COVID 19 - update from Central Bedfordshire Council

Published: 24 March 2020

As each day passes, the gravity of the impact of the Covid19 outbreak becomes ever clearer. It truly is affecting our everyday lives in ways that we could not have imagined and we are all having to adjust very rapidly to a ‘new normal’.

In these extra-ordinary circumstances, we are focussed on three very stark objectives. These are: • To preserve life • To support the most vulnerable • To protect livelihoods

Everything we do for the foreseeable future needs to be approached through the lens of these objectives. That is why we need to take the advice on social distancing very seriously to protect ourselves, our families and the communities, who need support now more than ever before. 

Where services are not essential, we will temporarily suspend them. Where they are essential, we will do all we can to ensure staff can deliver them as safely as possible.
I am envisaging the Council having an ever greater role in co-ordinating efforts to support the most vulnerable, drawing on the resources of others, including the many community groups and individuals who have volunteered to help. We are also likely to be asking staff whose services we are suspending, to lend a hand in other areas, as part of the refocussing of our efforts to deliver our three objectives. I have every confidence that colleagues across the Council will respond to our ‘call to arms’ and we will match that with providing as much flexibility and support to enable staff to continue working as best they can, to help us support local people.
2. Helping vulnerable residents The Government has announced its plans to ensure that the most vulnerable people are to be shielded from the virus. These residents have very specific health conditions which mean that they are at the highest risk from COVID19. The NHS will be writing to them over the coming days to offer specific advice about self-isolating for a period of twelve weeks and offering additional support to those who may need help, for example, with the delivery of medications and food. National Government is expected to co-ordinate this support via localised hubs.  

Beyond this group of extremely vulnerable people, there are of course many others who will be impacted by the COVID-19 situation and may need support.

In many cases, friends, family and good neighbours will be offering such support with a range of tasks.

For those who are not able to rely on their own network, we are inviting residents to get in touch with the Council so we can assess what they need and whether we can either help directly or point them in the direction of other organisations who may be able to do so.

The number that residents should call is 0300 300 8900.

For those with access to the web, an e-form has been set up to allow people to register their need for help digitally. The form is available on our website at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/covidhelp

We are also producing a hard copy fact sheet which we will make available to your Local Councillors, as well as other community groups and organisations, so that this can be distributed to residents. The document will include key contact information and will also be supplied to Town and Parish Councils.
3. Supporting Voluntary Effort Community spirit in a time of emergency is a great asset and Central Bedfordshire residents are definitely rising to the challenge of COVID-19.
Although many of our well established charities have been hit hard by the fact that a big proportion of the older volunteer network are prevented from working in current circumstances, there has also been a heartening rise in the number of groups and individuals who want to get involved.

We are working with our core partner organisations (Community Action: Bedfordshire, Community Services Bedfordshire and the Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity) and BLEVEC (our emergency volunteer organisation) to co-ordinate our voluntary response to requests for help.

We are also inviting those residents who want to get involved in volunteering to contact us to register their interest, either by the main COVID-19 Contact Centre Helpline – 0300 300 8900, or via an e-form on our website at www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/covidvolunteer

 4.  In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement on Friday our libraries and leisure centres have closed. Any books that are due to be returned during this period will automatically be renewed.

There have been some changes to bus services in response to either reduced patronage and/or reduced availability of drivers. The bus information pages on our website provides detail on service changes we are aware of. The bus operators are aware of the need for key workers and residents to access essential services and will do everything they can to maintain these services as much as possible.

The Biggleswade Household Waste Recycling Centre was closed today due to staffing shortage.

5. We are keeping our dedicated COVID-19 web pages up to date with all the relevant information for our residents. The link is www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/covidinfo
Additionally we are supporting the national campaigns on health messaging on our social media channels.
In response to some members of the public over the weekend not heeding advice on social distancing, we are also posting information to help explain why this is so important.