Following confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Gloucestershire, Sara Blackmore, Director of Public Health at South Gloucestershire Council, provided an update which you can view here.

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What are we doing as a council?

We are working closely with Public Health England to respond to the national situation and our public health team are co-ordinating the response, information and advice locally.

We’ve been actively communicating the latest information and advice to the public via our social media channels as well as to our stakeholders. Leader of the Council, Cllr Toby Savage and Council Chief Executive provide updates on the council’s response to the coronavirus outbreak:

You can see an update from Cllr Toby Savage, the Leader of South Gloucestershire Council and Sara Blackmore our Director of Public Health, on what the council is doing to help support residents deal with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak. Watch video.

For the latest information on council services and opening status of council buildings as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) check our service disruption page.

 

Frequently asked questions

Below are frequently asked questions from residents around coronavirus (COVID-19), our services, support and the government response.

Contacting us

How can I contact the council now the One Stop Shops are closed?

For almost all enquiries, you can contact us online or by telephone.
Pre-booked essential appointments and emergency requests such as.homelessness,, foodbanks and welfare support will continue to be met by our One Stop Shop staff. In an emergency, we can also collect documents from the foyer area. Staff will follow the public health advice and social distancing guidance at all times.

Education

Should I send my child to school?

We are working with schools to develop our local response to meeting the government’s expectations on maintaining access to education for vulnerable children, children with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) and also the children of key workers so that they can continue to work during the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, the overriding message we need to stress to all parents is the importance of social distancing at this time and the very clear government guidance in relation to this.

Using school only as a last resort will help protect everyone.

What support is available to me for home educating my child(ren)?

Integra Schools and South Gloucestershire Council are pleased to launch a new online resource to support parents, carers and teachers.

Financial support

I am on benefits already and my income has stopped or dropped

If you are on benefits already, it is really important that you tell both us and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about any changes to your income so that we can adjust the amount you’re entitled to. You can do this by filling in a ‘change in circumstances’ form. You can tell DWP about a change to your circumstances here.

How can I access benefits for the first time if my income has stopped or dropped

If you are struggling financially and not on benefits already, you may be eligible to apply for both of the following:

I am worried about losing my home

If you rent your home, the government has issued additional protections and a ban on evictions during the crisis www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

If you are struggling to pay your rent you can apply for Universal Credit. If you are already receiving Universal Credit or Housing Benefit you can apply to the Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment www.southglos.gov.uk/documents/DHP-Leaflet-1.pdf

If you’re a home owner, you should call your mortgage provider to explain your change in circumstances because they will be able to pause mortgage payments for up to three months.

What if I need additional financial support because I’m experiencing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus, such as having to self-isolate or having to take time off work to care for children?

The government has announced a new £500 million Hardship Fund so local councils can financially support people.

The Hardship Fund will be used to reduce by £150 the council tax payments for those eligible under our Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme.  We will be rebilling LCTRS claimants with the revised amounts and there is no need for a claimant to take any action.

Additionally, the government is temporarily relaxing the minimum income you need to receive to apply for Universal Credit for people who are self-isolating. If this is you, you’ll be able to make a claim by calling 0800 328 5644 or online at gov.uk. You will receive an advance payment and you will not need to visit the job centre.

If I’m self-isolating, what sick pay am I entitled to?

If you are self-isolating with or without symptoms, Statutory Sick Pay will be available to you from your first day off.

If you do not receive Statutory Sick Pay because you are self-employed, there is a range of support available to you including Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance.

You can find the latest guidance for employees on the gov.uk website under sick pay.

How will people who have to take time off work be supported?

All employers and employees need to ensure they are following the most up to date guidance from Public Health England, and employers need to ensure all staff can do this. Employers have a statutory duty of care for people’s health and safety at work and we all need to work together to protect the health and safety of everyone.

If you have concerns about sick pay and expect you will need to take time off work because you or someone you care for is sick or self-isolating, please see our residents page for the latest financial support and what you are entitled to.

I am worried about my ability to pay tax?

If you are worried about being able to pay tax as a result of coronavirus, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

I am on a zero-hours contract, what support is available to me?

If you are on a zero-hours contract, you will be able to access Universal Credit and the new Employment Support Allowance. If you are worried about your finances, please see the below section.

Are you offering a council tax holiday?

Council tax is a crucial funding stream that helps fund the delivery of valued council services such as bin collections, children and adults social care and the council has a legal duty to collect.  However, we want to support people who struggle to pay through no fault of their own during this crisis.  The following options are available:

  1. Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme – if you meet certain criteria you can receive a discount on your council tax, you can read about the scheme and also download a form to apply
  2. Spreading your instalments throughout the year – you can spread instalments over 12 months rather than 10. Email us at CorporateContactCentre@southglos.gov.uk using the subject title of “Council Tax instalment amendments” and include your name, address and billing number in the body of the email
  3. If you are unable to make your April payment and would like us to amend your instalments to run from May to March, email us at CorporateContactCentre@southglos.gov.uk using the subject title “Council Tax instalment amendments” and include your name, address and billing number in the body of the email

I’m struggling with my finances and don’t have money to pay bills or buy food

If you are in severe financial hardship and need an emergency payment to pay utility bills or buy food you can apply for help through our local Welfare Grant Scheme call us on 01454 868899 or Apply Online

Where else can I go for assistance?

There are a number of other routes available for assistance outside of the council. These can be found here at www.southglos.gov.uk//documents/Alternative-Sources-of-Assistance-leaflet-16.08.19.pdf

Free school meals

What should I do if my child is entitled to free school meals?

The local authority is working with schools to ensure that eligible children continue to benefit from free schools meals either through the supply of meals or by covering the cost.

This is the Government advice to schools supplying meals to families eligible for free school meals  – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance/covid-19-free-school-meals-guidance-for-schools

Other council services

What about other council services?

For the latest information on council services visit www.southglos.gov.uk/service-disruption/

Parks and open spaces

Can I take my children to the local park? How do I exercise?

All our play areas are now closed. This follows government instructions to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Our parks and open spaces remain open for people wishing to take one form of daily exercise (a walk, cycle or run). This should be taken alone or with another member of your household only. Gatherings are not permitted and any groups will be dispersed.

Please follow the government instructions so we can continue to keep our parks and open spaces available for use.

Public transport

Can I use public transport?

We have been working with our local public transport providers to keep the network as safe as possible throughout this crisis. Now, following the government’s latest advice, it is very important you should not be using public transport unless it is absolutely necessary.

Service levels have been reduced. For the latest public transport information for our region see https://travelwest.info/travel_update/coronavirus-travel-advice

For the safety of both customers and staff, we urge everyone not to travel unless they absolutely have to.

Safety – keeping you and your community safe

Should I be worried about not having enough food and household supplies? 

We understand that you may feel anxious and want to be prepared.  However, buying more than you and your family need means that others will have to go without essentials.  The government will continue to work closely with supermarkets and suppliers, but it is important to shop considerately.

I am anxious, what practical steps can I take? 

The NHS has a useful website called Every Mind Matters with useful hints and tips.

Social care support

What should I do if I’m concerned about my care or that of a family member? 

If you have questions and concerns about your care or that of a family member there is a lot of helpful advice on Find information for adults, children and families website. If you need to speak to someone you can call us on 01454 868007, however lines will be busy and we need to prioritise help to the most vulnerable.

My parent(s) receive social care from the council, will this continue? 

We are prioritising social care as a key service; this will continue but some contact may be via phone in line with social distancing measures.

Volunteering – how can I help?

I am part of a group and want to let residents know where they can access help 

We want to support connecting the individuals who would like to help with those in need, by promoting the groups and arrangements being put in place. We would be grateful if you can let us know about the groups already set up in your area, as well as those that are being established, so that we can provide a directory of the help available. 

You can submit details of groups on this page: www.southglos.gov.uk/communityaid 

What information is available to community groups or residents who would like to set up a community group? 

We have developed a pack to support you and your community during this challenging time. It includes resources that you may find helpful, lists of key contacts and information. You can find this pack here: www.southglos.gov.uk/communityaid 

Can I put flyers through residents’ doors to let them know I/we can help? 

We would suggest that this is not advisable, as the government is asking everyone to stay at home and only leave the house for essential trips.

Can I collect prescriptions on behalf of vulnerable residents? 

Yes, this is ok, providing social distancing guidance can be followed, for instance by putting medicine on the doorstep, ringing the bell and then walking two metres back to maintain a safe distance. The person who receives the medicine should discard any packaging in the waste and then thoroughly wash their hands.  

Waste and recycling

Are you going to empty my bins?

Yes, we are prioritising the regular collection of household waste. There are other waste services which are having to be reduced or suspended to facilitate this, such as garden waste collections.

Why are the Sort It centres closed? Are there any alternative options?

To follow the government guidelines on social distancing and encouraging people to stay at home, we have closed the Sort It recycling centres. For now, we are asking people to delay projects which may generate additional waste or recycling, and where possible, to compost your garden waste at home.

 

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