Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 22 May 2020

As we head into another bank holiday weekend it is with increased hope, as we see the number of hospital admissions and deaths due to Coronavirus continue to fall, and we can begin to look ahead to the easing of some lockdown measures at the end of next week. I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who is continuing to play their part in helping to reduce the spread of infection by staying at home and to those who are so carefully supporting our communities and businesses. I don't underestimate how difficult it is to balance work life, family and home schooling, and I appreciate everything you do to support the council.

Yesterday the Scottish Government announced more details of the steps we will take to come through the crisis in their document COVID-19: Framework for Decision Making - Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis - and I would urge you to read through this information and share your feedback if you are able. This describes the important steps that lie ahead for all of us as restrictions are gradually lifted and includes examples of what people, organisations and businesses can expect to see change over time. The changes, from May 28, will allow friends and family to begin to reconnect and spend some time outside with people from other households, providing physical distancing is followed. This will be very welcome news for so many, who will soon have the chance to meet up with the people closest to them.

But for a little longer, and over the coming weekend, the message in Scotland remains the same. Please stay at home except for essential purposes such as exercise, travelling for essential work or food and medicine shopping.

Having more clarity on the Government's route map marks an important step forward in our own planning and will have implications about how the council works and provides services in future. We are examining the detail and the impact of those changes, and I will keep you updated as soon as more information is available. A key factor in the pace of change will be dependent on each one of us and our continued commitment to follow the guidance and the success of the national Test and Protect programme, to be launched at the end of May, which will help to reduce the spread of infection by tracing those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive and supporting them to self-isolate. More details on the programme and what this means for you will follow in next week's newsletter.

I am very pleased that we now also have confirmation of the return of all schools and nurseries in Scotland on August 11 and I am sure this will provide some relief for parents and carers. For our schools' staff this will mean a return to classrooms at some point in June to prepare for term restarting after summer. Our priority is to ensure our schools and nurseries reopen safely and continue to feel welcoming and familiar for all our children and young people. I want to express my gratitude to our teaching staff and the wider schools' teams who have been providing exceptional support to pupils and their families since lockdown began. This includes the wonderful work of our childcare hubs and the care being provided for the children of Renfrewshire's key workers and some of our most vulnerable young people. The dedication of our schools to help pupils continue to learn and be part of their school community and the commitment shown by everyone involved in our childcare hubs will have a lasting impact.

Last week we saw testing being extended to everyone over the age of 5 who is symptomatic, and I want to remind colleagues that testing is available to you as soon as you need it. This means that all members of staff displaying any of the three symptoms of COVID-19, namely; a new continuous cough, high temperature, or loss of sense of taste or smell - will now be able to book a test. Priority will continue to be given to key workers and those in their household, and you can find information on how to book your test on our website: http://www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/article/10232/Expansion-of-testing-for-key-workers or by contacting your manager or one of the HR team. Please don't delay if you feel unwell, stay home and please contact your manager so that we can provide the support and advice you need. I am also very encouraged that testing is soon to be extended to all care home staff regardless of whether a home has a case of COVID-19 or not. Providing daily support to our care homes continues to be a top priority and this new development is a positive step forward to protect staff and residents from this devastating virus.

I was really pleased to see so much positive activity taking place to mark Mental Health Awareness Week and I hope you have had the chance to access some of the national resources and those provided by the council. Your health and wellbeing really matter, now more so than ever, and the council is here to provide support to anyone who needs this. Please take some time to see what advice is available for you, your family and colleagues, on a range of topics from eating well to mindfulness and staying active. You can find information and guides on the Health, Safety and Wellbeing at Work section on the website. Please share this information to anyone you think may benefit.  

While we all continue to respond to the crisis, I want to reassure you that we have reached a time when can cautiously look ahead and make decisions about the recovery of core council services as lockdown measures are eased. The impact of the pandemic will last for some time to come, and our communities will require flexible services and new services as we change and adapt to living long-term with Coronavirus.  The corporate management team, including Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership and Renfrewshire Leisure, are working through recovery plans around health and social care, learning, communities, economy and our own organisational recovery to ensure that we are safe, ready and able to adapt. Your continued support and willingness to work together in new ways will mean Renfrewshire continues to be in safe hands. 

Finally, please look out for and support our #kindnesscounts campaign that launches today to celebrate and say thank you to the volunteers, neighbours and communities who have come together to support people through the crisis and to share their many remarkable stories.

Thank you all once again for your commitment and dedication to each other and to the people who rely on us most.

Have a lovely bank holiday weekend, please try to get some downtime and most of all, stay safe.

Sandra.