Update on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook.
We continue to work 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 we are in a relatively stable way of working, we now provide weekly updates 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 www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus
I am also keen to remind people of the help and support that the Council is providing during this incredibly challenging time.
Attendance at cremation ceremonies
Following receipt of updated advice from the Government, we’ve increased attendance at cremation ceremonies to a maximum of 15 people inside the chapel for services from today. Previously, venues were restricted to allowing 8 people inside.
SIRF at Home
Back in March we cancelled all planned events until further notice in line with national guidance. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to announce today that the much-loved Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF) is back on, but with a crucial difference: it’s a virtual festival. You can find out all about it on the SIRF website www.sirf.co.uk
Help for businesses
There has been an extension to the local business grants fund scheme aimed at small businesses that were not eligible for the original scheme. We are working on an approach to how we distribute these funds and expect to have it in place by the end of next week. You can keep up to date on the business support available on our dedicated webpage www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/businesssupport
Help for people struggling to pay Council Tax
We appreciate that people may be struggling to pay their Council Tax. If you are, please get in touch. We will explore all possible options with you. Please email [email protected] 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: www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/counciltax
Help for care providers
The Government has announced additional funding of £2.5million for infection control in care homes in the Borough and we await details of how this funding will be allocated to ensure that it can be secured and passed on to care homes in the Borough as soon as possible. We are temporarily increasing the fees we pay to care homes in the Borough by another five per cent in recognition of the additional costs they are facing. This is in addition to the five per cent increase which began at the start of April.
We continue to work very closely with all of the Borough’s care homes, domiciliary care providers and many individual personal assistants and informal carers, who look after some of our most vulnerable residents. They are doing an absolutely phenomenal job. We are in daily contact with many of the homes and care providers and are supporting them as they continue to operate in extremely challenging circumstances.
Help for the vulnerable and elderly
The ‘COVID Community Support Team’, a partnership between the Council, Catalyst and the Borough’s brilliant VCSE organisations, continues to support vulnerable and elderly residents. 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. The team now operates Monday to Saturday and phone lines are open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays. The phone lines will be open from 10am to 4pm on Bank Holiday Monday. You can call 01642 524500 for assistance or email [email protected] and find out all about it on the Catalyst website.
Help for families with children who usually receive free school meals
The Government has confirmed that it will not be providing the national free school meals voucher scheme to families during the May half-term holiday but schools have made arrangements to ensure that eligible pupils can continue to access free school meals for the half-term week. The majority of schools will continue to use a voucher system.
Help for parents/carers of children still attending school
The vast majority of schools in the Borough remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children. We are also in constant dialogue with them about plans for a wider re-opening from 1 June at the earliest and set out the approach in Stockton-on-Tees in an open letter published on our website earlier this week. You can keep up to date on this at www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus/schoolsandchildcare
‘Dear Diary’ local history project
We continue to receive some really lovely contributions to our ‘Dear Diary’ project, with recent highlights including two absolutely wonderful poems – one from a teenager the other from a nine-year-old – you really should take a look. You can see these – and find out how to submit your own pictures, videos and audio stories – at the website www.stockton.gov.uk/deardiary
For updates on all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments in Stockton-on-Tees – including health advice and disruptions to services – visit the Council’s dedicated webpage www.stockton.gov.uk/coronavirus