COUNCIL COVID-19 Update – 7 April 2020

Today’s update is below. An up to date list of Council contact numbers is at the foot of this post.

“I want to start by offering our best wishes to the Prime Minister in his fight against this awful virus, let’s hope that today brings us news of positive signs in his recovery.

As we start the week I wanted to update you on the figures for confirmed cases as they stood at 9am on 6 April 2020. 208,837 people have been tested of which 51,608 tested positive, and of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 5,373 have died. Leeds has 325 cases reported to date. Very sadly, 48 deaths have been recorded at Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust (LTHT).

Today’s briefing will cover:

  • National developments including election postponement, NHS volunteers, Bank Holiday preparations for pharmacies, VE 75th Anniversary celebrations
  • WYCA support for staff travel to Nightingale Hospital
  • Local response including the closure of communal lounges in retirement housing, translation of the city wide information leaflet, safeguarding update, Executive Board meeting, Support for local businesses, support for carers following hospital discharge, contact numbers, Litter bins
  • Hygiene packs for rough sleepers
  • Social Media
  • Non-essential building works advice for homeowners
  • LGiU blog

National Developments –

  • Elections – Regulations have been laid today that postpone until 06 May 2021 local by-elections and other polls, either scheduled or which would otherwise arise before that date. The regulations come into force tomorrow (07 April). The government is able to legislate to bring forward the postponement date if medical and scientific advice leads to the relaxation of social distancing rules.
  • NHS Volunteers – Due to the incredible number of people coming forward as NHS volunteers, it has been announced that volunteers will be available to be deployed much more widely than had originally been intended. It was anticipated that the volunteers would be available to support the 1.5million clinically vulnerable (shielded) people. However, it may now be possible for some of those volunteers to provide support to people who are self-isolating or telephone support to people at risk of loneliness as a result of self-isolating. Local government staff will be able to refer to these volunteers.
  • Bank holiday preparations – It is expected that community pharmacies will be open over the long Easter weekend and we are expecting a national announcement on this issue shortly.
  • VE Day 75th Anniversary Celebrations – The Government is working on revised plans to ensure the nation can still thank the Second World War generation on the 75th Anniversary of VE Day on 8 May  in a way that is consistent with measures to contain the spread of coronavirus.

 WYCA – West Yorkshire Combined Authority is supporting the NHS in planning staff transport to and from the new Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate, including arrangements for additional Leeds-Harrogate train services.

 Local Response –  

  • Communal lounges in retirement housing – To ensure that tenants do not use communal lounges in Housing Leeds’ Retirement Life schemes we have taken a decision to close these.  As many lead to fire exits these have not been locked, but red/white tape is being put across the doors.  In addition posters are being put in the buildings to remind tenants not to use communal lounges.  Where we have scooter rooms and laundry facilities these will remain open, but posters will be put up to remind all to follow guidance on social distancing.  In addition we have a regular conversation with tenants at these schemes and are reminding them of the guidance.
  • City Wide leaflet – Further to Saturday’s update, I can confirm that the council leaflet being sent out this week is now being translated in the main community languages used in the city. The languages that have been identified are those that have been used by Public Health working with the Communities Team for some health related communications recently and the wider council in previous communications historically. The languages are: Polish,  Punjabi, Bengali, Romanian, Urdu, Czech, Slovak, Kurdish Sorani, Lithuanian, Tigrinya, Farsi and Arabic. The translated leaflets will be shared electronically with elected members, existing community leadership networks and community contacts and through the targeted use of the 33 Ward-based Facebook pages.  The leaflets will also be distributed to organisations and groups where we know that they provide support services to minority communities, for example, the MAP Project, Leeds Migration Partnership, etc.
  • Safeguarding – I want to take this opportunity to update you about some of the work we are doing with partners to ensure that we continue to protect children and adults at risk.  Our priorities include ensuring that victims of domestic abuse and Honour Based Abuse are supported; that responses to modern slavery and trafficking remain vigilant and that we take a restorative approach to supporting children and young people through this period, including remaining vigilant for evidence of child criminal and sexual exploitation.  We are working hard to protect and redirect resources to all frontline community safety services.   In particular, the following responses are in place:
    • Daily DVA MARAC meetings are continuing, using remote technology to conduct information sharing and safety planning.  This has ensured our highest risk victims continue to receive daily support.
    • There is close support to commissioners and specialist support providers and to ensure victims can access safe accommodation.
    • Contingency plans have been enacted to ensure our specialist domestic abuse services (LDVS) is delivered in accordance with social distancing rules and that victims who are socially isolated can maintain contact with support staff.
    • Our Honour Based Abuse Steering Group is continuing to oversee work to support victims of forced marriage and other honour based abuse, although through remote working.
    • A domestic abuse Covid-19 public awareness campaign, organised with partners, is about to go live to offer reassurance to victims that help is still available.
    • The Leeds Anti-Social Behaviour Team triage service continues to screen calls for risk and vulnerability enabling the team to fast track individuals through the system to get timely and appropriate support.
    • Despite schools being been significantly affected by the current lockdown our Safer Schools policing and support resource continues to function working with vulnerable children.  In addition to this resource we also have the support of 6 FTE police officers and a number of PCSOs working in a co-located capacity with Children’s Services staff in the Early Help Hubs. 
  • Executive Board meeting – A report on the city’s COVID-19 response will be considered by the Executive Board on 22 April. Further proposals will be circulated shortly setting out how we will ensure urgent decisions can be taken in a way that maximises the effectiveness of our response to the outbreak while also maintaining transparency and accountability in our decision making process.
  • Support for local businesses – On Friday we published information through our press services outlining support available to local businesses including how to apply for the Government’s grant for small businesses. I appreciate we have covered this in previous updates but I would ask that you direct small businesses to the Council’s business support webpage for full details of the application process. 
  • Hospital discharge – As I noted in my email over the weekend, information is being sent to thousands of known carers in Leeds signposting them to support and guidance. If members hear about carers needing extra support please can I ask that you refer them to Adult Social Care. 
  • Contact numbers – I mentioned in an update last week that some of the Council contact numbers are temporarily closing to allow us to dedicate resources to priority and emergency phone lines. I’ve attached an updated list of contact numbers but this is a fluid situation and further changes may be made in order to ensure we can meet demand for the emergency lines. I would therefore recommend that you keep checking the Council web pages for the most up to date information.
  • Litter bins – Please could you help us raise awareness of the fact that we cannot currently empty all litter bins in the city. In order to enable staff to focus on more essential work, we are asking people to avoid using litter bins and to take litter home to put into black bins. Although we will continue to do our best to empty bins in parks and greenspaces that are used for exercising or dog walking, we would still ask people not to use these if it can be avoided and to take litter home.

Hygiene packs for rough sleepers – I wanted to share with you the work of one community volunteer, which came to my attention at the end of last week. The lady in question last week set up a Just Giving Page to raise money for items to go into hygiene packs to be given to rough sleepers who are in now in accommodation sites across Leeds. She initially raised £500 and with a small bank of volunteers put together 80 hygiene packs for men and women, including items such as clean underwear and socks, soap, shampoo and sanitary products. The packs were distributed over the weekend and it very much hoped this work can be repeated. The ambition of the volunteers is to run this service on a weekly basis but to do that other sources of funding will need to be found as the initial work has relied upon public donations – officers are looking at what options we may be able to provide and / or signpost.   

Non-essential building works – We have received queries about tradespeople carrying out building work carried out in people’s homes. Current advice states that tradespeople can carry out repairs and maintenance provided that individual has no symptoms and advice about social distancing is followed by everyone in the property. No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so.  In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.  No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild. You can find a full copy of government guidance here. Where such work impacts on the ability of neighbours to use outdoor space without compromising social distancing we recommend that all parties discuss the matter to come to an agreement that allows, for example, work to stop for a period of time to allow children to play outside. The only time the council would intervene in such discussions is if it is reported that government guidance on social distancing is not being followed.

As the weather continues to improve I cannot stress enough how important it is that we all continue to do what we can to reinforce the message that people need to stay at home and stay safe. Anything you can do to assist with that effort would be appreciated.

Service Phone
Voluntary Action Leeds 0113 297 7920 (for offers to help)
LCC volunteer helpline 0113 378 1877 (for people needing help)
Adult social care 0113 222 4401
Benefits 0113 222 4404
Bins and recycling Now closed
Births, deaths and marriages 0113 222 4408
Child protection concerns 0113 222 4403
Coronavirus helpline 0113 37 81877
Council housing 0800 188 4000
Council tax 0113 222 4404
Environmental health 0113 222 4406
General enquiries 0113 222 4444
Help for adults being abused or neglected 0113 222 4401
Homelessness and housing advice 0113 222 4412
Schools 0113 222 4414
Parking 0113 378 5000
Pavements, roads and travel 0113 222 4407
Planning 0113 222 4409