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Welcoming children and young people back to school

Welcome back to school graphic

Margaret Jones, Sefton Council’s Director of Public Health, has written to parents and guardians across the Borough to remind them about the arrangements in place for returning to school.

In her letter she explained that before the the start of term, each Sefton school has completed a risk assessment and identified specific measures for their settings.

Sefton’s schools will be following the national guidance. This means ‘pupil bubbles’ and social distancing/mixing measures have been removed and pupils are no longer be required to wear face coverings in school, although it is recommended they be worn in crowded and enclosed places.

Regular hand washing, personal hygiene and ventilation is also being recommended to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Should case numbers in a school or educational setting rise substantially, some control measures need to be temporarily reintroduced.

Although NHS Test & Trace are now responsible for contact tracing of all positive cases, if a child or young person tests positive for COVID-19, their school should still be informed.

Young people are no longer being advised to isolate if they are identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case, but they will be asked to take a PCR test. If the PCR result is positive, the individual will then be required to self-isolate. All known contacts of positive COVID-19 cases should be reported to NHS Test & Trace, no matter vaccination status or age.

The letter reminds parents and guardians that if a child develops COVID-19 symptoms, they should book an appointment for them to have a PCR test and that the child should not come into school whilst they are awaiting the test results, even if they feel better. If their test result is negative, they can return to school. If their result is positive, they should continue to isolate and follow public health advice.

Appointments for PCR tests can be booked at www.gov.uk/coronavirus  or by calling 119.

Mrs Jones’ letter also encourages parents, carers, secondary pupils and college students to take regular rapid lateral flow (LFD) tests. Taking LFD tests twice a week remains one of the most effective ways to reduce transmission of COVID-19.

Free rapid tests are available through schools, colleges and nurseries for everyone who attends them or works at them. Primary age pupils in Year 6 or below do not need to do testing if they do not have symptoms or are not a contact of a positive COVID-19 case.

She also reminds readers that vaccination remains the best protection against the virus and encourages everyone eligible to get both doses as soon as possible.

Margaret Jones said:

“We appreciate that this is a challenging time for parents, guardians, pupils and students as well as for teachers and school staff and Sefton Council would like to thank them for their support in keeping the Borough’s helping keep our schools open and safe.

“We also know it’s a lot to take in so we have set up some Frequently Asked Questions on our website which can be found at www.sefton.gov.uk/schools-faqs

“Finally, I like to wish all the Borough’s pupils and students every success in this coming academic year.”

Council Cabinet approves £2 million-plus of new, children’s social care roles

Councillors at today’s Sefton Council Cabinet meeting have approved more than £2 million to fund new roles in its Children’s Social Care Department.

This investment in staff is in addition to an extra £7 million, Sefton Council committed to children’s social care in its budget earlier this year.

Demand

Cllr Mhairi Doyle MBE, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We are currently facing very high levels of demand for our children’s social care services and this has been intensified by the effects of COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit some parts of Sefton particularly hard.

“Today’s agreement of an extra £2 million of additional investment in new roles over the coming two years will be key to enabling us to make further improvements to children’s social care in Sefton and represents the latest step in our improvement journey following an OFSTED visit earlier in 2021.”

Since March this year, Sefton Council has appointed a number of additional staff to its Children’s Social Care service have been recruited and has established a transformation team support by the Department for Education (DfE).

Improvements

Cllr Doyle added: “We acknowledged the issues and challenges raised through the OFSTED inspection and immediately started work to make the improvements needed to address them.

“We have already put in place a new interim Executive Director of Children’s Social Care and Education to ensure the service’s management is focused and to drive the development work.

“Our Children’s Social Care staff are committed and skilled but are facing levels of demand unlike anything we’ve known before. We are working to support them in providing the high-quality, responsive service that families, children and young people across Sefton have every right to expect and which we are committed to delivering.”

“I am confident that recruitment these new posts agreed today combined with the valuable support being provided by the Department of Education, will enable us to achieve that commitment.”

You can find out more about Sefton Council services for children and young people here.

Sefton residents reminded that Council advisors continue to offer a helping hand

Residents across Sefton are being reminded that Council advisors are here to help them, as the Customer Services team reflects on the continued support it’s offered to its communities throughout the health crisis.  

Whether it’s on the phone, online or at an in-person appointment, they can assist with a range of requests from how to claim free school meal vouchers to registering for Council Tax discounts and everything in between.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 150 Customer Services staff have continued to offer help to Sefton’s residents, working from home as a successful virtual Contact Centre was brought into operation.

In that time more than 13,000 Covid-19 related enquiries have been dealt with including requests for food parcels, questions about testing and vaccinations, requests for help from businesses and those seeking Test & Trace self-isolation payments.

Customer Services teams have:

  • Handled 251,000 telephone calls
  • Issued 15,348 Business Support Grants worth £89.2 million
  • Paid £910,000 to Sefton-licensed taxi drivers and processed around 9,500 online licence renewals
  • Given out 4,813 payments for emergency help such as food provision and essential household items
  • Awarded 2,701 Discretionary Housing Payments to support those struggling with rents and bills
  • Amended 105,000 Council Tax records including discounts to those eligible for support
Graphic showing the statistics of people helped by the Council's customer services teams over the pandemic
Graphic showing the statistics of people helped by the Council’s customer services teams over the pandemic

Cllr Paulette Lappin, Cabinet Member for Regulatory, Compliance and Corporate Services, said:

“Despite the continued effects of the pandemic, our Customer Services staff are very much here and available to support any Sefton resident that needs assistance with one of our services.

“Over the past year and a half, the team has worked incredibly hard to maintain continuity in helping people and businesses throughout such challenging times. They have made thousands of calls to the most vulnerable people in our communities and worked alongside key Council teams to ensure that financial support was processed quickly to support residents, businesses and workers like taxi drivers.”

During the pandemic, the Bootle One Stop Shop was one of the first customer service centres in the region to re-open safely to ensure that appointments could be prioritised for those who needed in-person support. More than 2,900 appointments have been offered throughout the pandemic.

The Council’s One Stop Shop in Southport is now also open for pre-booked appointments for those who would prefer face-to-face support. Based at The Atkinson in Southport, appointments are available Monday to Friday between 11am and 4pm. On Stanley Road the Bootle One Stop Shop has appointments available every Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm.

Cllr Paulette Lappin added:

“We take pride in offering high levels of customer service to our communities across the Borough and despite the difficult challenges of the health crisis, we’ve actually retained our Customer Service Excellence standard.

“The standard demonstrates our commitment to a customer-focussed culture across our service. We strive to listen to our customers views about the service provided, and when possible, use their feedback to make changes to the way that we operate.

“Our focus is on timeliness and quality of service to ensure the best possible result for customers. So, anyone living in Sefton that needs our support, should not be afraid to get in touch whether that’s online, on the phone or in person, we are here to help you.”

People can contact Sefton Council in many ways:

Full details and ways to contact Sefton Council can be found on the dedicated webpage: www.sefton.gov.uk/miscellaneous-pages/contact-the-council

One week to go until ‘Big Chat’ on local health care

There’s just one week to go until the virtual ‘Big Chat’, which NHS South Sefton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is holding from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesday 8th September.

Interactive

Open to everyone in Sefton, the ‘Big Chat’ will be a chance for residents to join health professionals in looking back at the CCG’s work over the last year and to get involved and give their views during an interactive session about local health and care.

To take part people need to register by 5pm on Friday 3rd September by emailing  comnications@sefton.nhs.uk or calling 0151 317 8456.

Future

Chair of NHS South Sefton CCG, Dr Pete Chamberlain, is encouraging anyone with an interest to join the event and hear about the important work of the last 12 months, as well as plans for the future. He said: “We want as many people as possible to join us for the Big Chat, so please do register before 5pm on Friday 3 September.

“Hosting this event in a virtual format will not only keep everybody safe but hopefully enable those who would otherwise be unable to attend to join us online from the comfort of their own homes.

“The event is a great opportunity to meet some of your local healthcare teams, look back at the work we have been doing for your community and give your views on plans for the future.”

More information on the events  can be found at www.southseftonccg.nhs.uk

A separate Big Chat event is also planned for NHS Southport and Formby CCG on Wednesday 15 September from 6pm-8pm and people can register in the same way.

Find out more.

Sefton Council set to improve Botanic Gardens lakeside ahead of major transformation consultation

Sefton Council has outlined ideas for up to £30,000 in improvements for the lake and lakeside area at Southport’s popular Botanic Gardens. These include new water aeration fountains, the installation of new fencing and secure lifeline stations, as well as plans for annual community clean-up events.

The plans were discussed at a meeting on Thursday 19th August with local community groups.

As part of a wider vision for transforming the park, the initial improvements were outlined to members of the Botanic Gardens Community Association and Make a Change for Ben fundraising group who have been in discussion with the Council’s Green Sefton team on the proposals.

At the meeting the group agreed to prioritise the aerating fountains as the first phase. Funding for the phased lakeside improvements is set to come from community fundraising schemes, local ward budgets and the Green Sefton Service.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said:

“As outlined earlier this year, Sefton Council’s Green Sefton Service is looking at ways to develop and improve the Botanic Gardens.

“Our Green Sefton team has been working alongside a number of dedicated community groups who care deeply about the future of the park and are keen to see improvements that benefit everyone who loves spending time there.

“We’re at the stage where we have been able to agree some initial improvements focused on the lakeside area that will complement the work already undertaken, at the beginning of the year, to improve the aviary.

“But our longer-term vision is to reinvigorate the park with a whole host of potential ideas that would offer better facilities for our communities as well as providing a positive boost to the local visitor economy, including the creation of new jobs.”

The Green Sefton Service will launch a consultation to seek ideas from the community for the longer-term vision for the Botanic Gardens. This consultation will take place once the current consultations are completed for Hesketh Park and the Ainsdale beach gateway. Details of those consultations can be found at: https://yourseftonyoursay.sefton.gov.uk/

In time, it is expected funding will be sought from streams through organisations that support the heritage sector. Around £5 million is likely to be required to deliver the Council’s ambitious plans to transform the park.

The project would support the restoration of many of the park’s Victorian buildings and help the Council to develop new attractions that would bring more visitors to the park and generate income that would be earmarked for the park’s maintenance and management.

Cllr Moncur added:

“The major proposals are at the very early stages of development and our next steps will include launching a public consultation over the coming winter/ spring to bring together the views of residents, regular park users, visitors and the dedicated volunteer groups, like the Botanic Gardens Community Association, who support many projects at the park to keep the space clean, green and beautiful for all.”

People can find more on the Borough’s parks, play areas and open spaces managed by the Green Sefton team, with support from volunteers and partners, by visiting www.sefton.gov.uk/parks

Anyone interested in helping to shape the developing project, or would like to volunteer in the Botanic Gardens, can contact the Botanic Gardens Community Association at https://botanicgardensca.org.uk/

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