LATEST INFORMATION FROM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

This is the latest update from the Local Government Association.

“This evening’s announcements

Today’s daily press conference – the Foreign Secretary announced plans to fly home tens of thousands of Britons stranded by the ongoing pandemic. New arrangements have been set up between the Government and airlines to charter special flights to help get British nationals back home. Vulnerable people will be priorities for these flights.

Mental health

Supporting the mental wellness of our residents and staff during these challenging times is a key concern, so it was encouraging to see further information made available over the weekend.

Public Health England has published guidance for the public on practical steps people can take to look after their mental wellbeing and specific guidance for parents and carers on supporting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

PHE has also updated its Every Mind Matters platform with specific advice on maintaining good mental wellbeing during the current situation. This is in addition to useful resources you may have already seen, including World Health Organisation guidance on mental health and psychological resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic and wellbeing information from Mind.

Over the weekend, the Government also announced that leading mental health charities have been given £5 million, administered by Mind, to fund additional services for people struggling with their mental wellbeing, including telephone and online support services. This is a welcome, albeit modest, boost and we will encourage charities to work with their local council to ensure support is coordinated.

All of our daily lives have been profoundly changed by COVID-19 and many people will need to access additional support, whether that is to cope with anxiety or to combat loneliness. Councils are well-placed to sustain community resilience during the outbreak and to aid recovery. We will keep making the case to government to ensure that you and your partners, especially in the voluntary and community sector, have the resources to do this.

COVID-19 symptoms

People staying at home suffering with suspected coronavirus symptoms will now be able to get regular check-ins from a new NHS text support service. Daily texts will be sent by the NHS to new patients who register their COVID-19 symptoms and contact details with the 111 online service.

The COVID Symptom Tracker app, developed by scientists at Kings College, has been helping experts understand who is most at risk from COVID-19. It asks users to take one minute a day to report on whether they feel healthy and, if not, to answer questions about their symptoms.

Domestic abuse

The Home Office has published advice and guidance for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse during the outbreak.

Funerals, burials and cremation

We are aware that many areas have been struggling with capacity issues for the registration of deaths, including the requirement to attend in person to register deaths. The Coronavirus Act 2020 now allows for deaths to be registered without being present and documents to be transferred digitally and by other means. Other relaxations including changes to who may sign the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death and the suspension of the need for a confirmatory medical certification (Form 5) for cremations are also included in the Act. A handy breakdown of the practical implications of the Act can be found online.

Housing and planning

MHCLG has published non-statutory guidance that provides advice to landlords and tenants on the provisions in the Coronavirus Act, and further advice for landlords, tenants and local authorities more broadly about their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Minister Luke Hall has also written to all caravan and park home site owners to make clear that they should remain open for key workers and vulnerable groups. Please do let us know if any local issues remain (coronavirus@local.gov.uk).

The Home Office has also confirmed that, during this outbreak, landlords will not be required to see original documents and will allow checks to be undertaken over video calls. Prospective renters are now able to submit scanned documents, rather than originals, to show they have a right to rent.

Economy and finances

The Government has published version 3 of the Small Business Grant Fund (SBGF) and Retail Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund (RHLGF) Guidance. Version 3 provides updates on State Aid, monitoring and reporting requirements, new annexes on state aid, Spotlight and post payment checks, and clarification of the eligibility of charities.

Broadband and mobile networks

Over the weekend, the UK’s major internet service and mobile providers agreed to a range of commitments to support vulnerable consumers through COVID-19. The new package includes removing data caps on all current broadband services and providing new mobile and landline offers, including extra data at lower prices and free calls. All providers will ensure that vulnerable customers, or those self-isolating, receive alternative methods of communication wherever possible if priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines cannot be carried out.”