WBC Weekly Update 2

WBC Weekly Update no 2 - 3rd April 2020

As we did last week, we thought it would be useful to write to you to give you a summary of some of the activity we have undertaken this week. We hope that this will be useful to you as we all respond to the impact of Covid-19 on our community.

We are working hard to ensure that our essential services are delivered to meet the needs of our residents despite the Council Offices remaining closed to public in accordance with Government advice. Officers are still performing their duties where possible - most from home - so that our vital services are maintained for those who rely on them. The office closures will remain under review based on Government guidance. Please get in touch if you need us using the contact details on our website.

Our Community Support Hub is progressing well, having already coordinated requests for help with offers of support from volunteers. The Hub offers guidance and helps to organisations representing their communities as they provide support to those in their community, particularly the vulnerable residents. To facilitate this, we have set up a new Facebook page which can be used as a source of support for community groups and volunteers (more guidance to follow). It can be found here:

As we mentioned last week, if someone you know needs help or you would like to volunteer, please contact us on: 01635 503579 or: westberksbct@westberks.gov.uk

Our designated page for residents continues to provide vital updates on our services, of which more below, as well as support that is available, such as assistance for those struggling to pay their council tax. This can be found here: www.westberks.gov.uk/coronavirus-residents

We have been regularly sharing social distancing guidance on our social media and are pleased to see that the community has been following this, which is vital as we respond to the virus. We have also written to some of our shops to provide them with a poster to display in their windows to encourage safe practice in our stores. If you would like a copy of the poster, it has been made available on our website here: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/article/36919

We are also working hard to support our businesses and have now received our funding allocation for the grants announced for the retail, hospitality and leisure industries. The business rates team is working to distribute these as quickly as possible and will continue to update our page at: https://www.westberks.gov.uk/coronavirus-business

Our colleagues in Public Protection have warned us that the current situation may lead to an increase in the number of scams targeting vulnerable residents. We would always encourage residents to remain vigilant and to verify the source of unfamiliar communications. More information, including FAQs, is available on our residents’ webpage.

Our Household Waste Recycling Centres, Libraries, Leisure Centres and Family Hubs remain closed and bulky waste collections have been suspended in line with national social distancing guidance. Waste collections will continue, although we are now asking residents to ensure their bins are placed outside their property by 6am instead of 7am. This will allow collections to commence earlier in the morning to keep our community safe.

Our schools remain closed to all but the children of essential key workers. Arrangements have been made for them to remain open over the Easter holidays on this basis. In many cases schools are collaborating together to share resources and to enable staff rotas that ensure teachers spend meaningful time away from school. Where needed, School Hubs have been created to ensure that as many children are cared for as possible.

We have taken the decision to assist parents and carers who are finding it financially difficult during this time by offering the option to apply for a refund on fares paid for school transport during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. A refund will be given to those who have bought a farepayer seat on home to school transport for the two weeks from 23 March 2020 to 3April 2020. To qualify for this refund parents and carers will need to complete the dedicated refund form available online: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/article/36932.

Car parking charges have been suspended in all of our surface car parks. This is to minimise the burden on key workers at this difficult time and will also assist everyone to comply with social distancing guidance.

There have been changes to some bus routes across the district, which may make this form of travel difficult. We would therefore encourage keyworkers who require assistance with essential travel can contact us for help on 01635 551111.

We hope that the advice leaflet that we mentioned last week will have been delivered to every household in the district this week, although we appreciate there may have been some delays. This provides residents with useful information about the local support available from West Berkshire Council. A PDF version of this leaflet has been made available on our Coronavirus Residents’ webpage. If you require it in another format, please contact the Community Support Hub using the details above.

In line with national guidance, we continue to advise residents to ‘Stay at Home’, with a small number of exceptions. We know that this not easy and that it will be a source of anxiety for many in the community. We have been publishing daily wellbeing tips on social media and also have a section on our website to help those struggling with social isolation, particularly if they live alone.

We have also published advice about drug and alcohol abuse as well as smoking. Given the nature of COVID-19, it is more important than ever that we all consider the impact these behaviours have on our health and look to make positive changes were we can.

This information can be found here: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/coronavirus-residents-health

Our Emotional Health Academy is also launching a helpline specifically for young people who are experiencing emotional difficulties as a result of the current situation. This is in additional to the statutory support we have in place to safeguard our most vulnerable children. This will be in place from Monday 6th April and can be reached on 01635 503587.

We hope you, your families and your communities are continuing to stay safe throughout this difficult time. We would emphasise again that West Berkshire Council is here to help and if you are struggling, we will do all we can.

Lynne Doherty                                                    Nick Carter
Leader of the Council                                         Chief Executive