Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 8 January 2021

I would like to wish you and your families a very happy new year and for those who have had time off, a warm welcome back.

I hope you all managed a break and some well-deserved rest over the festive period and the quieter time meant some peace for you and your families after a year like no other.

I would also like to sincerely thank all our staff who worked tirelessly throughout the festive period and will continue to do so over the winter, keeping our communities safe and in particular our roads gritting teams working round the clock. I would also like to thank our HSCP colleagues who continued to work to support the vital vaccination of our care home staff over the period. This work is the start of important progress against this virus and will be key to some return to normal in future.

The start of the year has sadly been marked by a return to measures announced by Scottish Government more familiar to us from the first lockdown last March. The increase in the number of positive cases in Renfrewshire is replicated across the rest of the country and the identification of a new variant of the virus with more rapid transmission resulted in tighter measures which came into effect on Tuesday 5 January and will remain in place until 1 February.

This means that you must now only leave home for essential shopping or other essential reasons, including to collect medicine, for essential work if you are unable to work from home, outdoor exercise and caring responsibilities.

You can read more about the Scottish Government's guidance on the new lockdown regulations here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/

As part of these new temporary measures, this means that if your role allows you to work from home, then you should please do so. You can find out more about what this means here - Covid-19: Stay at Home guidance.

If you are required to attend work because you are delivering or supporting the delivery of one of our essential services, then please be assured that all necessary measures are in place to ensure your safety and you should continue to attend work. If any changes are required, you will be informed by your line manager.

We have consistently followed advice and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive and Scottish Government and continue to engage with the trade unions to ensure our workplaces are safe. All workplaces have been risk-assessed and strict measures put in place to ensure you can continue to carry out your role safely. Where required, risk assessments have also been  carried out for individual members of staff. Please ensure you know our what our Covid-19 safe work practices are and follow them at all times.

A further change is for those staff who are Shielding who must now remain at home. You will receive a letter from the Chief Medical Officer and also from the council with more information. 

The new measures also mean the extension of arrangements for our schools and nurseries until 1 February. I would like to again thank all our teaching and schools staff for their hard work in adapting to these changes and continuing with vital support for our children. I would also like to thank the trade unions for their continued positive engagement as we work to manage the impact of these changes. I fully recognise that again this change will be disruptive for many parents. If you are struggling, please speak to your line manager who will work with you to help.

If you have concerns at any time when carrying out your role, please speak to your line manager who will work with you to resolve them. And please remember that if at any time you, or someone in your household, develop symptoms of Covid-19, you should self-isolate immediately, book a test via the NHS Inform website and inform your line manager as early as possible who will then advise on your next steps. If you are advised to self-isolate as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, please do not come to work and please remember we are here to support you.

We are all hoping for a brighter year ahead and the recent news about approval of the additional Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine is another very positive development. The priority will be supporting the roll-out of the vaccination programme here in Renfrewshire to help protect people and local businesses from this virus. We will do everything possible to emerge from the current situation with a focus on renewal and recovery.

It is clear we face perhaps the biggest challenge now and over the coming weeks since the start of this pandemic. It will require our continued resilience and support - both for our communities and businesses impacted - but also for each other. So please take time to look after yourself and know support is there if needed. We will be highlighting the different types of support available over the coming months and you can read more about it here Our Wellbeing. If you are struggling, please speak to your line manager for help and we will support you.

I know this is not the start to the year we wanted, but I am heartened by the fantastic commitment and professionalism shown by our staff day in and day out, serving the communities of Renfrewshire and reflected in the feedback we get both from our residents and our partners. I am proud of all our teams and look forward to working with you in the months ahead.

Please take care and stay safe.

Sandra Black.