Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 7 August 2020

I hope you have been able to take some holiday time over summer and make the most of being able to travel more widely and connect with family and friends. It has been lovely to see so many people rediscovering Scotland's great outdoors, although for 'staycationers' like myself, the recent weather has not been entirely kind.

Life and work in a COVID-19 world continues to present us with many challenges, with local lockdowns and restrictions being re-imposed due to cluster outbreaks across the country. While we have made considerable progress to reduce transmission of the virus and can enjoy many more freedoms, COVID-19 remains a threat to public health and our economic and social recovery. I have been very pleased to see more local services resume and to hear how grateful our communities are for our efforts to deliver services in new ways, despite the on-going challenges.

A significant step forward was confirmation by the First Minister last Thursday (July 30), that schools and nurseries will reopen full time - news that will be welcome to many parents and pupils. I am very grateful to our school teams; teachers, support staff and our cleaning and catering staff, for their exceptional commitment to ensuring we are ready to welcome our children and young people back safely from Wednesday (Aug 12). A huge amount of work has continued over summer to prepare our schools and nurseries, keep parents and carers updated on our plans and to support staff return to work, especially those who were previously Shielding. I want to say a big thank you to everyone involved for the dedication you have shown to our pupils and nursery children. I am aware of how much it has meant to local families to have been kept informed every step of the way and I have really enjoyed watching our welcome back video and the messages from our school teams.

The First Minister's announcement also confirmed the decision not to progress to Stage 4 of easing lockdown measures at this time. For the council, this means that non-essential offices must remain closed and many of us will continue to work from home for longer - at least until mid-September. When we entered lockdown I don't think many of us could have imagined that some of our buildings would remain closed for so long. Behind the scenes we are working hard to put safety measures in place so that we are ready to quickly reopen our HQ and Customer Service Centre as soon as Government Guidance allows, using our experience of safely operating our depot and some smaller offices that support essential care and social work services. For colleagues who are continuing to work from home, we have produced a Guide [231KB]  to support longer-term home working and I would urge you to read this and share with colleagues to make sure you have access to the resources and support you need.

Many of you will be following national news on local clusters and lockdowns, most recently in Aberdeen. I want to reassure you that we are working closely with our partners in Public Health to monitor positive cases daily and any that are confirmed in the Renfrewshire area. We are ready to take steps to manage a potential cluster quickly, but we continue to rely on your help and support to minimise the risk of transmission. Our campaign to promote Test and Protect will continue this weekend, urging local people to please be vigilant and to follow FACTS guidance - wear a face covering, avoid crowded spaces, clean hands and surfaces regularly, keep two meters distance from others, and self-isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.

For all colleagues, especially those who have recently returned or continue to work from a workplace, please take some time to read our Working Safely During CoronavirusĀ Guide [182KB] , and make sure you know what to do if you become unwell. It is very important that anyone with symptoms immediately isolates and books a test. Your manager is here to support you and will ensure that HR are updated on your absence and progress, and if required we can arrange a test for you. I know many of you will be feeling weary of the restrictions and new ways of living and working, but I ask that you please continue to work together and play your part in Renfrewshire's recovery. To do that, we need to reduce the risk of transmitting this horrible virus, keep our communities safe and our businesses open.

This week marked the end of our Childcare Hubs and I want to highlight the wonderful staff who have operated the hubs since lockdown, providing a lifeline to essential workers and their families. The feedback from parents, carers and the children themselves has been outstanding and I know I speak for many when I say I am sincerely grateful and proud of the care and learning you provided - especially at the height of the outbreak.

And finally, it has also been a week of anxiety and celebration for pupils waiting on their SQA results and I want to pass on my congratulations to all our young people who have shown remarkable resilience throughout the year. I am delighted so many pupils received the results they hoped for and to see so much positive news coverage for Renfrewshire schools. Our schools are also here to support any young person who may not have received the results they were expecting, and if you have a young person in this situation, please do get in touch with your school.

Once again, thank you for your support and everything you continue to do to support each other and local people in Renfrewshire.

Please stay safe and enjoy your weekend.

Sandra.