Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 29 May 2020

This week the First Minister confirmed the careful easing of lockdown measures in Scotland and the small changes that will help to improve our quality of life as we continue to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. As we enter the weekend, I am sure many of you will be planning to meet up with family and friends you have not seen since the beginning of lockdown.

This is such an important marker in our response to the virus and will provide a huge boost to our health and wellbeing. It is down to the commitment and resilience of everyone who has followed the guidelines, and to our colleagues delivering essential services and helping others to remain at home, that we are able to take these very important first steps on our recovery journey.

Although the lockdown remains largely in place, the changes mean that we can spend more time outside and meet up with another household outdoors as long as we follow strict hygiene rules and maintain physical distancing. It also means we can travel a little further to see people. I would urge everyone to please read the guidance and make sure you are aware of what this means for you. There is updated information on the sort of outdoors activity that people can resume including golf and tennis and clear advice to stay local, walk or cycle and to avoid public transport if possible. It also means some changes for council services as more outdoors work is allowed and we have worked hard over the past few weeks to be ready to restart safely, with the health and wellbeing of colleagues and local people at the heart of our planning.

We are resuming some of our grass cutting services and have reopened tennis, golf and outdoors bowling today. Our Household Waste and Recycling Centres will begin a phased reopening from Monday, and we are into detailed planning on how children will return to school and nursery in August. I want to thank colleagues for their commitment to make these changes that will ease pressure on local people. We can expect to see some garden centres and take-away food retailers reopen, and the construction sector will also begin to make plans to restart. In the main however, the message remains to stay home and work from home where possible.

In the coming days, we will also receive more guidance about restarting support services in the community. This will enable social work services to increase contact with our most vulnerable children and families, and provide support and respite to unpaid carers and those with a disabled family member, who have faced significant challenges coping with the lockdown. It has been an incredible undertaking for everyone involved and I want to sincerely thank our social work teams and support workers who have worked tirelessly in the hardest conditions to protect, support and extend care and friendship to those who need us most.  

We are still fighting a deadly virus and it is so important that we do everything possible to adapt to living with coronavirus and help our communities and local businesses to do the same. I want to reassure colleagues that as measures are eased and those who can't work from home return to work, you are guaranteed safe workplaces and work practices and full support from the council. This may include flexibility to manage childcare, support to safely use public transport, quick access to testing and support to self-isolate should you or a member of your household become unwell.

The Test and Protect programme is a key part of the national strategy to help ease lockdown measures by tracking outbreaks of the virus and stopping it from spreading further, and we all need to play our part in its success. If you or a member of your household becomes unwell with symptoms of Coronavirus, please book your test straight away and self-isolate at home. If you test positive, you will be asked to provide details of the people you have been in direct contact with and they too will be asked to self-isolate. This means that all of us may be asked to self-isolate at some point in future because we have had contact with someone who has tested positive. Remember to notify your manager as quickly as possible so that we can support you through self-isolation and your return to work. For more information on Test and Protect and booking a test please visit https://www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test.

I was delighted to see the launch of our social media campaign #KindnessCounts celebrating the countless acts of kindness that have taken place across Renfrewshire since lockdown began, and to see the wonderful responses from local people sharing their stories of hope. The way our communities have come together to cope with the crisis has been exceptional. I am very aware that so many have experienced loss and isolation and are struggling through the darkest of times, and I would urge everyone who needs help to please reach out and ask for support. We are here to listen and to help you recover.

Since the beginning of the crisis, I've tried hard to get out for a walk as many mornings as possible before I start my day, to stay active and plan ahead, and I have been struck by how much I have learned and discovered about my own neighbourhood. Inspired by Mental Health Awareness Week, I have now signed up to the Renfrewshire Leisure Walking Challenge and have committed to walk 48 miles in four weeks throughout the month of June and I hope I can persuade some of you to join me. Please sign up if you can at https://www.renfrewshireleisure.com/renfrewshire-leisure-walking-challenge/ and we can compare notes along the way.

And finally, I hope you are able to make the most of this weekend and enjoy some time with some of the people you have missed most. Please stay local if you can, protect our lovely parks and open spaces, and each other.

Many thanks for your ongoing support.

Sandra