Edinburgh Council coronavirus update

This was circulated to CCs on behalf of Cllr McVey on 23 May.

Dear colleagues

I wanted to write to you to make you aware of our ongoing efforts to deal with the impact of Coronavirus on our city and our residents, and to give you further details of the support we’re providing in conjunction with our partners.

Alongside a substantial city-wide effort, we’ve been astounded by the goodwill and generosity of the people of Edinburgh to offer help and support in responding to the impact of covid-19 on our most vulnerable.

We’ll get through it together, and I know we’ll emerge stronger. Thank you all for the part you are playing.

Supporting the people of Edinburgh

Over the last six weeks, we’ve all had to manage the implications of Coronavirus on our lives. For many of us, this has meant a change in how we work and coping with the reality of home schooling. For some, it has also brought worry and anxiety about the health of our families or paying the bills and practical things like getting out to buy food and essential supplies.

During this time, teams across the Council has been helping residents with these challenges, be they at immediate physical risk from the virus due to an underlying health condition, or in need a bit of extra financial or practical support. We’ve also been supporting businesses and local groups at the heart of our communities with grants and access to local and national funding support. We’ve been working remotely around the clock to ensure that queries can still be dealt with and our residents continue to have points of contact

Early action

  • We strengthened our welfare and benefit teams to respond to the immediate need for financial advice and support and offered assurance that no council tenant need worry about losing their home during this crisis. The Council has processed over 4,600 applications for support and distributed nearly £600,000 in payments to date.
  • The Scottish Government wrote out to citizens already coping with serious or long-term illnesses, who are at greater risk from the virus, asking them to self-isolate. We stepped up an emergency team to provide support to people in this ‘shielding’ group who can’t get support from family or friends to help with essential food supplies and medicine deliveries. To date we’ve distributed over 1,600 food parcels and organised 87 pharmacy deliveries across the city.
  • As schools shut, we responded immediately to support families who needed help with the added costs of having children at home all day. Around £390,000 and over 5,000 food boxes have gone out to Edinburgh’s families so far with continuing support planned until the end of June.
  • We established five Council Resilience Centres across the city to offer critical support to people in vulnerable situations, while adhering to physical distancing measures. The centres support to people most at need in three critical situations of experiencing homelessness or serious/significant harassment, or in need of pre-arranged emergency cash payments.
  • We’re continuing to deliver as many frontline services as possible, but only if safe to do so. Services meeting the needs of vulnerable adults and children remain open and offering support. An up-to-date breakdown of our services and how they’re operating is available from our website www.edinburgh.gov.uk

Expanding our support network

As the crisis progresses, we know that more people will experience new and increased forms of vulnerability and need, many of whom will not previously have engaged with us before.

  • In addition to setting up the shielding support, we’ve made it as easy as possible to seek support through one team which processes all requests and makes sure the right support is available, advice given, or connections made.
  • Rather than seek to recreate local networks, we’ve entered into a funded agreement with key groups of local organisations through EVOC to enable food distribution and essential supplies to residents who are being affected by COVID 19.
  • We’ve made four school hubs available to support local food storage, packing and distribution with staff on the ground ready to work with our voluntary and third sector colleagues to get essential supplies out as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • This support is now in operation and we’re taking over 100 calls a day, with requests for support being met within 48 hours, whether that be for essential food, medicine deliveries or other forms of support like dog walking or befriending.

Supporting community resilience

We know also that voluntary and local groups have stepped up local activity to provide a safety net of support for people who are finding they need help as a result of the crisis. Their support is wide-ranging, including mental health and wellbeing support for those who are struggling with isolation, targeted at young families and older people or people with disabilities. Some of these third sector/voluntary groups may be struggling with the financial consequences of increased demand, so we’ve established a team to support them to access Scottish Government funding and put in place a fund of small loans to help groups as they apply. We are aware that many community groups and third sector organisations in Edinburgh have already been successful in applying for funding from a range of grants.

Volunteering in the city

Alongside this substantial city-wide effort, we’ve been astounded by the goodwill and generosity of the people of Edinburgh to offer help and support in responding to the impact of covid-19 on our most vulnerable.

  • The power of being a good neighbour and reaching out to help friends and families has been invaluable. The everyday kindness and support being offered in communities across the city helps to meet the needs of the most vulnerable every bit as much as those who are on the front line. There are around 35 online peer-to-peer support groups currently operating, helping to connect people in need with people who can informally help. Volunteer Edinburgh produced a short video to encourage peer to peer neighbourliness and has guidance on being a good neighbour safely on their website www.volunteeredinburgh.org.uk/covid
  • Over 5000 people have volunteered to help either locally or via the national campaign and we’re working closely with Volunteer Edinburgh who are contacting every volunteer to match the skills and capacity with demand. This means ensuring the right checks and safeguards are in place before anyone can start, and while some may feel this process is frustrating, it’s important for the safety of our volunteers and the people they will help.
  • At the same time, we are re-aligning Council staff who are not able to carry out their normal role into critical roles, such as in care homes and waste services, to make sure we continue to keep essential services operating.

Sources of information and support

Main contact points are attached. We’re updating our coronavirus website section daily, so please check there regularly for new information. You’ll also find many resources which will help parents, carers, young people and families cope, home learning support, financial and debt advice, mental health support, and information on our services, to mention a few areas. Our contact us section also gives you the key contact points for key services.

Adam McVey
Leader
The City of Edinburgh Council

Useful contacts

During this difficult period, we’re experiencing significant pressures and need to prioritise services to provide support to those who need it most. We really appreciate your patience and support at this time. This information is correct as at 8 May 2020. Please check the contact us section website for updates as we may have to make changes to our services at any time.

Vulnerable people
Shielded people
Council resilience centres
Homelessness
Customer contact centre
Council Tax, benefits and welfare
Council house repairs
Business support
Waste and environmental services
Support for third sector/voluntary groups to apply for funding

Vulnerable people

If you are over 70; have a disability; need support from mental health services; are pregnant; have dementia; receive a flu jab for health reasons; and/or don’t have online access to get information. Contact us during office hours if you need help. We are open Monday – Thursday 8.30 am – 5 pm, Friday 8.30 am – 3.40 pm. Telephone: 0131 200 2306 or email edinburghvulnerable@edinburgh.gov.uk

Shielded people

  • If you are shielding at home due to higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus, register for the SMS Shielding service – send text from your mobile phone to 0786 006 4525. The text you send should only include your CHI number.
  • If you don’t have a mobile call 0131 200 2388 or email shielding@edinburgh.gov.uk You will need your CHI number which is on the letter your received. The telephone line is open Monday – Thursday 8.30 am – 5 pm, Friday 8.30 am – 3.40 pm. If it’s an emergency, the out of hours team will respond on 0131 200 2000.

Council resilience centres

Five Council resilience centres have been established across the city. These are not open to the general public. Customers are asked to attend in person only if it is critical and you are experiencing homelessness, experiencing serious or significant harassment or collecting an agreed cash payment. The centres are located in:

  • Wester Hailes – South West Locality Office, 10 Westside Plaza, EH14 2SP
  • West Pilton Gardens – North West Locality Office, 8 West Pilton Gdns, EH4 4DP
  • Captain’s Road – South East Locality Office, 40 Captain’s Rd, EH17 8QF
  • Craigmillar – North East Locality Office, 101 Niddrie Mains Road, EH16 4DS
  • Leith – Criminal Justice/ Social Work Centre, Newkirkgate Shopping Centre Units C&D, Newkirkgate Shopping Centre, Edinburgh EH6 6AD

All the centres operate 10am to 4pm, except Craigmillar which operates 8.30am to 5pm Mon-Thurs and 8:30am to 4pm Friday.

Homelessness

Customer contact centre

To help with the efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, we’re providing critical services and support only in our contact centre. This means we’ll be running an essential and emergency phone service to help our most vulnerable residents.

  • Use our online services: please make use our online services wherever possible to request it, report it or pay it.
  • Emergency situations: Support for those most at risk and hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak will be prioritised in all circumstances. If you’re experiencing an emergency or critical situation, please phone 0131 200 2000. Please only phone if the issue is urgent. Otherwise, if the service you wish to access isn’t available on our website, please email us and we’ll deal with your enquiry as soon as possible. You’ll find email addresses for our services below.

Council Tax, benefits and welfare

  • You can find guidance in our Council Tax, benefits and welfare FAQs.
  • Due to the overwhelming demand we are continuing to support telephone contact, however, due to significantly reduced resources in our contact centre, our Council Tax and Benefits phone line will now be open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm, Friday 10am to 3pm.
  • If you need to speak to someone in the service as an emergency, please phone 0131 608 1111. We would request that all other contact is by email to income and benefits. We will come back to you promptly and are currently streamlining our service and resources to cope with current demand.
  • If you need debt or welfare advice, you can contact our advice shop.

Council house repairs

  • For a short period of time, we are only able to carry out critical responsive repairs in Council homes. We have made this decision because it’s vital that we do everything we can to prevent the spread of coronavirus while at the same time we look after vulnerable people, protect staff from harm and maintain, as far as possible, essential services.
  • Critical responsive repairs will be carried out where there is a serious risk to health and safety, a serious risk to the structure of your home and/or your home is not secure.
  • To report an emergency repair please call 0131 200 2345. Please only report emergencies on this number – this will allow us to prioritise the most urgent repairs for our most vulnerable tenants.

Business support

The business support section on our website has support and guidance information including details of Government’s Coronavirus Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund and Coronavirus Business Support Fund.

Waste and environmental services

  • We’re working hard to keep our bin services running and have put plans in place to allow us to continue to run collections. Staff shortages mean that we need to prioritise some collections and there will be changes to your collections and our street cleaning services, including some services running late. Find out more about out waste and recycling service.
  • Please use our waste online services where possible. If the service you require isn’t available on our website you can email waste.
  • Please only phone us if the issue is dangerous and a threat to public safety 0131 200 2000.

Support for third sector/voluntary groups to apply for funding

Our team is supporting community projects and organisations who may need support to identify suitable funding and assist them to helping their communities with the Covid-19 crisis. This may be in the form of advice or assistance with a funding application. Email the support for grants team.

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