Coronavirus update: The county council’s response

This week has seen a change in pace in the response to Covid-19, or coronavirus.  I’m enormously impressed with the readiness of our colleagues and our elected members to get involved, either in their own roles, or if they have spare capacity owning to other projects being paused, by switching to other duties.  We’ve had an excellent response to our “I Count” campaign; within the first 24 hours, 320 colleagues volunteered to switch roles into supporting social care and other priorities, as well as 80 students from Staffordshire University and Keele University.  We’re now up to 550 colleagues. We’re also in discussions with Entrust over switching their capacity into supporting schools as they change roles to look after the children of critical workers.  I think uniquely for a council (for the moment – I’m hoping others will follow), we are working with employers in the hospitality sector to move capability and capacity into supporting social care, primarily in the first instance the 25,000 vulnerable people who will be shielded from Covid-19 for the next 12 weeks.  This means delivering food and anything else that means that they can remain out of contact with the rest of the population.

In the Secretary of State’s words, there are 2 priorities for the week ahead; getting the schools into their new role, and getting the shielding measures in place by the end of the week.    In Staffordshire, we are taking a broad interpretation of the key worker definition, which we will implement robustly.  If you work for Staffordshire County Council, you are a key worker; I need your expertise and energy in the weeks ahead, and I need you to be freed up from worrying about childcare while you are doing it. 

There is some inspirational work going on, with our colleagues coming up not only with good ideas, but then implementing them at pace.  There are many examples, and space does not allow me to mention them all, but I would highlight the converging lines of effort going on in preparing for the shielding operation.  We’ve procured 40,000 ration packs which contain the basics for one person for a week, and we’re identifying the people and arranging the distribution network. 

I would predict that the effort in the weeks ahead will include keeping our care homes and domiciliary care operations running with the added load as the NHS discharge as many patients as they safely can.  That is where the majority of the “I Count” volunteers will be engaged. 

My final exhortation is to look after yourselves.  Stay fit, take the precautions of hand-washing and social distance, and make sure that you get enough rest.  This is going to be a long haul, and we need you to be there at the end, for yourselves, your family and for Staffordshire County Council.   

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