Published: Thursday, 21st May 2020

Read council Leader Alan Jarrett's latest message to residents regarding COVID-19.

Dear residents,

I hope you are keeping well and enjoying the lovely weather.

My last message followed the Prime Minister’s announcement which outlined a route map for the gradual lifting of restrictions over the coming months. We are now enjoying the benefits of some of the gentle changes, such as being able to safely enjoy our open spaces and country parks in the warmer weather we’re currently experiencing and see more of our loved ones safely.

I continue daily to wonder at our marvellous NHS staff who so selflessly put the wellbeing of others before their own. We thank them and the other First Responders for everything they are doing for us on a daily basis in order to keep us safe and well. Of course Medway Council is also a First Responder, and all too often the major contribution being made by all our staff is not necessarily recognised by the wider public. Council staff are all too often the unsung heroes in a crisis, and never more so than over the last weeks.

We have remained open for business

I’m aware a few residents have been in touch querying if you’ll get a reduction in council tax, suggesting that our services are closed for business. I can reaffirm that we are and have remained opened for business throughout the pandemic. In fact, I am extremely proud of your council’s commitment to continue to provide as many services as we possibly can within government guidelines and our quick response to adapt our services at the beginning of the pandemic to offer innovative ways to ensure residents could still access Medway’s services whilst at home during lockdown.  I want to share with you today just some of the many things we have been doing.

Supporting the most vulnerable in our communities remains one of the most important things we do and our social workers have continued to be at the front line every single day. Whether that has been working with our children and families, or with the over 6,000 adults who are amongst our ‘shielded’ population, the contribution of our social workers has been amazing.

Delivering 100,000 meals to those in need

So too colleagues in Public Health, who have been very much at the sharp end of this crisis. Whether that has been overseeing the delivery and distribution of food parcels to those in need, or the packing and delivery of over 100,000 meals, or their wider work with the community and community and voluntary groups providing shopping and prescription collection services or just phoning isolated residents for a chat, their efforts have been unstinting.

Most of our schools have remained open in order to host the children of our key workers, in order for them to continue working on our behalf. Children with special needs and disabilities have also been able to attend school as required. For the commitment of our school staff – whether that is in maintained schools or academies and free schools – no praise is too high and I joined with many yesterday in thanking them on National Thank A Teacher Day.

Maintaining weekly waste collection service

Our contractors at Medway Norse have worked miracles in maintaining our marvellous weekly waste collection service, one of your most valued services. When closed services have been reopened, once again our contractors have stepped up to the plate with grass cutting resumed from early May, and our HWRCs reopened just this weekend. As soon as government guidance allowed we reopened our country park car parks, making it easier for our people to enjoy our beautiful open spaces. All of the contracted services have of course been overseen by our full-time staff.

Our Finance Team have worked tirelessly to implement swiftly government financial support schemes to ensure those most in need receive the support required. They have supported Medway across the spectrum from council tax benefits to small business grants. The distribution of grants has so far exceeded £55,000,000 and there is more to come.

We have continued a busy schedule of road maintenance ready for when more traffic returns to our roads. 732 jobs have been completed on our roads since 23 March as well as a major project to replace lamp columns.

Our Customer Support team has taken around 5,000 calls a week to help residents’ queries ensuring you have someone to turn to in need of help and we have worked hard throughout to communicate important messages to you and ensure you can also access many of our services online.

Finding creative solutions

Where we’ve not been able to provide services directly, we’ve come up with some creative solutions.  Our libraries have given residents access to thousands of ebooks, audio books and emagazines and we’ve created a huge number of free online videos of live sports work outs,  health and well being sessions and creative courses.

Ensuring the well being of our children and young people is one of Medway’s top priorities and our Early Help teams have provided many children and families with activity and reading packs over the past months and the many letters of thanks have demonstrated how much they are enjoying them. And our Youth Services Teams have been holding many different activity sessions to keep young people busy each week online.

With many of our services closed down we have seen staff either working from home or redeployed. Staff have been redeployed to assist with packaging and deliveries, the crematorium, and indeed going to wherever they are needed to ensure residents continue to receive our ongoing help and support.  There has been a demonstration of flexibility and commitment to Medway’s people the like of which we have never seen before and I would like to pay tribute to them all for all their hard work.  Much of this goes on behind the scenes.  You may not be seeing people out and about every day but I can assure you that we have never been busier. 

Whilst we continue to work hard in response to the ongoing pandemic and deliver vital services for you all, as well as offer affected services in different ways, we are also planning for when our services can return to normal.  

Mental Health Awareness Week

This pandemic is affecting us all and as this week is also Mental Health Awareness Week we are reminding residents of the support services available during COVID-19 including the Release the Pressure helpline and text service. Residents can text the word ‘Medway’ to 85258, to start a conversation with one of the many trained and experienced volunteers. People needing support can also call 0800 107 0160 where support is available from trained and experienced staff on this freephone number 24 hours a day 365 days a year. Please do look after yourselves and your loved ones at this difficult time.

Stay alert, control the virus, save lives. 

Cllr Alan Jarrett

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