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April 3: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

03 April 2020

Update on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook.

Image of Stockton on Tees Borough council logo

We are working within a well-established set of structures governing how agencies work together to respond to keep people safe and well-informed during a major incident.

I am pleased to report that we haven't had to scale back any more non-essential services today and we will be maintaining the current level of essential services.

As we are now in a relatively stable way of working, it is my intention, from Monday (6 April), to issue a weekly press release on the Council's ongoing response to COVID-19 across the Borough. Of course, should there be any urgent or significant news to communicate in the interim then this will be done via the Council's news pages and social media channels.

You can keep informed on all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments in Stockton-on-Tees - including health advice, support and disruptions to services - by visiting the Council's dedicated webpage Our People.

I am also keen to remind people of the help and support that the Council is providing during this incredibly challenging time.

Help for parents/carers of children still attending school and for families with children who usually receive free school meals

The vast majority of schools in the Borough remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children and this will remain the case over the Easter holidays. If a school does need to close and you need help arranging alternative provision then the Council's School Support Service can help. We are also continuing to work closely with schools to support them with Free School Meals provision as they move to implementing the national voucher scheme. The School Catering Team will continue to provide free school meal lunches through schools and for distribution from the Family Hubs - Billingham, Redhill, Stockton and Thornaby until the new scheme is in place and throughout the Easter holidays as the national voucher scheme covers term time only.

More details on how to contact these services can be found at Our People or for help for anyone who cannot collect a meal from a Family Hub please call HelpPoint for assistance on 01642 527225.

Help for people struggling to pay Council Tax

We appreciate that people may be struggling to pay their Council Tax and are doing all we can to help. If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax due to the pandemic, please get in touch. We may be able to postpone the start of your regular 10 monthly payments to June or spread your payments over 12 months instead of 10. Or it may be that you qualify for Council Tax Support. We will explore all possible options with you. Please email and include in your email your name and address, telephone number, your preferred email address, your Council Tax account number, and a brief outline of your circumstances. If you are unable to email please call 01642 397108 instead. You can also find out more on our dedicated webpage: Council tax.

Help for businesses

We continue to make grant payments to the 2,621 businesses in the Borough that are eligible for business grant support. We have now processed 800 payments totalling £8million. We are contacting businesses to encourage them to provide the information we need to make their payments. We have also made an online form available on our website that businesses can complete and return to us by email to ensure that grant payments reach them as soon as possible. The form can be found on our dedicated business support webpage Help for businesses or call our Business and Enterprise team on 01642 528384.

We are aware of at least one organisation that is claiming to offer support to help businesses find out if their business is eligible for a business grant. These organisations are asking for payments or take a portion of the grant. There is no need to use a third-party organisation as we are gathering information from those eligible businesses who contact us and are contacting businesses to encourage them to provide the details we need to make the grant payment to them.

Help for the vulnerable and elderly

The 'COVID Community Support Team' is continuing to make sure help reaches those in our communities who need it most. The team, which is a partnership between the Council, Catalyst and the Borough's brilliant VCSE organisations has already helped more than 700 people and this will continue for as long as that help is needed. Help ranges from food deliveries, shopping and picking up prescriptions to making sure people who are self-isolating and may be worried or lonely get the right support they need. You can call 01642 524500 for assistance and find out all about it on the Catalyst website.

Stay calm

It is important that people remain calm, follow the latest national advice on the steps needed to reduce the spread of infection, and use only official sources of information when getting this advice.