Archive for the ‘Leaders Blog’ Category

Supporting our schools

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

I have spoken about the incredible work that schools and their staff have been doing during the pandemic in a previous post. The continued efforts of staff and leaders in schools and education settings since the start of the pandemic have been humbling and inspiring to us all. We have seen scores of examples of great practice and efforts by individual staff and schools as a body, which have been shared with the wider education sector.

Most schools have remained open to support vulnerable children and the children of key workers, which has allowed essential staff to get to work and help keep things going during the pandemic. Teachers have also been working hard to make sure that those children at home can still get the best education possible which is really important.

Throughout the pandemic, we have been in regular contact with our schools, making sure they are kept up to date with the latest information from Government and making sure they have everything they need to operate safely.

Following the latest Government guidance, we are now working with primary schools to give them the support they need so they can open safely to nursery, reception, year one and year six pupils from 1 June. Our health and safety teams continue to offer advice on social distancing measures as well as access to a pack of personal protective equipment should someone fall ill.

Schools know what is best for their staff and pupils, so it will be up to each individual school to make the decision about when and how they can open. Our understanding is that the majority of schools will be open in some way, and will be letting parents know what will be happening over the coming days.

I trust this gives you some reassurance, and that you will also join with me in thanking our schools on behalf of the children and families of Staffordshire for their response to date, and the work they are planning for the next phase.

Be assured, we will continue to support our schools in these very challenging times. And if we continue to follow all the official advice on Coronavirus and pulling together we will beat the pandemic.

Increased funding for care providers, and re-opening of tips and country park carparks

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I said that we would do everything it takes to protect our communities and our vulnerable residents. Supporting our care sector to help manage the impact of the crisis has been and remains a key part of this.

Funding to the sector has now increased to £20m and is supporting a raft of measures to ease the pressure on care homes and care providers.  Ensuring those who need Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) most, such as our frontline workers, has been essential in fighting the pandemic. As such, this funding will help with the distribution of more than 700,000 free emergency items such as gloves, masks and aprons, to ensure every care home in Staffordshire has what it needs.

With some of the travel restrictions now being lifted, from today, we will also see the reopening of our recycling centres. We know these have been a much-missed service during the lockdown as people no doubt have been decorating their houses and doing extra work in their gardens.  We are expecting lots of visitors to the sites, so we’re asking people in the early days, to only visit if it’s a priority.  Please be patient and follow the new rules put in place to adhere to social distancing.

We’re also introducing a phased reopening of county council’s country park car parks. This follows the Government’s updated guidance on exercising and staying safe during the pandemic.

While we appreciate that people will be keen to get out and about, social distancing remains critical and why we’re asking people to continue following the ‘two metres apart’ rule and stay alert to passing the virus on.   Please note that some facilities at the country parks will also remain closed, like toilets as well as visitor centres and children’s playgrounds.

Even though it may seem like we’ve moved past the worst part of this pandemic, it’s important that we continue to follow the official Public Health England advice on Coronavirus to ensure we don’t see a rise in the number of cases.

Updated Coronavirus guidance announced

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

On Sunday evening, the Prime Minister set out a new coronavirus roadmap for the country and is calling for people to follow the updated advice.

A new strapline ‘Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives’ is being backed up with five stages of alert for the country ranging from One (Green) to Five (Red). Britain is currently in Stage Four.

The key points are:

  • People should: Still stay at home as much as possible, work from home if they can, follow the 2m social distancing rule, limit social contact, wash their hands regularly, self-isolate if they or a member of their household shows symptoms.
  • Those who can’t work from home are being actively encouraged to return to work from Wednesday, but not by public transport
  • People can exercise more than once a day and play sport – but only with own households
  • From June 1 some shops and primary schools may reopen
  • From July at the earliest some hospitality venues may reopen

It’s really important that we all use our common sense and follow the latest advice, wash our hands regularly and keep a safe distance to safeguard ourselves, our families and our communities if we are to get through this and avoid a second peak in the pandemic.

Over  the coming weeks and months we will all be treading a very fine line as we gradually reopen the county and the country but this is absolutely not a green light for everyone and everything to go back to as we were before the pandemic.

We continue to work with residents, businesses, partners and staff on our own recovery planning and will align this with the Government’s roadmap once more detailed information is available.

In the meantime, please continue to follow the official Coronavirus advice here and together we’ll defeat the pandemic.

Marking VE Day anniversary online

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

Friday is the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and marks the end of World War II.

This could be the last memorable milestone when we remember those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for the country and our freedom while some of them are still with us.

But as we celebrate with them, we also find ourselves in a battle with a very different enemy, that of Coronavirus. In this fight it is our NHS staff, our Care workers and essential workers who are leading the charge to beat the pandemic and with our staunch community spirit, it’s a battle that we’ll win.

With people no longer able to attend physical commemoration events because of the travel restrictions, a series of online and virtual activities have been organised. Live streams, war poetry, stories, and a huge UK-wide rendition of Vera Lynn’s ‘ We’ll Meet Again’ are amongst the activities.

Following the two minute silence, at 11am on Friday, which I would encourage people to do, there is also a VE Day 75 livestream, sharing stories and memories from those who served during the Second World War. Our libraries service will also be joining in with war poetry readings, e-book recommendations, sharing of old photos and memories and chat on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

While it will be sad not to be able to attend physical events, there is plenty happening online and I would urge people to take some time to pay tribute to those brave men and women who fought for freedom from the Nazi tyranny in the second world war and sacrificed their lives for our country and our freedom.

Getting PPE to care providers and a new grant scheme for small businesses affected by Coronavirus

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

In my previous posts I highlighted the amazing work being done by our army of carers in extremely difficult times. I also said that we would do everything in our power to make sure we look after our most vulnerable residents and to make sure care staff have what they need to protect themselves and go about their work safely. 

We know there’s a global shortage of PPE and some care homes have been struggling to get supplies and that’s why we have stepped in to provide almost 400,000 Pieces of emergency Personal Protective Equipment PPE.  This is essential equipment that helps protect staff and residents from the virus and includes things  like face-masks, gloves, goggles,  gowns and aprons.

The county council has also pledged £13.6m to help care providers cover additional costs for staff and PPE during the crisis.

I know from talking to many smaller businesses that many are being quite badly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s important that businesses are supported through the outbreak and why we have launched a new grant scheme to help them through the crisis.

The £500,000 scheme will help micro businesses with nine employees or less and cannot get support from other Government initiatives. The emergency fund will be allocated on a first come, first serve basis and is expected to be able to support up to 500 local businesses.

Businesses could include, sole traders such as builders, plumbers and mechanics as well as hairdressers, photographers, cleaners and childminders.

There is a range of support available to businesses and I would urge people to get in contact with the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub team who can provide more information and advice.  You can find them at www.stokestaffslep.org.uk

1000th food parcel delivered to those without support

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

In a previous post, I spoke about the work we were doing to get food parcels out to some of our most vulnerable residents who don’t have any kind of support network.

Well, I’m pleased to report that today we’ve delivered our 1,000th parcel. It’s been a pretty remarkable operation to get up and running so swiftly and I would like to thank the team, staff and all the volunteers involved.

You can watch a short video showing parcels being packed and delivered here.

It’s vital that vulnerable people stay indoors and in the first instance look for support from family and friends, neighbours, or from local community groups. But, if they have no one to turn to they should contact the county council on 0300 111 8050 or click here for advice.

Our work to tackle the pandemic continues, and as ever, I would encourage people to follow the official guidance on Coronavirus here.

Together we’ll beat it.

Emergency money for care providers

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Yesterday we announced that an extra £13.6m would be given to care providers to help them combat the crippling effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The care sector has been hit particularly hard by the crisis and the emergency funding will provide immediate support to care homes and organisations who provide care to the elderly and people with disabilities.

Our army of carers do an amazing job looking after some of our most vulnerable residents day in and out, and from the outset we have said that we will do everything we can and spend every pound needed to allow them to continue this vital work.

The funding will be made up of just over £10m from the Government’s coronavirus battle fund, plus a further £3m to cover annual cost increases.  It will help care providers cover sickness costs, recruit agency staff, as well as allow them to purchase additional equipment such as masks, gloves and aprons if needed.

As I had said in previous posts, we’ll continue to do what is needed to beat this virus and by pulling together, and sticking to the official advice we will beat it.

Please stay safe and watch out for  your neighbours and older family members.

Cabinet agree funding to help in the fight against Coronavirus

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

This week we held our first fully virtual Cabinet meeting, with all councillors joining proceedings online.

Dominating the agenda was of course, Coronavirus and our work to manage the crisis and keep people safe, protect the most vulnerable and ease pressure on frontline services during the pandemic.

From the outset I said that the county council would do everything it takes and spend every pound it needs in order to help save lives and support families and businesses through the enormous challenges which still lie in the months ahead.

Amongst the emergency measures set out in the report include the allocation of £22.296m Government funding to the council’s coronavirus battle fund – with further significant extra costs expected

This comes just two months after the county council set out its own budget and plans to reduce spending by £64m by 2024.  Now due to the coronavirus response there is a risk that at least £10 million of savings included in the 2020/21 budget will not be delivered. This, together with additional costs arising from the crisis could well result in an overall financial impact in excess of £50m.

At the meeting we also agreed additional investment of £26m to build two new schools, along with millions of pounds worth of improvements to existing school buildings.   A £42.7 million package of highways improvements and transport schemes for the 2020/21 financial year was also agreed.

As I have said before, Staffordshire has always had amazing community spirit and it’s incredible to see everyone pulling together as never before to help not only family, friends and neighbours, but also to help people who until days ago were simply strangers.  Be assured our battle against Coronavirus continues and by helping each other and pulling together we can beat it.

Preparing food parcels for vulnerable residents

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

One of the things our staff and volunteers are busy doing is preparing food parcels for some of our most vulnerable residents who are self-isolating and don’t have any kind of support.

The parcels include basic items such as tinned vegetables, meat, fish and fruit, baked beans, tea and coffee, rice, pasta, cereals, porridge and toilet rolls, as well as sugar, pasta and long life milk.  You can watch a short video here of the team in action.

It’s a pretty major logistical challenge and we’re hoping to distribute around 20,000 parcels across the county over a 12-week period.

There are so many people stepping up to the challenge and volunteering in different ways to support others through the crisis and we’re incredibly grateful to all of them. this is another example of people doing their bit to support others and I would like to pass on my thanks to all of them.

As ever, I would urge everyone to keep staying safe, and to keep following the advice on social distancing and hygiene to give the NHS the best possible chance of coping with Coronavirus. 

And if someone has no support and is in need of help, they can call 0300 111 8050, or click here for advice.

Our fight against Coronavirus

Wednesday, April 8th, 2020

Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives is the message that we still all need to follow.

It really is an unprecedented situation that we all find ourselves in, but I strongly believe that by pulling together, and following the official advice from Government we can defeat the Coronavirus pandemic.

We continue to workclosely with Public Health England and all our local partners to help manage the situation locally. Our priority as a county council remains to protect the most vulnerable, that is the elderly, people with disabilities and children in our care and our staff continue to work around the clock to do this.

People are still receiving care and I would like to say a special thanks to the army of carers who continue to support the thousands of elderly and vulnerable residents right across the county despite the constant risk and challenges they face on a daily basis.

These residents rely on that support, day in and day out and the demand will only increase as the pandemic continues, as more and more people need to stay at home and avoid contact with people. 

That’s why we launched our ‘iCare’ campaign a couple of weeks ago. Through the campaign, we’re asking local people to help by signing up to provide personal care to people in need.

We’ve already had an amazing response, with around 360 people stepping up to the challenge. We’re incredibly thankful to them, but the truth is that we still need more. There’s training and support every step of the way, So if you can, please sign up. There’s more information at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/icare

We’re all in this fight against Coronavirus together, and there’s some brilliant work happening right across the county to help people stay safe and well.

Our voluntary and community sector also continue to do their bit providing support to local communities but we know they are under pressure too. That’s why we’ve launched our new COVID-19 Support Fund. 

This will provide grants to groups to help support communities through the crisis and to make sure that the voluntary sector continues to thrive now and after the crisis. 

If you’re interested, please speak to your local county councillor in the first instance. You can search for details of your local county councillor here and you can find out more about the COVID-19 Support Fund here too.

I know that if we all pull together we can beat Coronavirus, but it’s really vital that we all follow the official Coronavirus advice available here.

Once again, please take care,