April 1: Coronavirus (COVID-19) update Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
Update on Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council's response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) from the Council Leader, Councillor Bob Cook.
We are continuing to work within a well-established set of structures governing how agencies work together to respond to keep people safe and well-informed during a major incident.
We are continuing to focus our resources on those services that protect and help the most vulnerable.
I am pleased to report that we haven't had to scale back any more non-essential services today. Through the re-deployment of employees to work outside their usual roles we are managing to maintain essential services despite of course supporting our employees to self-isolate where necessary and work in new ways in line with Government guidance.
You can keep informed on all Coronavirus (COVID-19) related developments in Stockton-on-Tees - including health advice, support and disruptions to services - by visiting the Council's dedicated webpage Our People.
I am also keen to remind people of the help and support that's available during this incredibly challenging time.
Help for families with children who usually receive free school meals
Details about the national voucher scheme for Free School Meals have now come forward from Government and the scheme has been launched. Schools can provide every eligible child with a weekly £15 shopping voucher to spend at supermarkets while they are closed due to coronavirus. Parents will receive the voucher through their child's school, which can then be redeemed online via a code, or sent to their house as a gift card to be used for food purchases. We are working closely with schools as they consider whether to opt into the scheme but in the meantime the Council's School Catering Team will continue to provide lunches for children who are eligible for free school meals either through schools and for distribution from the Family Hubs at Billingham, Redhill, Stockton and Thornaby. These arrangements will also continue throughout the Easter holidays as the national voucher scheme covers term time only.
Details of the free school meals offer from Family Hubs can be found at Our People and anyone who cannot collect a meal from a Family Hub can call HelpPoint for assistance on 01642 527225.
Help for people struggling to pay Council Tax
We appreciate that people may be struggling to pay their Council Tax and are doing all we can to help. If you are struggling to pay your Council Tax due to the pandemic, please get in touch. We may be able to postpone the start of your regular 10 monthly payments to June or spread your payments over 12 months instead of 10. Or it may be that you qualify for Council Tax Support. We will explore all possible options with you. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include in your email your name and address, telephone number, your preferred email address, your Council Tax account number, and a brief outline of your circumstances. If you are unable to email please call 01642 397108 instead. You can also find out more on our dedicated webpage: Council tax.
Help for businesses
We continue to make grant payments to the 2,621 businesses in the Borough that together, are eligible for £31.2million of business grant support. We are gathering information from those eligible businesses via telephone calls but have also made an online form available on our website that businesses can complete and return to us by email to ensure that grant payments reach them as soon as possible. The form can be found on our dedicated business support webpage Help for businesses or call our Business and Enterprise team on 01642 528384.
Help for the vulnerable and elderly
The 'COVID Community Support Team' is continuing to make sure help reaches those in our communities who need it most. The team which is a partnership between the Council, Catalyst and the Borough's brilliant VCSE organisations. has already helped more than 600 people and this will continue for as long as that help is needed. The team operates seven days a week and help ranges from food deliveries and picking up prescriptions to making sure people who are self-isolating and may be worried or lonely get the right support they need. You can call 01642 524500 for assistance and find out all about it on the Catalyst website.
Help for parents/carers of children still attending school
The vast majority of schools in the Borough remain open for children of key workers and vulnerable children, though the numbers of pupils attending is very low. We are working with them on plans to move towards a 'cluster' model in case that becomes necessary. We have also set up phone lines that you can call if your school has to close at any point and you need help arranging alternative provision.
It is important that people remain calm, follow the latest national advice on the steps needed to reduce the spread of infection, and use only official sources of information when getting this advice.