Coronavirus frequently asked questions and other useful information

March 31, 2020 6:38 PM

http RainbowThe FAQs on the Council website https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/wachCWL3Di4yNpJHBOWn9?domain=newcastle.gov.uk are kept up to date and include information on any disruption to Council services. In particular all waste is due to be collected as programmed, but please check the FAQs on a regular basis to keep informed of any changes.

The contents of this update are

  • Grants for charities
  • Help for small businesses
  • CityLife Line
  • City Council services
  • Impact on transport
  • Buses
  • Metro and Ferry
  • Trains
  • Reminders from Public Heath England
  • Key stage 1
  • Hoppings and Town Moor
  • Things to do

GRANTS FOR CHARITIES HELPING THE VIRUS FIGHT

Newcastle Round Table is making small grants available to charities helping with the issues created by the virus. For application form see

https://www.dropbox.com/s/x3z332xshmat207/Newcastle%20Round%20Table%20Short%20Funding%20Application%20-%20COVID19.docx?dl=0&fbclid=IwAR3kC2yrMCbBny_fbRIzPBPoX94PMCEXa2YdPeOnYzJiVfFz3B5vZTq4nWE

and check them out on Facebook

HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Newcastle City Council is calling all small businesses. Several schemes have been be made available by government which include grants of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief, whilst businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector are eligible for a grant of £25,000 if they occupy a property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000, and a grant of £10,000 if the rateable value is below £15,000

So far £8.4m paid to 450 local traders in virus grants. 1,300 businesses have registered to get fast access to them. There are a further 3,000 businesses who are eligible for support and need to register online at https://t.co/YAWY7t6qj5

CITYLIFE LINE

This Newcastle City Council service is now up and running with well over 600 volunteers. Please visit this website https://covid19.mkpl.co/ to register and add your organisation. Instructions on how to add your organisation are on the site. Please take time to look over the instructions. The site will not load on Internet Explorer browser - please use Edge, Chrome or Safari. If you have any issues then please email jenny.nelson@newcastle.gov.uk

Over the past weekend around 80 people got in touch asking for help. Two were deemed food emergencies and were provided with immediate help by council staff. The others have been matched with volunteers and other services to help provide them with the support they need. Videos have been provided in different languages and interpreting services are being arranged, but there is still a lot to do to identify and support vulnerable people in our communities.

We have been asking about support to vulnerable people who do not have access to the internet or social media etc. A lot of work is being done to promote Cifylife Line and we are asked both to signpost to the telephone number (0191 2778000) and to direct concerned residents to register online. They can do that on behalf of a neighbour, friend or member of their family etc. The online route should be used wherever possible, just as the police and NHS are, because of the pressures on the Council's call centre and redeployed staff.

Options are being considered, including writing to every household in the city; but some distributers are unable to deliver any more due to concerns about the virus and many residents are critical about spending resources on printing and delivery which could be better directed into providing front-line support.

The Council is also in touch with food banks and is actively exploring how it might increase their capacity to stock food which has been greatly diminished in recent days. One option being explored is using volunteers to distribute food.

CITY COUNCIL SERVICES

Recycling lorryStaff who can work from home are working from home and/or working differently to minimise face to face contact. Some staff are temporarily based at home awaiting reassignment or deployment elsewhere. Those staff who still undertake duties in a building or outdoors are required to follow government advice and socially distance themselves from others.

As this situation develops over an extended period there is an increasing number of staff that cannot work due to illness, shielding or self-isolation and there is an increasing pressure on critical services. The Council recognises that it must continue to provide support to the most vulnerable people in our city and continue to provide those services that have a direct impact on public health. Directorates are already monitoring the critical service areas to ensure there are minimum staffing levels to sustain the required levels of service delivery.

IMPACT ON TRANSPORT

Users of public transport may already be aware of the impact on them. Here's the "big picture" as advised to Councillors by Nexus

In order to provide stable operations when large numbers of staff are absent through sickness and self-isolating, timetables on all forms of public transport have been cut back dramatically.

Public transport patronage has declined by around 85%, with only key workers and a small number of essential travellers making trips. This is good news in terms of allowing the space for social distancing for those who do need to travel. Only a very small number of peak hour trips are busy, and operators are monitoring this and adjusting timetables where needed.

The reduction in fare income however is profound, and both bus and Metro urgently need government support to protect against lasting damage.

The impact of delayed or cancelled Metro construction contracts has yet to be understood, especially given government policy on this matter is that public bodies are being required to act now to ensure suppliers at risk can resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak is over. At present two key construction work sites are open (the Nexus Learning Centre in South Shields and Howdon temporary Metro depot) and Nexus has an assurance from the principal contractors concerned that activities are only being carried out where the risk assessment has confirmed it is safe to do so.

BUSES

Emergency reduced bus timetables were introduced on Monday 23rd March, and services were reduced further over the weekend. . Most routes are reduced to an hourly frequency, although some busier routes will have more frequent buses while rural routes will be every two hours. All partners are resolved to continue to provide accessibility to all parts of the bus network for key workers, including early and late services, albeit at a reduced frequency.

The collapse of bus patronage is a major financial challenge to bus operators who are evaluating their individual responses. Urgent decisions are required over the next few days in order to avoid loss of accessibility for key workers, as well as long-term major damage to the bus market.

Go North East has decided to temporarily consolidate its depots, from 9 normally, to 3. A significant proportion of GNE employees will be furloughed as a result. This will help it to reduce some of its variable costs. Other operators are likely to take action to reduce staffing costs in the near future.

The annual concessionary travel budget for bus is approximately £53 million across the North East, and secured services payments account for approximately £15 million. It is intended (by Nexus, Durham CC and Northumberland CC) to maintain all payments at budgeted levels, and in return Nexus will require the bus operators to maintain a basic level of accessibility on all routes throughout the day. In order to achieve this we need some flexibility in government legislation and statutory guidance. DfT has written to the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, indicating that they will be writing to every English local transport authority outside London to urge them to continue payments for tendered bus services and concessionary fares reimbursement at levels based on the position before the coronavirus outbreak.

However even with major cost-cutting measures and continuation of expected payments from local authorities, there is still likely to be a gap between bus operator income and costs. Nexus urgently needs the government to provide a mechanism to cover this gap, directly to the bus companies and/or via local authorities. This may require state aid rules to be temporarily set aside, and a clear understanding from all involved over value for money expectations and audit requirements, among other considerations.

Nexus is looking at local options to maintain accessibility should a bus operator cease trading. No options are simple, some may require changes to legislation, and all would require additional public sector funding.

METRO AND FERRY

Metro is operating a 24-minute frequency on all routes throughout the day. It has seen an 85% decline in patronage, with almost all services extremely quiet. Nexus plans to introduce extra morning trains outside the timetable to serve key workers in the peak.

Nexus has closed all Travelshops. The 0191 2020 747 Nexus call centre is functioning 9am-5pm Monday-Friday with staff answering calls from home.

Nexus has written again to the DfT to ask for additional financial support to cover the sudden decline in fare-paying passengers, as well as confirmation of ongoing capital funding.

RAIL

All rail operators have introduced 'key worker timetables' that provide stability despite significant levels of worker absence.

The government has announced that it is converting all remaining rail franchises to management contracts, through which existing operators will continue to deliver services in return for a management fee. Revenue risk will be borne by the government. This should provide for continuity and stability for rail services in the foreseeable future.

REMINDERS FROM PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND ABOUT SHIELDING VULNERABLE PEOPLE

Social distancingShielding is a measure to protect extremely vulnerable people by minimising interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. This means that those who are extremely vulnerable should not leave their homes, and within their homes should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household. This is to protect those who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus through coming into contact with the virus.

If you think you have a condition which makes you extremely vulnerable or have received a letter from NHS England you are strongly advised to shield yourself, to reduce the chance of getting coronavirus and follow the face-to-face distancing measures below. The measures are:

  1. Strictly avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus. These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  2. Do not leave your house.
  3. Do not attend any gatherings. This includes gatherings of friends and families in private spaces, for example, family homes, weddings and religious services.
  4. Do not go out for shopping, leisure or travel and, when arranging food or medication deliveries, these should be left at the door to minimise contact.
  5. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  6. Do use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

We know that stopping these activities will be difficult. You should try to identify ways of staying in touch with others and participating in your normal activities remotely from your home. However, you must not participate in alternative activities if they involve any contact with other people. This advice will be in place for at least 12 weeks from the day you receive your letter.

KEY STAGE 1 - HELP WITH HOME SCHOOLING

Newcastle United Foundation have online help with literacy tasks https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3A9161e6cb-ec9d-42ce-a1dc-c401f9a10b7a

HOPPINGS AND TOWN MOOR

This year's Newcastle Hoppings has been cancelled following a joint decision by the Freemen and the city council. They agreed that, in light of the government restrictions regarding social distancing, it would not be possible for the event to go ahead safely. The Hoppings, which was due to take place in June, will return to the Town Moor in 2021.

Signs to remind people of the need for social distancing have been put in place at the entrances to the Town Moor. It follows concerns that many people were heading for the area and as a result were not observing the requirement to remain 2m apart from others. Government guidance on exercise is that this should be undertaken in your local area, either alone or with members of your household, and you should not travel to popular destinations.

THINGS TO DO

Seven Stories have a childrens' story time on Friday 3rd, 10am - check their Facebook page for details