It’s been another seemingly quiet week on Scilly, but things are always busy behind the scenes. I know that many of you are grappling with the task of planning for the season ahead, whilst still unsure of how the next few weeks will play out and what restrictions might be in place. It is an unenviable position to be in and as a business owner myself, I can sympathise with anyone in this position. As ever the council will let you know as soon as we become aware of any changes to the national guidance and any support available.
It was heartening to read the news this week from government that there are encouraging findings relating to the effects of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on the transmission of coronavirus. You can read the underlying study in full here. As welcome as this news is, it does not mean that we are out of the woods and still does not change anything in relation to our continued observance of the current guidance and hygiene advice: you must still remain at home unless an exception applies until the government says otherwise. Whilst the vaccine may yet help to bring the rate of transmission down, we know for certain that lockdown restrictions ARE successful in doing so. So, whilst every development of this nature brings with it a little more hope for the future, it is still too early to drop our guard.
The Local Outbreak Engagement Board met on Tuesday this week. As usual a range of issues relating to the pandemic were discussed and you can listen to a recording of the meeting here. Whitney Curry, Advanced Public Health Practitioner attended the meeting to deliver the Public Health perspective on our ongoing response and remind everyone to keep up with their efforts to keep each other safe. Whitney has also produced another one of her informative videos this week - this time explaining a bit more about how the COVID-19 vaccine works and why it is a good idea to get it as soon as you are invited. You can view the video in full here.
As I have previously mentioned in my updates, certain workers are still permitted to travel to the islands during the current lockdown, and our community is grateful for the high level of consideration they are showing for our safety. For any employers who are expecting to welcome workers to the islands in the near future, but may be concerned about how to support them to travel and carry out their work safely, please take the time to read our advice page and direct any further COVID-19 related queries to the team at email@example.com or seek advice from our Environmental Health Officer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07780 585 139.
Of course, we are not the only ones wondering how the next few months will play out - the pandemic has been a great equaliser in this respect at least! Government sources have been deliberating about the potential impact on elections due to take place in May. As things stand, the local elections are due to go ahead, but door-step canvassing will not be permitted. We’ll be providing more information on the elections on Scilly very soon.
As you may have heard, the 2021 Census is set to go ahead on 21 March and will be conducted mostly online for the first time, but there will be support available for those who may need assistance. You can find out all about the Census here.
The impact of the pandemic has caused a shift from face-to-face interaction towards more online services. Personally, I have not always found this easy, but there have been advantages to remote working and we are more resilient in many ways because of it. There are challenges for everyone: children accessing lessons on iPads; parents balancing homeworking and supporting learning; people having to learn to use new technology for the first time. The Council is working hard to ensure that nobody is left out in the cold. We have increased our use of hard copy and email communications and always do our best to reach out to potentially vulnerable and isolated members of the community in ways which suit them.
The Council will always do what it can to assist in the transition to the use of modern technology. You can always call our enquiries team if you are unsure how best to find out about a Council-related matter, and if you have a question relating to your own computer, tablet or device you can access IT support from a tutor via St Mary’s library. These support sessions are run each Thursday between 10am and 12pm and booking is essential, so please call 0300 1234 105 (option 5) or email email@example.com to help us help you get tech savvy. I encourage you to get in touch if you, or anybody you know, is struggling to access the latest information, or feels out of the loop since the beginning of the pandemic. The more we are made aware of, the more we can do to help.
This week also saw the deadline for applications for government funded grants for Isles of Scilly businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. We have now allocated over £1.5 million to businesses on Scilly from mandatory grants and we are now processing the many applications received for the non-discretionary elements. There will be many cases on the islands of people struggling financially, so we are working hard to get the money paid out as soon as possible. Please do keep an eye on the government website for new information relating to the various support packages on offer. If you are not used to navigating the gov.uk website, you can find a summary of coronavirus financial support links here. Please remember too that if you are struggling to buy food or heat your home, or are suffering financial hardship in some other way, you can contact any one of the following Council officers to find out whether the Isles of Scilly Hardship Fund can help:
Matt Davis, Social Worker: 01720 424454 / 07810 881381 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rachel Guy, Housing and Tenant Liaison Officer: 01720 424441 / 07925 360405 or email@example.com
Jennie Woodcock, Early Help Assistant, Children's Social Care: 01720 424483 / 07917 198334 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Alongside these potential sources of financial support, please also consider whether you may need support with your mental and emotional wellbeing. There is a message from Jenny Candy RMN, Senior Mental Health Practitioner at the end of this update about how to access support on the islands. You do not have to deal with these challenges alone, so please do not hesitate to make an appointment if needed, or to signpost those you may be concerned about to the Health Centre for further advice.
The Council undertook its annual ‘Duty to Consult the Rate Payer’ Budget Consultation this week. It was a slightly unusual event given the need to conduct it via conference call rather than face-to-face with the public as in previous years. Another example of the steep learning curve I referred to previously! I would like to thank Vice Chairman, Fran Grottick, for ably leading the session on the budget in her role as Lead Member for Finance, and also Paul Masters, our Chief Executive for speaking to the public about the direction of travel for the year ahead. You can listen to an audio recording of the public meeting here. Some pertinent questions from members of the public were addressed, so thank you to those of you who took the time to submit comments. We are accepting further feedback on the budget proposals right up until noon on Monday, 8 February, so if you are reading this update before then, please submit your comments via email to Frances.Grottick@scilly.gov.uk or speak to one of your Councillors.
As part of my introduction to the public meeting, I gave a brief rundown of the work that has been undertaken by the Council this year. I am pleased to report that much has been achieved in spite of a very difficult set of circumstances and I would like to reiterate my gratitude to the Council’s staff for going the extra mile at this unprecedented time, and to my fellow members for their support and advice. I am also grateful to all of our partners organisations for unfailingly putting their interests to one side in favour of finding solutions that benefit the community throughout this incredibly tough year, I also want the community on the Isles of Scilly to know how much I appreciate everything you have done to look out for one another, from following the public health advice to adapting to new ways of working. It is important that we continue to recognise our many collective successes as we look towards the new financial year. One final point, I’d like to recognise the successes of those working in social care on the islands. As we can all appreciate, it is one of the most challenging areas of work during a health crisis and we all owe those working to support our most vulnerable a debt of gratitude. I’d also like to thank those who support this effort through volunteering such as the Healthwatch volunteers and meals-on-wheels.
With my very best wishes
Robert Francis, Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly
A Message from the Jenny Candy RMN, Senior Mental Health Practitioner, NHS
This year has been tough on everyone and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself to anyone in the community who may not be aware that mental health and emotional wellbeing support is available on the islands. My name is Jenny Candy and I am a Registered Mental health Nurse. I am here to support anyone in the community who may not be feeling like their usual self lately.
It is important that we recognise signs of mental and emotional exhaustion in ourselves and those we care about, so please do not hesitate to get support with your mental health and emotional wellbeing if needed, by calling St Mary’s Health Centre on 01720 422628 and making an appointment with me.
Signs that you are Mentally and Emotionally Exhausted include, but are not limited to, the following:
- You're easily irritated.
- You feel completely unmotivated - even to do things you normally enjoy.
- You're experiencing anxiety or panic attacks.
- You're having trouble sleeping. Either it takes you hours to fall asleep, or your sleep is broken all through the night.
- You have almost no patience and you find yourself being short with colleagues and family.
- You're experiencing indigestion. You have a low-grade stomach-ache all the time or feel like there are butterflies in your stomach.
- You start crying unexpectedly.
- You feel detached from reality - you go through your days without really emotionally responding or connecting to anything. You feel empty.
The government has issued guidance for the public on the mental health and wellbeing aspects of coronavirus (COVID-19), which is a good starting point for anyone with concerns in this area, but I encourage you to make an appointment with me if you are struggling and I will do my very best to help and support you.
Stay safe, take care and get in touch if needed.
Jenny Candy RMN
Senior Mental Health Practitioner, NHS