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Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, with its partners, is working to pair local volunteers with those who need a little help in their area. The partnership, led by the council, SAVS and SECH, includes a range of voluntary organisations and local charities.
The project is being organised to ensure that the goodwill of the public is harnessed in the best way, and to help ensure voluntary work is carried out in a safe and co-ordinated way. The partnership has been working around the clock to plan and set up a way of harnessing the good nature of the public. In using professionals who work with volunteers on a daily basis, colleagues from social care, the contact centre and others, the group has created a platform that will help support people to help themselves, their neighbours and their local community if they do not already have support in place.
Southend Coronavirus Action has launched with a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SouthendCoronavirusAction) and is asking volunteers to register their interest in helping others in their local area with simple tasks such as shopping, if they are unable to get to the shops themselves.
The group is also looking for businesses in the borough, who may be able to offer help, to volunteer their services via a separate form, again linked from the Facebook Page.
Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “Although this is a very strange and difficult time for all of us, it is clear that many people in our borough want to do something to help others. It is heartening to see so many people already liking and sharing this Facebook page, and signing up through the online forms, to offer their services.
“I would ask anyone who would like to help out, to do so through this Page, so we can co-ordinate a fast and effective response, and get food and other necessary items to those who need it as quickly and safely as possible, and whilst sticking to social distancing measures. I would also encourage people to make a plan with their family and friends if they can.
“Thank you to everyone who offers to help. We all value your support, and it makes me so proud to be working here in Southend when I see such kindness throughout our borough.”
The Southend Coronavirus Action (SCA) helpline has been launched.
Local people who are vulnerable and do not have friends and family or local support in place at this time should call 01702 212497.
The helpline will be open seven days a weeks, from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Southend Coronavirus Action was set up last week to provide the local infrastructure to deliver supplies to people and ensure that no-one slips through the net. It has been recruiting volunteers through a social media campaign, with over 400 local people and businesses signed up already to help out.
This local effort supports the national work which starts tomorrow (Friday 27 March 2020) to ensure ensure that people with the most serious health conditions are shielded from social contact for 12 weeks during the peak of the epidemic.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, says: “I am very thankful to all our partners, staff and volunteers who will deliver this on the on the ground through Southend Coronavirus Action, and ensure that people without support will be looked out for and looked after.”
“We have been overwhelmed by the response we have had from the community, our partners and staff who are being redeployed into supporting this.
“SCA is a friendly team on hand to answer your questions, or help you get the support you need, whether it's a few essentials from the shop, or someone who cares that can call you regularly for a chat, to make sure you're alright.
“You are not alone and if you do need us, we are here for you.”
Could you volunteer and work with us to help others?
If you are able to help those who need it near you, then please do consider volunteering.
Just fill in our short form and a representative will contact you to discuss how you might be able to help.
Please join and share our Facebook
Maintenance of the council’s parks and open spaces is to be reduced from Monday 30 March as the council continue to take actions to deal with the Coronavirus outbreak.
The service changes are as follows:
Highways grass cutting and shrub pruning – suspended
Tree works – routine tree inspections, tree planting and tree pruning suspended
Outdoor sports facilities – Public use is suspended and maintenance will be reduced
Parks – Maintenance reduced
Open green spaces (other than parks) – Maintenance reduced
Play areas – All play areas have been closed. Safety inspections will continue but will be reduced
South Essex Homes sites – Maintenance of green spaces reduced with a focus on keeping emergency exits clear.
Schools – Reduced grass cutting and pruning with a focus on keeping emergency exits clear.
Emergency responses to situations such as fallen trees will be maintained.
Litter picking and bin emptying in green spaces will continue, as will the watering of new trees. Works at the council’s cemeteries and crematorium will also continue.
Cllr Carole Mulroney, cabinet member for environment and planning, said: “As the local authority, it is important we follow the national guidance being issued, and protect our staff so that they can observe social distancing, for example. That is hard for many parks staff who under normal circumstances, work in teams. We have therefore decided to scale back our grounds maintenance service, to concentrate on what is essential at this time and protect our staff.
“Some areas, such as parks, will continue to be cut to allow residents space to exercise. Dog bins will continue to be emptied and young trees will continue to be watered, but we are scaling back our service. Residents need to be aware that this will impact on how the borough will look over the coming weeks, and some maintenance will take time to get back up to standard once we return to a normal service.
“I would like to thank all the staff for their hard work over the last few weeks. I know that some of them have suffered verbal abuse just for doing their job, and although I understand resident concerns about seeing them out whilst they are at home, under the Government guidance they are able to work and so it has been disappointing to hear about this. I would urge people to show their support whilst they continue to work through these difficult times.”
Reduction in maintenance of open spaces
The lights on Southend-on-Sea seafront will remain blue in honour of the carers in our community who are doing such a fantastic job.
The lights were initially changed on Thursday 26 March to coincide with ‘Clap for our Carers’, a social media movement encouraging people to stand on their doorstep or by an open window and clap at 8pm, to let our NHS and social workers know how much they are appreciated.
Now the decision has been made to keep the light podiums along City Beach blue as a small gesture to all those on the frontline delivering much needed care to the sick and vulnerable during this national coronavirus crisis.
The Worshipful the Mayor, Cllr John Lamb, said: “We really do owe a debt of gratitude to our NHS who are on the frontline fighting this, but also our own social care workers”.
“Our adult social care team have been working tirelessly alongside our contracted carers to keep residents safe and cared for in their own homes. They have also been working with staff at Southend Hospital to make sure medically fit patients can get home quickly, freeing up beds as the country prepares for the anticipated peak of the virus next week.
“Our children’s social care team have also been working closely with schools to make sure those vulnerable children, and their families, get the support and the care that they need. This is also an opportunity to thank all staff and volunteers involved in supporting the Coronavirus pandemic and keeping business as usual services running too.
“We, the general public cannot do much at this moment in time to express our thanks for the hard work and commitment of these vital workers. But, I hope that changing the lights is a small gesture to show our gratitude for their ongoing duty, loyalty, compassion and commitment.”
Small businesses, as well as companies in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, now have the opportunity to apply for a grant to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Small Business Grants Fund makes £10,000 available per eligible business who are currently in receipt of small business rates relief. Payments will be made by Southend-on-Sea Borough Council from government funding to support a business’s cash flow.
The Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grant scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.
· For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of under £15,000, they will receive a grant of £10,000.
· For businesses in these sectors with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000, they will receive a grant of £25,000.
Businesses will only be allowed to claim for one grant and must also be aware of State Aid rules in applying.
A simple form must be submitted by relevant businesses for the grant which applies to them, to ensure the council meets government requirements. Those businesses who think they qualify for the grants and would like to make an application should see this page on the council website
The council will endeavour to make payments as soon as possible after receipt of an application.
Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for Business, Leisure and Tourism said:
“Our teams have been working hard since the Government announced these different grants and funds, both to draw down the money from Government and respond to the national guidance on this to ensure we get the right information from businesses and make the process as simple as possible.
“These grants are now available for the many businesses that have suffered disruption during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you think your business qualifies, please check the web page linked, complete the form and the council will aim to process your application and make payment as soon as possible”.
For further information on help available to businesses please go to www.southend.gov.uk/businesscorona. This page is updated as and when new information is provided.
Residents concerned about paying their council tax bills are being asked to contact the council for support and advice.
If you are struggling with finances at this time due to a reduction in your household income, in the first instance please review the council’s dedicated website page: www.southend.gov.uk/coronafinances
View the section titled Benefit Calculator and if appropriate submit a claim for council tax reduction, which could lead to a reduction of up to 75% of your council tax bill.
Additionally, a COVID-19 hardship fund has been set up to give those already in receipt of council tax reduction an additional £150 off their council tax bills. Those of working age and in receipt of council tax reduction do not need to do anything as it will be applied automatically.
If you are not entitled to council tax reduction but are still worried about your account, please contact the council tax team to discuss what support we can offer you through this period. The department is not available to answer calls during this period, therefore all communication will need to be via email to ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ and someone from the council tax team will contact you either via email, or by phone if this is your preference.
In light of the situation surrounding COVID-19 and the impact this may have on residents, the council tax department has also suspended all council tax enforcement action at this time. Please note, if your financial situation has not changed, please pay your bill as normal.
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “We are acutely aware of the challenges many residents are facing. Many people are now on a reduced wage, and in some cases out of work entirely, and we must ensure we support these people as best we can.
“Council tax discounts will be applied as per the national guidance as soon as the systems have been updated, giving residents in receipt of council tax reduction a further £150 discount automatically. I urge anyone who is facing concerns about their council tax bill to contact us as soon as they can so we can advise and assist.
“We’re in discussions with Government and other councils to see what more we can do to help people at this difficult time, and we are continuing to monitor Government guidance and will continue to adapt the support available as the situation continues to change. Residents and businesses should visit the council’s website which is being regularly updated to see what further support is available for residents and businesses.”
For more information on the support available, please visit www.southend.gov.uk/coronafinances