How Cornwall Council is tackling coronavirus

7 minute read
How Cornwall Council is tackling coronavirus

Published at 6:11am 6th April 2020. (Updated at 9:31am 7th April 2020)

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall Council chiefs say they have been overwhelmed by the level of support and commitment shown by those helping the authority help those affected by coronavirus.

The unitary council said that its only priority currently was tackling the challenges created by the virus.

Council leader Julian German said it had been a “challenging week for us all” and his thoughts were with everyone who had been impacted by coronavirus.

He said: “Cornwall Council will do all that it can to give support to those that need it. We are listening and responding to residents through our covid19@cornwall.gov.uk email address and over the phone.

“The coronavirus helpline is receiving around 70 calls a day and we are receiving 150 emails a day. The contact centre is taking around 1,000 calls a day.

“Please use the online contact methods if you do have access to them.”

During the coronavirus crisis Cornwall Council has had to change the way it works and uses its resources.

Here we get an update on some of the key areas that the council is working on.

Council tax:

Cornwall Council says it is offering support to people who are struggling financially due to coronavirus.

The council already has a hardship fund which is available for anyone who needs help or support.

However it has been given £3.4 million by the Government in extra support which is available for people in financial hardship.

Anyone who would like to get help can apply online through the council’s website.

Cllr German said: “We will do all that we can to help.”

Community support:

The council has been working alongside community groups and Volunteer Cornwall to provide support for people across Cornwall.

Cllr German said: “I want to thank all those people who have come forward to help others in their community. It is going to become more important as this goes on.”

The council said that if anyone would like to volunteer or needs support they should contact their local community group or Volunteer Cornwall on 01872 266988.

Carers:

Cornwall Council launched a campaign last week to recruit 4,000 more people to work as carers to help support care services in the county.

Council chief executive Kate Kennally said the council had been “overwhelmed” by the response from people wanting to pursue a career in care work.

The council has received 240 applications and 127 people are already undergoing training so they can start work.

Ms Kennally said 26 people would be ready to work within the next few days.

She said: “We have been delighted with the level of response of people coming forward wanting to build a career in care work.”

The chief executive also said the council had opened its first care hotel which will help ease the burden on hospitals and open up more beds for those who need them.

In addition the council has opened a number of community co-ordination centres which bring together care services with GP services and community health services to link them up.

PPE:

Cornwall Council this week said it was calling on the government to provide the personal protection equipment (PPE) needed for those working on the frontline to tackle coronavirus.

Council leader Julian German said he had written to Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock calling for Cornwall to get its fair share of PPE.

He said: “We understand that there is a shortage across the country. If we recognise that fact we want to make sure that Cornwall is getting its fair share.

“My concern is that we are at the end of the supply chain and if we are not making the case that we should be getting what our fair share is we could miss out.”

And chief executive Kate Kennally said: “It is really vital that they have the right equipment to carry out their roles safely. The council is working around the clock to resolve this issue.”

The council has been working with businesses in Cornwall which have spare PPE to get it distributed to health workers and carers.

It has also been working with schools and colleges which have spare PPE and 3D printers which can be used to make PPE.

Ms Kennally added that thanks to the help of council staff, volunteers and businesses the council was ready to distribute PPE when it is available.

“We are ready in Cornwall to distribute PPE to meet the needs of the settings that need it. We are absolutely ready to play our part locally but we absolutely must get that stock. We are lobbying hard on that.”

Business support:

Government funding has been given to Cornwall Council to provide grants and support for small businesses which need it.

Ms Kennally said that 7,000 businesses had already responded to the council’s call for those that need help.

She said: “If you receive a letter from us then respond. If we hear back by Monday we are committed to making sure we do make those payments next week.”

Cllr German said the council was continuing to provide support for businesses with the Conrwall and isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership through the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub and encouraged any businesses seeking help to go to the growth hub website or the Cornwall Council website.

Self-employed people needing help have also been advised that they should contact the council through the same means.

Waste collection:

The council said rubbish and recycling collections were continuing but the household waste recycling centres have closed.

Cllr German said there had been an increase in flytipping incidents when the centres closed but it had reduced since.

He urged people not to flytip their waste and wait until the centres open again so they can dispose of their waste responsibly.

Cllr German said: “We are doing essential work for the people of Cornwall, please don’t distract our attention by flytipping. Keep that waste at home until means are available to dispose of it.”

Council staff:

Cornwall Council said it would not be furloughing staff and that 88% of staff were available to work.

It said some staff have been redeployed into different roles to help provide essential services but these roles have been risk-assessed and staff have been provided with training where needed.

Ms Kennally said: “Cornwall Council staff are key workers, they are important in helping us to respond.

“The work that we might be asking people to do might be other jobs away from their normal jobs.

“We have provided some staff to support Volunteer Cornwall, providing some of our back office staff to help them with the number of calls they are getting. Some of our staff with Cormac are working to distribute PPE or food boxes. We have also had public health staff going to our contact centre to answer questions about coronavirus.”

She added: “Our priority as a council is responding to this pandemic and our staff are crucial to do that.”

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