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Residents warned to be on their guard against cyber criminals

Residents across Sefton are being urged to be on their guard against cyber criminals who may try to exploit the coronavirus outbreak and prey on people and their businesses.

These criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. They spend hours researching people for their scams, hoping that people let their guard down for just a moment.

They can contact people by phone, email, text, on social media, or in person. They will trick people into parting with their money, personal information, or buying goods or services that don’t exist.

A spokesperson for Sefton Council said: “It is shocking to see cyber criminals and fraudsters preying on people in such a callous and predatory way during this difficult time”

“The council is committed to making our communities aware of these criminals preying on individuals and businesses and making sure they have the tools to keep themselves safe”

You can keep yourself safe by staying vigilant and reporting anything suspicious immediately.

If you think you have been scammed, defrauded or experienced cybercrime. Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime.

Alternatively, you can call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via Action Fraud

The National Cyber Security Centre has advice for businesses to protect themselves against fraud and cyber criminals.

Citizens Advice offers confidential advice online, over the phone, and in person, for free. You can contact them for support on issues you might be facing, if you’ve been a victim of fraud or a scam.

How to protect yourself against cyber crime and fraud:

  1. Stop

Take a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

  1. Challenge

Consider if it could be fake – it’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

The police, or your bank, will never ask you to withdraw money or transfer it to a different account – they will also never ask you to reveal your full banking password or PIN

Do not click on links or attachments in unexpected or suspicious texts or emails

Confirm requests are genuine by using a known number or email address to contact organisations directly.

  1. Protect

Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud

To keep yourself secure online, ensure you are using the latest software, apps and operating systems on your phones, tablets and laptops – update these regularly or set your devices to automatically update so you don’t have to worry

Visit Take Five for more advice on how to protect yourself from fraud and Cyber Aware for advice on how to keep yourself secure online

 

How to protect your business

  1. Stop

If you receive a request to make an urgent payment, change supplier bank details, or provide financial information, take a moment to stop and think.

  1. Challenge

It could be a fake – verify all payments and supplier details directly with the company on a known phone number or in person first

  1. Protect

Contact your business’s bank immediately if you think you’ve been scammed and report it to Action Fraud

Business Grants Update

A further £4 million of grants has been processed this week, paid to Sefton businesses who will receive funds shortly after. A further £1.5 million are in the process of being paid, bringing the total value of payments processed as of today is over £25 million.

The Business Rates team will now continue to follow up and resolve any outstanding queries that exist from the original submissions, following up with emails and phone calls as well as processing new applications.

If you are an eligible business within Sefton and have not yet applied for a business grant, you can apply here https://forms.sefton.gov.uk/covid19businessform/

 

People in Sefton urged to support frontline workers by staying at home

Sefton Council has joined forces with colleagues at Merseyside Police and local hospital trusts to urge people to stay at home this weekend.

Our joint message is simple – the more you stay at home the less people will become infected with the virus and the quicker we can return to normality and start to live our lives again #StayHomeSaveLives

In the last week, there have been increases in the number in the number of people choosing to visit the region’s beaches, parks and open spaces for more than their permitted daily exercise. This is, no doubt, due to the warm weather we are currently experiencing more of which is expect over the weekend.

While we understand that boredom may be setting in and that some people may be frustrated by the restrictions in place we would like to just ask people to remember the human impact that the Coronavirus is having on our communities and the loved ones of families across the county.

Cllr Ian Moncur, Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Once again, we are stressing the need for people to stay local and not to travel to parks, beaches and other open spaces this weekend and every day, for the sake of their own health and in the interest of everybody else’s health.

“Of course, we want people to get their daily session of exercise, and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine locally but there is no excuse for anyone to ignore the need to maintain social distancing and put themselves and others in danger.

“Our parks and our coastline will still be there when Covid-19 has gone but I’m seriously concerned that if people ignore these rules that have been designed to protect them, some of them won’t.”

Chief Constable Andy Cooke, said: “As each day passes more families across the region are finding themselves facing the harsh reality of the impact of Coronavirus.

“In the last couple of weeks, we have seen the number of cases increase in the region and we need to ensure that we do everything possible to support the NHS call to #StayAtHomeSave Lives.

“These are exceptionally challenging times. We know that people are frustrated at being asked to stay in but we all need to stick together and abide by the rules so that everyone stays safe.

“Anyone can contract and spread coronavirus so I would ask the question – is having a picnic, sunbathing on the beach or in a local park, or meeting with friends more important than your health and the health of your loved ones?

“Our beaches and beauty spots will still be there for you to enjoy once the pandemic is over. And the more we can adhere to the restrictions in place now, the quicker we can return to normality. But ignore the restrictions now and we could find ourselves in this position for longer and possibly with harsher restrictions.

“People should only be leaving home for essential activities –  shopping for food and medication, exercising and going to work if they are key workers and can’t work from home – and please remember to abide by social distancing rules when in public places.

“Our officers will continue to be out and about in local communities engaging with the public; checking that people aren’t flouting the restrictions; reminding people why those restrictions are in place and encouraging them to do the right thing and go home.

“We have taken a common-sense approach to policing the legislative powers given to the police and we want to work with people and only use the powers as a last resort. But our message is clear if you are consistently and flagrantly ignoring the Government powers we will use the legislation that is open to us.

“Those who are consistently flouting the legislation are putting others at risk, including their own families, and I would appeal to their families to explain to them the potential consequences their actions could have on their loved ones. At the end of the day none of us want to be cooped up at home, but that’s a better option that the potential alternative.

“These are unprecedented and challenging times for all of us, but we all have loved ones and we need to think about them and understand the danger we are putting ourselves, and our loved ones, in.”

You can find the Government’s latest guidance on social distancing here.

 

Sefton Council using new ‘Recite Me’ web service to improve accessibility

New tool also being used to target COVID-19 messages to non-English speakers.

Sefton Council is now using Recite Me software to help local residents with accessibility issues customise its website to meet their needs.

By turning on Recite Me, people visiting the Council’s website at www.sefton.gov.uk can use the service to read website pages out loud in different voices and languages, increase and decrease the size of the text and change the type-style – including into a Dyslexic-friendly font.

At this time when it is vital that everybody is aware of the messages about COVID-19 that are so important to saving lives, Sefton Council is promoting the ability of Recite Me to translate information on the site.

Messages in Portuguese, Polish and Russian are being sent out through Sefton Council’s social media channels to highlight the translation service to people in those communities.

Cllr Paulette Lappin Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regulatory, Compliance and Corporate Services said: “Now, when it is so important that our COVID-19 information reaches everyone including those for whom English is not necessarily a first language, our introduction of the Recite Me service to our website is an ideal way to target those communities.

“Since the start of the COVID -19 outbreak our website has been seeing record numbers of visits with as many as 130,000 and 110,000 unique page views in the peak weeks. And our reach on social media is up with residents having the chance to see our messages almost 554,000 times.

“Also in the long term, Recite Me is a way of making our website as easy to use for as many people as possible, in line with our commitment to accessible communications.”

With Recite Me, Sefton Council website users can also change the colours and contrast of the screen, screen colours and contrast, use an on-screen magnifying glass, add a ruler to help keep their place on the page, view pages in a text-only mode and download audio files of page contents, which can be played back at a later date.

To use the service, visitors to the website just need to click on Listen and Translate at the top of every page. They will then see a toolbar of functions that will help make the pages more accessible for them in multiple ways. There is also a user guide to tell them more and an option to switch the service on and off.

Find out more about using Recite Me.

Borough of Culture 2020 projects to go ahead digitally to help raise spirits in the face of Covid-19

Sefton Comedy HUB, detailed instructions of how to make an origami squirrel and Community by Nature play packs are among the re-profiled Sefton Borough of Culture 2020 projects going ahead in the face of Covid-19.

Members of Sefton Council’s Borough of Culture 2020 team worked swiftly with local arts, culture and community groups with successful grant applicants to adapt their projects for digital delivery. The aim is to enable people to enjoy and take part in the activities online or by post.

The Borough of Culture team awarded over £15,000 of one-off grants for cultural activities at the heart of its communities. The outbreak of the coronavirus meant successful bidders working closely with the council and its partners to change tack, while still creating fun, engaging things to do for residents everywhere.

Launched already via Facebook, Sefton Comedy Hub is a chance for local residents to submit clips of themselves telling their favourite joke, recalling amusing anecdotes and humorous stories and reciting funny poems and comedy impressions.

Hosted by local comedian Bren Riley, the project is for people of all ages and ‘clean’ clips should be submitted to the page. There will be weekly feedback on the clips and e-vouchers provided for the funniest clips.

People will also be able to register to play Bingo via Zoom through the Sefton Comedy Hub Facebook Page. Tickets for the six sessions will be emailed to local residents and e-vouchers will be given as prizes.

Find out more about the Sefton Comedy Hub.

Through Origami Pulse, people will be able to follow a detailed video showing them how to make their very own red squirrel from folded paper. People will be invited to share pictures their squirrels online and these pictures will be used to create a large artwork at the Atkinson later in the year.

In conjunction with Venus, Community by Nature will be working with three artists to develop three ‘Playing In’ packs for vulnerable families, least likely to have access to art-making materials at home during the Covid-19 restrictions. Provided with food parcels, the packs will provide free, fun ways for families to enjoy themselves at home and to keep children occupied.

Downloadable versions of artist-designed play activities will also be available for wider use by anyone across the Borough as well as video and online workshops introducing creative play ideas via Facebook and Instagram. People will also be able to submit memories of games they have played in the past and photographs showing people playing out.

Birkdale Community Hub and will be running a photography competition that will see residents invited to take photographs of their gardens or what they can see out of their windows while they spend this time at home. Participants will be able to submit their snaps via email and social media and there will be a future exhibition at the HUB.

Through SING Plus, older people in the community who do not have access to the internet or social media will be provided with materials and maps to chronicle their recollections of Sefton. The memory boxes they create will be used as part of the local archive held at Crosby library.

Also, SING Plus will see young people asked to keep a diary of their thoughts and daily life at the present time and the effect of the current situation is having on them and their families. Activity boxes and snacks will also be provided for the young people taking part.

After the Covid-19 crisis is over both groups, old and young, will meet up after the need for social distancing has ended, to share memories.

Words of Wisdom is an inspirational project that will see young people being encouraged to keep in touch with the elderly community around them, online and through social media, as well as using simple pen, paper and telephone.

With the help of their parents and carers, the young people will be asking their elderly neighbours, family and friends to share their words of wisdom based on a lifetime of stories and experience. The best 100 lines of wisdom on topics such as family, fun, friendship, finance, fears, fulfilment, farewells, fitness and the future will be captured in a book as part of the legacy of the Sefton Borough of Culture 2020. People can find out more about Words of Wisdom by contacting Peter Hawkins at The Windmills Foundation on 01704 874 903 or pete@windmillsonline.co.uk.

Through Aintree Racecourse Sefton’s Borough of Culture 2020 Grand Poetry Competition, budding young poets are being asked to get creative and tell us what they are missing.

Entries are being invited for the 4 to 8-year-old, 9 to 12-year-old and 13 years and above categories and winners will win family tickets to Aintree Racecourse’s Family Day in October and Liverpool’s Day or Grand National Day in 2021. This follows the recent unveiling of the spectacular Red Rum wall mural in Southport, commissioned by the Sefton Borough of Culture programme and painted by Paul Curtis, to celebrate the three-time winner in the town in which he lived and trained.

Poems’ subject should be about something or someone they love, miss or find amazing. Poems, with a maximum of 200 words, should be handwritten and decorated and sent to GrandPoetry@thejockeyclub.co.uk in an emailed which includes the child’s full name and age.

Cllr Trish Hardy Sefton Council’s main Borough of Culture sponsor said: “At this time when it’s so important that people maintain social distancing to beat Covid-19, I am delighted that our Borough of Culture 2020 team has been able to work with these arts, culture and community groups to develop projects that will help lift local people’s spirits and provide fun things for people of all ages to do.

“I look forward to seeing all the creativity contained in our local communities expressed and on display through this exciting range of projects.

“Taking culture to people’s homes, phones, laptops and tablets, they have created exciting activities that will keep people entertained and go a long way to helping them cope during periods of isolation, whether alone or as a family.”

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