A message from Richard Flinton, Chief Executive
It feels a bit like we are in a very strange hiatus. As we take the smallest and most cautious of steps towards whatever the new norm will become – like many of you, I am sure – I find myself wrestling to balance the intricate messaging to reflect the world we are in.
On the one hand, there continues to be a very gentle decline in the number of people from North Yorkshire and nationally who are seriously ill or, sadly, dying from Covid-19. This is positive and very welcome news. However – the infection rate in some areas is not dropping as our public health experts would like and that is clearly a concern.
The battle to protect our most vulnerable residents – those in our 235 care settings – is at full tilt. It is a complex one which involves daily monitoring and support, access to PPE and testing alongside our detailed plan for escalation and intervention, should that be necessary. The current indications are of a slowly improving picture but we are nowhere near out of the woods and this remains a real priority.
Then there are the implications of the easing of certain lockdown rules. Specifically, those which allow unlimited journeys and timescales around exercise and wellbeing outdoors. We now also have permission to meet one person, we don’t live with, outside and whilst observing social distancing guidance. For many, this takes the form of sitting or standing outdoors or walking in open countryside – always remaining at least 2 metres apart. It also means that residents and visitors are able to drive to many of our beauty spots and coastal towns and villages. This aspect presents us with much bigger challenges. While we are blessed with very many stunning landscapes to explore – some communities and other visitor hot spots don’t lend themselves easily to social distancing, so we have taken some limited action to allow for that where we can. But, by providing this extra space, there is the argument that we facilitate higher numbers of people which, in some areas, could translate into crowds. That’s something we cannot afford given the very real threat the virus still poses to people here and elsewhere.
Then there are our businesses, some are tentatively reopening, albeit often with new ways of working. Some very much struggling to adapt and some forbidden currently to reopen due to the Covid laws. The latter covers the vast majority of our food and drink businesses, hotel and accommodation providers – all major employers in North Yorkshire. When these businesses are able to reopen, we will rally behind them and work with the LEP, destination marketing organisations and the district councils to promote their wonderful offer. But for now, we must stay measured and practical with what we can provide for visitors. Given that the current rules mean people cannot stay overnight – our visitors will be day trippers. We have much open countryside and a small number of takeaways able to trade. Limited hygiene facilities – essential for the guidance around regular handwashing – and a loyalty to our residents – who have sacrificed much to get to this point in the fight against Coronavirus.
So, weighing all of the needs, interests and requirements together, it seems sensible to simply appeal to people’s common sense. We cannot cope with crowds and we must support the communities where social distancing and lack of parking can quickly become a concern. Equally, we have many vast open spaces where it is easier to manage. So, if you are visiting North Yorkshire this Bank Holiday weekend, please plan ahead and think about all of these things. If somewhere is busy, don’t park thoughtlessly – have a plan B and maybe even a plan C. Think about the facilities available and be mindful of local residents – many of whom may be isolating and/or understandably anxious about visitors just now. If local businesses, which are allowed to trade, are open please do support them. Yes, queues may be longer due to social distancing etc. but we are all getting used to managing our personal space. We are all – I am sure – all too aware of the potential consequences of not doing so.
Be kind, be thoughtful and be tolerant – avoid crowds. We will get through this.
Just on an associated note; concerns have been raised around some young people particularly not adhering to social distancing. Perhaps the good weather, easing of lockdown and schools being closed are contributors. Please look out for your mums, dads, grans, granddads, brothers and sisters and stay at least 2 metres apart. Don’t risk carrying the virus back to your home and potentially making someone you love poorly. Do the right thing. Stay apart. Your efforts are really appreciated.
Before I go, a little better news for many of you, I hope. Over the past week we have managed to reopen all but one of the remaining Household Waste Recycling Centres which had to close under the lockdown rules. I am sure this will be welcome for many people looking to make the most of the increasing number of DIY stores and garden centres reopening. If you are using any of the centres, our ask is simple – restrictions for the safety of our staff, and you, remain in place. That may mean queues are longer and managed differently. Please only take waste you cannot store safely at home and thank you for being courteous and patient to others and our teams on site. Harrogate Stonefall remains closed while we work though the highways issues for that site. The other 19 are open.
Remember we are all in this together. Take care of yourselves and others as we continue this long journey.
Current World Health Organization data shows that we have now passed 4.5 million confirmed cases globally, with over 310 thousand deaths across 216 countries, areas or territories.
At a national level, yesterday’s (18/05) Public Health England data show there were 246,406 lab confirmed cases in the UK, with 34,796 COVID-associated deaths. Locally, we currently have 1248, confirmed cases of COVID-19 across North Yorkshire.
The number of people currently in hospital with COVID-19 continues to decrease slowly. Sadly, there have been 557 deaths from COVID-19 across Airedale, Harrogate, South Tees and York to date, of whom an estimated 212 will be North Yorkshire residents.
Although the COVID-19 picture in hospitals is gradually improving, one of our top priorities continues to be working to support care homes around outbreak management, improving access to testing and PPE. We are also preparing to support the national effort on contact tracing and we are exploring what our local plans will look like.
The government added a new symptom of COVID-19 to the list of common symptoms. People who are experiencing a new, persistent cough and/or high temperature and/or anosmia (the loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell) are asked to follow self-isolation guidance. We are continuing to learn about the virus and its presentations and we are monitoring the newest evidence as it emerges.
Mental Health Awareness Week
Kindness is the theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which began yesterday, and perhaps more than ever at the moment we are seeing the breadth and depth of kindness in North Yorkshire.
Individuals and community groups are supporting neighbours in need and the county council is working with 23 community support organisations who, in turn, are working with volunteers to support those people who have no-one to help them. People in need of help can call our customer services on 01609 780780, seven days a week from 8am to 5.30pm, including bank holidays.
Restrictions resulting from the pandemic can have an impact on mental health, so as well as being kind to others it’s important to be kind to ourselves. The Mental Health Foundation encourages people to take 30 minutes every day to do something physical, as physical activity is a great contributor to improving mental health. It can be anything, from walking or running to gardening. North Yorkshire sport has resources to help people stay active at home https://www.northyorkshiresport.co.uk/ideastostayactive
Our libraries are promoting their Reading Well mental health collection of books, many of which are available to borrow free as e-books and e-audiobooks. Libraries are also posting examples of random acts of kindness on their Facebook pages and recommending “feel good” books. For more information, read: Libraries share a little kindness for mental health week or mental health week.
Further help and support can be found at:
Further re-openings of household waste recycling centres across North Yorkshire
Following the successful opening of 14 North Yorkshire household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) on 6 and 14 May, five more opened on Tuesday 19 May. The next five household waste recycling centres to reopen are:
- Malton, Pasture Lane, Malton, YO17 6BT
- Northallerton, Yafforth Road, Northallerton, DL7 0LG
- Ripon, Dallamires Crescent, Dallamires Lane, Ripon, HG4 1TT
- Tadcaster, Station Road Industrial Estate, Tadcaster, LS24 9SG
- Wombleton, Cockerhill Lane, Wombleton, YO62 7RJ
For safety reasons, we are unable to reopen Harrogate Stonefall at this time because of difficulties managing highway safety. This is under review with an aim to open as soon as it is safe for both public and staff.
Restrictions are in place for some vehicles and types of waste so please check before you set off. In the meantime, we urge everyone to continue to reduce, re-use and recycle all they can, and to stay alert, control the virus and save lives.
For the full list of HWRC’s open across the county and full details can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/CovidHWRC
Mobile COVID-19 testing sites
As part of the national roll out of testing for COVID-19, drive-through Mobile Testing Units will be operating in the following locations over the coming days:
Here are the locations of the mobile testing units for this week so far:
- 11am – 3pm, 19 – 20 May – Settle – Settle Greenfoot Car Park
- 11am – 3pm, 20 May – Scarborough – Seamer Road Park and Ride (A64)
- 11am – 3pm, 20 May – Drax – Drax Social Club
Eligible key workers and those prioritised for testing must register for a self-referral test on the Government website.
Tests can be booked from 8pm the night before.
We are following the guidance from the Government and advising schools to prepare to be ready to open for a phased re-opening from June 1st at the earliest.
As such, schools are undertaking a risk assessment in order to plan appropriate safety measures, which will also tell us if there are any schools in the county which can’t implement appropriate measures. We are working with the schools, head teachers and the unions to support this preparation. The decision on whether to open will be taken by the head teacher and governing body. Our teams are working with head teachers and unions to answer queries which have ranged from the re-opening of schools, to how transport and cleaning will be organised.
Parents will be encouraged to send their children to school; however, their attendance has not been mandated by the Government. Parents will not be penalised for not sending their children to school at this time.
We will continue to support the schools and education staff in any way we can and ensure a safe learning environment for children and staff alike, along with providing up-to-date information for parents who might be concerned about sending their child back to school during these unprecedented times.
Social care teams
The outstanding work of our social work teams continues to safeguard our children and young people. We would like to congratulate the work of social worker Amy Bendall, from the Harrogate Safeguarding Children Team who has won a prestigious national award for her exceptional work in keeping a group of vulnerable girls safe from serious harm. She was one of 20 national finalists in the 2020 Child Exploitation Unsung Hero Awards run by the charity NWG (National Working Group) Network of more than 14,500 practitioners working on child exploitation and trafficking in the UK. The awards recognise individuals or teams who have made a significant contribution to tackling exploitation.
Amy carried out the work as part of North Yorkshire’s Multi Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) partnership working arrangements.
She was nominated by North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Partnership (NYSCP) for her innovative work on a safeguarding strategy for a number of girls who were frequently found missing and were classed as at risk of either Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE), or both.
The girls were all friends and while some of them were working with social care, some were avoiding their social workers and not wanting to discuss any concerns.
Amy developed a group which would enable targeted work with the girls in a way that was more likely to engage them. It was recognised that the girls were all known to one another and they would often go missing to spend time together, so were likely to feel more comfortable working as a group.
Amy contacted other multi-agency professionals including those working in sexual health, The Children’s Society Hand in Hand project and North Yorkshire Police to develop a partnership approach.
She sourced funding through the local council partnership fund and identified the right venue so that the girls would feel comfortable and able to work creatively and, where appropriate, would transport the girls to the meeting place and provide food and positive activities.
She worked with them on healthy relationships, identified a wealth of intelligence and importantly built a working relationship with some girls who had previously not spoken to social care. Together with other professionals she also worked with their parents on safety planning and other areas.
The relationship Amy and the other multi agency professionals were able to develop led to them feeling more confident in talking to workers about what was going on in the community.
By building and developing a trusting relationship with the girls as a group, they felt able to share information about those who were exploiting them and areas they were going to that presented a risk to them.
Through the MACE arrangements the multi-agency partnership developed and shared information and built disruption plans to target those who were seeking to exploit the girls and there was a significant reduction in the number of missing episodes for these young people and development of action plans which is continuing to disrupt the exploitation locally.
A virtual ceremony celebrating honouring the most outstanding work will take place in April next year.
Our top service priority continues to be supporting care homes to prevent, reduce and delay the transmission of Covid-19 and to help to manage outbreaks. Support has been in place for providers since the start of the pandemic. However, this support has been stepped up over the past 10 days, with daily calls to all providers. Behind these calls there are a menu of services available to support providers, including HR and staffing advice, infection control and practical help on zoning care homes.
The biggest challenge at the moment is to have comprehensive testing in place for all care home residents. As well as using the national portal, which is over-subscribed, we are using limited additional testing kit supplies to support care homes and have also applied to set up an additional satellite testing station. We are doing everything possible to secure supplies of testing kits. We are also escalating concerns about the timeliness of lab results so that residents and staff can be kept safe.
The Government has just announced a new £600m infection control fund to support care homes. We understand that North Yorkshire will receive a £8m allocation and are awaiting full details of the national regulation so that we can make these payments, with the Government’s requirements, as soon as possible
Meanwhile, community health, social care and public health services are continuing to provide care and support for people who do not have Covid-19. We are keen to stress that these services remain open as usual and we would encourage people to come forward if they need the support that we can offer.
To make sure people have the help and support they need, some North Yorkshire residents have been receiving a door knock check. Last weekend, the third of four dates planned, council staff and six off-duty fire fighters, from North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, volunteered to check on over 1,000 people in Filey, Scarborough and Whitby.
Joshua Hukin, a project manager in the children and young people’s service said: “All of the residents I visited were incredibly grateful for the call; they really appreciated having a conversation. One lady told me how she wouldn’t have spoken to anyone that day if I hadn’t called. It was really touching to see first-hand how communities and neighbours were supporting each other all over the area. At the final two houses I visited, the residents were all tucking into fish and chips which had just been delivered by someone in the village.”
Fire fighter, Nick Bennett, added: “It was really enjoyable and I felt like I was doing something positive in this mad time. It was really well received and nobody needed anything – which was good. Everyone was getting help from either partners or family and neighbours are all helping, too. I’m looking after a lady across the road from where I live, Hilary. She’s 92 and her family live down south. Me and my wife are doing her shopping. My dad is 75 so we’re doing his shopping as well. I really do think people will keep it going. You can tell by the Thursday night clapping how amazing the community spirit is. It’s giving people a bit of hope.”
We have also telephoned over 15,000 people who are particularly vulnerable to being hospitalised as a result of Covid-19, working in partnership with district councils and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue. If people cannot be contacted by telephone, a Ready for Anything volunteer is deployed to do a welfare check and make sure people being shielded have support in place.
Community support organisations (CSOs), and partners, continue to make sure that nobody in North Yorkshire feels alone or is left without food, medicines or other essential supplies. Jacqueline Brakenberry is from The Bridge at Catterick, one of 23 CSOs who are part of the voluntary sector network supporting people across North Yorkshire.
“The feedback that we get from people is amazing, they’re so grateful for what we’re doing to help them. When people call us for their shopping or medication, they like a chat and we have a good conversation. We get some requests for the telephone befriending service and we’ve got those people set up with someone. People are coping really well and most seem quite upbeat. For me, it’s a great feeling of achievement that we’ve been able to help all these people and know that they’re happy.”
Those in need of help, who don’t have anyone else to call on, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else, should contact North Yorkshire County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week 8am-5:30pm including bank holidays.
For more information, including links to the main supermarkets for people who can shop safely for themselves, and a link to the Buy Local site, go to www.northyorks.gov.uk/help-you-during-coronavirus-covid-19
North Yorkshire Buy Local now has 529 businesses registered on the site with numbers rising daily – the popularity of the site is an indication that local businesses see it as a very supportive initiative.
Buy Local brings together all businesses and tradespeople, eligible to operate during Covid-19, with the people who need their services. We invite any business within North Yorkshire that is trading at the moment to register.
Read more about some of the businesses who have registered at www.northyorks.gov.uk/buy-local
Please share our social media messages encouraging businesses to register, and directing the public to the site. Follow @northyorkscc on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
The York and North Yorkshire LEP
The 9th virtual York & North Yorkshire intelligence meeting, took place on Friday 15th May. This was attended by the County Councils, District Councils, and the key cross-sector networks and business organisations including the Chamber, FSB & CBI.
Last week proved a busy week with businesses and people trying to understand the new government guidance and rules on starting to phase and control the re-opening of the economy.
The extension of the furlough scheme was welcomed although some employers have expressed concern that it will be difficult to bring employees back into the workplace after such a long period away.
Many businesses are now looking at how they can re-open safely, adhering to the new guidance for COVID-safe work environments.
Further clarity is needed by businesses, from government, on when and how they will be able to open more fully, in order to assist with their recovery planning.
Updates from BEIS and Treasury
Trade Credit Insurance: https://bit.ly/CV19TradeCreditInsurance
The government will temporarily guarantee business-to-business transactions currently supported by Trade Credit Insurance, ensuring the majority of insurance coverage will be maintained across the market. This will support supply chains and help businesses to trade with confidence as they can trust that they will be protected if a customer defaults on payment.
Holiday entitlement and pay
Visit: https://bit.ly/HolidayEntitlement for an explanation of how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the coronavirus pandemic, where it differs from the standard holiday entitlement and pay guidance. This guidance applies to those that have continued to work as well as those that have been furloughed.
As always, we are keen to promote the following as main sources of business support information:
Y&NY GROWTH HUB: https://www.ynygrowthhub.com/how-we-can-help/coronavirus/
NYCC’s website has a dedicated area for all the latest COVID-19 related news visit: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/coronavirus-advice-and-information
Follow us on social media: @northyorkscc on Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
LGBTQ+ writing competition
North Yorkshire Libraries has just launched an LGBTQ+ writing competition accessible to anyone, including NYCC staff, with the goal of promoting positive mental health during these trying times as well as generally being something nice and enjoyable to do! It may be of particular interest to professionals working with LGBTQ+ individuals/groups, as well as those who engage with young adults/teenagers.
Here is a link to the post where you can find more information: https://www.facebook.com/nycclibraries/posts/10157525005797153
Tour ancient Rome
You can explore other cities, and even other times, online; this virtual tour of ancient Rome takes you through the forum, Capitoline hill, and famous monuments. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/rome?utm_source=fl_blog&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=covid_content
Write a play or short film
Try out a free screenwriting course to learn the ropes and (maybe) catapult you into stardom after your first film is made: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/screenwriting
Joy of painting
403 episodes of the timeless Joy of Painting have been added to YouTube so you can listen to the soothing tones of Bob Ross while you paint happy little trees and enjoy the beauty of imperfections: https://www.youtube.com/user/BobRossInc/videos
Visit the MoMA
A huge number of art galleries and museums around the world have digitised their collections and are now offering free virtual tours: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/moma-the-museum-of-modern-art?hl=en
Go to 500 other museums or galleries
Google’s arts and culture collection has virtual tours of 500 attractions around the world, including national galleries, individual artist museums, and even the Eiffel Tower: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner?hl=en
Go to the aquarium
Although they’re closed to the public, Monterey Bay Aquarium has added a number of live cams to let you keep an eye on the jellyfish, kelp forest, coral reef, and even the penguins, completely free: https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams
The P.M. is holding daily press conferences; the highlights from the latest one can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus