any downturn in service provision or patronage, for at least the period of the outbreak. This will help ensure that bus operators continue to be able to provide socially necessary services once the outbreak is over. This is set out in detail in Procurement Policy Note 02/20 - Supplier Relief Due to COVID-19. This means that contracting authorities should continue to pay suppliers for the next three months (even if service delivery is disrupted/temporarily stopped) in order to ensure business continuity and protect jobs.

5. How are free school meals being funded?

The Department for Education (DfE) has provided guidance on free school meals, that low-income families whose children are eligible for free school meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals to make sure they continue receiving this support, even if they are no longer attending school. Schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families, and they will have their costs covered by the DfE.  

The DfE has published guidance on the funding available to schools to support them with costs associated with COVID-19. This could include support for free school meals where these costs are not covered by the national voucher scheme. The additional funding for schools will be available on top of core funding allocations that will be paid as normal to schools for the 2020/21 financial year.

The Government has confirmed that it will extend financial support to children eligible for free schools meals who are not attending school during the Easter holidays.

6. Should foster carers and kinship carers receive additional payments during school closures?

Looked-after children and other vulnerable children are able to attend school throughout the school closures. Councils will want to work with their foster carers and kinship carers to ensure that they have the support they need throughout the Covid-19 outbreak to try to ensure placement stability and to make sure that children’s needs are fully met.

7. How should councils respond to a slowdown in adopter recruitment and placement matching?

Many councils are looking at how to progress adopter recruitment and placement matching as far as possible, for example through virtual matching panels, and we would encourage councils to put in place alternative processes wherever appropriate and possible to limit the extent of any slowdown. CoramBAAF has produced some helpfulguidance on managing introductions and placements during the outbreak.

The DfE has issued further guidance with regard to adoption at this time.

8. What are the expectations regarding UASC entering councils’ care?

Councils retain their responsibilities around UASC and the Department for Education has issued guidance around this.

9. When will primary school offers be announced and when will the admissions appeals process take place?

The Department for Education has written (letter dated 3 April) to Directors of Children’s Services, place planning and admissions leads, updating councils on Primary National Offer Day, admissions appeals and delivery of September 2020 school places. The letter sets out that:

  • Primary National Offer Day should continue as expected on 16 April, but that the Department will provide advice and/or support to councils if needed if they contact admissions@education.gov.uk.
  • It is not considered sensible that admissions appeals should go ahead at present and the Department is working urgently on emergency regulations and guidance to establish alternative arrangements that give flexibility to admissions authorities to hold panels via telephone or video conference or in writing and that extend the normal timescales.
  • In recognition of the pressures on councils, the Department has decided to cancel the Pupil Place Planning National Offer Day Survey. Instead, they are now asking for a very focused, short return from each local authority to capture latest information on the level of risk to their school building projects (presumptions and expansions) for September 2020 as a result of the current crisis. The return form was included with the letter sent and will allow DfE to engage with affected councils on mitigations and contingency planning.
10. How are social workers dealing with disclosures?

The Department for Education has published guidance for councils on children’s social care, which outlines the approach that councils should be taking with regard to safeguarding and supporting children at this time, and supporting their workforce.

11. What support can councils expect from the police on child protection and FGM?
The police remain one of the three safeguarding partners (alongside councils and health colleagues) responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their area. The police should continue to carry out its statutory duties.
12. What is the advice on contact arrangements? 

DfE guidance states that:

We expect that contact between children in care and their birth relatives will continue. It is essential for children and families to remain in touch at this difficult time, and for some children, the consequences of not seeing relatives would be traumatising.

Contact arrangements should therefore be assessed on a case by case basis taking into account a range of factors including the government’s social distancing guidance and the needs of the child. It may not be possible, or appropriate, for the usual face-to-face contact to happen at this time and keeping in touch will, for the most part, need to take place virtually. We expect the spirit of any contact orders made in relation to children in care to be maintained and will look to social workers to determine how best to support those valuable family interactions based on the circumstances of each case.

13. What is the advice on submitting NEETS returns?

The Department for Education (DfE) has issued the following message on the data collection portal:

Thank you to those local authority NEETs teams who have already been in touch about the COVID 19 situation and impact on tracking. We appreciate that during this time you will need to manage resources according to local priorities. If that means you are unable to upload data for immediate period, please do not worry. As we have received all the data required to calculate the 3 month average for the scorecard and the data due to be collected over the next few months is only published for transparency purposes, we do not need it urgently. We will review the position with the September Guarantee as the situation evolves. 

Community safety

1. What is the role of councils in closing premises?

To support councils in enforcing the requirement for many types of businesses to close, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has issued updated guidance for councils on the enforcement of premises closures and has produced a template prohibition notice for councils to use in relation to businesses opening in breach of the emergency regulations.

Template notices have been made available to heads of service, can be accessed via the information sharing platform the knowledge hub or by emailing OPSS on OPSS.enquiries@beis.gov.uk  

2. Has government issued any advice for councils around requests for refunds of licensing fees?  

We are aware that councils have been receiving requests from a range of businesses which can no longer operate, asking for dispensations on licence fees.  

The LGA has raised this with the Home Office and Gambling Commission. Our understanding is that Government will not be directing councils to refund licence fees, so this will be a local decision. 

The LGA has published a note for licensing teams to address licensing issues that councils have raised with us which includes examples of approaches to licence fees that councils may want to consider.  

3. Will work to ensure the safety of buildings be affected?  

During the pandemic landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard, and that urgent, essential health and safety repairs are made.  

Government guidance has been published for landlords, tenants and local authorities on essential works in the context of Coronavirus. 

The Health and Safety Executive has published guidance setting out detailed advice on undertaking gas safety checks in a range of scenarios (for example, in households containing residents who fall into the Government’s vulnerable people category, shielded category or who are self-isolating for 14 days) and on testing equipment which can be found here and hereThe Gas Safe Register’s website is also a source of other general advice and advice for vulnerable and shielded residents.  

The Government has also published non-statutory guidance on the enforcement of standards in the private and social rented sector

The Government has announced a series of reforms to the building safety system, including the remediation of unsafe cladding and the requirements for mandatory sprinkler systems in all new blocks to be reduced.  

The Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, and local leaders from city regions have pledged that essential safety work to replace unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings will continue during the COVID-19 emergency. The Government’s sector-specific advice for the construction industry aims to ensure those working on site are given clear information and support to guarantee their own safety as well as limiting the spread of infection. 

In April MHCLG wrote to stakeholders, giving more detail on the £1 billion funding for the removal of non-ACM cladding. In this letter, MHCLG urges councils who have not completed data collection on external wall systems of buildings over 18 metres to do so as soon as possible

Deaths Management

1. What is the guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed COVID-19?

Public Health England have issued guidance on care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus. There is separate guidance on  managing funerals during the coronavirus pandemic (see question 10).

The guidance on care of the deceased with confirmed or suspected coronavirus aims to ensure that the bodies of those who have died as a result of coronavirus are treated with sensitivity, respect and dignity and that those who work in funeral services and mourners are protected from infection

It is strongly advised that mourners not come into close contact with deceased individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, including through rituals or other practices. Faith leaders have been consulted on these matters and contributed to the guidance.

2. What is the current guidance on running of cremators?

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has notified local authorities in England that the emergency clauses (para 5.31-5.38) within the Process Guidance Note Statutory Guidance for Crematoria have now been activated. The guidance outlines specific preparations which should be made to cope with the potential challenges of COVID-19 and suggests that local authorities should take a balanced view on enforcement at this time. These specific paragraphs are issued as a precautionary measure in the event of a national emergency giving rise to mass fatalities. They cover good practice on supplies, calling upon trained staff and managing staff shortages, planning for potential breakdowns and mitigating air emissions.

As regulators of crematoria local authorities must ensure that crematoria operators in their area are informed of this and are aware of the guidance. Local authorities who operate their own crematoria will also need to be aware of the change. DEFRA will inform local authorities when the emergency clauses are deactivated.

The government has also advised that, as the current number of cremations taking place is substantially above the national average, there will be a three-month moratorium on periodic monitoring of crematoria. This moratorium will stand, subject to a review in June 2020.

Further questions regarding emissions monitoring of crematoria can be emailed to Defra at Control.Pollution@defra.gov.uk.

3. What is the guidance on moving bodies from homes and hospitals (e.g. appropriate staff and PPE)?

Transportation of bodies is normally undertaken by funeral directors, though NHS ambulances, private ambulances and hospital porters also provide some body transportation. There are a range of different pieces of legalisation employers would need to consider when employees carry out body transport including the need for appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The PHE Guidance on Care of the deceased includes some information on appropriate PPE for handling bodies and should be read in conjunction with the:

The LGA is aware that there have been concerns around the availability of body bags and the LGA amongst others has highlighted this with Government.

4. What is the guidance on religious practices?

The PHE management of a funeral guidance says that mourners should not take part in rituals or practices that bring them into close contact with the body. It states that where there are aspects of faith which include close contact with the deceased, that contact should be restricted to those who are wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) under the supervision of someone who is trained in appropriate use of PPE. The PHE guidance on care of the deceased sets out the appropriate levels of PPE necessary when undertaking personal care of the deceased. These guidelines should be followed in any setting where these activities are taking place. 

In terms of washing and shrouding for Muslims, the Muslim Council of Britain advice is that no one over the age of 60 should be taking part and that those involved should wear PPE. They suggest that areas should designate specific facilities in central locations for washing and that volunteers should be organised to do this work. This would allow for proper process of disinfecting spaces and disposing of medical waste. Muslims believe that burials should take place within 24 hours of death and this kind of set up would support these processes.

The PHE guidance on funerals strongly advises that given the significant risks to vulnerable and extremely vulnerable people from COVID-19, they should have no contact with the body of the deceased.

Blackburn Council has supported the local community by inspecting the facilities and by putting out a joint statement with the local religious organisation to outline their approach.

5. What is the situation regarding death certification? What is the guidance on medical referees? Can documents be obtained digitally? Can certification be sent direct to registrars?

As a result of the Coronavirus Act 2020 there have been a number of changes to death certification, including what forms are now not necessary, who can fill out particular forms, and what the medical referee should look at the crematoria.

The Cremation Regulations guidance for medical referees have been updated to reflect the temporary changes to the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 provided for in the Coronavirus Act 2020 which came in to force on 26 March. The Cremation Regulations guidance for funeral directors have also been updated in the same way. Both include the removal of Cremation Form 5 (otherwise known as the confirmatory medical certificate), which is longer necessary.

The Guidance for doctors completing the medical certificates for cause of death in England and Wales has also been amended to include changes which were included in the Coronavirus Act 2020, in particular relating to who can sign the certificate. 

The Chief Coroner has issued guidance to all coroners on how to manage the provision of coroners services during the outbreak, including advice that senior coroners should ensure that they are familiar with their Local Resilience Forums plans and any local issues. 

A quick summary of the effect of the Coronavirus Act 2020 on the registration process by the General Registry Office can be found here.

6. Should cemeteries and crematoria grounds be open or closed?’

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulation 2020 introduced on the 23 March originally stated that “a person who is responsible for a crematoria or burial ground must ensure that, during the emergency period, the crematorium is closed to members of the public, except for funerals and burials.” This caused some confusion as to whether cemeteries and crematoria grounds should be open or closed.

The regulation was amended in April to remove references to burial grounds and to clarify that the regulation does not apply to crematoria grounds. The regulation now reads:

(8) Subject to (8A) a person responsible for a crematorium must ensure that, during the emergency period, the crematorium is closed to members of the public, except for funerals or burials.

(8A) Paragraph (8) does not apply to the grounds surrounding a crematorium, including any burial ground or garden of remembrance.

At the same time MHCLG confirmed that, in their view, cemeteries and burial grounds should be open for people to pay their respects. Local authorities will need to make decisions about opening or closing cemeteries and burial grounds to ensure they continue to fulfil their duties under all relevant legislation, including the current requirement to maintain social distancing.

7. Government has agreed to provide extra body storage, will local authorities be able to use this capacity?

The Government has sourced extra body storage capacity in the form of modular buildings to support local areas experiencing excess deaths related to COVID-19. Local Resilience Forums (LRF) are responsible for local death management processes including body storage and may request a modular building through the Civil Contingency Secretariat (CCS) of the Cabinet Office. The resource is for the use of all local partners, including local authorities, but LRFs may be directed by CCS to allow other areas to use this capacity if necessary.

Should the LRF request a modular building, one of the member local authorityies will be required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Cabinet Office on behalf of the LRF and will be responsible for complying with its terms. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is leading on the day-to-day provision of this resource and will liaise with LRFs on its provision.

8. Is video supervision of cremators possible?

The LGA has received a number of queries about remote or video supervision of the operation of cremators and have consulted the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities and the Institute of Cemetery and Crematoria Management. Both organisations have stated that it would not be expected that remote supervision should be used, except as a last resort in exceptional and short term circumstances, and subject to the consultations discussed below and approval from the consultees. Several other options should be explored before any move is made towards remote supervision, including:

Bringing back retired qualified operators (as long as they are not in the self-isolation category); some training may be required to reacquaint the retired operator with the cremation equipment Asking neighbouring authorities for help (or private operator – which may incur fees) Seeking support from organisations/agencies that offer qualified cremator technicians Training other members of staff, either within Bereavement Services, or from another authority department that may not be able to carry out their usual role.

If the cremators being supervised via video have a dial in facility, the manufacturer should be asked to dial in periodically to check nothing untoward is happening.

Both the ICCM and FBCA are aware of concerns about crematoria workforce, in particular that there may not be enough qualified crematorium technicians to manage increases in demand due to staff illness or self-isolation, and have adapted their qualification processes to try and support people to qualify as crematoria technicians during the COVID-19 crisis. More information can be found by emailing the organisations (FBCA training@fbca.org.uk and ICCM jcallender@institutecemandcrem.com)

If none of these solutions are feasible, before implementing any video supervision of cremators, authorities should consult with their health and safety and insurance teams. They should also check their operating permit and talk to the person responsible for enforcing it, usually their Environmental Health Officer.

9. Is there guidance on local authority powers under Schedule 28 of the Coronavirus Act?

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has published Statutory Guidance for Schedule 28 of the Coronavirus Act, which relates to new powers for local and national authorities around the transportation, storage and disposal of dead bodies. The guidance is aimed at local authorities and covers each part of Schedule. 

Part 1 of the Schedule relates to the powers of local authorities to require persons, or government to require local authorities, to provide information for the purposes of ascertaining capacity to deal with transportation, storage and disposal of dead bodies.  

Part 2 of the Schedule relates to the powers of direction which may be available to local authorities and government to help those areas deemed to be at or nearing capacity limits in terms of transportation, storage or disposal. These powers are not available for use unless a local authority is designated by the Secretary of State or the Minister for the Cabinet Office. We do not expect this to be either a) frequently used or b) used without prior discussion with the local authority concerned.  

Part 3 of the Schedule relates to powers for government to direct local authorities themselves if they consider that a local authority has failed to exercise its functions related to the death management process. The guidance also outlines the process by which government will make the directions and how they will make decisions to direct local authorities. 

Part 4 of the Schedule describes local authorities’ obligation to have regard to the person’s wishes, religion or beliefs when using the Part 2 powers, particularly with reference to the preferred method of final committal. The guidance outlines reasonable steps which local authorities should take to ensure the deceased’s wishes are adhered to and circumstances where a local authority might make a direction against a person’s wishes though these are expected to happen only in exceptional circumstances. Many local authorities across the country are already in contact with local religious and faith groups to meet ensure there is a shared understanding of the requirements of Part 4. 

10. Is there guidance available for those conducting funerals?

Updated guidance has been published by Public Health England on how to manage funeral provision (the previous guidance was published in March). The aim of the guidance is to ensure that the bereaved are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect while protecting mourners and workers from infection.

The guidance (which, unlike Schedule 28, is not statutory) reiterates that communities, organisations and individuals should continue to act to reduce the risk of transmission among mourners using social distancing, and that funerals should not be delayed.

It also states that the bereaved should be able to attend if they wish, although the number of mourners should be minimised as far as possible and venue managers may set caps on numbers to ensure social distancing is observed. The guidance suggests that household members and close family members should be able to attend, within social distancing limits, and that close friends should be allowed to attend if family are unable to do so.

According to the Guidance those who have symptoms of COVID-19 must not attend services, but the extremely clinically vulnerable group and those self-isolating due to someone in their household having symptoms of COVID-19 should be supported to attend with measures put in place to reduce the risk of infection or transmission. It also includes guidance on measures that venue managers should put in place to reduce the likelihood of transmission among all mourners, whether they are clinically vulnerable or not.

Domestic abuse

1. How do I access guidance to support vulnerable people at risk of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown?

The LGA has produced guidance, which gathers in one place current guidance from the Government, LGA and sector-based organisations.

There is also guidance that highlights support available for domestic abuse victims during the Coronavirus pandemic.

2. How can individuals, or people who may be worried for the safety of others, access support during the stay-at-home instruction as a result of COVID-19?

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, please call 999 and ask for the police. Silent calls will work if you are not safe to speak – use the Silent Solution system and call 999 and then press 55.

Guidance on the Silent Solution

If it is not an emergency, you can contact the National Domestic Abuse Helpline 24-hours a day, for free and in confidence: 0808 2000 247

The Helpline adviser will offer confidential, non-judgmental information and expert support.

The Helpline is free to call. It uses the services of Language Line to provide access to interpreters for non-English-speaking callers. The Helpline can also access the BT Type Talk Service for deaf or hard-of-hearing callers.

3. Are domestic abuse victims expected to remain in their household?

It is important to be aware that the stay-at-home instruction as a result of COVID-19 does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

The LGA, which has published a new guide for councils on tackling domestic abuse during the COVID-19 outbreak, is highlighting that the Government’s stay at home guidance does not apply to domestic abuse victims who should not worry about being stopped by police if they leave their home to escape abuse.

The Government’s #YouAreNotAlone campaign aims to reassure domestic abuse victims there is support and help available, and police will respond to emergency calls. The LGA is working with the Government, the Domestic Abuse Commission, councils, domestic abuse organisations and wider partners to help publicise this campaign and its key messages.

4. If domestic abuse victims need to leave their household, how can they access travel support?

One of the barriers to seeking refuge for domestic abuse victims might be concerns about travel. Where possible, it might be useful to highlight that Women’s Aid and Imkaan have partnered with train companies to offer a ‘Rail to refuge' scheme, providing domestic abuse survivors and their children with access to free train travel to refuge accommodation during COVID-19 restrictions once they have received an offer of a refuge place. 

5. What guidance is available regarding economic abuse?

Surviving Economic Abuse has produced guidance on recognising and supporting victims of economic abuse while self-isolating, as well as practical issues including benefits and sick pay. The guidance is being updated regularly as the situation changes.

6. How can councils support victims of domestic abuse during the stay-at-home instruction as a result of COVID-19?
  • Ensure strong partnership working with the police, housing and health services, the domestic abuse sector and wider agencies
  • Ensure there are regular updates about the safe accommodation options available for domestic abuse victims
  • Highlight which domestic abuse support services and perpetrator programmes are still open and available.
  • Identify what safeguarding arrangements are needed for children and young people in domestic abuse households

 

For more detailed information visit the LGA’s Tackling domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic guidance.

7. What safeguarding arrangements are needed for children and young people in domestic abuse households?

The Government has published guidance for local authorities on children’s social care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any frontline professionals working with vulnerable children or speaking with them on a regular basis will be assessing risk within the home and taking appropriate action. Similarly, where professionals such as the police are working with a family experiencing domestic abuse, risk assessments should be taking place to establish whether it is safe and appropriate for any children to remain in the household.

The following resources are available to provide advice and support for those with concerns about children or young people:

8. What guidance is available for practitioners working with vulnerable adults during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The LGA has produced guidance, which is aimed at practitioners and managers in councils and partner agencies engaged in working (directly or indirectly) with people who have care and support needs, whose circumstances make them vulnerable, and who may also be victims of domestic abuse.

9. How can local authorities appropriately communicate the support available to people at risk of domestic abuse during COVID-19?

Pages 8 – 11 of the LGA’s LGA’s Tackling domestic abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic guidance outlines best practice to communicate the available support to people who may be at risk of domestic abuse.

10. How will support for additional demands on domestic abuse services be funded?

The Government has announced that the Home Office is working with charities and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to provide an additional £2 million to bolster domestic abuse helplines and online support. Details of how this funding will be allocated will be available shortly.

The Chancellor has announced £750 million to support for the charity sector in response to coronavirus, with funding available to charities supporting victims of domestic abuse.

Employment law and workforce

This information is hosted in our workforce section.

Finance and the economy

1. How can I share information on pressures facing my council?

Many councils have told us that they are experiencing, or are anticipating, significant falls in income, additional costs and problems with cash flow. If councils are willing to share their information with us that would be helpful; please email lgfinance@local.gov.uk.

2. What financial support has Government made available to councils?

The Government has provided £3.2 billion of funding, an initial £1.6 billion in late March and a further £1.6 billion on 18 April. The allocations of both tranches to local government have been published. The grants are not ringfenced. The initial £1.6 billion grant was paid in late March and the second grant was paid in May.

To aid cash flow, the Government made up front payments of £3.4 billion of grants, including pre-COVID-19 business rates relief compensation and the initial £1.6 billion COVID-19 support grant, on 27 March. Subsequently, On 16 April the Government announced that councils would also be allowed to defer £2.6 billion of business rates central share payments due to the Government over the next three months and £850 million in social care grants would all be paid in April 2020 rather than monthly in April, May and June.

On 13 May the Government announced the new Adult Social Care Infection Control and Workforce Resilience Fund, details of which can be found in their letterThis follows the announcement from the Prime Minister of £600 million in additional funding for COVID-19 pressures in care homes. This funding will support adult social care providers to reduce the rate of transmission in, and between, care homes and support wider workforce resilience. The first instalment of this funding was paid in late May.

3. Do councils have to report to Government on how they spend the additional funding?

As first signalled in the letter from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government confirming the £1.6 billion COVID-19 support grant, the Government will be regularly asking councils to provide a high-level breakdown of how councils intend to allocate spend this funding, as well as seek information on cost, income and cash flow pressures facing local government. This is intended for planning purposes and to support the on-going assessment of costs.

The first round of this exercise concluded on 15 April and this is expected to be repeated in regular intervals. The third round of this exercise concluded on 15 June.

We continue to raise issues related to costs, loss of income and cash flow issues on your behalf on a daily basis. If you would like to provide more information, please get in touch with us through lgfinance@local.gov.uk.

4. Will there be any financial support for the cost of administering the grants?

The Government confirmed it is looking at separate new burdens funding for the administration of reliefs for businesses, with details to be announced. 

5. Are there any changes to the local authority accounting requirements?

The Government has confirmed that the timetable for publishing draft financial accounts, as well as the time period for the audit of the accounts to take place, have both been extended. The regulations have been passed to extend the deadline for the approval of the draft accounts to 31 August and for the publication of the final audited accounts to 30 November. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) have published an accounting bulletin which provides guidance on the 2019/20 accounts, including specific guidance on financial reporting issues that arise as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. How is EU funding impacted by COVID-19?

The COVID-19 crisis has affected how the European Structural and Investment Funds programme (ESIF) has been delivered. The Government’s intention is to work with stakeholders to use current ESIF programmes to help manage the crisis using the current ESIF framework. The Government has published Q&As on COVID-19 and the ESF/ERDF programmes, which should provide some assurances for current programmes. They will be updated to reflect discussions with the European Commission.

We have been collecting intelligence and ideas from councils and combined authorities which we are submitting to Government. If you would like to provide more information, please get in touch with us through paul.green@local.gov.uk.

 

Homelessness

1. What is the national approach to supporting homeless people during the pandemic? 

Councils have been working hard to urgently rehouse people currently sleeping rough and in high-risk, dormitory-style accommodation, to help protect them from COVID-19 and avoid wider transition. 

The Government wrote to local authorities on 26 March setting out its approach and expectations of councils in detail. We are expecting further detailed guidance from Government imminently. 

2. What guidance is available on councils’ role in supporting homeless people? 

The LGA has published overarching guidance on support for vulnerable people, including those who are homeless. 

The NHS and GPs have been working to identify and contact the most clinically vulnerable as part of ‘shielding’; asking these people to stay at home and avoid all non-essential contact for at least 12 weeks.  

Some individuals – including people experiencing homelessness – may not be registered with health services and therefore may not receive NHS communications, or related support packages. If councils’ homelessness teams are in contact with these individuals, they are encouraged to coordinate with local health teams through local hubs, so that all vulnerable individuals can access local support being made available. 

Additional guidance is available from Crisis and Homeless Link.  

The LGA and ADASS have also jointly published wider guidance for councils on positive practice in adult safeguarding and homelessness for practitioners involved in supporting people who are homeless and at risk of or experiencing abuse or neglect.

3. How can councils meet the rise in demand for self-contained accommodation for homeless people during the pandemic? 

Councils have been making significant efforts to ensure that people experiencing homelessness – including those sleeping rough, in night shelters, assessment centres and hostels – are safely housed and, where needed, isolated as part of wider efforts to contain COVID-19. Many councils have been working closely with hotels and B&Bs to procure accommodation. 

Councils have experienced significant issues after a number of public venues were closed as part of the national pandemic response, and the LGA worked with Government to try and ensure these were resolved. 

Government’s expectation is that hotels, hostels, and B&Bs should remain open where they are providing rooms to support homeless people through arrangements with local authorities and other public bodies. The homelessness minister wrote to hotels to this effect on 25 March, and guidance for accommodation providers has also been published. 

Since then, the LGA has received direct offers of support around accommodation for people in housing need which councils might find useful: 

A centralised Government hotel booking system, Crown Commercial Service, has received a number of enquiries from public sector organisations about venues for housing members of the public. Framework supplier, Calder Conferences, is helping those in local government secure the exclusive use of hotels and other venues for block bookings. They can be used to house rough sleepers and the asylum community along with providing accommodation for key workers. 
 
If you require this service, please contact covid19@calders.org.uk or call  0113 397 9432.  

Eviivo, a booking technology provider, has created the service Stays for Heroes, a portal searchable by key workers of accommodation open to them, including B&Bs, guesthouses, and small hotels.  

We have raised with Government that councils need continued support to identify and procure additional accommodation. MHCLG is providing direct support to councils with procuring accommodation locally. If you need this support, please let us know at coronavirus@local.gov.uk  

The Youth Hostels Association (YHA) is offering YHA’s hostels to others who might be able to use them temporarily in this period. They have already agreed arrangements with a number of councils to repurpose their hostels for the next few months, primarily for homelessness provision but also critical worker accommodation. They have model licenses in place and are offering this arrangement on a simple cost recovery basis. Interested councils can get in touch via communitysupport@yha.org.uk 

4. What is the role of caravan and holiday park homes? 

Government guidance for accommodation providers states that people using holiday or caravan parks as their primary residence, or as temporary accommodation while their primary residence is unavailable for habitation, can remain on site. 

The Government has written to caravan and park site owners to make clear that they should remain open for key workers and vulnerable groups. 

We are asking Government to work more closely with accommodation providers to ensure that more units are available for potential future increases in homelessness-related demand.

5. Can councils place homeless households in registered provider properties during the outbreak?

The Government has published guidance for social landlords on essential moves to support vulnerable people move to new homes during the pandemic. The guidance makes clear that essential moves should continue over this period, where it can be done in line with social distancing guidance. This includes domestic abuse victims who may be fleeing abusive relationships, people who are homeless and leaving temporary accommodation or individuals leaving hospital. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 are clear that moving home “where reasonably necessary” continues to be allowed.

6. What funding is available to support homelessness services? 

On 17 March, MHCLG announced a £3.2 million emergency fund for supporting rough sleepers during the coronavirus outbreak. Funding will be available to all local authorities in England, who will be reimbursed for the cost of providing accommodation and services to those sleeping on the streets to help them self-isolate.  

This is in addition to wider Government funding for local authorities to support responses to COVID-19 pressures across all services, including helping the most vulnerable, such as homeless people. 

However, homelessness services are facing significant financial pressures from higher levels of demand as well as exceptional support costs, and we are continuing to raise the urgent need for additional funding to cover councils' costs. 

We have also raised with Government the need to ensure that local housing authorities can claim local housing allowance at the newly increased rates, to help cover the costs of the exceptional number of placements which have been made in recent weeks. 

7. Is there any guidance available on the application of the Building Regulations during the COVID-19 outbreak? 

MHCLG has published guidance for Building Control Bodies operating in England. This covers advice on temporary healthcare buildings and related facilities, and on adhering to social distancing. It seeks to strike a balance between enabling building work to continue where it is still safe and ensuring that work continues to meet Building Regulations’ requirements. It is intended to apply for the period of operation of building control during the COVID-19 outbreak while social distancing rules are in place and will be kept under review.   

8. What about evictions from asylum accommodation?

Individuals and families will not have to leave asylum accommodation once their claim or appeal has been decided, in line with national guidance for the next three months, with a review in June. Reporting requirements and substantive interviews are also postponed.  

The Home Office and providers will work with councils to identify new accommodation as the number of supported asylum seekers grows, including potentially in areas that have not previously agreed to dispersal.  

The Local Government Associations, lead Chief Executives and the Strategic Migration Partnerships will continue to work with the Home Office, accommodation and support providers, and the community and voluntary sector to minimise the impacts on councils and communities, and to ensure that the right support is in place.   

Further information on support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is expected from the Department for Education shortly, with LGA, ADCS and other national partners raising concerns around placement capacity and costs. 

9. What support is available for helping those with no recourse to public funds?

We are seeking greater clarity from Government on support available to help councils assist individuals and families currently with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF), particularly single adults without care needs who are not usually eligible for social services' support. Those who are destitute and homeless because of their migration status need to be able to access safe and suitable accommodation to allow for self-distancing and self-isolation, healthcare and financial support.  

This will include those already in accommodation provided by councils and those living in communities who do not have suitable accommodation or the means to acquire this in order to comply with Government guidance. The LGA and others are requesting a temporary removal of the NRPF condition during the crisis. 

The NRPF Network has developed a factsheet on councils’ roles and responsibilities for supporting people with no recourse to public funds during the pandemic.  

Individuals and families will not have to leave asylum accommodation once their claim or appeal has been decided, in line with national guidance for the next three months, with a review in June (see question above).  

Housing

1. What support is available for landlords and renters during the pandemic?  

The Government has put measures in place to provide support for the sector, including a £500 million package to fund households experiencing financial hardship. Part of this support has been to extend the notice period for evictions and suspend eviction court action meaning that most tenants cannot be evicted before the end of June at the earliest.  

Councils are focusing on helping people to access the support they need such as Discretionary Housing Payments, the hardship fund, and Universal Credit, and in many places have stopped arrears collection processes. Current guidance from central government means that no evictions in either social or private accommodation can take place. 

2. How will repairs and maintenance for rentals continue during the pandemic? 

During the pandemic landlords remain legally obligated to ensure properties meet the required standard, and that urgent, essential health and safety repairs are made.  

The Government has published guidance for employers, employees and the self-employed in addition to guidance published for landlords, tenants and local authorities on essential works in the context of CoronavirusThey have also published sector guidance for employers on social distancing in the workplace during coronavirus, including businesses such as construction and tradespeople working in people’s homes. This advice complements the Government’s guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus.

The Health and Safety Executive has also published further guidance setting out detailed advice on undertaking gas safety checks in a range of scenarios and on testing equipment which can be found here and here

See also the Government’s non-statutory guidance for local authorities on the enforcement of standards in the private and social rented sector.

3. What is the advice on evictions and what notice periods are required? 

Government has published a body of non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities that applies to both the private and social rented sectors. 

On evictions, colleagues at MHCLG confirm that where notice has already been given, the legislative provisions “lengthen the notice period required for all grounds for possession that can be used by landlords for an assured shorthold, secure, flexible, demoted or introductory tenancy or for tenancies under the Rent Act 1977”. It does this by extending the notice period that a landlord is required to serve on a tenant. 

Where an eviction notice has not already been issued, “the legislative provisions require landlords to give three months’ notice of their intention to seek possession to regain properties that are let on a tenancy. This means that it will be three months before a landlord can apply to the court to proceed with any possession action”.  

4. What is the advice for when the suspension on new evictions and ban on possessions proceedings are lifted and tenants have accumulated rent arrears? 

All tenants remain liable for paying rent and those who can afford to should continue to do so. 

If a tenant is struggling to pay their rent, there are a number of supportive measures. Please refer to question 1 and the LGA’s guidance for protecting vulnerable people for more information about households with financial or housing vulnerability. 

Government has published non-statutory guidance for landlords and tenants that makes specific reference to shortfalls in rental payments and encourages landlords and tenants to “work together to agree an affordable rent repayment plan if their tenants fall into rent arrears”. It advises that “early conversations between landlord and tenant can help both parties to agree a plan. This can include reaching a temporary agreement not to seek possession action for a period of time and instead accept a lower level of rent, or agree a plan to pay off arrears at a later date”. 

For landlords, mortgage lenders have agreed to offer payment holidays of up to three months, including for buy-to-let mortgages. Landlords – if a mortgager – are encouraged to speak with their mortgage lender if tenants are unable to pay their rent. 

The National Landlords Association has also issued advice for landlords about COVID-19

A recent announcement from Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick said that the Government are working on proposals to ensure added protections for tenants once the eviction ban is lifted in June but, we await further detail.

5. Will we have to return Right to Buy receipts that are not spent within three years to MHCLG? 

On 31 March, MHCLG contacted all stock-holding authorities to advise them that they are aware that housing authorities may be unable to incur as much 1-4-1 Right to Buy receipt expenditure in Q1 (2020/21) as they had planned, due to the current public health situation and that in turn, this may lead to some of them failing to meet their required level of 1-4-1 expenditure by 30 June 2020, thereby obliging them to return some of their 1-4-1 receipts with interest.  

They confirmed that the Ministry is monitoring the situation and will inform councils of any decision on this as soon as possible. We have been asking the government to extend the three-year spend requirement to at least five years. 

6. Should we continue to process Right to Buy applications? 

MHCLG wrote to social landlords on 27 March recognising that there may be concerns about how COVID-19 could impact on councils’ ability to process Right to Buy applications within the timescales set down in legislation; and the implications in relation to the statutory delay provisions. 

MHCLG made clear that while tenants should be able to buy their homes within a reasonable timescale, it is vital that everyone follows the latest government advice on COVID-19. It is expected that landlords will act in line with this advice when dealing with Preserved/Right to Buy applications; for instance, landlords are encouraged not to carry out face-to-face interviews with tenants, or to undertake physical property surveys. 

As the timescales for the Right to Buy are in primary legislation, it is not possible for them to be disapplied or amended in the short term. But MHCLG are keen to understand the likely impacts for of COVID-19 in relation to the Right to Buy so that these can be factored into their consideration of the wider effects on social landlords. 

7. Can construction sites continue to operate? 

Construction sites operating during the Covid-19 pandemic need to ensure they are protecting their workforce and minimising the risk of spread of infection. This includes considering how personnel travel to and from site.

The Government has published guidance for working safely in construction and other outdoor work as part of the new guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. The Government has set out a plan to restart the housing market, which includes measures to start building homes again, through a ‘Safe Working Charter’, enabling home builders to return to work safely, such as by staggering arrival times to ease pressure on public transport.

8. How can councils continue to support vulnerable people to move home?

The Government has published guidance for social landlords to support vulnerable people move to new homes during the pandemic. Essential moves should continue over this period, where it can be done in line with social distancing guidance. This includes domestic abuse victims who may be fleeing abusive relationships, people who are homeless and leaving temporary accommodation or individuals leaving hospital.

Government guidance is also available on home moving during the coronavirus outbreak, which advises that home buyers and renters should, where possible, delay moving to a new house while stay-at-home measures are in place.

Mental health, mental capacity, isolation and wellbeing

1. What official guidance is there for people facing (or supporting others with) mental health difficulties?

With recognition the COVID-19 outbreak and measures including self-isolation pose definite challenges for mental health (especially among people with pre-existing mental health difficulties), there is a range of new guidance to available to support people in these new circumstances.

Public Health England have issued the following mental health advice:

2. How are statutory services supporting people with mental health difficulties during the COVID-19 outbreak?

This information is outlined in this briefing paper, collaboratively written by the Centre for Mental Health, the Association of Mental Health providers and the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network. The paper outlines work that statutory services are carrying out with voluntary and community providers in support of people experiencing mental health challenges and offers advise on how to build effective partnerships at the local level.

3. How can councils support mental health and wellbeing?

The LGA and Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) have jointly produced this practical advice for Directors of Public Health and others leading the response to the loneliness and social isolation issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The centre for Mental Health, the Association of Mental Health providers and the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network have published a briefing which looks at how statutory services are working with their voluntary and community providers to provide services for people with mental health difficulties in this crisis. The LGA was consulted in the preparation of the briefing, which gives practical advice on how to build effective partnerships at a time when mental health services will be in heavy demand.

4. What is councils role in supporting those without capacity

The Department of Health and Social Care has issued guidance which confirms that the Mental Capacity Act 2005, including DoLS, still applies and has not been altered by the Coronavirus Act 2020. Questions on the guidance can be sent to lps.cop@dhsc.gov.ukThe Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) has introduced a faster service to search their registers to allow NHS and social care staff to check if a COVID-19 patient lacking mental capacity has a power of attorney or deputyship court order in place, including a template letter.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

1. What is the latest guidance around purchasing medical devices for social care?

Information on how to safely purchase medical devises for social care was provided recently by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Please note that PPE is used when intended to be worn (or held) to protect the wearer. The market surveillance authority for PPE is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Medical devises are intended to protect the patient, and medical staff, and the market surveillance authority for medical devises is the MHRA. There will be many instances where a product is dual purpose and acts both as PPE and a medical device.

2. What is the guidance around use of PPE for social care?

The central advice for care workers is outlined in the government’s latest PPE advice produced by Public Health England (PHE). This guidance is updated regularly in line with new evidence or infection control requirements. We therefore suggest you go straight to the relevant government guidance for your setting.

However, more specific advice has been published specifically for care homes and home care. Please find the latest guidance here:

How to work safely in care homes How to work safely in domiciliary care

3. How can care providers obtain PPE?

Recent correspondence between Government and care providers recommends obtaining PPE through the following routes, in this order: 

A. BAU supply chains and social care wholesalers 

“We encourage all care providers to continue to use their BAU supply chains where they can. We know that there are issues where their BAU suppliers do not regularly stock the items they now need, or do not have enough stock to fulfil orders. To address this, we are supporting the existing supplier network by providing stock of PPE to wholesalers for adult social care… We continue to work with wholesalers to support this route of access to PPE. 

Wholesaler arrangements are in place with: Careshop, Blueleaf, Delivernet, Countrywide Healthcare, NexonGroup, Wightman, Parrish and Gompels, Beaucare Medical, Halliday Healthcare Ltd, B&M Supplies and Protec

We have confirmed with these wholesalers that they should be supplying PPE to CQC registered social care providers. There are alternative arrangements in place for the NHS.” 

B. Local Resilience Forums 

“If a care provider has been unsuccessful in obtaining PPE through their BAU suppliers or the seven social care distributors listed above, they can approach their LRF to set out their PPE needs. 

We will continue to make drops of PPE for distribution by the LRFs to meet priority needs for the time being... We  will  keep  in close touch with local partners as LRFs undertake this new role, to enable the best possible planning and distribution of stock locally; and we will work jointly to improve the flow of information, to target stock where it is most needed. 

The  LRFs  have  been advised  to  make  decisions  about  the  allocation  of  PPE equipment  on  basis  of  the  most  pressing  clinical  need,  in  line  with  published guidance.” 

C. The National Supply Disruption Response 

“To further support the system, we have mobilised a National Supply Disruption Response (NSDR) system to respond to emergency PPE requests, including for the social care sector. Providers who have an urgent requirement for PPE, which they are unable to secure through their business as usual channels, should contact the NSDR  via the 24/7 helpline: 0800 915 9964 (Freephone number in the UK), and a Direct Line from overseas: 0191 283 6543. The NSDR has three core functions to support deliver of emergency PPE.  

All care providers that can show an immediate urgent need for PPE and have not been able to access this through the wholesalers, or their LRF, are able to raise a request for an emergency pack of PPE through the NSDR.” 

4. What is the latest guidance on PPE in other settings (not health or care)?

Government has published guidance for non-healthcare settings. If you are concerned about use of PPE in particular service areas in your authority, examples of issues on the ground helps us to continue to build a significant body of evidence which we are using to lobby to government. Please let the LGA know via coronavirus.enquiries@local.gov.uk

5. We do not have enough PPE. What can we do?

For care providers, please follow the guidance above. 

For councils, in addition to your business as usual (BAU) routes or any additional supply routes you may have initiated locally, you should be receiving PPE through emergency LRF drops. These emergency drops are expected to continue for the time being. You can find out more by looking at the Government’s most recent ongoing PPE plan

However, we are aware that there are currently significant difficulties in obtaining the level of PPE supplies needed across the country. We are working closely with Government to resolve supply and distribution issues.  

The government is working on establishing a new parallel supply chain and website through which to obtain PPE and we will share updates on this as soon as we receive them. 

Evidence of issues on the ground helps us to continue to build a significant body of evidence which we are using to lobby to government on this issue. Do get in touch via: coronavirus.enquiries@local.gov.uk 

For small care providers, either residential social care providers with 24 beds or fewer or domiciliary social care providers with 99 clients or fewer, please see the information on obtaining top up PPE supplies through the government Online Portal.

6. Who are the LRF PPE stock intended for?

The LRF PPE stocks are primarily intended for service providers that meet the following criteria: 

  1. They have been unable to sources PPE from usual routes, resulting in a urgent need for further stock; 
  2. Staff have close, unavoidable contact with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, including within adult social care hospital settings, hospices and palliative care; 
  3. They are willing and able to meet the latest clinical guidance,  

Some primary care providers are also eligible to access stocks, including GPs, pharmacists, emergency dentists, children’s homes, secure children’s homes, residential special schools, children’s social care services in local authorities, mental health community services, prison and court officers, police, mortuary and funeral services. 

The  LRFs  have  been advised  to  make  decisions  locally about  the  allocation  of  PPE equipment  on  basis  of  the  most  pressing  clinical  need,  in  line  with  published guidance.

7. A local company has got in touch offering to supply PPE, what can I do?

The government is trying to coordinate a national supply of PPE, to streamline the system and to minimise cost inflation.

Councils and partner organisations are free to source PPE through their own channels where BAU routes or LRF drops are insufficient, however they should feed in to government any known legitimate suppliers of PPE. Where new suppliers, such as local businesses, get in touch offering to supply or make PPE, you should direct them to register on the coronavirus support offer for businesses webpage.

We acknowledge that there may be a delay in getting a response by registering via central government, however at present it provides an opportunity for suppliers and products to be vetted and quality assured.

Evidence of issues on the ground helps us to continue to build a significant body of evidence which we are using to lobby to government on this issue. Do get in touch via: coronavirus.enquiries@local.gov.uk

8. Is the government PPE supply to the Local Resilience Forum quality checked?

There have been a lot of concerns raised about the quality and ‘use by’ dates of PPE as there had been instances where PPE past their ‘use by’ date had been supplied to local resilience forums (LRFs). We have sought clarification and reassurance from the Resilience and Emergencies Division (RED) in Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) following verbal assurances given by DHSC during weekly LRF Chairs calls, that PPE issued to LRFs was tested and despite any “use by” date labels were safe to use. MHCLG has now confirmed this in writing:

  • All products being issued have passed stringent tests that demonstrate they are safe to use in line with relevant guidance. The PPE is exposed to extreme conditions for prolonged periods, to see how the product deteriorates. All that are not up to standard are destroyed and not distributed to service providers. 
  • Some items may be marked as out of date and in some cases relabelled ‘use by’ dates are added. All products that have been released for distribution have passed stringent tests that demonstrate a later ‘use by’ date is safe. This has been approved by the Health and Safety Executive.
  • Due to the volumes of PPE that are being tested and released for distribution daily it is not practical to include a test report for those items which meet their original product specifications. 

There is now a dedicated product queries mailbox run by NHS England which colleagues in LRFs can contact if they have queries on particular items: c19productqueries@nhs.netWhen you report an issue, please tell the team managing the mailbox the name of the product/manufacturer and the date you received this item.

Planning

This information is hosted in our Planning Advisory Service (PAS) section.

Procurement

1. What impact is there for payments to contingent workers impacted by COVID-19?

The first point of reference should be the most recent Procurement Policy Notes (PPN). Supplementary guidance is outlined in the paper on Payments to Suppliers for Contingent Workers, which answers key questions in relation to this subject including around the measures, criteria and administration of payments.

2. What do Procurement Policy Notes (PPN) advise?

Cabinet Office have issued a number of PPN, which set out comprehensive guidance on public procurement regulations in the current environment:

Additional information is provided in latest PPN Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) paper, developed with support from the LGA. This paper provides clarification around a broad set of FAQs, including that:

  • suppliers cannot claim supplier relief from local authorities alongside furloughed worker relief
  • guidance around ‘open book accounting’ methods (required when following the guidance in the PPNs)

Cabinet Office advises that questions concerning supplier relief not covered by the FAQs should be directed to info@crowncommercial.gov.uk

3. How can I find out which suppliers are providing goods and services to the public sector?

Since the COVID-19 outbreak started, Crown Commercial Service (CCS) have received hundreds of offers from suppliers still providing goods and services to the public sector at this time. CCS have captured this content in a catalogue of suppliers, which is available to local authorities and other public sector organisations. This portal makes it possible to search goods and services according to region and need.

CCS have asked that you contact suppliers directly once you have found what you need and recommend, to the extent that it is possible, that councils continue use the CCS framework in order to better ensure that procurements are compliant and secure.

CCS have also asked that councils call on existing commercial arrangements first. This supplier catalogue is intended to fill gaps where existing commercial agreements are unable to provide the goods and services public sector bodies need.

CCS Disclaimer: by using this catalogue you should know that any commercial arrangements you make with suppliers could be subject to the Public Contracts Regulations. You can find published advice from the Cabinet Office in Procurement Policy Note 01/20 on urgent procurement and the Regulations. If you are unsure what this means or have any concerns, you will need to speak to your legal advisers in each case. CCS has put this catalogue together to help match offers of support with urgent needs. Because we have needed to act quickly, we have not completed any assurance of the suppliers. You may want to complete your own assurance before entering into commercial agreements, depending on the urgency of the need and your own assessment of the potential risk.

4. Where can I get advice on our operational PFI contracts?

The current pandemic does not, automatically, mean that there will be changes to existing PFI contracts.  It is important that during this time there is regular communication between the authority and your special purpose vehicle (SPV), discussing ongoing service provision, resourcing, supply chain issues and any potential changes due to changing circumstances. 

The flexibility and adaptability of contractors and contracts during this current time is essential. All sectors must work together to resolve issues to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. Any solution must ensure that elements are only changed for an appropriate length of time. Some contractors are actively seeking the easing of contract terms, or making claims for financial assistance as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The Cabinet Office has produced two procurement policy notes (PPN01/20 and PPN02/20) in relation to Covid-19 both of which apply to PFI projects. Updated guidance relating to supplier relief can be found on our website.

This link includes a guidance note “Model Interim Payment Terms” which provides a set of terms that contracting authorities can use to implement PPN 02/20 and a document containing a number of frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Some key elements of the guidance include:

  • the onus is on the supplier to provide details of the payment that it requires and this needs to be done on an “open book” basis
  • the supplier needs to be clear about the level of service it will continue to provide
  • it will be important to understand which employees are “furloughed” and which are continuing to work (FAQ13). This may not always be straightforward if there are split roles and also if elements of the service are sub-contracted

Should you have any questions regarding your PFI contract,  Local Partnerships’ PFI experts can support you in ensuring an appropriate solution is implemented that provides a solution for the current time.  Please contact Local Partnerships via email to LPEnquiries@localgov.uk

Public health 

1. What is COVID-19 and what are the main symptoms?

COVID-19 is the disease resulting from the most recent strand of coronavirus – the term used to describe a broader group of viruses known to cause respiratory issues. In most cases, people who contract the disease will experience it as a mild-moderate respiratory illness, however COVID-19 can also result in more serious forms of infection, including pneumonia and organ failure.

People who are pregnant, over 65 or who have certain pre-existing health conditions (such as those listed here), have a heightened risk of developing severe versions of the illness but serious cases of COVID-19 are not exclusive to these groups. It is important that all people follow the guidance to protect themselves and others against risk of transmission.

Health specialists have identified two key symptoms associated with COVID-19:

  • a new, continuous cough – here ‘new’ means a newly developed cough, or a cough that has recently worsened; and ‘continuous’ means frequent coughing for more than one hour or three or more coughing episodes within a 24 hour period
  • a high temperature – your back and/or chest feel hot to touch

If you are unsure whether you have COVID-19 symptoms, the NHS 111 online service can help you check and let you know what to do next — including how to get an isolation note, allowing time off work — if this is needed.

2. What should I do if I or someone else from my house is presenting with COVID-19 symptoms?

It is very important that anyone who thinks they may be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms stays at home for at least seven days after symptoms become present. They should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy of hospital. After seven days, they can end self-isolation, provided they do not have a high temperature. 

People should use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service if:

  • They feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home
  • Their conditions gets worse
  • Their symptoms do not get better after 7 days.

They should only call 111 if they cannot get help online.

Children and babies

Parents or carers should call 111 for advice if they are worried about a baby or child.
 
If they seem very unwell, are getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call 999. Do not delay getting help if you are worried.

3. How should households self-isolate?

If sharing a house with others, it is important that all other household members do not leave the house for 14 days (this should start from the first day that the first person to become ill begins to show symptoms). If anyone else begins to show symptoms, they should stay home an additional seven days (regardless of when they began their 14 day isolation period). Their self-isolation can conclude after this, so long as they do not have a high temperature.

If you, or anyone else in your house, has begun to show symptoms, it is strongly advised that you read the Government guidance Stay at home: guidance for households with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, which provides more comprehensive information and advice.

 
4. Where can I find the latest COVID-19 public health advice?

This advice is available on the GOV.UK website, which provides latest announcements, coronavirus press conferences and covers topics including how to protect yourself and others against the virus and information for healthcare workers and carers. There is also an option to sign up to get emails when any COVID-19 related information on the website changes.

Further public health information and advice is provided through the NHS website and Public Health England’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) – what you need to know page.

5. What guidance is available on the provision of home care?

The Government has outlined guidance for provision of homecare. The guidance covers topics including how to maintain delivery of care, what care workers should do if caring for someone with COVID-19 symptoms or if they suspect they themselves have COVID-19, NHS and Government support available. Of particular note for councils, the final topic is ‘Steps for local authorities to support home care provision’. This section recommends that:

  • lists of individuals receiving local authority-commissioned home care should be updated
  • levels of informal support available to individual should be recorded (working with providers to identify the levels of informal support available)
  • all local authority owned care and support plans should be mapped support planning during an outbreak
  • all home care providers within the area should be contacted by the local authority to discuss plans for the mutual delivery of aid
  • voluntary groups, local community services and primary care providers should all be considered as a potential source of support for the provision of home care, and
  • consider the viability of providing home care during the COVID-19, including as it relates to financial resilience.

Small business grants and retail, hospitality and leisure grants

1. What is the latest on the small business grant schemes?

£12.3 billion of funding for the small business grant scheme and the retail hospitality and leisure grant scheme was paid in full to councils on 1 April. Local authority allocations for the  grant scheme were published.

The Government will keep sufficiency of funding for the grant scheme under review. Guidance for administering the grants contains detailed information about weekly post-payment reporting through the DELTA reporting system, including what to include in the reports and the timetable for reporting. Where a significant funding gap is identified, “top up payments” will be provided.  A comprehensive reconciliation will be done in six months.

From 20 April, the Government is publishing the amount distributed in the small business grant scheme council by council. This information is published weekly on Mondays.

Material on dealing with fraud and error has been sent separately to authorities by BEIS.

2. Which businesses are eligible for Small Business Grants?

Business which were getting Small Business Rates Relief or Rural Rate Relief on 11 March are eligible for the Small Business Grants. All eligible businesses get a grant of £10,000. Grants do not have to be repaid.

3. Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants

Businesses that on 11 March 2020 had a rateable value of less than £51,000 and would have been eligible for a discount under the business rates Expanded Retail Discount had this been in force for that date are eligible for the grant. There are two levels of grant depending on rateable value:

Up to a rateable value of £15,000 eligible businesses get a grant of £10,000. With a rateable value of £15,000 to £51,000 eligible businesses get a grant of £25,000. Businesses with a rateable value of £51,000 or over are not eligible for this scheme.

4. What support is there for businesses that fall outside of the scope of the existing grant programme?

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published guidance on the Local Authority Discretionary Fund to accommodate certain small businesses, previously outside the scope of the business grant funds scheme.  

The guidance details how the 5 per cent baseline for the discretionary fund will be set for each authority. Councils will be expected to use any projected underspends from the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund first to fund new grants, before additional resources are provided. It also sets out the different levels of grant, the conditions that apply to the scheme and the sectors which the grant is aimed at. These include small businesses in shared offices, market traders, bed and breakfasts which pay council tax, and properties which get charitable business rates relief. The guidance makes it clear that councils will need to run some form of application process. BEIS are expecting first payments to be received by businesses in early June. 

Councils are working to develop their own schemes but will face choices about which businesses to distribute funding to as demand is expected to be higher than the total amount available. If this proves to be the case, we will look to work with government to ensure more funding can be provided. 

5. What about businesses that do not pay business rates – for example if it is included in their rent?

Businesses which are not ratepayers in the business rates system are not included in either scheme. They may be eligible for the Local Authority Discretionary Fund, as stated in the question above.

6. What is the qualification date for these grants?

The guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) states that for all grants the qualifying date is 11 March 2020.

7. What if the ratepayer says the details in the rating list were incorrect as of 11 March 2020?

The guidance says that where it was factually clear to the local authority on the 11 March 2020 that the rating list was inaccurate on that date, local authorities may withhold the grant and/or award the grant based on their view of who would have been entitled to the grant had the list been accurate. The guidance says that this is at the discretion of the local authority and is intended to correct ‘manifest errors’.

This would include a case where there has been a report to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to change details in the rating list (such as splitting a property or changing the name of a ratepayer).

8. What happens if the property wasn’t on the list on 11 March 2020 and the ratepayer says they were in occupation but had not informed the local authority?

If a ratepayer brings to the authority’s attention an addition to the rating list which the authority did not know about on 11 March, the business is unlikely to be entitled to grant.

9. What support is available to businesses that are ineligible for the current business support scheme?

We are aware that there are a number of businesses that are may fall outside the Small Business Grant Fund and the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund. We have raised the gaps in provision with Government, and will continue to do so as part of our ongoing dialogue. Such businesses may be eligible for the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund. Please do continue to raise specific questions through our coronavirus.enquiries@local.gov.uk and check our Business Support hub for regular updates.

10. What support is available for the agricultural sector including farms requiring seasonal labour?

It is the understanding of the LGA that there is no specific guidance for seasonal food pickers as yet. However, on 1 April, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) announced that it has introduced a temporary licensing scheme to support the food production sector in accessing the labour it needs during this difficult time.  

In addition, on 4 April the Government announced that furloughed workers can take up employment elsewhere and retain their furlough payment which could support agricultural businesses.

It is important to note that recruitment of seasonal workers from the EU is still underway.

11. What advice is there for agricultural businesses undertaking food picking in regards to social distancing?

PHE has provided guidance on social distancing in the work place in food settings.

12. What happens if councils are predicting that they will distribute more than their initial grant allocation to businesses?

The guidance on the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund (paragraph 8) states that the Government will continue to monitor each local authority’s spend performance for the Small Business, Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants Funds and the Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund and ensure they have sufficient funding and will top up funding where necessary.

Supporting the shielded

1. What is ‘shielding’?

Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between them and others. Around 900,000 people have been identified from NHS records as extremely vulnerable due to their medical status. These people have been asked to stay at home and avoid all non-essential contact for at least 12 weeks. Work is being undertaken by GPs and others to assess other medically vulnerable people, which is expected to increase the numbers in this group to about 1.5 million people. Government guidance on shielding, including the criteria for the ‘extremely vulnerable’ group, is available. Government FAQs for local authorities on the shielding process have also been published.

2. Who will be offered support?

The NHS has written to those identified as being at highest clinical risk to COVID-19 due to pre-existing health conditions to ask if they require support with accessing food and medicine during the 12 week period in which they are expected to be ‘shielded’ at home. These individuals (or someone acting on their behalf) have been asked to indicate what support they need online at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable. Councils should have received the full lists of those identified as needing shielding in their area, and should also be receiving regular details of those in the shielded group who have asked for support. The LGA has raised issues with this data flow with Government, and discussions are taking place with officials to improve the data that councils receive.

3. How will the shielded group be supported?

The Government has asked all parts of the country, via their Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) – more information below - to put in place arrangements for local support systems (LSS) responsible for receiving and responding to requests for help from the shielded group. While many in this group will be able to make their own arrangements for practical support from family and friends, arrangements are being put in place via LSS so that those who need to can access vital support. One hundred and thirty two local authority led hubs have now been identified across the country to implement the LSS. Assistance will take the form of directly delivered food parcels (distributed by the food industry) and medicines (distributed by NHS community pharmacists), with councils and voluntary sector partners asked to arrange care/social contact for those who might be feeling very isolated.

4. What is councils’ role in supporting the shielded group?

Councils, along with their VCS partners, have been asked to arrange care and social contact for those who might be feeling very isolated. Councils will also be asked to deal with any issues regarding essential supplies (for instance if food parcels are missed or are inappropriate because of dietary needs or religious observance) or assist those who have asked for help bringing boxes inside. If individuals in receipt of, or due to receive, a box of supplies require immediate assistance they are being advised to contact their local authority. Government is working to ensure that local authorities have access to data about who has requested a food package, who needs help carrying their box into their house and when a delivery has been made.

In the early stages of this scheme one-off bulk consignments of food were delivered to the 132 local authority hubs for councils to assist those in need of urgent help before the ‘direct to doorstep’ food package system became fully operational. This emergency offer was for anyone identified as in the shielded group, and there are no further bulk deliveries of food planned.

5. What is the role of Local Resilience Forums?

Government guidance for Local Authorities and Local Resilience Forums (LRFs) has been published setting out the system to support those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and provides further detail about the role of LRFs and councils in supporting the shielded group. The LGA’s briefing note on protecting vulnerable people during the outbreak also lists the role of different partners in providing support.

6. What are national supermarkets doing to help?

National supermarket chains are increasing their delivery and “click and collect” capability which will be a huge help to local communities, and are working closely with Government to ensure those in the shielded group are prioritised for delivery and “click and collect” slots. We have also asked that councils should be able to refer non-shielded vulnerable people who need urgent help to get food to be registered as a priority with the supermarkets through the Government’s list. 

Supporting local communities

1. What about others in need of support?

Beyond those individuals in the shielded group, councils are being encouraged to reach out to others they think may need support, and to consider how wider assistance could be provided to people who have requested it. This might include helping residents who are unable to leave their home and who do not have support networks in place if they are unable to get food delivered from supermarkets and local stores.

Councils are encouraged to reinforce normal communications about how to get help, particularly for people who don’t have access to the internet. In two-tier areas, councils should work together to agree the most appropriate arrangements for local support and communications with the public.

More information on protecting vulnerable people during the outbreak, please see our website, including our recent briefing alongside a growing number of good practice examples. A LG Inform dataset on people who are not included in the 1.5 million shielded cohort but who may be particularly vulnerable (you will need to be signed in to LG Inform to view this).

The British Red Cross have developed a COVID-19 Vulnerability Index which identifies vulnerable areas and groups within Local Authorities and wards across the whole UK to supplement local data gathering.

Please do continue to feedback both the good practice and the difficulties you are facing in relation to supporting people coronavirus.enquiries@local.gov.uk

2. What about access to food for the non-shielded group?

For people outside the shielded group, the Government may through GOV.UK link people who are isolated at home without food, and who do not have friends, family, or a trusted neighbour to help or access to another form of support, to direct them via a ‘find your local council’ facility to relevant council websites. In two-tier areas people will be provided with details of both their county and district/borough councils.

Councils will wish to ensure that their council website home-page is easy to navigate for vulnerable people who might be seeking assistance ahead of and over the forthcoming Easter weekend.

We continue to discuss with Government how collectively we can help those who are struggling to access food during the lockdown both in and outside the shielded group, whilst stressing the challenges to government that result, particularly concerns about being able to source food and the capacity of your call centres to handle additional contacts especially over the coming Easter weekend. We will keep flagging the need for any national publicity directing people to contact their council to be carefully framed to be realistic about what councils can offer, and for any costs resulting from this support to be reimbursed.

3. What voluntary support is available locally?

Councils will already be working with their local voluntary and community services to provide help and support during this crisis for people without family, friends and neighbours to help them and will be placing these local sources of help and support on their websites  The diversity of voluntary and community sector (VCS) support will vary from community to community. Some will be well served by existing voluntary and community groups, and neighbourhood ‘mutual aid’ groups set up in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Other communities may not be so well supported.

At a local level, the VCS will also have details of support they can offer and how to volunteer to help. They will be working closely with their council to coordinate intelligence about where support is lacking, the voluntary resources available and to deploy help and support to where it is most needed. Many national and local VCS organisations have launched individual initiatives relating to COVID-19, some of which are specific to individual conditions. There is not a definitive national list but the following organisations are endeavouring to broker information about needs and offers of support:

4. How can councils finance this work?

In addition to the additional funding already provided to councils, MHCLG are undertaking a data collection exercise from all councils to help it understand the financial impact, both direct and indirect, that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on local authorities and to identify where the greatest pressures are and to assess likely future costs. The deadline for responses is close of play on 15 April. If you have any queries with the exercise, or if your council has not received it, please email MHCLG.

The LGA continues to raise councils’ financial challenges with MHCLG and other central government departments through our own channels – please do continue to share your views and case studies of financial and cash flow impact by emailing coronavirus.enquiries@local.gov.uk or lgfinance@local.gov.uk.

5. How could councils provide support for individuals struggling to obtain cash and explore options for banking?

Councils and the voluntary sector are supporting individuals unable to leave their home for basic supplies – such as groceries or medical products. There are several ways for residents to pay for these items or provide cash for the volunteers helping them, whether they have access to the internet or not.  Volunteers have been provided with a briefing that advises.

UK Finance have developed a tool that includes guidance for individuals looking into services ranging from currency home delivery for direct cash deliveries to the post office encashment scheme to prepaid card options. It is worth advising that the services can vary from individual banks or building societies and other providers may differ. 

Support for specific groups

1. What is councils’ role of supporting children who are or become vulnerable?

Councils retain their responsibilities around supporting vulnerable children, including those who may become vulnerable as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. For those children who already have a social worker, councils should consult government advice.

Councils should work with partners to consider how to support those who are vulnerable but do not currently have a social worker, such as those in receipt of early help. Children living with kinship carers may also be more vulnerable at this time, in particular those living with older or medically vulnerable carers, so consideration should be given around what additional support may be needed to support these families.

Some children may become vulnerable as a result of the current situation, for example children living in households that fall into financial difficulties, where there is domestic abuse or where parents or carers fall ill. Councils will want to consider how to ensure that these children can receive help when they need it, particularly while schools are closed and children may not be being seen regularly by those outside of their household. Understanding who may be able to spot signs of neglect or abuse, for example neighbours, volunteers or community groups, and ensuring they know signs to look out for and how to raise their concerns, will help councils to retain oversight of children. Partners will also have an important role here, including police and health colleagues.

2. What is the current position with the hardship fund and welfare support? 

We are working closely with councils and MHCLG to assess the sufficiency of the funding and if necessary, we will be making the case to MHCLG and HM Treasury for additional funding to enable councils to provide vital and timely support to households facing financial and economic hardship because of impacts on employment and income. We are also integrating this with wider discussions about the benefits system, food poverty and pressures on low income households both now and in the longer term.

3. What is the current position around the release of prisoners?

As part of measures to help prisons manage the pandemic within the estate, the Government announced some temporary releases to allow more space to shield and isolate vulnerable prisoners and new entrants to custody.  

The Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service have published arrangements for the End of Custody Temporary Release scheme (ECTR) and Use of Compassionate Release on Temporary Licence 

Only prisoners who have suitable accommodation and whose healthcare needs (including COVID-related ones) can be safely managed on release are eligible for both schemes. We will provide further updates when they become available. 

4. Do births still need to be registered during the pandemic period?

The General Register Office has confirmed that registration of births appointments should now be deferred until we are through the current pandemic period. New parents should be advised that they are now able to claim for child benefit or universal credit prior to the birth being registered where they have been unable to do so because of these measures. This came into effect on the 24 March 2020.

5. What can councils do help prevent pandemic-related hate crime?  

There are some concerns about hate incidents linked to the outbreak, and how this may impact on certain communities. True Vision and Stop Hate UK have both published resources about hate crimes linked to COVID-19.  

The Special Interest Group on Countering Extremism (SIGCE), a local authority led network supporting councils to counter extremism, is encouraging councils to log issues on the SIGCE’s KHub to help build a national picture, signpost resources and share local areas’ approaches in response.  

The LGA has also published a toolkit for councils on handling intimidation, with information relevant to both councillors and officers. 

6. How can asylum seekers be supported during the pandemic?  

Individuals and families will not have to leave asylum accommodation once their claim or appeal has been decided, in line with national guidance for the next three months, with a review in June. Reporting requirements and substantive interviews are also postponed.  

The Home Office and providers are to work with councils to identify new accommodation as the number of supported asylum seekers grows, including potentially in areas that have not previously agreed to dispersal. The Local Government Associations, lead Chief Executives and the Strategic Migration Partnerships will continue to work with the Home Office, accommodation and support providers and the community and voluntary sector to minimise the impacts on councils and communities, and to ensure that the right support is in place.  

Further information on support for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is expected from the Department for Education shortly, with LGA, ADCS and other national partners raising concerns around placement capacity and costs.  

The Greater London Authority has developed information on the pandemic for non-UK nationals and Doctors of the World has developed translated materials in partnership with the British Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice. 

The No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) Network has developed a factsheet on councils’ roles and responsibilities for supporting people with no recourse to public funds during the pandemic. The LGA and others are requesting a temporary removal of the NRPF condition during the crisis. 

Contact your regional Strategic Migration Partnership for more information.  

7. What is the advice on supporting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities?  

The Government recently wrote to councils outlining the support available to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities

Friends, Families and Travellers have also put together a number of resources to help local authorities support Gypsy, Traveller and Boater Communities during the pandemic.

8. What action is being taken to help British citizens stranded oversees?  

The government has published guidance for British people travelling abroad who are unable to return to the UK due to coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions.

Test, Trace and Outbreak management

1. Where can I find more information on testing, contact tracing & outbreak management?

We have developed a testing, contact tracing & outbreak management Knowledge Hub for sharing resources, latest government guidance, case studies and all the current information. This also includes and resources from the Local Outbreak Planning Advisory Board that brings together 11 Beacon councils developing local approaches. You will need to sign up to the Knowledge Hub to access it.

More information is also available on our information and guidance to councils on COVID-19.

2. What are local outbreak plans?

All upper tier councils have been tasked by Government to:

  • establish a member led Local Outbreak Control Board 
  • establish a Director of Public Health led COVID-19 Health Protection Board
  • develop a Local Outbreak Control Plan 

An explainer on local outbreak plans, produced by the Association of Directors of Public Health, provides information to stakeholders, the media and the public.

The COVID-19 Local Outbreak Plans are intended to build on existing plans to manage outbreaks in specific settings; ensure the challenges of COVID-19 are understood; consider the impact on local communities; and ensure the wider system capacity supports Directors of Public Health. Effective outbreak management plans will need to become part of the wider workings across councils, health and the voluntary sector. 

document is intended to outline principles for the design of COVID-19 Local Outbreak Plans led by the Director of Public Health at Upper Tier Local Authority level, working with all key professions and sectors, with outline responsibilities for each defined. This document was produced by a working group including the Association of Directors of Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, LGA, PHE, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, and the UK Chief Environmental Health Officers group.

3. What testing data is available?

All chief executives and DPHs received a letter from the Chief Executive of Public Health England on Friday 10 July which outlines the data sources on COVID-19 that are currently available to both councils and the public covering the activities of the Test and Trace service, outbreaks and broader surveillance.  The publicly available information is summarised as follows:

 

Through a data sharing agreement with directors of public health, councils with these responsibilities can also access individual-level (full postcode, age, ethnicity) test data, with case data is currently being provided across pillars 1 and 2 moving to daily. The letter also updates on PHE’s sharing of information on investigations of outbreaks and incidents and the dashboards and reports that are available to directors of public health. All data provided to councils can be aggregated and shared with other councils in an area.

It is clear that precise, granular information is needed in order to help councils track down and isolate any specific outbreaks or clusters. This data needs to be provided promptly and shared quickly, with councils at all levels, to ensure the swiftest and most effective response. We are working urgently with all the relevant organisations on further improvement to the data available to councils.

We are working urgently with all the relevant organisations on further improvement to the data available to councils.

4. What support is available?

We are developing our sector-led improvement offer for Testing, Contact Tracing and Outbreak Management. Councils and Directors of Public Health have been identified as critical in managing the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, with specific responsibilities for developing local outbreak plans and effective system working for managing a local outbreak. We have a peer support offer for Directors of Public Health and are developing support for leaders and HWBs; for more information contact caroline.bosdet@local.gov.uk

5. What about the impact on different communities and health inequalities?

We are developing our sector-led improvement offer for Testing, Contact Tracing and Outbreak Management:

 

Our offer for members and HWBs is in development and for more information on this contact caroline.bosdet@local.gov.uk

 

 

5. What is the LGA’s role?

A LGA press release is on test, tracking and tracing can be found on our website. 

Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, has been asked to lead a part of the new integrated national and local ‘test, track and trace’ arrangements that will eventually become a key part of the nation’s Covid-19 response efforts. His role as part of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) aims to ensure that there are effective connections between the national programme, local government and local systems, including democratic oversight. The LGA is providing some support to Tom in his role which sits alongside his continuing duties in Leeds.

Tom is keen to encourage that outbreak planning becomes everyone’s responsibility through this next phase. Local government needs to be involved in decisions about how the system will work.  Local capacity, especially public health, working with the NHS, Environmental Health and other local services to manage outbreaks and support people self-isolating, particularly the most vulnerable – building on councils’ ongoing role in supporting the shielded and non-shielded - will be crucial. We are working with partners to develop more information to inform local activity.

Tom is particularly interested in local leaders’ perspectives about how best to use local outbreak plans as a way of bringing a more integrated approach to testing, tracing and containment, with good public engagement, so that there is a proactive approach to minimising the effect of outbreaks on local health and economic wellbeing. He is also interested in views on data sharing, the quality of surveillance between national agencies and local councils, and how the local testing programme could be joined up more effectively.

As part of this, Tom is keen to collaborate with a handful of councils in the early development of the local plans. This will not replicate the Isle of Wight piloting, but will develop practice and approaches that we all can learn from, and influence national government policy particularly around funding.

Please contact outbreakmanagent@local.gov.uk to pass your views onto Tom.

Transport

1. What parking policy guidelines should my local authority follow?

The British Parking Association, London Councils and the LGA have produced joint advice for councils on how they may wish to amend their parking operations during the current lockdown period. This advice contains information on parking charges for NHS, health and social care workers and NHS volunteers following the announcement on 25th March by Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick, as well as advice on enforcement, including for blue badge that have expired.

On 6th April 2020, the government launched a parking pass scheme for NHS staff, health & social care workers and NHS volunteers, critical workers, who are eligible for free parking from local authorities. The pass will be distributed via employer networks to NHS staff, health and social care workers and NHS volunteers and will be accompanied by guidance about its use. A copy of the pass and guidance has been sent to members by the BPA and London Councils. If you require a copy please contact kamal.panchal@local.gov.uk or Alison.t@britishparking.co.uk as the pass will not be published to reduce the risk of misuse.

2. What support has been made available for buses so that they can continue to provide vital services?

Given their concern with the ability of bus operators to continue to run services due to the availability of drivers and other staff, as well as passengers’ willingness to use the bus following the Government’s advice for the public to avoid any non-essential travel and to work from home where possible, the Government have agreed a financial support for bus operators. A new £167 million COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant has been created and council’s local transport officers were sent details in a letter on 9 April (for details please contact kamal.panchal@local.gov.uk). This funding comes on top of other payments from the councils to bus operators such as BSOG, concessionary travel reimbursement, and tendered service contract payments as applicable under Procurement Policy Note 02/20: Supplier relief due to COVID-19.

3. Are councils allowing streetworks/roadworks to continue?

Highways authorities have been taking steps to ensure that if roadworks can be done safely and whilst maintaining social distancing they can continue. A number of guidance notes have been written by the Highways Authorities and Utilities Committee, the body that brings together representatives from councils and utilities, working with the DfT. They give guidance on how work practises can be adapted to ensure works can continue.

They are also written mindful of the fact that restrictions on workforce, supply chain and working practises mean that it is unlikely that the industry will be able to work at full capacity. There is a specific note on which works should be prioritised in order to maintain the safe operation of highway networks if that is necessary.

4. How can authorities make or amend traffic regulation orders if their local newspaper has closed?

DfT have issued temporary guidance on how councils can continue to make traffic orders during the crisis whilst staying within the spirit of legislation on publicising the orders to the public. The guidance deals with situations where publishing in a newspaper, erecting site notices and public displays of an order might be impossible.

Volunteering

1. How does the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme work?

The NHS, working in partnership with Royal Voluntary Services (RVS) and Good Sam, has established the NHS Volunteer Responders (NHSVRs) scheme, with over 600,000 active volunteers. More information can be found at www.nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk. A wide range of professionals, including council officers and councillors, GPs, pharmacists, adult social care providers, police, fire services and charities can refer vulnerable people who do not have family, friends, neighbours or existing local voluntary organisations to support them. Referrers to NHSVR support are now able to make ‘bulk’ referrals using the GoodSam app via a nominated a ‘super user’ (or a number of super users).  The NHSVR has also been expanded to enable vulnerable people and their families to directly request help via self-referrals. Referrals should be made via https://goodsamapp.org/NHSreferral or 0808 196 3382.

The scheme seeks to complement rather than replace existing local voluntary sector referral mechanisms. 

Priority is given to those identified as most at risk and asked to self-isolate at home for an extended period and to those who health practitioners and local authorities consider to be clinically extremely vulnerable and people who are not shielding but are vulnerable for wider reasons. These may include frailty, disability, pregnancy, social vulnerability or if they consider themselves vulnerable for any other reason, such as someone with Parkinson’s, epilepsy or a mental health condition. Volunteers are helping with tasks such as delivering medicines from pharmacies, shopping and regular ‘check in’ phone calls to offer telephone companionship.

Since its introduction, the LGA has worked closely with the NHS and Government to improve coordination and alignment between national and voluntary volunteering capacity to support vulnerable people. 

2. How can councils assure themselves around safeguarding and volunteering?

The Government has produced guidance for volunteers, voluntary organisations and for people requesting help from volunteers about safety. It also produced a factsheet with Frequently Asked Questions for volunteers including information on the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

In addition, a number of national organisations have produced advice about volunteering including the NCVO and Volunteering Matters.

The Government has produced a factsheet and their own set of Frequently Asked Questions to address specific concerns of volunteers involved in supporting the vulnerable people in their community: It should answer all your questions regarding Safeguarding and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) for volunteers.

ADASS have produced a short guide on safeguarding adults for coronavirus volunteers.

Waste and recycling

1. How can I maintain social distancing measures in the cab of a refuse vehicle?

There is no definitive answer on what is regarded as a safe number of people to travel in the cab of a refuse vehicle.

However, there is a body of guidance that provides advice on how to reduce the risks in work places where maintaining a distance of two metres is difficult.

New Government guidance on social distancing in the workplace makes specific reference to waste management services, advising staff to “wash their hands for at least 20 seconds more frequently than usual” and “frequent cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly”. In particular, it advises that “where it is not possible to avoid having more than one person in the vehicle, teams should keep the windows of the vehicle open for ventilation.”

The Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum have also published guidance on waste management activities in response to COVID-19.

2. What is the advice on PPE for waste crews?

Public Health England guidance on the use of face masks in the community says “there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from the use of face masks outside of the clinical or care settings”. PHE does not advise using masks or PPE in public places and for those working in supermarkets, waste collection, schools and similar settings.

This is reiterated in Government’s recently published Covid-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Plan.

3. How should waste services be prioritised during the pandemic and staff redeployed?

Government has published non-statutory guidance on the prioritisation of waste collection services which says that ‘local authorities are encouraged to maintain waste collection services as much as possible’. MHCLG have made clear to us that the recommendations may not apply to all local authorities, who are best placed to know what will work best in their area and where the resource pressures are for the redeployment of staff. 

According to an independent survey by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), 99 per cent of councils that responded are still able to provide normal collection services, or at a minimal disruption for general domestic waste and 98 per cent for recycling waste. The biggest impacts are on collection services for bulky and garden waste “where there are large numbers of authorities who have had to stop collecting so they can focus on the core services. However, the numbers are less than last week suggesting that some authorities are starting to reintroduce these services as staff absences reduce”.

This is a weekly survey. Please see ADEPT’s website for updated waste survey results.

4. How are councils responding to concerns around fly-tipping?

The impacts of COVID-19 on increasing fly-tipping are not clear. An independent survey by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) shows that fly tipping has “increased in just over half of the local authority areas although there are large numbers reporting no change or even reductions”. Councils are best placed to prioritise waste services according to the needs of their areas.

There are concerns that unscrupulous traders are exploiting social distancing rules in some areas to try and provide illegal waste disposal services. Residents are encouraged to check that anyone offering to remove waste is licensed to do so.

5. Are visits to recycling facilities considered essential travel?

Government has published non-statutory guidance to local authorities on re-opening household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) during the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance sets out the Government’s view on the need for recycling centres to open and what constitutes a reasonable journey. Importantly, the guidance notes that opening a recycling centre is a decision for individual local authorities. The accompanying press release includes an LGA comment that reinforces this point and indicates that opening HWRCs will be a gradual process over the next few weeks.

Government has updated the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 to include a visit to the HWRC as an accepted reason for making a journey.

Our key message to the public is to check with their council before setting off to the recycling centre.

Those looking at re-opening recycling centres can draw on a new resource from the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO). Their helpful guidance on re-opening household waste and recycling centres during the COVID-19 outbreak has been developed by council waste experts as a flexible resource. It provides a comprehensive overview of key issues such as site operation and layout, health & safety and hygiene.

Please liaise with your Regional Principal Adviser to help us determine how we best support councils and inform our conversations with government.