As are approaching the end of the fourth week of our response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and it certainly feels as if we are in the eye of the storm, even if there are some glimmers of hope appearing on the horizon.
Every single person in Medway has been touched by the effects of this horrendous virus in some way; many of you may have suffered from it and I hope are recovering, and tragically some will have lost loved ones and my thoughts are with all of you and your families. Along with our brave colleagues in the NHS and the emergency services and the council’s own social workers, the priority of your council has been to keep the people of Medway safe and ensure that we continue to deliver the essential services that you need. We have kept all services running for as long as possible, but have had to temporarily close or stop some of those services, and we did so in line with government guidance to help people stay at home and stay safe. We will, of course, get these services back up and running as soon as possible, when this situation is behind us.
At times like these, local government comes into its own, helping those who are in urgent need. We have moved heaven and earth to act quickly and make sure that you can receive all the help and support that you need.
These are just some of the things we’ve been doing:
- Continued to provide weekly waste, recycling and brown bin collections throughout, even though many councils have stopped their garden waste collections. Thank you for your patience and understanding and messages of support for our marvellous waste crews for their continued efforts collecting our waste and recycling and maintaining those weekly collections for which Medway is rightly a stand-out council. They are collecting more waste than usual at the moment as more of us are at home, so please bear with us if sometimes we’re not with you bang on time.
- Worked in close partnership with all local schools to keep open more than 100 schools across Medway for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, with provision throughout the Easter break also planned.
- We have launched a pioneering service providing meals and food packages to the most vulnerable in our community who we have identified and already been in touch with. We have already delivered more than 35,595 meals to local people and have ensured that 1,700 have been fed safely. We’ve now delivered food packages to nearly 900 households and this work continues throughout the Easter weekend. We are also working hard with partners including Medway Norse, MHS Homes and our many voluntary and academic sector partners to deliver medicines to people and are providing a befriending service to ensure those most in need are supported.
- The government has put measures in place which enables us to provide additional financial support to our residents and businesses who need extra help during the pandemic and I have used Urgency Powers to allow this work to be carried out immediately. I am pleased that in just one week we have been able to receive nearly 1,300 forms online and after verification checks, have already paid out grants totalling £7.01 million.
- We have found accommodation for more than 35 rough sleepers and we would like to give a special thanks to staff at Gillingham Pier Asda who helped us get home essentials together quickly for the rough sleepers we have housed. Huge thanks also to the British Heart Foundation who have donated fridges and MHS Homes who have offered temporary accommodation for rough sleepers, and also removal company Danas Ramoska, who helped move fridge freezers into the properties and also donated beds for households.
- Our social workers remain out on the front line each day, caring for and protecting the most vulnerable people in Medway, including of course our children and families.
- Over the last three weeks our dedicated Customer Advice and Business Support team have answered almost 18,000 calls. Our call centre staff are helping residents continue to access our services and support which is crucial in these unprecedented times.
- Although our sports centres may be closed, our fitness instructors have launched online sessions to bring workouts to your living room, showing how we’ve adapted in these challenging times.
- We have also suspended parking charges for all NHS staff and social care workers in Medway during the pandemic.
- We have relaxed parking enforcement in our controlled parking zones, focussing on road safety.
Much of this has been achieved working closely with a whole range of partners from the public and private sector. I am so proud that in these times of need, everyone in Medway has come together to support our own people. I’d like to thank everyone who’s been working with us, but of course our greatest thanks go to our colleagues in the NHS battling to save lives. I was pleased to see so many residents joining in with the Thursday night round of applause. I was also pleased for the NHS logo to be illuminated onto Rochester Castle to show our appreciation for their work.
We’re all in this together and there’s a few things we need your help on too, especially over this Easter weekend. Our parks are open but please use them responsibly – remember the social distancing guidelines – walk, jog, or exercise your dog, but don’t hang around and please keep away from the play areas and skate parks.
Consider your neighbours while we are all at home and avoid having bonfires that could pose a threat to breathing. As we’re not able to open our household waste and recycling centres at the moment due to government guidance please don’t be tempted to flytip – it ruins our lovely environment and puts pressure on services that could be better used on the frontline helping keep people safe. Those caught fly-tipping will of course face the usual penalties. Services will resume as soon as possible, we are just asking you to have patience.
We are working hard to keep you informed during this time. We regularly post all news and helpful information on our social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
I’d like to end by thanking all the council staff who’ve been working so very hard to keep your services going – whether on the front line or supporting them. They genuinely care about the people of Medway and have been amazing in their response. If you see them working, please say hello or keep your lovely messages coming on social media.
I would like to wish you all a peaceful Easter. Please continue to do your bit and Stay Home, Save Lives.