To the residents of Blaenau Gwent,
As I write this message we have around another two weeks of the UK’s current lockdown measures to go. I’m sure that we will all have very different experiences and memories of this somewhat surreal period in our lives, and there’s no question that it will have been a much harder time for some than others.
To our wonderful strong communities here in Blaenau Gwent, I would like to say a big thank you on behalf of all councillors. Thank you for continuing to comply with the Government’s control measures and helping to slow the spread of this virus. Thank you for continuing to support and look out for one another during this difficult time. Thank you for showing the Council, and most importantly its frontline workers, your support & understanding as we strive to provide critical services at this time!
We are seeing some encouraging evidence that the number of infections and hospital admissions across Wales and the UK is beginning to slow. The National Health Service continues to manage demand and as a Council our focus remains on how we deal with the immediate risks and the challenges to deliver essential services. We will be working with the Welsh Government, partners in Health and with fellow Gwent councils on a phased and safe approach to moving back to some sort of business as usual when the time is right. For now, we need everyone to continue to follow the advice and keep your families safe and well.
So, please remember:
• Stay at home and only go out for food, health reasons or for work (if this is absolutely necessary) including asking people to work from home.
• Stay 2 metres (6ft) apart from other people.
• Only travel if necessary.
Our Childcare Hub provision has been a great success, and we are now providing this for almost 100 children and young people of key workers, across several sites in the county borough. Our school leaders & staff continue to support learning and development through remote methods and engaging with parents. Work is also underway to ensure that no child or young person is at a disadvantage for this type of learning. I’ve also seen several videos this week that our schools have made to let their pupils know they are thinking about and missing them, these are great – what a really lovely idea!
We have also continued to provide support for those pupils who receive free school meals and will shortly be moving to a direct payments system for these families. I am pleased that the Welsh Government has confirmed that this support is to continue for the foreseeable future, taking away that uncertainty and worry. We have also recognised that there are families who will be experiencing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19 and we are also encouraging anyone in this position to please contact us so we can look at supporting you, this could be help with applying for benefits such as Universal Credit or signposting you to help available within the community such as foodbanks.
We have also been working in partnership with Welsh Government to support businesses in Blaenau Gwent. We have been hearing lots about how our economy is going to be negatively affected as a result of the lockdown, and we need to do all we can not to lose local businesses and jobs at the end of all this. As part of the national scheme to date we have paid out £10.42million to 925 qualifying businesses in Blaenau Gwent. We are also providing some additional specific support for Small Medium Enterprise (SME’s) including rent holidays. I’ve also been extremely proud to see several local businesses supporting the response to Covid-19 by manufacturing personal protective equipment and hospital equipment. Well done!
I would like to again thank all staff for their hard work and dedication, and in particular those frontline workers protecting our vulnerable and keeping essential services such as waste & recycling going, whilst adapting to new working practices. Home carers, both council & care agencies, are delivering 5,642 hours of support to people in their own homes and also supporting 485 people to live in care homes across Blaenau Gwent. Our Community Meals service continues to deliver over 120 hot meals every day to people at home.
We also continue to support vulnerable residents and those who are officially shielding as recommended by the Government through our Locality Hubs. There is further information on this here - https://www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/en/resident/emergencies-crime-prevention/local-help-support-covid-19/
Many local food companies have been adapting to continue to offer a service at this time and you will also find information about this here as well as information on taxis, GP surgeries and pharmacies.
We have made a decision to start with some of our seasonal work next week and introduce some limited grass cutting of open spaces, parks, cemeteries and schools. This will ensure that grass growth is kept under control. ‘Fine turf’ areas like bowling greens and cricket wickets will also need to be addressed so we have also agreed to undertake minimal maintenance of these areas to safeguard them for future use. With the cancellation of most summer sport, failure to maintain these facilities will result in significant cost for the clubs and the council to re-introduce these once lockdown and social distancing measures are safely relaxed.
A massive thanks to all staff for their continued dedication. We have been heartened by your response on social media for the efforts of our staff and I know they will appreciate your support at this time.
Covid-19 is now touching many people in our communities and many of us may now know of someone who has sadly passed away as a result of the virus. It’s a difficult time for many, especially when families are unable to hold regular funerals, and there is support available, please go to - https://www.ataloss.org/
As I said earlier this time will be much more difficult for some people, as sadly not everyone’s home is a safe haven. The safeguarding of vulnerable residents – both adults & children – is everyone’s responsibility. If you are concerned about someone in the community there is information on our website about what you can do –
Finally, I would like to encourage residents to sign up for the Covid-19 tracker app. The app is available in app stores on mobile phones and allows users to log daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. Further information, including a useful FAQ page is available via https://covid.joinzoe.com/
Remember, you can keep up to date with the latest Council service information here – https://www.blaenau-gwent.gov.uk/en/resident/emergencies-crime-prevention/coronavirus-covid-19-latest-information/
You can also follow our social media accounts which are updated frequently:
• Facebook – @blaenaugwentcbc
• Twitter - @BlaenauGwentCBC
Again, I would ask for your patience during these unprecedented times and to please bear with us and understand as we maintain our focus on the key areas.
Above all, stay safe and remember Stay Home Save Lives.
Councillor Nigel Daniels
Leader Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council