Technical Notes 2021, Issue 53 - Planning for Place – Community Support Service Delivery during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Report by: 
Thomas Glen, Depute Chief Executive – Place, Neighbourhood & Corporate Assets Ann Davie, Depute Chief Executive – Education, People & Business
TN Number: 
Planning for Place – Community Support Service Delivery during the Covid-19 Pandemic
Responsible Officer: 
Evonne Bauer, Executive Officer – Place & Community Planning Angela Fegan, Customer, Performance & PR Manager
This Technical Note will be published on the Council’s website following circulation to Members. Its contents may be disclosed or shared outwith the Council.

Following discussion at Council on 18 March 2021, Members requested further detail on mitigation measures introduced and further detail of how residents had accessed services during the Covid-19 pandemic. This technical note provides that further detail.

Community Outreach
Whilst Council facilities, including halls, community centres and offices were closed to community groups and the public following the initial UK wide lockdown in March 2020, the Council’s Community Development Workers and Community Planning Partners including EDVA, CAB and HSCP, have continued to provide community outreach and support to groups and individuals throughout East Dunbartonshire. With face to face contact not possible, best use has been made of video conferencing facilities being used (through Webex and Microsoft Teams) to continue to engage with established groups and with individuals in the community through meetings, discussions and outreach sessions. Telephone calls have also been used, particularly effective for one to one discussions and email communications have also played an important part.

Shielding and the Vulnerable
In the initial stages of the pandemic all essential frontline services continued to be delivered to the community with appropriate measures in place. During this time the Shielding and Care for People work streams were managed by the Council. Key services continued, including essential social work and housing service provision. Essential environmental health and trading standards services were also delivered in line with the Covid-19 regulations and restrictions at the time. Further, a 24/7 out of hours service was introduced across environmental health management to enable NHS GGC to contact the Council on urgent Covid-19 public health investigations and contact tracing matters.

The Council’s civil contingencies structure activated and met regularly to discuss requirements and emerging issues, in line with situation reports from the Regional Resilience partnership and national SGOR updates and appropriate communications were issued as required to the community locally.

In line with the Scottish Government commitment to provide support to those Shielding, the Shielding helpline was established with colleagues in Shared Services taking calls, including at weekends during the peak of the pandemic to ensure those in need of support were routed to the service being delivered by the Council and that being provided by third sector partners.

In addition to those shielding, support was also provided locally to the wider vulnerable community, not officially shielding but perhaps more cautious than most and in need of help and support is a similar way. Those shielding were provided with national food boxes, where required, and the council, through Facilities Management, set up a local food distribution centre operated from Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre, which provided our most vulnerable with food box provision delivered to their doorstep.

All aspects of the support available to both those formally shielding and the wider more vulnerable individuals and households in the community was provided by a range of supporting organisations including EDVA, Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the foodbank in East Dunbartonshire, together with supermarkets with dedicated and priority booking for delivery. Support was also available through utility companies and pharmacies and the Council website was an important tool in this signposting with relevant times, access information and contact details made available and updated as required.

Information Provision and Signposting
A suite of Covid-19 pages were established on the Council website from the outset, with a main Covid-19 Services Update page detailing all services impacted by the pandemic and lockdown and links to key information and updates from Scottish Government and NHS Public Health. When available, information and links were also published in alternative formats and languages, including British Sign Language (BSL). A new banner was applied to the Council website with a direct link to the master Covid-19 Services Update page. The supporting suite of pages included: Shielding, Community Support, Schools Update, Early Years Update, Free School Meal Provision, and Waste, with pages updated in line with the changing national position and the reintroduction of services and service changes. Social media messaging was effectively used in informing the wider community of what was available to whom and when. Social media messaging was also used to ensure community awareness of messaging from Scottish Government in relation to restrictions and Covid-19
management measures together with key messages from NHS Public Health.

Education Hubs and Free School Meals
Whilst schools were closed in the initial lockdown, the children of key frontline workers and those identified as vulnerable or from vulnerable households, were supported through our Education Hubs.

In terms of free school meal provision, the Snack and Play service was introduced for the first weeks of lockdown, followed by the roll-out of Farmfoods vouchers to all those in receipt of Free School Meals and/or School Clothing Grants. Following the school summer holidays and with the self-isolation particularly impacting more vulnerable and low income households, direct payments for free school meals replaced the voucher scheme.

Customer Services
Whilst the Community Hubs closed in March 2020 and face to face customer services were not available, customer services continued to be delivered throughout normal operating hours through email and phone. Customer services also responded to enquiries and messaging through social media channels.

The Emergency Response Centre has continued to operate 24/7 to deliver the community alarms service, provide CCTV monitoring and to receive all out of hours emergency phone calls to the Council.

Registration services have continued to be available throughout the pandemic with death registration a priority in the early months of lockdown and birth and marriage paperwork registration was suspended. Death registration was able to be carried out remotely through email and telephone contact following legislation to permit this, with a period of 7-day registration delivered for a period from May 2020 in line with national requirements. Face to face appointments were required once birth registration was reintroduced but this was strictly by appointment only at Kirkintilloch Community Hub following a remote stage of registration. Licensing services were initially suspended during the lockdown with extension arrangements initially in place. Once Licensing services were able to be reintroduced, the face to face element delivered through customer services was delivered on a strict appointment only basis through Bearsden Hub following the initial remote service.

Distribution List: 
All Elected Members, Corporate Management Team, Executive Officers, HSCP Management Team, Corporate Communications