Supporting local government and protecting local democracy in Wales
Conwy County Borough Council established the Community Support Service(CSS) helpline in March 2020, the purpose of which was to provide assistance to anyone within the community who wasn’t able to call on friends, family or neighbours to ask for help with picking up shopping, delivering medication etc. Assistance was initially provided through volunteer matching and we then moved on to using temporarily redeployed staff from other services within the council. Volunteers were encouraged to register with Community & Voluntary Support Conwy(CVSC) to be matched with local organisations. Conwy CBC have an agreement with a number of local shops and both Tesco stores in the county to take payment over the phone from individuals using the CSS for shopping requests. When the Conwy Staff are at the till, the shop ring the customer who then pay for their shopping over the phone. There is also a process in place to assist if individuals have no means to pay by card over the phone. The CSS service has been scaled back in line with easing lockdown rules and the number of requests we receive reduce. All surgeries and pharmacies have been informed and have been encouraged to register with the RedCross if they need assistance with prescription deliveries.
During the third week of March Caerphilly CBC wrote to all 70,000 plus households in the county borough offering support for people concerned about the UK Government advice to self-isolate if over 70, or with an underlying health condition, if they felt they would be unable to cope with daily shopping or picking up prescriptions. 1560 older and vulnerable adults rang the dedicated helpline asking for support. At the same time a call to action was issued to staff able to help as volunteers to provide an immediate response. Over 590 staff eventually ended up acting as Buddies being matched with up to 10 older and vulnerable adults/families each. As accessing cash was a difficulty, and no WCVA cash handling guidance existed at that time, corporate credit cards and petty cash access was set up at short notice to prevent allegations of financial abuse and fraud. Residents were invoiced at a later date for shopping bought on their behalf. At the same time the Council provided enhanced DBS checked drivers to local pharmacies to help with deliveries of medication as normal driver services were not operational. As the lockdown eased and shielding ended many staff have continued to maintain a befriending role with the people they have been supporting. The scheme is now working with the voluntary sector and local community groups to support the lesser number of people still requiring support through the Community Regeneration Team working with the local CVC. A jointly appointed Volunteer Coordinator is helping to manage the Buddy Scheme with a view to developing a more formal corporate volunteering scheme as a legacy. The Community Regeneration Team are working closely with local community COVID volunteer groups particularly in helping isolated people registered on the Buddy Scheme become more connected to their communities.
Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council pulled together a Locality Response Service staffed by redeployed staff to support the increased demand for non-statutory support related to COVID-19 restrictions during the height of the pandemic and to protect front line social care. This service worked closely with the Third sector to provide ongoing support through this time for residents. Residents have been supported with grant applications, food banks, ongoing referrals for specialist support such as mental health, Gwent Drug and Alcohol Support, supporting people services and social services if required. At the beginning of lockdown and through the summer the council dealt with over 1000 requests for help with shopping, collecting prescriptions and other befriending activities. As restrictions eased and shielding paused, the council looked at options to scale back the service. The team directly contacted all open cases to ensure they could transition into a more sustainable support arrangement.
Llancaiach Fawr Manor is a tourist attraction located in Nelson, Caerphilly which portrays life in 1645 through live interpretation to approximately 60,000 visitors and school children each year. There are also conference rooms, an education centre, a café, restaurant and gift shop.
During the lockdown period, the majority of staff volunteered to be redeployed to the buddy scheme, to pick up prescriptions and shopping for the vulnerable residents of the county borough who were shielding. Others joined the Track and Trace Programme Team.
The education centre has been temporarily repurposed as a distribution hub. Donations are collected by staff and parcels created for delivery to food banks.
The bar and restaurant have been utilised for the provision of a childcare hub run in partnership with the Caerphilly County Borough Council Youth Service, School and Music service, Arts Development Team and Healthy Schools Service to ease childcare issues during the summer holidays for Blue Light Workers.
Preparations for the ‘new normal’ have included delivering workshops online and providing an outreach service to schools. The café has re-opened and the formal gardens and patio area furnished with outdoor seating. Take away meals and Sunday lunches have gone from strength to strength.
The Neath Port Talbot Council Safe and Well Service was established at the start of the coronavirus outbreak to support residents who were shielding and had nobody to call on for help with daily living tasks such as shopping and collecting medicines.
Members and officers also identified other groups of people who needed support, including people who needed to self-isolate and had no support, young carers, parents of children entitled to free school meals unable to receive BACS payments; and carers of people shielding and self-isolating.
Approximately 1,300 people received support from the service between the end of March 2020 and the end of June 2020.
A food hub was established where staff from a number of different departments collaborated to source food, ensure its safe storage, handling and distribution, made deliveries, kept good records, prepared healthy menus that catered for specific dietary requirements and ensured emergency food provision where circumstances warranted it. These arrangements were identified by Welsh Government as an example of good practice.
Circa 100 employees volunteered in their own time and circa 450 residents registered an interest to volunteer with the service. Volunteers were trained and then worked with local councillors to support the local community. A Volunteer Co-ordinator will be recruited in order to support the project and function and a strategy is being developed with input from councillors and community organisations to establish what will be needed in the ‘new normal’.
By working across departments to respond to the need to deliver grants to local businesses, Pembrokeshire County Council, a small local authority, was able to go live with the grants within days and has now delivered over £52M into the local economy.
The council used a mixture of matrix management and secondments to draw staff in from Regeneration and Economic Development, Revenue and Benefits, External Funding Teams and Finance and Employability. Part of this was a recognition that no one team has the skills to deliver everything and there was a requirement to work as ‘Team Pembrokeshire’.
Gwynedd Council has a well-developed coaching programme for both staff and councillors. The WLGA provides coaching to councillors as part of this programme, using a hybrid coach/mentoring approach supporting councillors’ work in communities and the council. During the pandemic, this coaching was conducted virtually through Microsoft Teams. One of the participating councillors said “In general I believe that the coaching I have received from the WLGA has played a critical role in my development as a cabinet member and councillor. Since the lockdown we have continued the sessions and if anything, I think the digital element has improved things. It’s logistically a lot easier and involves a lot less of my time and travel. I don’t believe it has changed the dynamic of the coaching relationship, the only possible scenario that I can imagine where a physical coaching session would be preferable to a digital one, would perhaps be the initial session/s. I had already developed a working relationship with my coach before the switch from physical to digital, and perhaps a face to face conversation is important in the initial stages. I would like to carry on with the digital sessions even when “things get back to normal”.
Learning from remote coaching during COVID, the WLGA will now offer remote coaching, with, if possible, a face to face introductory session.
Flintshire County Council have been working in partnership with Flintshire Local Voluntary Council (FLVC) to ensure vulnerable people receive appropriate support. Prior to Covid-19, (FLVC) already had access to a directory of validated community organisations i.e. those who were constituted, had received appropriate training and had policies in place, such as safeguarding. This Directory is updated as new community groups set up. FLVC employ two staff based with the Council’s Single Point of Access (SPoA) team signposting and supporting individuals to access the voluntary and community support available across Flintshire. Furloughed staff from organisations who work closely with the Council have been encouraged to volunteer via the Volunteering Wales website. Over 200 people have stepped forward to volunteer in Flintshire, 84 individuals chose to volunteer for the council and virtual training has been put in place. Together we are fighting Coronavirus COVID-19
The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) represents the interests of local government and promotes local democracy in Wales.
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