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Council leader calls on Government for funding needed for Covid-19 response

Sefton Council bosses have called on the Government to urgently give local authorities the funding they need to respond to Covid-19, and to continue to support vulnerable people and plan for a sustainable future.

At a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet this week, where a minute’s silence was marked for the 278 Sefton residents who sadly have died from Covid-19, Chief Executive Dwayne Johnson presented an update on the Council’s response to Covid-19, raising concerns about the economic impact of the pandemic.

In a clear message to the Government, Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council said: “As we offer our condolences to the loved ones of our residents who have lost their lives to Covid-19, the cabinet meeting also enabled us to express our appreciation to our partners, residents and staff for their hard work and dedication throughout the response period.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 on the borough of Sefton has been immediate and significant and we believe, so far, we have been impacted the most in the region.  We have already seen several stores in Bootle’s Strand close that will not reopen, in addition to a number of business closures across the borough and hotels up for sale and deciding not to re-open, with significant numbers of redundancies.

“The devastating news that HMRC will relocate to Liverpool City Centre from their Bootle state of the art building, which can accommodate up to 7,000 staff, and the loss of thousands of jobs is a massive blow to our Borough and particularly Bootle Town Centre. We’ve already seen a 93% jump in Sefton’s jobseeker’s allowance claimant rate between March and May 2020, with more than 27,000 jobs furloughed at the end of May.

“Of course we’re looking at plans for the wider recovery of The Strand and the Canal Corridor, and what support we can provide to businesses and the local economy in that area; but the impact of covid-19 on our economy means now more than ever we need clarity from government on the financial support they will be giving to local authorities, so that we can plan for our recovery, and progress with projects that will create thousands more jobs for Sefton.”

Explaining how the formula that Government have used to allocate funding to local authorities has changed, Cllr Maher said:“The first round of funding from Government was based on need, but the second round was based on population. Government funding so far has been insufficient to cover costs and lost revenues and is based on an unfair formula.

“Sefton Council, as with many other local authorities, has stepped up, and gone above and beyond what the Government asked us to do to support our communities during the pandemic.

“We now need to secure further Government funding that meets our specific immediate needs and supports Sefton’s longer-term recovery.

“If we don’t get the financial support we need, then ultimately our communities will pay in the long term for the short-term lockdown measures.

“Everyone in our communities knows the sacrifice and the loss we have endured through the coronavirus crisis, it is beyond belief that the government is not standing by our communities in their hour of need.”

Cllr Maher expressed concern that Government do not appreciate the role that local authorities play in the fabric and infrastructure of our society.

He went on:“The Government needs to understand the impact of them not responding to the issues that many local authorities are facing.

“Protecting our communities, our colleagues, our families, our friends and our vulnerable from this deadly virus in one of the worst-hit areas in the country has meant Sefton, and other Councils across Merseyside, have been spending huge amounts of additional funds.

“This additional demand on already hard-hit Council budgets comes at a time when ensuring everyone’s safety has meant a significant proportion of our normal income from day to day activities has all but dried up.

“As Leader of Sefton Council, my team and I will do whatever we can to shield those most in need from these cuts, but the reality is that if ministers don’t fulfil their promise and close the funding gap, then frontline services will bear the brunt and people will suffer.

“The impact of covid-19 on our economy means now more than ever we need clarity from government on the financial support they will be giving to local authorities, so that we can plan for our recovery, and progress with projects that will create thousands of jobs in Sefton.

“The Government said it would do ‘whatever it takes’ to enable councils to support local communities. We are now asking the Prime Minister to keep that promise.”

 

Young people in Sefton tell decision makers about their lives during COVID-19

Young people from Sefton came together with key decision makers in the first ever virtual SYMBOL meeting which involved 50 participants.

Being a member of SYMBOL (Sefton Youth Making Better Opportunities with Leaders) means a young person plays an active role in their community, with a direct line of communication with leaders such as councillors and senior managers at Sefton Council, and also with partners including representatives from Public Health.

At the meeting young people talked about their experiences and some of the issues that they faced during the Coronavirus pandemic. This included feelings of isolation, worries about falling back on school work, being able to adapt when returning to school and concerns about family members and how the pandemic is affecting relatives.

As part of the discussions participants also took part in a survey which gave an overall view of how the group had been coping during the lockdown, what positives could be taken out of the experience and what support is needed.

Jo Lee, Sefton Young Advisors Team Lead and SYMBOL Coordinator said;

 “Although lockdown restrictions meant joining in person was not possible, it was still so important, now more than ever that the meeting went ahead in order to understand what impact the Coronavirus pandemic is having on young people and to listen to their views about how it is affecting their lives.

“With a survey telling us that 75% of the young people in our meeting alone, feel that COVID has had a negative impact on their mental health, it is important that we listen to the challenges they are facing, so we have a better understanding of how we can support them.

“It’s also really encouraging to listen to the positives young people are taking from this experience including improvements to the environment and learning new hobbies”

If you or anyone you know would like any support or advice during this time, please visit our website where there is guidance for children and young people on how to maintain good health and wellbeing.

Changes to shielding guidance from 6th July but support continues

Changes to Shielding Guidance from 6th July but support continues…

 

The UK Government has set out a roadmap for the clinically extremely vulnerable on the future of the shielding programme.

For now, the guidance remains the same – stay at home and only go outside to exercise or to spend time outdoors with a member of your household, or with one other person from another household if you live alone – but the guidance will change on 6 July and again on 1 August clinical evidence.

Shielding and other advice to the clinically extremely vulnerable has been and remains advisory.

 

What are the changes?

Recently, the UK Government advised that you can spend time outdoors, if you wish, with your own household, or if you live alone with another household. Following this, and alongside current scientific and medical advice the UK Government is planning to relax shielding guidance in stages.

From 6 July, the guidance will change so you can meet in groups of up to six people from outside your household – outdoors with social distancing. For example, you might want to enjoy a summer BBQ outside at a friend’s house, but remember it is still important to maintain social distancing and you should not share items such as cups and plates. If you live alone (or are a lone adult with dependent children under 18), you will be able to form a support bubble with another household.

From 1 August, you will no longer need to shield, and the advice will be that you can visit shops and places of worship, but you should continue maintaining rigorous social distancing.

 

Why is the guidance changing now?

The roadmap has been developed in line with the latest scientific and medical advice and with the safety and welfare of those who are shielding in mind. Current statistics show that the rate of catching coronavirus in the community continues to decrease. On average less than 1 in 1,700 in our communities are estimated to have the virus, down from 1 in 500 four weeks ago.

Unless advised otherwise by your clinician, you are still in the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ category and should continue to follow the advice for that category, which can be found here.

The government will monitor the virus continuously over coming months and if it spread too much, you may be advised to shield again.

If you are in receipt of Government provided food boxes and medicine deliveries, you will continue to receive this support until the end of July.

 

What support is available to people who are shielding until the end of July?

Essential supplies

There are a number of ways that those who are shielding can access food and other essentials:

  • Make use of the supermarket priority delivery slots that are available for this group. When a clinically extremely vulnerable person registers online as needing support with food, their data is shared with supermarkets. This means if they make an online order with a supermarket (as both a new or existing customer), they will be eligible for a priority slot.
  • Use the many commercial options now available for accessing food, including telephone ordering, food box delivery, prepared meal delivery and other non-supermarket food delivery providers. A list has been shared with local authorities and charities.
  • A free, standardised weekly parcel of food and household essentials. If you have registered for this support online before 17 July you will continue to receive weekly food box deliveries until the end of July.
  • If you need urgent help and have no other means of support, contact your local council to find out what support services are available in their area.
  • For anyone facing financial hardship, the government has made £63 million available to local councils in England to help those who are struggling to afford food and other essentials.

 

NHS Volunteer Responders

Support will continue to be available through the NHS Volunteer Responder Scheme beyond the end of July.

NHS Volunteer Responders can support you with:

  • Collecting shopping, medication (if your friends and family cannot collect them for you) or other essential supplies;
  • A regular, friendly phone call which can be provided by different volunteers each time or by someone who is also shielding and will stay in contact for several weeks; and
  • Transport to medical appointment.

Please call 0808 196 3646 between 8am and 8pm to arrange support or speak to your health case professional for transport support. A carer or family member can also do this on their behalf. More information is available at www.nhsvolunteerresponders.org.uk

 

Health care

Any essential carers or visitors who support you with your everyday needs can continue to visit unless they have any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (a new continuous cough, a high temperature, or a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell).

People in the clinically extremely vulnerable group should continue to access the NHS services they need during this time. This may be delivered in a different way or in a different place than they are used to, for example via an online consultation, but if they do need to go to hospital or attend another health facility for planned care, extra planning and protection will be put in place.

 

Mental health support

It is normal during these uncertain and unusual times to feel anxious or feel low.

Follow the advice that works for you in the guidance on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.

If you feel you need to talk to someone about your mental health or you are looking for more support for someone else, we would urge you to speak to a GP and seek out mental health support delivered by charities or the NHS.

 

Income and employment support

At this time, people who are shielding are advised not to go to work. This guidance remains advisory.

Those shielding will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) on the basis of their shielding status until the 31 July. SSP eligibility criteria apply

From 1 August, if clinically extremely vulnerable people are unable to work from home but need to work, they can, as long as the business is COVID safe.

The Government is asking employers to work with them to ease the transition back to a more normal way of life for their shielding employees. It is important that this group continues to take careful precautions, and employers should do all they can to enable them to work from home where this is possible, including moving them to another role if required.

Where this is not possible, those who have been shielding should be provided with the safest onsite roles that enable them to maintain social distancing.

If employers cannot provide a safe working environment, they can continue to use the Job Retention Scheme for shielded employees who have already been furloughed.

 

What support will be available after July?

From 1 August, clinically extremely vulnerable people will continue to have access to priority supermarket delivery slots if you have registered online before 17 July for a priority delivery slot.

NHS Volunteer Responders will also continue to offer support to those who need it, including collecting and delivering food and medicines.

The NHS Volunteer Responders Scheme has been expanded to offer a new Check in and Chat Plus role. This new role has been designed to provide peer support and companionship to people who are shielding as they adapt to a more normal way of life.

If you are vulnerable or at risk and need help with shopping, medication or other essential supplies, please call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm).

Government is committed to supporting local councils and voluntary sector organisations to respond to those who have specific support needs and requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Details of the support and advice available can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/find-coronavirus-support

The updated shielding guidance should not affect any social care or support you were receiving prior to the start of shielding.

Individuals should continue to contact their local council if they have any ongoing social care needs.

 

Sefton to hold Minute’s Silence to honour lives lost to COVID-19

Sefton Council will lead in a minute’s silence to remember those who have passed away from COVID-19 in the borough.

Sadly 272 people in the borough have lost their lives through COVID-19 and they will be remembered during a minute’s silence at the start of the next Cabinet Meeting of Sefton Council from 10am on Thursday, June 25.

The silence will be led by Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council and Chief Executive Dwayne Johnson, with residents across the borough encouraged to fall silent at the same time.

Cllr Ian Maher said: “We will never forget those who have fought so bravely against the COVID-19 virus and our thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones during this pandemic.

“We understand that this is a very difficult time for anyone who has lost a relation, a friend or a colleague and our deepest sympathies go out to those who are grieving.

“Please if you wish to join us from 10am on Thursday, June 25 in falling silent as a mark of remembrance to those we have lost.”

For more information about support, guidance and advice during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit www.sefton.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Successful first weekend for new Coastal Visitor Action Plan but message remains stay safe and think twice before leaving home

Green Sefton bosses say they are pleased with how the first weekend with their new Coastal Visitor Action Plan starting to be put in place, went.

However, Sefton Council is still discouraging people from travelling to its coast and beaches and with hot weather expected is echoing the recent message from Liverpool City Region Leaders urging all residents to stay safe and think twice before leaving home.

After seeing large numbers of people travelling to locations along its 22-mile coastline, during recent fine weather it has drawn up the new Coastal Action Plan. A range of measure including the installation of portable loos, skips for people to leave their litter and the re-opened parking on Ainsdale Beach helped achieve the Council’s aim of keeping Sefton’s coastline safe for residents, visitors and its own employees.

Access & parking, facilities, public safety and clear communication are among the key elements of the plan, which covers the Borough’s main coastal locations of   Ainsdale, Crosby and Waterloo, Formby and Southport.

As well as re-opening Ainsdale Beach car park, way of dealing with access and parking include Southport’s Esplanade Car Park, exploring more options for park and ride, using variable message signs and continuing with enforcement for illegal and inconsiderate parking.

Additional facilities for any influx of visitors contained in the Plan include providing extra capacity for waste and more frequent emptying of litter bins and issuing visitors with free rubbish sacks at peak times. There are also options for providing more public toilets, including the portable loos, in a way that is safe for users and the staff required to keep facilities clean and sterilised.

All of these measures will be introduced in line with Government guidance to ensure public and staff safety is paramount. Specific innovations such as a new cashless payment system for on-beach car parking and expanded staff welfare facilities to ensure social distancing will also be required.

Another planned measure is the continuation and extension of Beachsafe, which in previous years has seen the Council, the National Trust, the RNLI, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, Merseyside Police and British Transport Police are all working in partnership to keep Sefton’s coastline safe for visitors and residents over the summer months.

And, communicating all of this work to visitors, to local residents and businesses and the employees of the Council and its partners through the Council’s various channels, including its My Sefton website @seftonouncil Twitter Feed  Sefton Council’s Facebook page  and on Instagram.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said: “With people having travelled from as far afield as Manchester, Stoke, Birmingham and North Wales as well as from across the City Region it became clear that we needed to develop this plan.

“In it, we have proposed a wider range of measures to meet the requirements of residents, visitors and employees and our beautiful coastal environment while at the same time keeping them safe in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s national guidelines.

“The restrictions around Coronavirus have amplified the issues our Borough often experiences at coastal locations on busy summer weekends and Bank Holidays, particularly since the Government announced aspects of the lockdown were being eased and travel-distances and times for exercise and leisure extended.

“I am pleased to see that by drawing up the Visitor Plan and starting to implement it this weekend, during which we saw up to 300 cars parked on Ainsdale beach reducing pressure on local roads, has enabled the Council to deliver benefits for residents and visitors alike.

“However, with a heatwave on the horizon, we are asking people not to travel to our coast and our beaches and I would like to echo the Liverpool City Region Leaders’ call for residents from across Merseyside and beyond to stay safe and think twice before leaving home.”

Download a  copy of Sefton Council’s Coastal Visitor Action Plan.

Over the past weeks, Sefton Council has used a variety of messages to try to discourage people from travelling to its coastline and to encourage those who do visit, to behave considerately and responsibly. This includes taking their rubbish home with them, refraining from lighting barbecues or fires and not taking glass bottles and other items onto the beach as they can cause fires and dangerous litter if left behind.

The Council has also been reminding people that a Public Spaces Protection Order is in place preventing the outdoor consumption of alcohol in areas of Formby & Ainsdale Beaches, Southport Promenade and town centre, Crosby & Waterloo including by the Marine Lake as well as Bootle and Formby town centres. The Order can be enforced by Police officers and authorised Council officers and fines for breaching it start at £50.

 

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