Highland Council staff share their views on lockdown, home working and the future in new video series
8th June 2020
Highland Council has been speaking to staff about their wellbeing during the coronavirus lockdown, working from home and how they see their roles developing in the future.
Today, the local authority launched the first in a series of video interviews with staff, who offered honest accounts of how the crisis has affected them and how it has changed their roles.
A random selection of staff were asked to answer questions such as:
How have you been affected? Have you had to work differently?
In terms of productivity and agility have you been able to do the same job as before?
What have been the biggest challenges you have faced?
What have you learned during the lockdown and do have any new skills/hobbies?
What could the Council do to save money in the future?
What do you think the "new normal," will look like?
Staff have showed how they have adapted positively to change, taking on new roles and finding new ways of tackling problems and keeping in touch with colleagues.
This first video features Occupational Health and Safety Wellbeing Trainer, Jim McCreath; Business Analyst, Hannah Kollef; Civil Engineer/Project Manager Steven Grant and Team Lead for the Premier Mental Health Service in Highland, Emma Campbell.
Chief Executive Donna Manson said: "We have had unique challenges since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that none of us could have predicted or imagined before the last few weeks.
“Yet the kindness, support and compassion by staff across Highland is helping us to cope with these very challenging times."
She added: “These engagement sessions with staff have been a tremendous way of hearing how everyone is getting on, what they have been doing, the changes, the challenges and how staff have been coping.
“I would like to focus on some of these reflections and how this will help everyone with the return to our ‘new normal'. It is the ideas and input from our staff which will help to inform what we could learn as an organisation from this experience going forward.”
Following the freezing of some charges and suspension of enforcement for others during the lockdown period, The Highland Council has been following a phased return to normal operations since the 26th of June. Further details are given below.
Many Highland Council tenants may be missing out on help towards their rent from Universal Credit because they have not notified the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of their annual rent increase which came into effect on the 30th March 2020. Those tenants who have not yet reported their rent increase could be facing a shortfall in the help they receive towards their rent, putting them at risk of rent arrears.
The Highland Council is updating parents and carers of its position on early learning and childcare (ELC). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Scottish Government removed the statutory requirement for Local Authorities to deliver 1140 hours of ELC from August.
Following on from the recent publication of Highland Council's Supporting Economic Recovery in Highland - A Guide for Businesses - the Council is announcing relaxation of some controls that will assist tourist accommodation providers have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In recognition of this where there are specific planning and licensing controls in relation to occupancy, for example: a restriction on the occupancy of any caravan for a continuous 12 month period; or where conditions restrict occupancy for specific periods of time, ...these will be relaxed by the Council up to and including April 2021.
The Caithness Committee met virtual today for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic and it's agenda focused on the actions taken by the Council and the third sector to deal with the effects of Coronavirus in Caithness. The Executive Chief Officer for Education and Learning, Paul Senior, gave members an update on the plans and preparations underway to prepare for the return of pupils and staff to Caithness schools in August.
Margaret Davidson, the Leader of the Highland Council has given her strong support to the efforts of the Scottish Government to obtain greater fiscal flexibility from the UK Government. The Scottish Government have sought flexibility to offset capital underspend against resource expenditure, more flexibility over resource borrowing and greater flexibility over the use of the reserve for capital.
The Highland Council is planning to re-open play areas across the region throughout summer. Advice was provided by the Scottish Government on 28 June as to the safety measures that should be applied.
The Highland Council was one of the first local authorities in Scotland recognised to develop a Schools Digital Learning Hub, which provides a resource for staff, parents and pupils to support home learning. Prior to Covid-19, we had an estate of 27,000 Chromebooks that were already a part of our ICT in Learning Strategy.
Earlier today (Wednesday 1 July 2020) members of The Highland Council's Economy and Infrastructure Committee had the opportunity to discuss (by video conference) progress made with the Corran Ferry Project which is reviewing the options for securing a replacement ferry and considering the way forward for the future operation and management of the service. The Corran ferry service has reached a critical point and strategic decisions need to be made.
As Scotland prepares for the easing of lockdown and the re-opening of the tourism and hospitality sector, The Highland Council's Environmental Health are advising holiday accommodation providers to make sure their private water supplies are safe to drink. A large number of self-catering and tourist accommodation in the Highlands are served by private water supplies and with these being closed during the lockdown period, the water supply system may not have been maintained and could create a risk to the quality and safety of the drinking water.