It is week five of lock down and for many of us who are staying safe at home we find ourselves in a new routine. Each day I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to work from home, while taking care of my elderly mother who has been staying with us for this time. There are, however, thousands of people across Suffolk, who face daily challenges – both at work and at home. I know many people who have been significantly impacted by corona virus. Whether this is through losing a loved one, working in front line services, feeling isolated or vulnerable, or business or money worries. I recognise it is an unsettling time for us all, but despite this unease, I cannot stress to you all the importance of staying at home. It is our duty to do whatever we can to fight this virus.
Today I wanted to provide you with an update on the work of Suffolk County Council, including PPE provision, social care, our work with partners in communities and additional funding announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Robert Jenrick MP, on Saturday.
Across the UK, the challenge to secure adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and social care staff is significant. In Suffolk, we continue to match the need of care providers with any emergency PPE they may need. It is the responsibility of individual care providers to source their own supplies, but the Local Resilience Forum, an emergency response unit made up of agencies across Suffolk, has established a cell of PPE. This has received 134 requests for PPE for residential care homes across Suffolk – all of which has now been delivered or collected. Requests for PPE also comes from Suffolk Fire and Rescue, funeral directors, voluntary and community groups and district and borough councils and at the moment, we are able to meet this demand. The military are helping with stock management and logistics.
I want to take this opportunity to once again thank our carers and social workers who deliver remarkable kindness and care to our elderly residents either at home or in care homes. Thursday’s Clap for Carers in health and social care has become a favourite time of the week. It is a wonderful moment of national unity, celebration of life and sincere thanks - I hope this becomes a regular occurrence once we return to ‘normal’, however that may look.
The work being done in communities is particularly noteworthy. The community response by neighbourhood groups, town and parish councils and voluntary organisations has been incredible and it has been vital in providing support to those most in need. This mobilisation of this work shows the true community spirit of Suffolk – and I am very proud of this effort. The work of the Collaborative Communities Covid-19 Board, which is made up of councils, blue light services, health and voluntary organisations, is intended to help support and coordinate that response and ensure there are no gaps in the volunteering support. The Board is the safety net behind the indispensable army of volunteers.
The Home, But Not Alone emergency phone line (0800 876 6926) was launched by the Board to provide support to our most vulnerable members of the community and takes around 1,300 calls a week. There are many positives stories of the help it provides, but here are just a few:
- A single father-of-two, recovering from a kidney transplant and in urgent need of food for his young children was helped by a neighbourhood network of volunteers within an hour after he contacted the phone line.
- An 82-year-old women, who was recently discharged from hospital, feeling isolated and couldn’t get to her GP for urgent medical needs, was contacted by a neighbour who offered regular calls and was able to help with collecting medication.
- A very independent 74-year-old woman, struggling to get her own food and medication while in isolation, was matched with a befriending network in her village which arranged for regular calls, her food and medicine deliveries and also helped with walking her dog.
These stories of people and the help their receive serves as a reminder that in times of need communities and neighbourhoods really do unite and deliver. The Board also manages the Tribe Volunteer app, which allows individuals, charities, town and parish councils, community, religious groups and faith communities to register their details on the app and support the co-ordination of local need and volunteers. Thank you to those who have already volunteered locally – your support is invaluable. If we haven’t approached you yet, please don’t worry – we are working to make more volunteering matches as they are needed. The Board is also working with food banks and arranging supplies, storage and transport of any food parcels needed and also on additional housing needs in communities. It is by means an easy feat to ensure the smooth delivery of each of these responses, but I believe this partnership work be a lasting legacy of the time we find ourselves in. It will continue after the pandemic.
Finally, you will have no doubt seen Robert Jenrick’s announcement on Saturday of the additional £1.6 billion to councils across England to help them deal with the immediate impacts of corona virus. This takes the total funding to support councils to respond to the pandemic to over £3.2 billion. This is welcome news. As time passes and we continue to deliver support, we do expect to incur further costs and look forward to continuing our work with Central Government.