Highland Council response to COVID19
16th March 2020
The Chief Executive of The Highland Council, Donna Manson has today given assurance that the local authority is working to national advice, and guidance in the response to coronavirus - COVID19. At a media briefing held in Council headquarters with Dr Boyd Peters, Medical Director for NHS Highland, Mrs Manson said:
"On a daily basis it is no longer business as usual in Highland Council. We are working with trade unions and staff in the response to coronavirus and we are working with our community partners in NHS Highland, the emergency services and third sector while following public health and national advice.
"We urge service users in Highland to be patient and help us by understanding that it is not business as usual in The Highland Council, we will have to stop doing some things as we focus our attention on the response to COVID19.
“For information on school closures visit www.highand.gov.uk/schoolclosures and the council will update the public through news releases and the council's website www.highland.gov.uk as-and-when council services will be affected.
“Today we have mobilised our local Emergency Liaison Groups which comprise multi-agency groups working in the local council areas to address emergency response and resilience within our communities."
From Monday, a number of changes have been made in line with national guidance, to how we collect waste in order to protect staff, during the Coronavirus emergency. To protect our staff, and prevent the spread of Coronavirus on our waste collection routes we have improved social distancing measures in line with guidance and in discussion with union reps.
Highland Council will continue to provide school meals through e-vouchers to families throughout the school Easter break. This is to recognise the particular difficulties many families will be experiencing due to the Coronavirus emergency.
Learning and childcare hubs for the children of key workers will remain open across Scotland over the Easter holidays. The move will help support key workers in the NHS and other key sectors on the frontline of the response to coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Highland Council is working hard to release business grants to eligible local businesses as quickly as possible. The Council has received over 2,000 applications since the scheme was introduced last week and has set up systems to process these applications quickly while ensuring the necessary information is received.
Since The Highland Council's dedicated helpline went live last Wednesday afternoon staff have dealt with over 1,600 calls. The helpline has been set to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support.
Council tax payers in Highland who have lost their jobs or are experiencing a drop in their income are being encouraged to apply as quickly as possible for a reduction in their council tax. This help, known as the ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme', is available for lower income households, including home owners.
Around 19,000 business rate payers in Highland will not receive their annual rates bill this April. The Highland Council recognises the exceptional economic challenges for local business and has therefore decided to pause business rates bills in respect of financial year 2020/21.
What is 'shielding'? If you fall within one of the groups recommended to shield, you will have received a letter or text from the NHS. Shielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising contact between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.
During this time of restrictions it is important that we all stay active, for our physical health and mental well being. Recreation outside is an important element of this, but it is essential that each of us practice good social distancing while outside.
The Highland Council has launched a free helpline to give assistance and to collect details of individuals and community groups looking to provide volunteering support during Covid19. The single line number - 0300 303 1362 - will connect callers to relevant Council specialist teams and will operate Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm.
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