Highland Council focuses on delivering statutory services
18th March 2020
The Highland Council is planning for greatly increased staff absence levels over the coming days and weeks. National modelling estimates that councils will see absences of at least 50% over the months ahead. We are no longer operating under business as usual, in order to focus on priority and statutory services.
Today (18 March 2020) a number of Highland Council staff who are at a higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), have been advised to follow self-isolation measures, in line with current government advice.
This group of people include those who are pregnant or have a specific underlying health condition.
Anyone with any of the coronavirus symptoms is also advised to stay at home for 7 days and their other family members for 14 days.
In addition to this group, many Council staff are also parents and staff will have additional child care responsibilities, due to the national decision to close all schools and nurseries from the end of this week.
All these factors will significantly impact on the Council's and our partners' capacity to carry out our core functions and we ask that everyone is patient and understands that we have urgent priorities in resilience.
The Council will continue to focus on our statutory duties under the Civil Contingencies Act. To enable this, the Council is suspending responses to enquiries or complaints about our current service provision and will instead be focusing our efforts to prioritise our statutory services, caring for the vulnerable, cooperating with our Resilience Partners and supporting economic recovery.
We are aware that many people are keen to do what they can to support communities, within the constraints of the complex and unprecedented situation we are in. We are awaiting further national community resilience guidance and will ensure this is promoted to communities so that people are clear where to get help and how they can help themselves.
In the meantime, Highland Council, along with partners and the voluntary sector, are engaging with community councils and other groups to assist the coordination of support to vulnerable people within Highland communities.
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.
Highland Council will be providing e-vouchers to families to support access to free school meals from week commencing 30 March 2020. This innovative and easy-to-use service will ensure over 4,000 school children will continue to receive support for school meals while schools are closed.
The Council has been working at pace to set up centres for the children of key workers. Anyone who has applied for a place at one of the key worker hubs in the Highland Council area will be contacted by the end of today (Wednesday 25th) with confirmation of the arrangements that have been put in place.
THE HELPLINE GOES LIVE TODAY FROM 2:00pm ONWARDS. 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.
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