LATEST COVID-19 UPDATE FROM THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

Please find below the latest Local Government Association COVID-19 update.

“Dear Councillor Anderson,

On 18 April the Government announced a further £1.6 billion of non-ringfenced funding for local government to help them deal with the immediate impacts of COVID-19. This evening, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has confirmed how this will be allocated to local authorities and published individual council allocations. The grant will be distributed on the basis of an amount per head of the population, a 65:35 split between county and district authorities. Where there are separate fire authorities a specific share for fire of 3 per cent will be used. Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for MHCLG is expected to confirm the allocations in a detailed letter to all councils this evening. We continue to press the case that the Government should cover the loss of income local authorities are experiencing due to the pandemic as well all increased costs resulting from our COVID-19 response.

The Government has also confirmed that the outcome of the Fair Funding Review and the move to 75 per cent business rates retention will both not be implemented from April 2021. The Government will continue to work with councils on the best approach to the next financial year, including how to treat accumulated business rates growth and the approach to the 2021/22 local government finance settlement.

You will have seen my note yesterday on the Government announcement about an assurance scheme for the families of health and care workers who have passed away as a result of their frontline role. The Department for Health and Social Care has confirmed today that this assurance scheme will cover the families of full and part-time staff who worked in frontline health, adult and children’s social care roles during the outbreak. Bereaved family members will receive a £60,000 lump sum. Of course, nothing can make up for the loss of a loved one but this scheme aims to ease some of their financial worries. Yesterday Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, stated that similar schemes are being considered for other professions working on the frontline. You can read more about what this means for councils’ workforce below.

Every loss of life during this national emergency is a tragedy. I know councils are taking every possible step to protect everyone but particularly our elderly and most vulnerable residents, and those who work with them, from this outbreak. Today’s figures on community deaths highlight the scale of the challenge we face. As we said in our media response, this is being exacerbated by the fact some social care staff and other frontline workers still lack the necessary PPE to protect themselves and the people they care for. We are calling for the Government’s online PPE ordering system to be fully rolled out, a rapid increase in testing, and support to care homes on staffing and equipment.

Below is a run through of some of the key announcements, updates and information from today:

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. He was joined by Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser Angela McLean and Professor John Newton, Co-ordinator of the National Testing Effort.

The Health Secretary announced that from tomorrow the Government will be publishing the daily number of deaths in care homes and the community, alongside existing figures of hospital deaths.

On testing, Mr Hancock said the Government will make tests available for anyone who is working or living in a care home, whether they have symptoms or not. Anyone over the age of 65 with symptoms will also be eligible for testing, along with their household, as will those who have to leave home to go to work and have symptoms. Professor John Newton added that 25,000 people in care homes have been tested so far and collecting data on care home deaths will enable the Government to continue to monitor the situation.

Finally, on contact tracing Mr Hancock said the Government is aiming to recruit 18,000 contact tracers either before or once the NHS’ contact tracing mobile phone application is available, which he says is estimated to be in two or three weeks.

Adult social care

The information provided to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) by care homes via death notifications now forms part of the ONS’s weekly reporting on deaths, ensuring a more complete and timely picture of the impact that COVID-19 is having on social care. Tragically, it is clear that this impact is a devastating one. To support those working in this area, CQC inspectors are contacting providers who have reported deaths of people in their care from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 in order to offer information, advice and help.

Testing

Yesterday, the Government announced that the single online portal replaced other manual application processes for testing for COVID-19. Testing capacity is due to increase significantly this week as the number of regional sites increases to 48 and the number of mobile testing units increases from 10 to 100 by early May.

The Government has announced that 18,000 contact tracers, including 3,000 health professionals, are to be deployed to suppress the spread of infection by tracing anybody suspected of having contracted the disease. The LGA has asked that any plans to track and trace COVID-19 involve local government and make use of existing local knowledge, skills and existing experience on the ground.

Of course, any extra demand on existing services would need to take account of current demands and come with additional resources and funding. In the coming weeks, the NHS will be launching a contact tracing app which people can use to alert others who may have been exposed so they can take action to protect themselves.

Domestic abuse

The Home Office has announced £3.1 million will go to specialist services for children who have both been directly and indirectly affected by domestic abuse. This could include one-to-one and group counselling sessions to improve the mental health of children affected and early intervention schemes. The new funding will be split between local authorities, children’s charities and Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales.

The Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Luke Hall MP, has also written to all local authorities to ask them to work closely with the domestic abuse services in their area, providing support where necessary in order to protect victims, for example by providing crisis funding to safe accommodation services. The Minister asks councils to work closely with domestic abuse safe accommodation providers to ensure that victims of domestic abuse and their families, including those from out of area, can be provided with safe emergency accommodation. The letter also provided access to a hotel booking arrangement if councils need additional accommodation to meet demand.

Waste and recycling

At MHCLG oral questions in the House of Commons today, the Secretary of State asked councils to plan for the organised reopening of their waste and recycling sites. Updated guidance will be published shortly to support local government to open sites safely during the coronavirus pandemic. We are aware of councils concerns about re-opening household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and we will update you once guidance has been published.

The results of the fourth survey of the impact of COVID-19 on waste services shows that core collection services continue to be maintained, with a reduction in the level of disruption reported in previous weeks. There is still severe disruption to HWRC services and to garden and bulky waste collection service, although the 30 per cent of bulky waste collections operating normally is double the amount reported in previous weeks.

Housing and planning

The Planning Inspectorate has provided an update on what councils can expect from their service during the period in which the lockdown measures are active. This includes an update on the types of appeal cases which they are still continuing to progress and of the work taking place behind the scenes to implement digital events, for example hearings and inquiries held via telephone or video conferencing.

Skills

The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a Skills Toolkit aimed at furloughed workers and others that want to take the opportunity to upskill. The initial focus of the Toolkit is on digital and numeracy skills, as these are the most sought after by employers and will be important in supporting people to secure and progress in work.

May Bank Holiday

Just a reminder that the date for the early May Bank Holiday moved this year to Friday 8 May, in order to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE day, which marks the end of World War Two. The local and national commemorations to mark this occasion will look very different to how they would have done had the outbreak not started. Depending on what stay at home measures are in place later in the summer, VJ Day on 15 August may be a further opportunity to thank the Second World War generation and provide the fitting tribute they deserve.