Schools Admissions – National offer day
I’m delighted to announced 99% of Wiltshire families have been offered one of their three primary school preferences for this September with 94% offered their first preference.
Most parents now apply for places online with 96% of the 5,297 applications received doing so. Those who submitted a paper application form have been contacted by email to inform them how they can find out the outcome of their application.
The right to an independent appeal is open to anyone who has not received an offer at one of their preferred schools. Parents who wish to appeal for a place at a voluntary controlled or community school should visit our website for details of how to appeal.
Business support and grants
Many businesses have now been closed for a month, so we are continuing to work seven days a week to issue the grants to eligible businesses, as quickly as possible and to hopefully bring them some relief.
So far, we have received over 5,800 forms which are currently being assessed and over £42million has been cleared for payment to local businesses. Over 3,600 businesses have received a grant, meaning that over half of the forms received have been paid.
We are following up with those businesses who have not yet submitted their form to encourage them to apply for the support that is available to them. The grant is not a loan so it does not need to be paid back.
Our Contact Centre has dealt with over 2,300 emails for support and advice since they were set up to respond to Covid-19.
Our third virtual meeting with over 25 business partners including BEIS and other government departments, SWLEP, BIDs, Chambers of Commerce, FSB and Business West will take place on 17 April 2020. We continue to send them emails providing up-to-date information on the government schemes, Wiltshire Council’s additional support and progress on the administration of the grant schemes.
We are issuing our fourth Business newsletter this week giving updates, information and advice on the support available. When the newsletter was launched we had 592 subscribers and to date we now have 932 subscribers.
Early years funding
Wiltshire Council is offering an incentive scheme to cover the additional costs incurred by the early years providers who have remained open for vulnerable children and children of key workers.
In recognition of the challenges of continuing to provide childcare, the council will pay an additional £100 per eligible child, per week, to providers that have remained open since the beginning of April. Those settings that remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic are ensuring that key workers continue to provide critical services to communities whilst helping our most vulnerable children to receive a continuous education. Currently 25% of the settings are open and some may struggle to meet demand.
Settings that have remained open will have additional running costs and resources including additional cleaning and catering costs as well as bank holiday payments. These settings are not able to furlough staff part time and are also taking in additional children where necessary. To safeguard the sufficiency of the sector at this time all open settings will get 100% of their entitlement plus a further £100 per eligible child per week to offset the additional cost of staying open.
We know for some providers it was not possible to remain open and we are supporting those providers to access the government’s COVID-19 support package as well as receiving 80% of their Early Years Entitlement Funding for 2,3 and 4 year olds. These changes will be introduced in June to help settings prepare. We will continue to review this situation and consider any further announcements from the government.
We are grateful to all of our providers who remain open supporting our families and communities at this unprecedented time.
Closed settings will receive 100% of their early year’s entitlement for the summer term in April and May with the intention of reconciling the 20% reduction for each of these months in June. This approach means they will have sufficient time to plan and access government funding. In June settings which are closed will receive 40% of their funding entitlement. If any setting anticipates a financial hardship as a result of this proposal they are encouraged to contact the council to discuss their situation.
Settings which are closed are able to access the Government’s COVID 19 support package. This includes the Job Retention Scheme which childcare providers can access while continuing to be paid the Early Years Entitlement Funding via their local authority. Childminders can use the self-employment Income Support Scheme and claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next three months.
Walkie Talkie initiative to support walking sports participants
Wiltshire Council’s sports development team has launched a session to support its walking sports participants during this difficult time.
The Walkie Talkie initiative allows participants from the weekly walking football, netball and rugby sessions throughout the county to phone in from home and have a conversation with each other in a group environment – maintaining the social-element that many of the members find so vital.
A walking netball participant said “Social interaction is hugely important to our overall wellbeing and now even more so with the current restrictions. Any way to try and maintain the friendships that have formed from being a part of the walking netball family is important to us. To have access to a Walkie Talkie group is helpful and beneficial to so many people who may be socially isolated at this time”.
The walking sports sessions are part of Wiltshire Council's adult participation work, which focuses on creating sustainable informal sporting activities. The sessions, which are delivered in partnership with the relevant national governing bodies, are adapted from traditional sports and take place at a slower pace, making them ideal for older participants, people recovering from an illness or injury, and those who wish to take the first steps to a healthier lifestyle. They also provide a great way to socialise with other like-minded individuals and to meet new friends.
Wiltshire has more than 900 participants now signed up to weekly sessions across all sports, highlighting the success of the walking sports programmes across the county. The walking sports participants will also receive an interactive activity pack helping them to stay focused, active and creative from the comfort of their living room.
Wiltshire Council’s Active Communities online resources also provide support for people during this difficult time. The resource page covers a variety of topics, including the various library services available online – rhyme times, story times, e-books/magazines, resources on getting creative through mediums like song, dance, art and literature and opportunities to explore Wiltshire’s history. The complete list of resources can be found at http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/leisure-active-communities
Please also help support our Fire and Emergency colleagues by reminding residents that we ask they do not use Chinese lanterns. They are a fire hazard and can kill animals and livestock and emergency services do not need additional strain during this period. Many companies are promoting using Chinese lanterns during the Thursday evening clap for key workers but there’s nothing better than banging a saucepan or just clapping your hands!
Cllr Philip Whitehead