COVID-19 Bulletin

Hertfordshire News

Message from Hertfordshire Volunteering and People Assistance Cell

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday (23 March) advising all of us to stay at home where possible, we wanted to address some of your concerns and thank you for your ongoing efforts to grow, shield and sustain a countywide volunteer network. 

The Volunteer and People Assistance Cell has been created as a countywide partnership to help manage and implement a coordinated effort to support those affected by coronavirus. As you know we’ve all been working hard this last few days to plan and develop this approach. This work now falls into two categories: 

Operation Shield

This is the countywide project to support the 20,000+ people in Hertfordshire that will be getting a letter from the NHS telling them to have no face-to-face contact for 12 weeks. Some of these people will not have support from family and friends and so we will be prioritising to get them food and essential medication.

We’ve been tasked by and are working alongside the Government to plan and implement elements of this support at a local level. Currently we are working with district and borough councils and other local businesses to secure property, transport, food and medication links to begin operating community hubs to distribute necessities to this shielded group.

Operation Sustain 

This is the work we’ve been doing to mobilise residents and the voluntary sector to support anyone that has been affected by coronavirus, is self-isolating and/or vulnerable but who have not received a letter from the NHS.

#TeamHerts Volunteering, which includes all of the local Community Voluntary Service (CVS) hubs, is being promoted as Hertfordshire’s official volunteering network and they have been tasked to coordinate the countywide effort on behalf of the Volunteering and People Assistance Cell. 

From now on you may receive more regular updates from us and others about Operation Shield and Sustain as you are part of the Volunteering and People Assistance Cell. Please cascade this information to the relevant people in your organisation, if you’d like us to add a colleague to this group or feel you are not the right contact for the Cell please let us know.

The response to join #TeamHerts Volunteering has been fantastic so far, with over 2,000 volunteers recruited and about to begin online training. We need that work to continue so that we can match suitable volunteers to vital roles and services that will be needed to support those self-isolating and the most vulnerable over the coming weeks. Many of you have shared your existing efforts and networks with us, thank you so much. Work is now taking place to match these offers of support in a way that will maximise resource, we’ll update you on these developments very soon.  

Sadly, we’re aware that some criminals may be taking advantage of the response to support those affected by coronavirus for their own personal gain. Please help us weed out these perpetrators and protect our vulnerable neighbours by helping compile an official list of trusted volunteers via #TeamHerts Volunteering. If you know of or are part of a community group offering support in your area we’d be grateful if you could make #TeamHerts aware directly by visiting www.thvolunteering.org.uk and completing the online form.

We’ve come up with some more specific messages around helping others in a safe and sustainable way, please see the attached guidance for volunteers that #TeamHerts have prepared. Whilst we know that the government announcement will put greater restrictions in place, there are still lots of things people can do to support those in need. We will support them to adhere to social distancing guidance and to keep themselves and their loves ones and neighbours safe.

We have created an infographic, images and some social media template posts which we hope you will continue to share across your channels, these are being added to the resources listed here; https://www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/about-the-council/news/campaign-toolkits/coronavirus.aspx

Just a reminder that these are the main points of contact for those wishing to help and those in need of support from volunteers;

•              Residents, services and community groups who would like to volunteer can visit www.thvolunteering.org.uk or call Herts Help on 0300 123 4044.

•              Residents who are self-isolating and in need of support from volunteers can visit www.hertshelp.net, email info@hertshelp.net or call HertsHelp on 0300 123 4044.

•              Anyone currently using a social care service should expect that to continue, however they should speak to their care provider first or call on 0300 123 4042 for other urgent care needs. 

Frequently asked questions for people with care and support needs can be accessed online, www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/serviceupdates

Hertfordshire Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs)

Further to yesterday’s report that the centre staff turned away almost 400 residents on Tuesday, there were a further reported 250 resident attempts to access the HWRCs yesterday. Although all sites are shut Amey staff are continuing to maintain a presence on site to advise site users of the closures and to prevent fly tipping and theft. 

The closures will of course, be kept under review pending updates to Government advice and further communication on the closures has been uploaded to the council’s webpages, provided to partner authorities and pushed out via social media.

Waste collection functions

Daily communication lines between all 11 councils are operating well and the majority of district and borough collection services continue to operate as usual at the current time. In addition to the suspension of bulky waste services, some district and boroughs are highly likely to reduce services from next week with 4 of the 10 authorities planning on stopping garden waste collections as these are deemed less critical than recycling, residual and clinical wastes.

Officers from HCC and the Hertfordshire Waste Partnership are leading on coordinating information and updates in order to identify positive practices to keep services going and options for sharing skilled key workers e.g. dustcart drivers, across authority boundaries are being explored.

Waste disposal functions

The County Council’s transfer and disposal arrangements are being affected by staff shortages and/or necessary changes to working practise in light of COVID 19 advice but all are currently operating well.

The unscheduled maintenance of a boiler at the Edmonton Energy Recovery Facility this week has reduced inputs to that facility with Broxbourne’s residual waste being diverted to the Westmill landfill site. Officers have confirmed capacity with Biffa at the Westmill landfill site as an option for disposal until the end of April 2020 rather than the expected end of March 2020 date and the works at the Buntingford depot have been completed to enable transfer of East Herts’ residual waste to commence from mid-next week.

Construction of the Ware HWRC is continuing although there is a risk of delay in relation to COVID 19. The contractor has issued an early warning notice to that effect if, for example, key staff become unavailable, they experience supply chain issues and/or if Government advice on construction activity changes. Colleagues in the Council’s finance section are aware of the potential impacts.

Press Release: Vast majority of Hertfordshire schools remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable pupils

One hundred percent of Hertfordshire secondary schools and the vast majority of primary schools (95 per cent) are currently open for children of key workers or pupils with specific vulnerabilities

The county council is currently working with all schools to maintain this position until the end of term and will review the situation for the summer term.

Cabinet Member for Education, Libraries and Localism Cllr Terry Douris said: “We are pleased that most of our schools have remained open during these very difficult and unprecedented times, to support our most vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers.

“Thank you to all the headteachers and members of staff who are providing an education for these key groups of pupils and making plans to ensure on-going provision for them during the Easter holidays.

“Key workers should only send their children into school if they are unable to stay at home. Parents are advised to contact their schools in the first instance so that the necessary arrangements can be made.”

Any parents who are key workers but are finding it difficult to access this special provision should email Hertfordshire County Council at inyear@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Many thousands of pupils are currently engaging in remote learning organised by their schools, with tasks being set daily through a variety of online resources.

As with current government regulations, social distancing applies to children and adults in home settings.

All school admissions processes are on track for the scheduled allocation dates and the county council is working closely with neighbouring local authorities to ensure that primary school allocations will not be affected.

Transport Update

Following Government Guidance, HCC has agreed to pay bus operators and other operators who operate home to school/ day care centre transport 100% for any COVID 19 disruptions.

Currently bus operators are trying their best to keep services running to a Saturday/Sunday service but operators are now finding it hard due to low passenger number and sickness.  It is likely services will be suspended for the short term.  Contract services are still currently running with a reduced timetable to support key workers and shoppers.  For up to date information please go to www.intalink.org.uk

Communications have gone to all our taxi/coach providers. We expect drivers and Passengers Assistants to continue working if their normal contract is still required providing they are healthy to do so.

We have received a large number of responses from taxi/coach companies offering help during this crisis and this is greatly received.

Whilst most schools are closed many of our Special Schools are still open and we are providing transport where necessary.

Lister Hospital restricts access to serious cases

Lister Hospital in Stevenage is no longer treating patients with minor injuries or illnesses – as East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust prepares itself for an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The trust is planning ahead so the Lister’s Emergency Department has extra capacity to deal with the more serious cases that come through our doors.

Patients with minor injuries or illnesses are asked to use the NHS111 online service to determine whether they need hospital treatment and, if so, will be directed to the Urgent Care Centre at Welwyn Garden City’s New QEII Hospital.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

National News

Free car parking for NHS, social care staff and critical key workers

The Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP has agreed local councils will also offer free car parking to all NHS workers and social care staff during the coronavirus outbreak. In addition new measures agreed by the Local Government Secretary and all councils in England will allow critical key workers to be able to use council parking bays without time restriction or charge.

Retired social care workers urged to help

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic. Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, has written to care providers, and is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

Planning Inspectorate cancels all site visits

The Planning Inspectorate has updated its guidance on site visits, hearings, inquiries and events, originally issued on 12th March in response to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), and has now is cancelled all previously arranged site visits with immediate effect.

Fraud control in emergency management: COVID-19 UK Government guide

Guidance is for leaders and fraud experts in government bodies and local authoritiesthat are administering emergency programmes on behalf of the UK Government. The fraud threat posed during emergency situations is higher than at other times, and all public bodies should be attuned to the risks facing their organisations and the public sector. Public bodies can reduce the threat of widespread fraud by integrating low-friction controls into payments where possible, and carrying out post-event assurance work.

Further businesses and premises to close

The Government has updated its guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: How will it fit with employment law?

Background briefing from the House of Commons on the Government scheme that to cover 80% of the wages of ‘furloughed workers,’ up to £2,500 per month. A ‘furloughed worker’ is someone who remains employed but is not provided with work. The aim of the scheme is to ensure that employers who cannot afford to pay staff wages do not make redundancies.

Coronavirus Bill: what it will do

Following the Coronavirus Bill pass all of its Parliamentary stages yesterday the government has updated its summary of measures contained in the fast-tracked coronavirus legislation and why they are needed to effectively manage the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK

****Disclaimer****

The information in this message should be regarded as confidential and is intended for the addressee only unless explicitly stated. If you have received this message in error it must be deleted and the sender notified. The views expressed in this message are personal and not necessarily those of Hertfordshire County Council unless explicitly stated. Please be aware that emails sent to or received from Hertfordshire County Council may be intercepted and read by the council. Interception will only occur to ensure compliance with council policies or procedures or regulatory obligations, to prevent or deter crime, or for the purposes of essential maintenance or support of the email system.