April 9: Coronavirus (Covid-19) update from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Update on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook.
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. As mentioned in my last update last Friday, we have now moved from daily updates to weekly updates as we are in a relatively stable way of working. I will issue these on the last working day of the week.
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 also keep informed on all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments in Stockton-on-Tees - including new Council support services and disruptions to some regular Council services - by visiting our 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.
Green waste collections to return
Our crews are managing to continue weekly household waste and fortnightly recycling collections, although the social distancing measures they are following mean it's taking them a fair bit longer to complete their rounds. As this is going well we have been exploring ways of reinstating some form of green waste collections. We know it is difficult for residents to cope with all their garden waste, especially as the Haverton Hill Recycling Centre is closed, and we want to do all we can to help.
We're now confident that we can keep the waste and recycling collections going on the usual days of Tuesdays to Fridays with our current crews working in a safe way. So, we are going to move some staff from other duties to run monthly green waste collections. These monthly collections will take place on Saturdays and Sundays.
Help for care providers
The Borough's care homes, domiciliary care providers and many individual personal assistants and informal carers look after some of our most vulnerable residents and we are supporting them to cope as best we can. You've probably seen national news stories about providers facing huge challenges in sourcing enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for their staff. The situation in this area is no different and we are working closely with them to support them. As part of this, we are ensuring that all their needs, including those relating to PPE, are being raised through the Local Resilience Forum so they are escalated to Government as a matter of urgency.
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. The national voucher scheme for families who receive Free School Meals provision is now in place but our 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 end of the Easter holidays.
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 the vulnerable and elderly
The 'COVID Community Support Team' will be on hand to help the vulnerable and elderly this Easter weekend, with the exception of Easter Sunday. The team will be available from 10am to 12noon on Good Friday and Easter Monday, and from 10am to 4pm on Saturday. You can call 01642 524500 for assistance and find out all about it on the Catalyst website.
The team, a partnership between the Council, Catalyst and the Borough's brilliant VCSE organisations, has already helped 1,300 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.
Help for businesses
We continue to make grant payments to the 2,337 businesses in the Borough that are eligible for business grant support. We have now processed 1,546 payments totalling £18.1million. 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 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 will explore all possible options with you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.