To consider a report from the Deputy Chief Executive (copy enclosed).
The Deputy Chief Executive and the Assistant Director – Economy and Environment provided members with an overview of the Council’s activity to date in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Deputy Chief Executive outlined his gratitude to members and staff on the huge amount of work that had been undertaken in response to the pandemic and the new ways of working which had resulted in a positive impact for Cumbria and its residents. It was noted that fantastic partnership working had taken place with other organisations such as the NHS and District Councils.
Members noted that the Council had led, as a category 1 responder, the Strategic Co-ordinating Group (SCG) with a range of partners to respond to the epidemic. The Council was also leading on a number of sub groups such as Care Homes, PPE, Waste, Logistics, Multi-Agency Information Cell, Strategic Media Advisory Cell and Education. The Council had needed to adopt significant changes to the ways of working in a very short period of time and substantial changes and upgrades had been made to the Council’s technology and communications systems. This had allowed, where appropriate, home working for staff and members, and enabled compliance to the national strategy to “Stay at Home”.
The Assistant Director – Economy and Environment informed members that in early March, an Education Tactical Co-ordination Group (ETCG) had been established to oversee the temporary closure of schools and the establishment of school “hubs” to provide education and childcare to the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Members noted that disadvantaged and vulnerable children had been the Council’s priority throughout. Regular updates had been provided to families, schools and childcare settings throughout and a key area of focus had been to have safeguarding measures in place.
Members were informed of the strong partnership working that was taking place with health services across the county and with NHS England. Significant work had taken place to ensure that hospitals in Cumbria had maintained sufficient capacity to care for Covid-19 patients. Adult Social Care has been providing a 7 day per week services and continued to review changes to care packages to ensure people were safe and in receipt of care and support appropriate to their needs. The Council had supported increases in the availability of testing throughout the county.
With regard to care homes and home care, Members noted that the council continued to work in partnership with agencies across the NHS and public sector, to support work in care homes. This work included the monitoring of infection rates of both residents and staff, supporting infection control, providing PPE, testing, additional staff support and supporting the management of hospital discharges.
It was noted that household waste recycling centres had now been reopened on 12 May following government guidance. The waste sub group had closely monitored incidents of fly tipping and implemented measures to address this in the period of HWRC closures.
Members were aware that six welfare co-ordination hubs had been established in just 5 days across the county and had been vital in helping thousands of vulnerable people. The hubs had received an average of 200 contacts a day helping with medication, shopping and concerns from family members worried about elderly loved ones.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) had been a massive issue nationally, and members were informed that the council had led on the management and distribution of PPE. The council had also led on significant procurement of PPE to ensure the necessary volumes were available to council staff and independent sectors in the social care and education sectors.
To conclude the officer outlined the position with regards to highways and construction. The council had temporarily suspended the majority of highway maintenance and construction activity. As national guidance had been developed and safe methods of work devised, the Council had gradually begun to bring these services back.
The discussion, question and answer session that ensued mainly focussed on education and care homes. Members were informed of the work taking place to support the reopening of schools and other settings, liaising with relevant colleagues and national organisations, to support and co-ordinate a risk assessed approach, balancing immediate health concerns, safeguarding and the longer terms effects of prolonged seclusion. In answer to a question on virus figures in localities, members were informed that figures would be available from Public Health, England and work was being undertaken in local school clusters to provide this information.
In answer to a member’s question, the officer informed members that work was taking place to provide laptops to vulnerable children and although, it was thought the laptops were 4g enabled to avoid additional broadband costs to families, the Assistant Director – Education and Skills agreed to email this information to all members following the meeting.
A member raised a question around the school meal voucher scheme and the Assistant Director – Education and Skills agreed to provide information to members on the uptake of this. Members were invited to notify him of specific local issues.
The Assistant Director – Strategic Commissioning updated members on the work undertaken in this period working with nursing homes, care homes and providers. Following questions, members were pleased to note that the Council had not had to re-enact Care Act easements during the Covid period and a Local Care Home Plan was currently being developed although the majority of requirements were already in place for the county as care homes had been a very early priority for the council. The allocation of government funding was discussed at length and members noted that further guidance was awaited for allocation of part of the funding. It was agreed that further information be provided to members when the guidance was received. Members suggested consideration be given to the introduction of hot/cold areas in nursing/care homes and officers confirmed that this was being investigated. It was acknowledged that long term support for the care home market would be necessary. Support measures in place for staff were outlined to members. Officers were requested to continue to advertise support measures that were available to staff.
Members congratulated officers on the community work that was taking place around the county in conjunction with District Councils and the volunteer sector. The continuation of community work in the recovery stage was discussed. The Executive Director – Corporate, Community and Customer Services outlined work taking place on recovery arrangements.
To conclude, members thanked officers for their excellent and informative report.
(1) the report be noted;
(2) the Assistant Director – Education and Skills circulate to members details of the capability of laptops for vulnerable children and provide information on the uptake of the school meal voucher scheme;
(3) further guidance on allocation of government funding be circulated to members;
(4) officers continue to advertise support measures that were available to staff.