We are now into our fifth week of lockdown and, if you are anything like me, are gradually settling into new routines at home and in our working lives. For many of us, we are getting used to and embracing new ways of doing things and new norms are being established, many of them very good, and we can build on them as we come out the other side, in the hopefully not too distant future.
One thing we’ve all seen is greater use of technology. Many of you will be using laptops, mobile phones and tablets to keep in touch with loved ones or to carry out work from home – it is a blessing. The investment in technology we’ve made at the council in recent years means that many in our workforce can work remotely, for example our social workers out visiting the people they care for or talking to them via video technology where we can’t visit them in person at the moment. This all means that we can continue to bring you essential services, even in lockdown.
We remain committed to continuing to provide services for you however we can – we’ve just been doing them in a different way. Our sports teams have been holding daily exercise classes online for you to join in, you’ve now borrowed more than 13,000 books or magazines online from our libraries, and more than 2,000 people have taken part in our family Facebook story times. We’ve created a whole suite of information on our A Better Medway website, providing helpful advice and ideas for looking after yourself and your family well in lockdown and we are hoping to bring you adult education classes online shortly.
Technology has also enabled the important business of council to continue and tonight for the first time we will be livestreaming, via the internet, the full council meeting where we are discussing important matters such as the progress of our Housing Infrastructure Fund project which will bring vastly improved infrastructure, in the shape of road and rail networks, to the Hoo Peninsula and the proposed rolling out of LED street lighting and new lamp columns across Medway to support our climate change agenda.
One of the things that has struck me most during the past few weeks has been the very visible strengths of partnership and community that exists in Medway. Those partnerships have enabled us to deliver a comprehensive and effective response to the pandemic in Medway, keeping people safe and helping to support those who are most in need. All organisations have come together from the public, private and voluntary sector including MHS Homes, Medway Norse, Medway Street Angels, Copper Rivet Distillery, Mears, British Heart Foundation – to name but a few and a full list that we wish to thank is attached with this message. Working together we have all done some amazing things for our community and I want to express the heartfelt thanks from us all at Medway Council for the speed, commitment, professionalism and friendship they have all brought over the past weeks. I am keen that this should continue well into the future.
And at grassroots levels it’s been wonderful to see communities coming together on Facebook and other social media channels to identify needs in their communities and help others. There will be many sad outcomes from this period of time, not least many people losing loved ones, but I also hope there is some enduring good that also comes from this time too.
We continue to keep local people at the heart of what we are doing. So far our team working on our emergency support community project delivering food packages to those most in need have delivered 2,432 food boxes to 3,637 local people, which equates to 76,377 meals. In just over two weeks, we have dealt with 1,500 applications for business grants and paid out nearly £19million to local businesses. Our social care teams continue to work closely supporting the most vulnerable adults and children in our communities, we have widespread school provision available for children of critical workers and those who need most support and we have continued to provide weekly waste collections for your recycling, residual rubbish, garden and food waste.
We have been touched by the many messages of thanks we’ve been receiving, particularly for our food packages. Our staff really appreciate the words of support you’ve been giving them at this difficult time. Please do keep the messages coming.
And we know that you are continuing to do your bit. The news that the numbers of new cases of coronavirus and deaths are beginning to slow is encouraging but we still have a long way to go in this fight. Please do continue to heed the messages about staying at home unless your journey is essential to protect yourselves and your loved ones, save lives and reduce the strain on the NHS. We are all in this together so remember your neighbours as well in all you do – do they have supplies they need and please be considerate when planning any potentially noisy activities or bonfires that could be a nuisance.
For our part we will continue to work with government and our partners as we constantly review the services we provide to you. It our intention to revert to full service delivery as soon as circumstances allow. In the meantime please be assured that we are doing all we can to keep people safe, responding to the needs of children and families on a daily basis.