Tuesday 17 March 2020

Brent Council Leader's message on Coronavirus situation

From Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council

I know many of us will be understandably worried about the current coronavirus pandemic that is dominating our daily lives right now.
I can assure you that we continue to provide all council services as normal – although some council events have been postponed, or cancelled, so we can focus on meeting the challenge of coronavirus.
I also want to say right from the beginning that this is not a political statement. I do not intend to talk about the many debates about the rights and wrongs of the Government’s response but instead update you on the proactive action the council is taking.   
New national guidance means everyone should be minimising their social contact, reducing unnecessary travel and staying at home if you, or anyone in your household, has any symptoms. Please follow the daily guidance coming from the government and take extra care if you are over 70, if you are pregnant or have underlying health conditions: www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
It is now clear that the coronavirus pandemic is set to challenge us all in ways we have never experienced before. What we face is without precedent in living memory and will test our collective mettle like never before. With all the uncertainty one thing is for sure, we will need to work together and help each other wherever and whenever we can.
As a council, we are taking every step to prepare for the expected increase in confirmed cases of the virus and we will ensure that the vital services that you rely on from the council will continue during this difficult time.
Our services, including social care, waste and children’s services, have well developed plans that will ensure our most vulnerable residents get the support they need in the coming weeks and months.
We are working closely with our partners in the NHS, Police as well as community and voluntary groups to ensure Brent is as prepared as we can be for the further spread of the virus.
Our primary aim is to ensure that everyone who needs it is supported – especially the most vulnerable. Our top priority is to ensure that no one is left behind.
So what does this mean in practice? This is a rapidly changing situation and the Government guidance is changing on a daily basis but our current plans set out to:
  1. Protect the health and wellbeing of Brent residents, working in partnership with our amazing colleagues in the NHS.
  2. Keep vital council services running – even if they have to be delivered in a different way.
  3. Target help to the people who will need it the most if they contract coronavirus. This includes elderly people and those with pre-existing health conditions.
  4. Target support to other vulnerable people who are self-isolating for example rough sleepers, people who use food banks and those with existing multiple and complex needs. We are working closely with providers and voluntary organisations on this.
  5. Support our businesses – we recognise that we are a borough of small local businesses whose local economy may be effected in the long term. The council is looking to see what part it can play to support our local economy by relieving some of this burden. We are checking national guidelines and hope to be able to update as soon as we are clearer on impact and other issues.
  6. We will ensure no council tenant loses their home because they are affected by coronavirus.
  7. We will support and encourage the huge community spirit that exists in Brent to ensure people who want to volunteer can do so through established charities and organisations. We are working closely with voluntary organisations to explore the best way to do this and will announce the details of how to get involved shortly.
We have a special coronavirus web page that is updated daily here: www.brent.gov.uk/coronavirus
Some of you may need extra support at this time, and it is important that everyone is aware of what additional support you can apply for and know where to find it.
Our website lists all the support available for residents who may be experiencing hardship:
  • If you know people who are struggling the council can offer Local Welfare Assistance.
  • Discretionary Housing Payments may be available to top-up housing-related benefit for a limited time to cover housing costs such as rent.
  • If residents are experiencing exceptional hardship they may be able to claim a discretionary reduction in Council Tax. Visit our website to find out if you qualify.
  • You have the right to pay your council tax over 12 months instead of 10 months, you must advise the council in advance. Contact the council by clicking here for more information.
  • We have the Council tax support scheme in place for residents on low income, more information can be found here.
We have also been notified by the Government that money will be provided to councils to support vulnerable residents. We will provide further information on this when we know more.
This is a rapidly changing situation so we will be using our email newsletters, such as this one, and digital communications channels to share information with you swiftly so please do encourage your friends and neighbours, who aren’t signed up yet, to do so here: www.brent.gov.uk/stayconnected
Whatever happens Brent’s response will be defined by kindness and tried and tested plans. Brent is one of the best places to live on earth and we will rise to this challenge together and deliver a response for weeks, months, however long it takes. With this in mind, our commitment is to keep you updated at all times.

Please follow Government advice to stop spreading the virus
The government's latest advice is that people who have developed a cough or fever should self-isolate at home for 14 days to avoid further spread of the virus. Their families and those living with them should do the same.
The latest NHS advice is here: www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
Residents are also advised to work from home when possible, avoid any unnecessary travel and social interactions, as well as going to pubs, cinemas, theatres or clubs.

What to do if you feel unwell
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy, or hospital. Visit the NHS Website for further information.
All residents are encouraged to take the following steps to avoid catching and spreading the virus:
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if you cough or sneeze 
  • Put used tissues into the bin immediately 
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often 
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available 
  • Wash your hands when you arrive into work and return home 
  • Try to avoid close contact with unwell people 

At present Government advice is that schools should stay open if they can. This may change and parents will be updated through your child’s school as soon as information is available.

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