LATEST LOCAL GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION UPDATE – 22nd MAY

Please find below the latest Local Government Association update:

“Dear Cllr Barry Anderson,

This evening, the Government announced a new funding package of £300 million for local authorities to support the new COVID-19 test and trace service. The funding will be allocated for councils to develop and implement plans to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your local areas. This announcement puts councils at the heart of the new service and the ongoing response to COVID-19 and reflects the unparalleled skills, knowledge and experience that exist in our communities when it comes to contact tracing.

In our media response, we welcomed the Government’s acknowledgment that councils’ role in the test, track and trace programme is crucial. As we move into the next phase, it is important that councils have the resources, data, rapid testing and powers to play their full part in this national programme, so they can understand where the outbreaks are happening and act quickly to contain them. You can read more detail on the announcement below.

As we look ahead to another bank holiday weekend, many residents will be hoping to take advantage of the sunny weather and the eased restrictions that will allow them to spend more time outside in their local area. I know councils will be doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of people using green spaces, country parks and beaches over the long weekend and summer weeks ahead.

I want to wish Eid Mubarak to all of you who are celebrating the end of Ramadan tomorrow and over the weekend. I know that Eid Al-Fitr may look very different for you, and that the congregational prayers in mosques and parks and parties enjoyed by families and friends will not be possible in the same way this year. However, I hope you have a blessed weekend and manage to celebrate with your loved ones, although perhaps in a different way than before.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has produced a document with key messages and a Q&A to support councils and LRFs with local communications and engagement with Muslim communities. The Muslim Council of Britain has also produced guidance on how to celebrate Eid safely.

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference

This evening’s Number 10 Press Conference was led by Home Secretary, Priti Patel. She was joined by the Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, and Director-General of Border Force, Paul Lincoln.

With regards to international travel, the Home Secretary announced that from 8 June the majority of passengers arriving into the UK, including British Citizens, must self-isolate for 14 days to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Passengers will be required to provide details of where they are staying and future travel plans so they can be contacted if someone they have been in contact with develops the disease. Anyone refusing to complete the contact locator form or quarantine will face a fine of up to £1,000.

There are a small number of exemptions including road haulage and freight workers to ensure the supply of goods is not impacted, medical professionals who are travelling to help with the fight against COVID-19, anyone moving from within the common travel area (covering Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) and seasonal agricultural workers who will self-isolate on the property where they are working.

The Home Secretary was asked what message she had for local authorities who do not have the infrastructure to support large crowds in beauty spots across the country. In response, Ms Patel said people were entitled to enjoy the outdoors over the bank holiday weekend, providing they follow the Government’s social distancing measures. Ms Patel paid tribute to local authorities and said they are playing an enormous role in supporting their communities.

Test, track and trace

The Government has today announced a new funding package of £300 million for local authorities to support their role at the heart of the new COVID-19 test and trace service in England. The funding is for councils to develop and implement their plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in their area. The funding is to develop tailored outbreak control plans, working with local NHS and other stakeholders. We are awaiting details on how this funding will be allocated and will of course keep you updated.

We are also expecting further information about what is expected from the plans to be issued very soon. We expect they will include a focus on identifying and containing potential outbreaks in places such as workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools.

As part of this work, councils will need to ensure testing capacity is deployed effectively to high-risk locations by working closely with the test and trace service, local NHS and other partners.

Data on the virus’s spread will be shared with local authorities through the Joint Biosecurity Centre to inform local outbreak planning, so teams understand how the virus is moving, working with national government and other partners to access the testing and tracing capabilities of the new service.

Local communities, organisations and individuals will also be encouraged to follow government guidance and assist those self-isolating in their area who need help. This will include encouraging neighbours to offer support and identifying and working with relevant community groups. I know all of you have already been working closely with these groups since the response began in March.

A new National Local Government Advisory Board will be established to work with the test and trace service. This will include sharing best practice between communities across the country.

Although all areas will be expected to develop local plans during June, work to share learning will be led by the group of 11 local authorities announced today, who have agreed to move very quickly on the local plans – in most cases in association with relevant district or neighbouring councils. Further announcements are expected next week on the national arrangements.

Schools

The Government has today published The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) papers relating to children and young people and plans to re-open schools to more pupils. The papers, which were tabled at meetings that took place on 30 April and 1 May, cover modelling and behavioural science responses to scenarios for relaxing school closures, alongside a full list of re-opening scenarios, a briefing on the role of children in the Covid-19 outbreak presented to the Dutch Parliament, transmission and susceptibility in children and; a further paper on modelling and behavioural science responses to scenarios for relaxing school closures, produced by the Interdisciplinary Task and Finish Group on the role of Children in Transmission.

We are pleased that the Government listened to the LGA’s and your calls to publish these papers ahead of the proposed date to reopen primary schools. In our response we called for a clear national message from government about the safe return of children to schools and for the Department for Education (DfE) to produce, as a matter of urgency, a summary that is accessible to teachers, parents, families and children and provides reassurance that it is safe for more children to return to schools and settings.

The Prime Minister hosted a virtual Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street yesterday to tackle domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and modern slavery. As part of a series of measures, the Government has announced plans to place social workers in schools, allocating £6.5 million to involve more than 150 schools. Social workers will be placed in these schools to help spot the signs of abuse and neglect more quickly and work with teachers to support children at risk, reflecting the fact that the second largest source of referrals to children’s services is schools.

Nearly £10 million will be provided for projects aimed at boosting the educational outcomes of vulnerable children, and to keep them safe from harm. This includes £3.7 million to continue support for 11 local authority-led projects in England through the Trusted Relationship Fund, which supports young people identified as at high risk of sexual or criminal exploitation by providing bespoke help from adult role models such as youth workers, police officers and other professionals. This builds on building on the £13 million provided in 2018.

Access to food

We are expecting the Department for the Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFRA) to start communicating the different ways vulnerable people can access food next week.

The launch date is likely to be Wednesday 27 May, and we will confirm final arrangements as soon as possible. DEFRA’s communications will use existing text on the Gov.uk page, which points people to councils if urgent help is needed and no other means of support is available. This may result in an increase in the number of people contacting council helplines. DEFRA is keen to work with councils to monitor any impacts so the approach can be modified if necessary.

The department will also be sharing a range of press, digital and print resources aimed at vulnerable groups outside the shielded cohort that you may wish to use locally. We will share these with your communications teams.

DEFRA will also be working with four charities – Scope, MIND, Age UK and RNIB. Councils will no doubt agree a planned approach to communication with relevant partners locally. RNIB is keen to work with councils on accessible information for residents with sight loss or visual impairment for example.

As flagged in yesterday’s bulletin, DEFRA is looking to roll out the referral scheme providing supermarket slots to non-shielded vulnerable people, with an online form for councils to register their interest. The commercial food delivery service options will continue to be updated. We will continue to push for a joined-up approach across shielded and non-shielded vulnerable groups, and to promote the remarkable work of councils to support residents.

Homelessness and social housing

The Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee (HCLG) committee has today called for a comprehensive national strategy to prevent rough sleepers and homeless people returning to the streets. In our media response, we referenced the incredible work done by councils in recent weeks to get most rough sleepers and homeless people off the streets. This is an opportunity to change the lives of our most vulnerable residents and we know that councils stand ready to work with government on a national plan to move people into safe housing with access to wider support they might need for substance dependency and help with benefits, skills and getting work.

It was positive to see the Committee back our call for councils to be able to spend 100 per cent of money from Right to Buy sales and combine receipts with other government funding pots. This, alongside extending the deadline to spend the money to at least five years, is critical to allow councils to get on with the job of building the new homes that people in their areas desperately need.

Modern slavery

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for the effective identification of potential victims of modern slavery who may be especially isolated and hidden from view. The Home Office has produced a flyer that reiterates this information for First Responders during this period. This flyer can be shared with your networks to ensure that all First Responders are aware of how to best identify potential victims of modern slavery while staying safe during COVID-19.

We have previously highlighted that victims may be approaching and accessing different support services during the COVID-19 pandemic and the separate flyer Home Office has created on ‘spotting the signs’ for staff who are not First Responders. At least six potential victims of modern slavery have been identified by frontline workers working in food banks where the flyer was distributed.

Traffic orders

The Government has today laid new amendments to the Traffic Orders Procedure Regulations. They are being introduced as an emergency measure in response to the effects of coronavirus. They amend the procedure for making traffic orders and giving notices by providing an alternative means of publicising orders in circumstances where it is not reasonably practicable to follow the current publicity requirements as a result of coronavirus (e.g. local newspapers). They also simplify the procedure for making temporary traffic orders that are made for purposes connected to coronavirus – in effect removing the need to advertise in local newspapers. We will monitor the effectiveness of the new amendments with a view to evidencing the need for a more permanent change that reflects modern ways of communicating with the public.

The Prime Minister opened a virtual Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street to drive action to tackle domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation and modern slavery. Attendees at the Summit discussed the proposal for a new codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims, which will allow people in urgent or immediate danger to get help from shop workers by using a specific phrase that staff will be trained to identify. Further details are expected to be announced on this scheme.

The Government also confirmed funding would be made available to support law enforcement to target perpetrators sexually exploiting children and help those affected by abuse rebuild their lives. The National Crime Agency (NCA) is expected to receive approximately £10 million in Government funding to enhance the NCA’s ability to tackle perpetrators operating on the dark web and a further £3.36 million has been allocated to projects to understand the threat posed by the most serious criminals. As well as the opening session chaired by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor and Education Secretary also lead meetings on law enforcement, victim support and safeguarding vulnerable people in the community.