Update on COVID-19 in the Swindon Borough Council authority area
You may be aware that last week (28 August) the Swindon Borough Council authority area was been added to the Government’s COVID-19 ‘area for enhanced support’.
Swindon will have prioritised access to increased national support and resources as needed to assist local action. There are no new requirements, restrictions or actions being imposed on Swindon.
We are working closely with colleagues at Swindon Borough Council to support them and will share any messages with yourselves, communities and businesses that will help improve their situation.
The infection rate in Wiltshire remains low, but we cannot be complacent and it’s important that everyone continues with their great efforts so far to follow social distancing measures and maintain good hand hygiene.
The advice remains the same:
· Wash hands - keep washing your hands regularly
· Cover face - wear a face covering over your nose and mouth in enclosed spaces
· Make space - stay at least a metre away from people not in your household
Anyone who is experiencing a new continuous cough or a high temperature or a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell, should isolate and get tested immediately, no matter how slight the symptoms.
As a reminder, the isolation period is now 10 days. Those living in households should self-isolate for 14 days if they or any members of their household receive a positive test. Staying at home means not going out for any reason, including to work, or to the shops.
Business grants funding
The window to apply for the £10,000 Small Business Grant, the £10,000 or £25,000 Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant and the local Discretionary Grant of up to £7,000 has now closed.
We are still working our way through those applications received and will process these as soon as possible. We have until the end of September 2020 to make grant payments to successful applications, at which time any unspent grant has to be returned to Central Government.
Overall we received 9,091 applications for Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants from 9,728 eligible businesses in Wiltshire and have paid out grants to 7,571 businesses totalling over £90 million. So far we have rejected 1,071 applications as ineligible.Under the Discretionary Grants scheme, we have received a total of 916 applications and have so far paid 566 applicants, a total of £3.79 million.
Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
From 1 September 2020, employers need to fund 10% of furloughed employees’ usual wages for the hours they do not work, as well as continuing to pay their National Insurance (NI) and pension contributions.
This will increase to 20% of furloughed employees’ usual wages from October.
Further information and guidance on the Government Job Retention Scheme can be found here.
Back to school advice
Schools are welcoming pupils back to school at the beginning of the new academic year, and where possible young people are being encouraged to use the green alternatives to arrive at the school gates, such as walking, cycling or scooting if they live a short distance (two miles or less) from their school.
For those car sharing with someone outside of their support bubble or family, they are being advised they should share with the same people each time, open the windows for ventilation and wear a face covering unless they are under 11 or they are exempt.
Pupils who use public transport and are aged over 11 are being reminded to wear a face covering while travelling. Where needed, Wiltshire Council is adding on additional buses to ensure social distancing can be maintained. They will be advising pupils via schools of these plans.
It is recognised that social distancing can be difficult to maintain on dedicated school transport. Therefore, alongside other local authorities, we are asking pupils who use dedicated home to school transport such as a school bus, minibus or taxi arranged by Wiltshire Council, that where they can, they should wear a face covering if they are over 11 years old. There is no requirement for primary aged pupils or children who are exempt to wear one, although it is strongly recommended.
Other bus users are also being asked to consider taking their bus journey after 9am to help maintain the social distancing on the public buses.
The council has put guidance on our website for those pupils using dedicated school buses and for those who use public transport. It is difficult to predict how many school pupils will use public transport at this stage but the council has worked hard to ensure there is enough transportation available and it will be monitored as the days go forward.
Students using public transport, should continue to follow government guidelines to ensure they can travel safely on the network.
· Plan their journey in advance
· Allow more time to get to their school or college.
· Wear a face covering for the entirety of their journey if they are over 11 years old and are not exempt, wash or sanitise their hands regularly and social distance where possible.
All pupils who are entitled to bus passes for dedicated school transport should have now received them. If they haven't arrived parents/carers are asked to email:
Public transport update
Changes to concessionary bus fares
The council will be reintroducing the normal time restrictions for using concessionary bus fares from 1 September.
The council took the decision to relax its Concessionary Fare Scheme times in March so that concessionary bus pass holders were able to make essential journeys to shops and health appointments, before 9.30am during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to ensure there is enough capacity on the public transport network at peak times for commuters and the return of school and college students, the time restriction has been reintroduced so that transport and social distancing can be managed effectively.
This means Wiltshire falls into line with the rest of the local authorities in the country in reintroducing allotted times for the scheme.
Concessionary bus pass holders can now only use their bus passes from 9:30am on weekdays, but can continue to use them at any time at weekends.
Bus operators have been notified of this change, and bus passes will not be accepted on ticket machines before 09:30hrs, unless travelling on an infrequent exempted route.
Waste and recycling update
Wiltshire Council is at the start of a programme to bring more services online, to make it simpler, quicker and easier for residents to transact with the council securely across a range of services.
The first step is creating a new unique ‘Citizen ID’ online account and moving some of our existing services over.
If residents set up a waste account to manage requests like HRC bookings and reporting a missed bin before 4 September 2020, they will need to reset their password.
Residents can do this by clicking this ‘Forgot your password?’ link and follow the on-screen instructions.
New measures in place to tackle mass gatherings
From Friday, 28 August, tougher measures came into force to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
People facilitating or organising illegal raves, unlicensed music events or any other unlawful gathering of 30 people or more may face a £10,000 fine.
Fines of £100 can continue to be issued to those who participate in illegal gatherings and those who have already received a fine will see the amount doubled on each offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.
In light of these new measures coming into force the council is urging residents to continue to practice social distancing and to ensure they don’t fall foul of the new measures.
The majority of people in Wiltshire have done brilliantly to stick to the guidance and keep themselves and each other safe during this time to keep COVID-19 under control in Wiltshire. Mass gatherings threaten to undermine so many people’s great efforts over the past five months so these new measures send out a clear message they are not acceptable at the moment.
If anyone has information about a large gathering or event, they are asked to call Wiltshire Police on 101.
Health and wellbeing
Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCG
A new campaign has been launched by Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire CCG to encourage people to act early when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
A drop in the number of people across Wiltshire, Swindon and B&NES seeking help from their GP for symptoms that could be cancer has prompted a warning that not getting checked could lead to serious consequences.
The Don't Wait and Worry Campaign, which will be promoted through a series of regular radio adverts, also reinforces the message that the NHS, regardless of COVID-19, is always ready to offer care, help and support to those who need it.
Additionally, the campaign shines a light on mental health, with one of its key aims being to reassure people that it is perfectly normal to feel isolated, run down and anxious, and to seek help early on.
Further details of the Don’t wait and Worry campaign can be found here.
Wiltshire Alzheimer’s Support
Wiltshire Alzheimer’s Support has announced that it will be reopening its community groups from mid-September.
The return of its wide range of groups including Movement for the Mind, gardening and memory cafes will be gradual and controlled, with the popular art sessions in Lyneham being the first to welcome back members on September 14th.
The charity began reopening its day clubs at the end of July, but many of its community groups were held in village halls and could only be restarted once the venues’ managing committees had put their reopening plans in place. As with its day clubs, Alzheimer’s Support has carried out a thorough risk assessment and strict guidelines set by Public Health England will be followed to ensure everyone stays safe.
The groups are currently open only to existing members. Anyone wishing to join should contact the charity’s Devizes office on 01380 739055.
Community First – Link Scheme recruitment campaign
A campaign has been launched to appeal for new volunteers to support local Link Schemes in Wiltshire.
Link Schemes are voluntary groups which offer transport and ‘good neighbour’ services to local people who are in need, perhaps because they are elderly, disabled, isolated and lonely, single parents, or perhaps temporarily in need because of illness.
These essential services provide a safety net for those unable to access services in other ways. Link Schemes aim to complement other services, statutory and voluntary. They operate as small, independent charitable organisations and all volunteers use their own private vehicles (insurance and DBS checks are carried out and mileage expenses covered).
To demonstrate the level of support the schemes offer, last year they made 31,351 health related journeys and completed 48,027 ‘good neighbour’ tasks, for example collecting prescriptions and shopping.
Due to COVID-19, Wiltshire Link Schemes have found themselves suffering from a large number of volunteers being unable to drive because of age and or vulnerability.
Two campaign posters are attached to this briefing and we’d be grateful if you could share these with your communities.
Cllr Philip Whitehead