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Blackpool Council reveals full scale of pandemic response
The sheer scale of Blackpool Council’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic has been revealed in a comprehensive report. The report, which will go before a “virtual” Council meeting on May 11, sets out the extraordinary range of measures that have been taken by the Council, partners and an army of volunteers to help and protect residents and businesses in the midst of the worst public health crisis in decades.
Neil Jack, Chief Executive of Blackpool Council, describes the immediate impact of the lockdown on March 23 as some non-essential services temporarily closed, many staff moved to home-working and essential care services found themselves facing a rapidly escalating demand.
Libraries, sports centres and other public buildings were also shut down.
The report reveals how many Council employees willingly switched from their usual work to newly-established services aimed at helping and protecting the most vulnerable people in the community.
These new services included the establishment of Corona Kindness hubs at 12 locations across Blackpool; a dedicated business support helpdesk; a provider hub to support the social care sector; a food hub to prepare and deliver food parcels and school meals; and emergency measures to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people.
The report reveals that over the first few weeks of the lockdown, there was huge demand for help and advice including:
3,500 calls and emails to the Corona Kindness helpline service with requests for food, shopping advice, supplies of medication, befriending services and dog-walking. Up to 250 calls a day are being managed by the team of call handlers.
Direct contact with more than 3,000 residents on the Government’s “shielded list” of vulnerable people
Preparation of around 200,000 meals for children and people in need
12,000 enquiries to the Council’s COVID-19 business helpdesk on the Blackpool Unlimited website and around 900 local businesses getting direct support as the Government rolled out £330bn worth of rescue measures to support businesses and save employees from hardship. Over a three-week period, the Council paid out more than £33m in support grants to almost 3,000 businesses.
Usage of the Council website and social media channels more than doubling as people sought out help and advice, information on changes to Council services and Public Health messages.
Mr Jack reports: “As the health crisis gathered momentum, resulting in a UK-wide lockdown, our ability to deliver Council services in the usual manner altered virtually overnight.
“Our ability to adapt seamlessly to this fast-moving scenario became of paramount importance and we made it very clear that we would do whatever was required to support our residents and businesses even if we did not necessarily know how we would fund it at the time.
“Since then, the imagination, dedication and devotion to duty that has been demonstrated by so many has been extraordinary.
“Tens of thousands of people have already benefited from this support and some of the stories that are emerging from our Corona Kindness community hubs are truly humbling.
“This is public service at its finest.”
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Executive Leader of Blackpool Council, commented: “I want to place on record my appreciation to the Chief Executive, our Directors and our fantastic staff, for the way in which they have dedicated themselves to this cause.
“We couldn’t count the many thousands of extra hours work, and cannot measure the lengths to which people have gone. Along with our volunteers, and our partners across the town, this has been an unprecedented effort, of which I am incredibly proud.”
The report recognises the enormous contribution of public sector partners, voluntary groups and private sector businesses who have come forward to help with numerous offers of support.
The report states that some of the crisis measures that are in place are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
At the same time, reports Mr Jack, the Council has a duty to plan for the future and map out a road to recovery for the town. Work on this recovery has already commenced.
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