Renfrewshire Council

Staff Weekly News - 12 June 2020

In this week's staff news:




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A message from our Chief Executive, Sandra Black


"The number of deaths linked to Covid-19 has now continued to fall for the sixth consecutive week with this week's figures representing the lowest number of deaths since late March.

"While the progress has been significant, it is important it's sustained and if the current trend continues the First Minister hopes to announce further careful easing of restrictions next week. That's why it's so important that we continue to stay at home where possible, stay two metres away from anyone not from your own household and please continue to adhere to the physical distancing guidance.

"It's only by continuing to follow the guidance that we can help support the NHS and our colleagues still battling the illness or having to remain in isolation, while also taking another careful step on the route map out of lockdown.

"At the beginning of the week the Scottish Government confirmed that people who were considered most vulnerable and who have already received a letter advising them to shield up until 18 June, must continue to so until the end of July at the earliest.

"I understand just how difficult it must be for any of our staff, or anyone being asked to shield and their families. If you do receive a letter please contact your manager who will be able to provide you with the appropriate support and guidance."

Click here to read Sandra's messge in full.


Latest information and advice - we've got you covered!


This week, the Scottish Government confirmed that people who are following Shielding guidelines should continue to do so until the end of July. An official letter from the Scottish Government will be issued to those affected, advising them of the extension and outlining some of the potential changes ahead. You can read more about it here— Scottish Government updated advice on Shielding.

In the meantime, if you have been advised to shield please continue to do so, and if you receive a letter please contact your manager who will be able to provide you with the appropriate support and guidance.

As Carers Week draws to a close, Elaine McAllister shares her story on 'Life in Shielding' and how this has impacted her life and responsibilities as a carer to her mum. All week we have been highlighting the policies and supports available to working carers as well as sharing their stories, helping them to come together and most of all make caring visible.

To access these resources, follow this link to be taken to our Carers Week webpage.


Health, Safety and Wellbeing at work and at home


Don't forget our 'Health and wellbeing at work' page is there to help whether you are on the front line or working from home. It is frequently updated with the latest information and advice on how to keep safe and maintain a healthy body and mind. This week we added updated guidance for First Aiders working out and about at various facilities during this time. Follow the link to find out more.

The Scottish Government has also put together a great package to help people keep body and mind healthy during this challenging time. For ideas on exercising, healthy diet, maintaining a social life and staying emotionally centred visit their website here.

Our employee counselling service, Time for Talking, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Professional counsellors are on hand to provide you with free, confidential support via telephone and digital channels such as Skype. Visit the webpage here for more information or call 0800 970 3980 for free support now.

Staff Survey Highlights

We would like to thank all 1,431 of you who took the time and opportunity to have your say in last month's staff communication survey. This was a fantastic response. Your feedback is much appreciated and we will use what you've told us to help inform our future communications with you.

The way we're now working as a council has changed dramatically over recent months and to make sure we are providing you with the right type of information and support to help you adapt and thrive we asked for your views and experiences of our staff communications, what we are doing well and where we can improve.

We will share the full results of the survey and next steps with you in the coming weeks however in the meantime here are some of the key themes and findings:

Internal Communications

  • 90% rate the staff information section of the website as useful/very useful and 77% rate the staff weekly newsletter as very useful/very useful


•  You are most interested in information that impacts upon your role (98%), about your department (98%), health and wellbeing (93%) and decisions that affect other areas of the council (82%)

•  You want access to timely, relevant information at the same time as everyone else.

Manager Communications

•  You want more regular, consistent communications from your Manager/Head of Service, and to be consulted and informed on preparation and plans for the future and working arrangements


•  With more staff making use of technologies such as Skype and Microsoft Teams to connect and work together, there is a real appetite for digital content—with 89% saying they would like to view more video content

Thanks to everyone who was able to complete the survey. Watch this space for more details soon!


250,000 Meals, 6,000 calls, 2,200 households, One mission

If life under lockdown has taught us one thing, many might say it has been incredible what we can achieve when we all come together to support our communities. As an organisation faced with a global pandemic, we have risen to the challenge and nothing could highlight that more than our mission to support those in need across Renfrewshire during this time.

The Council established a response to the pandemic with a programme of support packages being delivered to vulnerable families.  This provision includes freshly prepared meals for 7 days per week together with a weekly package of essential items.  These have now been delivered to around 2,200 households across Renfrewshire and we have now reached the milestone of providing more than 250,000 meals to these vulnerable families.

In the early days of lockdown, the first priority was identifying residents who were in need of support. Through the efforts of our staff and assistance from community and partner organisations, we were able to quickly organise deliveries of support packs to those most in need.

As part of our response to the Covid-19 crisis, we also set up a Local Assistance Helpline as the first port of call for residents looking for support. This was well received by residents and proved to be a valuable addition to the support pack distribution service. To date the helpline has received more than 6,000 calls, most of these resulting in referrals for support packs.

The large-scale, seven-day operation has been undertaken by staff in dedicated distribution sites at Castlehead, Gleniffer and Park Mains High Schools, Amey employees and teams from across the council, including redeployed staff and volunteers, who have all played an important role in delivering this vital service. Whether it's been prepping and cooking fresh meals; packing bags; procuring items; managing the helpline and taking calls or delivering food parcels direct to the doors of those most in need, your work has been essential.

As the situation evolves and the service of providing support packages as an emergency measure to support those in need begins to change, this outstanding achievement and our staff commitment is fantastic!


Life in Shielding

Keep growing—Elaine's sage advice!

The shift to homeworking and life under lockdown conditions has been especially challenging for those following shielding guidelines.

We caught up with Human Resources and Organisational Development (HR&OD) Advisor, Elaine McAllister—one of our staff members who has been working from home whilst shielding throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

A big focus for Elaine has been devising new creative ways for the Council to support staff with employee learning and development opportunities such as the online delivery of popular programmes like Chartered Management Institute (CMI) courses. This has helped Elaine to focus her mind and keep busy during this difficult time.

We asked her how she has been coping. Here's what she had to say:

"Shielding has been hard, I won't lie. I haven't left my house and garden since the middle of March. But I know I'm lucky I have an outdoor space and that I don't live alone, unlike many others.

"As restrictions begin to ease for most people, the strain on those of us who are shielding seems to me, even more intense. The news this week that shielding guidelines will remain the same for now isn't what I was hoping for. But I know it's necessary and hopefully we will have some ease of the restrictions upon us in the not too distant future.

"When shielding guidance was first set out it really was quite daunting. Staying two metres apart from the rest of your household at all times is not at all easy and at times it feels as though we are living separate lives. Little things you take for granted like putting shopping away or opening mail have now become the sole responsibility of my husband.

"I must admit, I'm getting used to having a 'butler' around the house. Unfortunately, he doesn't share my opinion that it would be good idea to continue that part of the set up once the pandemic has passed!

"Like most 'shielders', I have good days and bad days. On the bad days I feel like a prisoner in my own home. The situation has taught me to have more compassion for those who normally live housebound lives whether it's due to disability or any other reason.

"Carers week has been especially relevant for me. Under normal circumstances I care for my mum but have not been able to do that since I started shielding. I really miss her and I know the information and advice I've picked up this week will be helpful to me when I am free to start caring for her again. 
"I'm so thankful for the technology which has allowed us to stay connected in work. We have regular Skype and Teams sessions so that's been a great way to stay connected. Linking in with my team and focusing on what we can do to help others during this time has been a real positive for me.

"Technology has also been key to helping me sustain some sort of social life. I've set up a Facebook group so all my close friends and family can keep in touch- we have daily polls on some of our favourite things. Highlights have included 'favourite ice lolly'—Feast won that vote, 'Best 80s movie'—The Goonies came out on top and the 'best retro buffet food'—the cheese and onion hedgehog took the crown.

"Besides keeping productive at work and a little less so with my Facebook social group, I've also been busy exercising my green fingers. Those who know me, know that I love gardening, so I've had lots of garden projects on the go. But as much as I love my outdoor space, the thought of getting out for a walk and a brief change of scenery is something that just can't come quickly enough.

"My message to other 'shielders' out there is —this won't last forever, even though it might feel that way! Keep going, stay positive and try to enjoy the downtime and whatever positives you can get from this very unusual situation. There are many of us in the same boat, so you are not alone!"


Spotlight on ICT

- A message from Patrick Murray

"Attitudes towards technology are changing. Consider for a moment, since lockdown began, how many staff members have used Microsoft Teams or Skype? Lockdown has removed the luxury of choice. For most of us, if you want to see your colleagues now, it must be on screen.

"Any concerns around the capacity of the internet infrastructure to cope with mass online working has been completely blown out the water in recent weeks. Some experts have long called for the internet to be recognised as a public utility, alongside electricity, water and gas—and perhaps it has finally earned its spurs. Microsoft say that digital transformation has advanced two years in just two months!

"History will eventually reveal whether lockdown was the dawn of a new era or merely a blip before things returned to the way they were. Let's hope it is a new dawn. For technology to be a game-changer it must become part of the furniture: consistent, reliable and unremarkable.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has also triggered an unprecedented demand for technology solutions. Like all Council services, ICT had to quickly respond to the changes required in working practices due to Covid-19. But our journey towards this operating model and harnessing the underpinning technology started some time ago.

"Long-term strategic planning and investment helped us to fast-track pre-lockdown preparations while our flexible delivery model meant we were already in a strong position to meet the technical and operational challenges of the pandemic. The drive to deliver innovative technical solutions and support the changing needs of Council services was already central to our approach.

"It all started when we developed our 'ICT Strategy 2017-2020' which identified the need to change the way we work by making the next technological leap. We recognised the potential significant improvements we could make by harnessing new technologies such as Microsoft O365. Since then, the Council's approach to ICT has become more structured and strategic. Through following a set of guiding principles that provide the framework for our service design, we have delivered technology-based solutions that support new ways of working across the Council where staff and customers alike experience real benefits.

"As lockdown loomed, we anticipated the large-scale shift to homeworking and took steps to upscale our remote access infrastructure, ensuring the servers could cope with a sudden increase in remote connections. Internal remote-control software tools were then reconfigured to enable the seamless support of Council provisioned devices. Additionally, the ICT Service Desk Self Service Portal continues to provide a mechanism to ensure any issues are logged and dealt with in a timely manner.

"Since lockdown began, ICT have continued to 'sweat the asset' that is Microsoft O365. Through using this extensive, ever evolving and evergreen toolset for anytime/anywhere conferencing, collaboration and information sharing, it is safe to say that Teams and Skype along with Windows 10 and Direct Access are now core to home working. "Furthermore, we have continued to configure and deploy new devices over the lockdown period, providing additional staff with the ability to work from home.

"Simply put, adaptability and providing flexible technological solutions is part of our DNA. We are always looking ahead and identifying new ways that technology can bring real benefits to the Council and its people. This includes the development of a Bring Your Own Device solution for personal smartphone or tablet use to give you more options for linking in and accessing the information you need to effectively perform your role.

"As the virtual 'offices and classrooms of the future' emerge, ICT are already well placed to support any potential hybrids between remote and location working, teaching and learning. "I want to thank all the staff within ICT for your commitment, hard work and support to your colleagues during this time. Together we have successfully enabled homeworking on a scale that has never before been seen, allowing for the continuation of vital Council services and supports to the people of Renfrewshire. We have created confidence in the technologies that will be required to move us forward as an organisation, not only during lockdown but as we continue to support evolving Council services in the future.


Celebrations at Childcare Hubs

This week, most of the initial childcare hubs put in place at the start of lockdown closed as many children returned to their own schools as part of the new childcare arrangements for key workers. This marked the end of an era for many key workers and their families, children and staff and gave an opportunity to celebrate the special time they've had together.

Last week we shared the amazing musical and artistic creations of kids and workers at Hugh Smiley hub. West Hub have also been busy and have produced a poignant music video of thanks to key workers—you can find it on our social media pages!

Here are just a few of the other examples of the fun and frolics that took place as our hubs began to wind down...

At Trinity High School the children and young people had a physically distanced pizza party on their last day together with some sending in cakes and sweets as a thank you to staff. Everyone at the hub extended their thanks to the Street Stuff team for all their support and to the Renfrew Community Council who provided funds to purchase resources for the hub.

At Todholm hub the children were all presented with colourful certificates for being 'Hub Heroes'. The sentiment was returned by the children who also thanked staff for all their hard work.

West Johnstone hub celebrated with individually designed rainbow t-shirts and a giant thank you cake that went down a treat!


Staff Thanks

Thanks to staff are pouring in from  all directions. Just goes to show all your hard work is recognised and appreciated. Here are just a few of the comments we have received so far:

Special message of thanks from a local recipient of support packs...

"Thank you to everyone for all the hard work, dedication and efforts you have given to ensuring that all those in the high risk category and those in need do not go without. The packs have been invaluable as have the ready to cook meals provided... I am vegetarian and my dietary requirements have been taken into consideration when preparing bags and meals. The tomato and mascarpone sauce was my favourite - absolutely scrumptious - with the veg curry a close second. Compliments to the chef.

This has been a godsend during the isolation/shielding period. It has made it easier and less worrying...I wanted to let you all know how invaluable this service has been. I appreciate everything everyone has contributed to making it a success. It has been done in way that preserves our dignity and pride with a ready smile or kind word.

Please know that my admiration, thanks and appreciation are sincere and heart felt...I wanted to reach you before the team return to their usual duties and roles. Please pass on my thanks and best wishes to all involved.  Thank you once again"

From colleagues...

"The infrastructure of support available from the Council has been very encouraging at this time, including the provision of weekly newsletters keeping us informed and engaged, our access to technology, personnel support and in particular the recent Renfrewshire Council's Mental Health week."  - Scott Markwick, Trading Standards Officer

"I just wanted to say a MASSIVE thank you to you and the ICT service for all the support you have given us and the rest of the council. Just reflecting that we are so lucky to have been able to work from home so easily and with support at our backs. Thank you all." - Louisa Mahon, Head of Marketing, Communications and Events 


Social Shout Outs

We've received some more fantastic feedback this week on our social media channels.  Here's just a few of the comments so far:

"Visited last week and again yesterday. Staff both times were very polite and the site was well organised." - Clare Murdoch via Facebook in reference to Household Waste Recycling Centres

"Thanks for your help, as always..." - June via Twitter

"Thanks very much for what the local authority has done so far helping to look after my daughter. Key workers looking after fellow key workers kids so Scotland can fight the corona virus." - Marion Provan via Facebook 

"Thank you to all who made it so simple for the children to adapt to 'a new normal' Fantastic staff at West Hub Paisley" - Mateusz Sobanski via Facebook

"Thank you for taking the time to get back to me.  The bin was collected this morning. Thank you very much for your help with this matter." - Alastair Thomson via Twitter

"@RenCouncil Definitely appreciate that... I hope your grass cutting teams are all safe and thanks for all your hard work on our behalf." - Scot via Twitter

"Underwood Road well laid out and organised and the men on site very polite, thanks" - Marion McDougall via Facebook

"Visited underwood road last week very well laid out in and out in 5 mins well done " - Lisa Cunningham via Facebook

"@RenCouncil Thanks for cutting this area so quickly" - Lindsey Cairns via Twitter

"Can I please thank the men in the bin lorry at Forehouse Rd in Kilbarchan today. We had 2 nervous young horses on a single track rd and they did everything they could to help us pass safely. THANK YOU" - Lindy Loos via Facebook

"Thank you all so much for all you have done my son loved being at the hub or as he said his new nursery was sad to leave to start his new one today xx" - Michelle Pullar via Facebook

"Lovely! Well done to all staff and children across the Renfrewshire hubs—you are all stars " - Mairi Thomas via Facebook


Share your stories and photos

Don't forget we'd love to hear from you! It could be a photo of you working from home, something interesting from your daily walk, or a photo of your new "colleagues" (furry friends most welcome!). Have you started volunteering or taking on new roles and responsibilities you never thought you would? Tell us all about it and we can share your stories. Send them in to