Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 15 May 2020

With another weekend fast approaching under lockdown, I am conscious of how difficult it can be to differentiate between days, balance home and work, and find things to do that help us to relax and switch-off. All aspects of our lives are dominated by the current pandemic and constant news and information about the crisis. This in itself can create stress at a time when we can't take time out to do the things we love most, or to meet with family or friends. I am also very aware of how hard it must be for colleagues who are having to self-isolate and cannot leave the house at all and for those living with, and supporting, someone who is Shielding. Please remember the council is here to help and to listen, to check in to make sure you are safe and well or connect you to a wide range of wellbeing support.

For that reason, I am really pleased we are shining a light on Mental Health Awareness Week from Monday and can connect you to resources and advice to help keep body and mind healthy during this challenging time. Fittingly the theme this year is kindness and to mark the event our Health and Safety colleagues will be sharing daily updates and hints, tips and exercises on looking after your own, and your friends and family's mental health and wellbeing. As part of the programme I am pledging my support to Renfrewshire Leisure's virtual walking challenge, and I hope some of you will be joining me.

I remain immensely proud of the remarkable response from all services and our partners to help manage the Coronavirus outbreak, and the commitment of our communities to stay home and follow Government guidance. I want to take this opportunity to recognise colleagues who are at home and have been unable to carry out their normal roles. I am aware of how frustrating this must be, and I want to offer my thanks to you for remaining at home, reducing the risk of the virus spreading and helping to save lives. We are continuing to see signs of hope with hospital admissions and the number of people requiring intensive care treatment in decline, and this is down to everyone doing the right thing.

While we are seeing progress in some areas, the impact of the virus in care homes across the country continues to be deeply upsetting and I am sure many of you will have been following national media reports on this. I want to assure you that here in Renfrewshire, the council is working tirelessly with the Health and Social Care Partnership to extend whatever support is required to all care homes in our area. I am so grateful to our health and social care teams for their unfaltering commitment to care for some of our most vulnerable older people in the most difficult of circumstances, and to the many home carers and our community meals team who provide essential care and prevent isolation. I want to pass on by sincere condolences to families who have lost a loved one during this crisis and offer the council's full support to the staff who have supported residents and their families throughout. 

This week saw lockdown rules relaxed slightly by Scottish Government, with limits on daily exercise lifted. This means we can exercise more than once a day, close to home, if we continue to follow physical distancing. Other than this one change, all other measures remain in place in Scotland and that means staying at home and limiting all non-essential travel. We expect to hear more from the First Minister this weekend on progress to supress the R number - the rate of transmission of COVID-19, and if we can expect further relaxation of lockdown in the coming weeks, but for now the stay at home message is the only one that applies in Scotland. Restrictions have been further eased by the UK Government for England only.

Regardless of when we do begin our recovery, home working is likely to be a fact of life for many of us for some time to come and we want to make sure everyone who can work from home is supported to do this, and you have a safe and flexible homeworking environment. I have really enjoyed seeing the photographs you have shared of how you have set up at home and the range of helpers you have on hand.  Thank you for creating space in your homes to help the council deliver vital services and stay connected to our communities. In the coming days and weeks we will be making sure you have the right equipment to continue to work from home a bit longer and we will be extending the ability to work from home to others, where possible. For everyone else, we ask for your patience as we prepare for the easing of restrictions and create COVID-19 secure workplaces, processes and services that will support you to return to work safe and confident, when the time is right.

We will continue to plan how we support people and communities, our town centres and businesses to come through this crisis and find a new normal where we remain safe and heathy. We are in regular contact with business leaders from a range of sectors to listen to their concerns and to discuss how we can work together to drive Renfrewshire's economic and social recovery. We are already working hard to plan how we might balance the gradual re-introduction of services with ongoing measures to prevent infection and manage the financial cost of the crisis, and I hope to share this with you in the coming weeks. We have a long journey ahead, but I am convinced that by working together, with our colleagues, partners and communities, we will protect lives and livelihoods.

Finally, can I thank everyone who has taken the time to share ideas on how we continue to improve how we keep in touch with you during the current situation and beyond. Your views are important, and I would encourage you to complete the short survey and have your say before Thursday 21 May.  You can tell us what you think here: https://survey123.arcgis.com/share/eb88faccceaa4ad7b3d82b71c2d0e553 

Once again, I want to tell you how grateful I am for the dedication and support you continue to give to the council, your service and the people we provide for. Please take time this weekend to pause and connect with the people you care about most. Thank you and please stay safe.

Sandra