Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 24 April 2020

For those of you that had time off over the Easter break, a warm welcome back and I hope you all had the chance to rest and spend time with the people close to you.

I would also like to thank everyone who continued to work over the holidays to provide vital services that so many people in our communities rely on, and please do make sure you are able to have some well-deserved downtime soon.

This week was back to school for many but in a very different way to how we usually operate. I'd like to thank all our teaching staff for the fantastic support and online learning they continue to provide, giving parents and carers breathing space and the confidence that we are doing everything we can for their children. I am aware that many of you will be back to balancing work with home learning and I am keen we do all we can to support you. I'd also like to thank all our staff, who continued to work to provide childcare for our key workers throughout the holidays. It was great to see some of the activities the children were taking part in, as well as the support received from our local businesses and communities. The outpouring of thanks from parents who rely on this help is testament to the care and dedication of everyone involved.

Last week we announced that we would be postponing the council's change programme Right for Renfrewshire until further notice, so that we can continue to focus resource on the response to Coronavirus. Before the outbreak, we were progressing six service designs and preparing to make significant changes to the way the council operates. As you may have anticipated, we have decided to put the programme on hold and delay changes planned this year. The support from staff and services since we entered this crisis has been nothing short of remarkable, and it would simply not be possible to ask more of you at this time. This decision will help us focus our energy on tackling the crisis, bolster essential services and ensure we keep everyone safe and well.

I would like to thank you for the work that has already been completed on the programme and to reassure you that this will not be lost. The current situation is really testing our capacity and capability and changing how we do things, and this will result in new ways of working and lessons learned for all of us that will influence how we work together as a council in the future.

We have written to colleagues who are directly impacted by this decision to explain what this will mean for them. Those who have already received a formal leave date as part of the voluntary severance scheme, are being asked to volunteer to postpone their leaving date until Wednesday 31 March 2021. This will be up to each individual and those who wish to remain will be guaranteed their release next March and will receive updated figures. For others, who have a live expressions of interest, this will be kept on hold until the programme restarts. You can read more about the decision to postpone here. 

Earlier this week, the Scottish Government launched 'Clear Your Head', a new national campaign highlighting practical advice and steps we can all take to manage our mental health and wellbeing during lockdown. It is so important that we protect our wellbeing and keep connected, and the council will be doing everything possible to support the campaign.

In addition, we have produced new wellbeing advice and support for you and your families. The guides include ideas for keeping moving outdoors and indoors, creating a good structure and sleep pattern, managing online use, looking after yourself by reducing stress and staying healthy when it comes to food and exercise. This is an excellent resource and one that I hope you will use and tap into whenever required - Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Work 

Almost every part of our lives has been changed by this crisis and many of us will have family and loved ones who need more support at this time and are significantly impacted by the measures to keep them safe. Please keep in touch with your line manager and draw support from the council if you need some additional help at this time.

Being a good neighbour has never been so important, and I'd ask you all to continue to look out for people who live close by and offer each other a helping hand. I am very aware of the extraordinary lengths that staff and local people and groups go to so that no one is left behind in this crisis.

Our Local Assistance helpline continues to provide support to hundreds of people every week who need our help to access food and medicine while keeping themselves isolated and safe. Please pass on our helpline number - 0300 300 0230- to anyone you think might be affected, especially those without the support of family and friends.

While the coronavirus pandemic continues to be a public health crisis, it has quickly become an economic crisis and the strict measures in place to reduce the spread of the infection are likely to have long-lasting effects on our economy. While the response is being led at a national level, the council has an important role to play in Renfrewshire's economic recovery and I wanted to reassure you that we are starting to look ahead and plan what this might look like and prepare for the gradual reintroduction of services at the right time and will share this planning with you as soon as possible. We have a journey ahead as a community and as a council, and I am sincerely grateful for the commitment and dedication you continue to give.

Thank you and please stay safe and well