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Open letter from the CEO

Saving...

3 April 2020

As the national lockdown continues we have had to either stop running or adapt many of our normal services. And I can see that’s leading some people to ask on social media why they pay their council tax – what’s the council doing for us?

The answer to that is that the council is actually spending more right now to support our communities and local economy than we normally do. Nothing in the country is normal at the moment so, yes, our standard services are disrupted - but in their place we’re doing a whole range of different work.

As well as implementing the measures announced by the Scottish and UK governments, we’ve worked with our partners to put a package of support in place to help Fifers through the current situation.

See more detail of this work for different groups of people and businesses below. And check www.fife.gov.uk/coronavirus for the most up-to-date information, as well as links to forms and helplines to access all the financial support or other advice available.

This is obviously an evolving and complex situation so we’re reviewing decisions regularly and constantly looking at other ways we can help.

We’ll shortly be announcing details of a coronavirus helpline and humanitarian assistance centres which will help co-ordinate the distribution of medicines and food for the most vulnerable in our communities.

We’re also looking at any services people are paying us directly for, such as music tuition in schools. In this example we’re exploring whether we can arrange online lessons or, if there are no alternatives, how to refund money to families who have paid their bill. We’ll issue more advice for people around payments like this as soon as possible.

I realise that this is an extremely difficult time for individuals, households and businesses - with many people struggling financially through an uncertain time. Processing grants and support for those in need is one of our top priorities at the moment as we also strive to keep other critical services running. So I would like to thank people and urge those who can continue to pay their council tax, rent and other bills to keep doing so, wherever possible, so that we can keep supporting vital services for as long as this goes on.

Here’s a bit more detail on what the council’s doing so far:

Health and social care

  • Working with our Health and Social Care partners and recognising the significant contribution of all staff delivering social and community care throughout the pandemic

Benefits and money advice

  • making it easier and quicker to apply and process new claims for council benefits (e.g. housing benefit, council tax reduction, Scottish Welfare Fund and discretionary housing payments) by not insisting people providing proof of earnings
  • encouraging people to apply for a crisis grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund
  • encouraging people to apply for a council tax reduction
  • putting a temporary stop on debt recovery action if people can’t pay their council tax
  • making payments to families whose children would normally receive free school meals and continuing to pay eligible families their school clothing grant
  • providing support to tenants who are claiming Universal Credit
  • providing telephone support for people looking for welfare support assistance

Education and childcare

  • running 29 Children’s Activity Centres providing free childcare for key workers’ children - there are currently 536 children registered to attend and centres will remain open over the Easter break
  • offering places at activity centres to vulnerable children, including those on the child protection register
  • continuing to provide teaching and learning support to pupils at home during term time

Housing

  • setting aside £2m for people applying for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs)
  • offering a dedicated telephone line - 03451 55 00 44 - to help people with any rent issues
  • giving more flexibility to anyone struggling to pay their rent
  • not taking recovery action against anyone who can’t pay their rent, or have existing rent arrears, for the foreseeable
  • actively getting in touch with households who miss any rent payments to offer them advice and support
  • suspending council house evictions for the next 6 months for anyone in rent arrears

Community support and groups

  • working with Fife Voluntary Action (FVA), we’ve launched a service to help match up vulnerable people in urgent need with organisations and individuals offering aid and support in our communities
  • preparing to distribute food parcels to vulnerable or isolated people in our communities that aren’t included in the Scottish Government’s ‘shielding’ arrangements

Businesses and employers

  • supporting the Scottish Government by administering the business support fund for eligible Fife businesses
  • sign-posting self-employed people to the national income support scheme

Steve Grimmond
Chief Executive, Fife Council

24 March 2020

Like the rest of the country, the council is now operating in emergency mode.

In line with Government instructions, many of our employees must now stay at home and others are self-isolating or unwell. However, the most critical public services are still being delivered.

Staff are working round the clock to set up new processes; to support health services; to keep people informed and well; to stay linked in with the business and voluntary sectors. They are doing their best in extremely challenging circumstances. You can help by only contacting us in an emergency.

Our contact centre can only accept emergency calls and we can only carry out emergency housing repairs.

As everyone has been told to stay at home, all our customer service centres will be closed from tomorrow (Wednesday). Urgent appointments, such as registering a death, will happen over the phone.

We’re still collecting bins but we need to prioritise landfill and food/garden waste (blue and brown bins). Please put your bins out on your normal collection day by 6am. If your blue and brown bins are not collected leave them out and we'll get to them. If your green and black bins are not collected on the usual day, bring them back in until next time.   All our recycling centres are closed at the moment but we’ll keep this under review.

People’s welfare is our top priority. Our health and social care teams are continuing to provide 24-hour care in group homes and care homes, home care and meals on wheels, as well as taking an active role in supporting the NHS response.

And, beyond healthcare, we know many households will be hit financially by the impacts of this epidemic. Families who have received a school clothing grant or free school milk will start receiving direct payments from tomorrow to help feed children at home. If you think you may be eleibgible please apply at fife.gov.uk/schoolbenefits.  Help is available to anyone struggling to keep up with their council tax or rent payments, as well as crisis grants for those facing serious hardship. If your earnings are affected during this time, please check what national benefits you may now be entitled to.

We’ve already opened 29 Children’s Activity Centres to provide essential childcare for key workers that need it, so that they can continue the work that society depends on. Places have to be strictly limited for everyone’s safety, but over the next few days we’ll be reviewing usage to see if we can offer places to other category 1 and 2 key workers.

We appreciate how worrying a time this is for people and council staff are prepared to take up new roles to keep delivering these vital services, protecting them and our communities as far as possible.

Full details of all service disruptions, facility closures and advice and support during this emergency are available online at www.fife.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Everyone in Fife can continue to do their bit to stop the spread of coronavirus and protect the NHS by following the national guidance to stay at home.

Once again I want to thank the health professionals and council employees working tirelessly to keep Fife as safe as possible. And to stress to every Fifer how important it is for you to play your part.

Steve Grimmond 

Chief Executive, Fife Council

11 March 2020

The council will not, at any time, be in a position to confirm cases of Covid-19 if they arise. Members of the public must not expect any council officer, including head teachers, to be able to discuss the health of any individual - and I'd urge people to remember that, at this time of year, there are many common colds and viruses around.

Of course I understand that people are concerned for their own and their families’ wellbeing. We're staying in close contact with colleagues in health agencies and I promise that, if there are confirmed cases, the council will take any action Health Protection Scotland tells us is necessary.

The Executive Director of Education & Children's Services wrote out to all parents last week to reassure them of our position. And I would reiterate that the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our school communities is a priority. Current public health advice is clear that schools do not need to close and pupils should attend as normal.

Everyone in Fife can continue to do their bit to stop the spread of coronavirus by following national guidance about regular hand washing.

Steve Grimmond
Chief Executive, Fife Council

3 March 2020

The news about coronavirus is unsettling and I understand many people may be feeling worried. However, it’s important to remember that - although there is a lot of news about the spread of the virus – the risk to individuals remains low.

A lot of work is being done by the UK and Scottish Governments, Health Protection Scotland and the NHS to keep everyone safe.

We’re monitoring the situation and following all relevant public health advice. You can read this information on the NHS Inform website. As the situation develops, we’ll work with other public agencies to keep you informed about what it means for Fife.

I want to reassure our international citizens that you’re a welcome and valued part of Fife’s daily life and we will never accept any form of discrimination against members of our community.

We all want to look after our own health and wellbeing, and the health of people we care about. Please take simple, common-sense steps to prevent the spread of illnesses. Washing your hands regularly with soap and water and using tissues can help reduce the spread of infection.

I want to thank all the health professionals and council employees working to keep Fife a safe place to live, work, study and visit. And to thank each and everyone of you for playing your part.

Steve Grimmond
Chief Executive, Fife Council