Friday 13 November 2020

Updates from Devon County Council

In this update:

  • Thank you for complying with national restrictions
  • Devon leads £2 million bid to end holiday hunger
  • Vaccine news welcome, but Director of Public Health Devon advises caution
  • Are you worrying about money?
  • Funding available to support communities
  • Are you looking for a job?
  • Celebrate Diwali safely

Thank you for complying with national restrictions
The Chairman of the Local Outbreak Engagement Board, Cllr John Hart, has thanked Devon residents for responding positively to the national lockdown restrictions, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

The latest figures show traffic movement on the roads is down 30 to 40 per cent, and public transport use has also fallen.

“The figures suggest that fewer people are out and about, making journeys only if and when they’re necessary,” said Cllr Hart.

“That’s what we need to see. I want to thank our residents for the positive way that they have so far responded to this second national lockdown.

Cllr Hart repeated the message for people to “continue to be careful, as this virus is very much around us. It’s vital that we do not drop our guard.”

Devon leads £2 million bid to end holiday hunger
A major operation is under way in Devon to combat holiday hunger for children this Christmas.

We are leading the operation to organise networks of providers across the county, using a £2 million government grant to support vulnerable children and families in the most effective way.

Over the next few weeks a range of community kitchens, holiday clubs, charities and local businesses will be enlisted to coordinate help and support for those who need it the most in every district in Devon.

They will ensure that every child entitled to Free School Meals will be able to get free food over the Christmas holiday, during the Easter half-term and the Easter holidays.

You can read the full story on our News Centre.

More information about financial and food support for families and individuals in Devon is available on our website.

Vaccine news welcomed but caution advised
News this week of a vaccine becoming available was welcomed by Dr Virginia Pearson, Director of Public Health Devon, but she advises caution. 

“It’s exceptionally good news,” she said, “but it is still early days, and while the announcement is tremendously positive, there is still a lot of work to do nationally before a programme of mass vaccination is possible.

“The NHS is currently putting in place plans to deliver a COVID vaccine to priority groups.

“While the announcement this week is positive, it is absolutely vital that we do not take this as a green light to relax our efforts in halting the spread of coronavirus. It is imperative that we continue to make every effort to follow the national public health advice, to the letter. That means, maintaining social distance, wearing face coverings when out and in enclosed spaces where social distancing is difficult, and washing our hands properly and regularly.

“For the national lockdown restrictions to halt the rising number of positive cases, we must all follow the current rules, and only to venture out for the permitted reasons, but otherwise to minimise social contact as much as possible. Once out of the current national lockdown, we do not want additional restrictions in Devon. To avoid that, we need to remain absolutely alert to ongoing risk, at all times and in all situations.”

Are you worrying about money?
With news this week of record redundancies in the UK during the three months to September, we want to let you know about what support is available if you’re worrying about money.

It’s reported that companies have made more workers redundant in anticipation of the end of the furlough scheme, initially due to end in October, but now extended until the end of March 2021.

Over the summer at least 30 per cent of Devon’s workforce were furloughed and the number of people in the county claiming Universal Credit has gone up by 155 per cent since March.

If your income has changed and you’re struggling to pay for basic household essentials, we’ve made money available via local District Councils to provide small emergency grants to people in financial hardship as a result of COVID-19.

The funds can be used for different things such as access to emergency short term support through shopping vouchers, utility top ups, paying for essential travel needs or essential advice and support services.

We’ve also published information on our website about financial help in your local area, including links to national support and information on what to do if you were employed but have now lost your job.

Funding available to support communities
We’ve temporarily reopened our ‘COVID-19 Fund’ to help provide valuable resources to organisations working in communities that have been affected by this second national lockdown.

The money will help voluntary and community groups safely address some of the issues that are arising because of the second national lockdown, including support for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

The funding can be used to support things like the safe delivery of essential goods and services to those who are vulnerable; support for accessing online information; helping people to stay connected and informed; measures to support mental health and wellbeing and transport-related initiatives that support safe community responses to the outbreak.

To find out more, including how to apply, please visit our website.

Mindfulness Challenge starts Monday!
Looking after your wellbeing and mental health is important, especially during this second national lockdown.

That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to take part in Learn Devon’s ‘Mindfulness Challenge’, which starts on Monday (16 November).

It features a series of short videos that provide an opportunity to take 20 minutes a day, over five days, to ensure that mindfulness – training techniques for your mind and wellbeing – is part of your daily routine.

Each day focusses on a different technique to help with focus, concentration, relaxation, coping with anxiety and stress, as well as stretches for desk workers and more.

If you sign up, you will receive an email each morning at 6.00am with a link to the day’s video which you can watch on-demand, in your own time. The email will also include further tips to improve wellbeing in your everyday life.

We hope that taking part will enhance your wellbeing, enabling you to better cope with life’s stresses and the difficulties brought about by the pandemic and a second national lockdown.

For those who enjoy the challenge and want to engage in more mindfulness or other wellbeing courses, free follow up workshops and classes will be available.

There’s more information about looking after your emotional wellbeing on our website.

Are you looking for a job?
To ensure people are receiving crucial careers support during the coronavirus outbreak, the National Careers Service is working to bring job seekers and employers closer together by advertising vacancies across social media.

The National Careers Service ‘Virtual Jobs Fair’ for the South West will be held on Monday 16 November from 1.00pm until 4.00pm.

It will offer employers the chance to advertise current opportunities, which the National Careers Service will then promote through its national and regional social media channels.

Careers advisers will also be delivering webinars and workshops, giving the necessary careers advice and guidance to help jobseekers make successful applications by helping them improve their CVs and prepare for interviews.

Follow @NationalCareers and National Careers Service to find out more, or register on the Event Brite website to access the event for free.

Celebrate Diwali safely
The main celebration day of Diwali takes place this weekend, and those marking the festival of light are asked to take extra care because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

National lockdown restrictions mean that the celebrations will be quite different this year, with family and friends unable to gather, and group worship also not permitted.

But there are still lots of ways to mark this special occasion, while following government guidance and staying safe.

Connect with loved ones via phone or video calls and sending messages, decorate your home and garden, and those who live together or who are in a support bubble can enjoy a feast or sweet treats together.

At this challenging time, remember that restrictions help to keep everyone safe. Please stick to them and together, we can stop the spread of coronavirus.

The latest national advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) is available on the
Government website and NHS website.

You can find local guidance and information about the impacts on our services on the Devon County Council website.

Please forward this email to anyone you think would find it useful and encourage them to sign up.

Please note that all of our sites and offices are closed to the public, except for necessary prearranged visits, but you can still contact us if you need to.

If you need information in another language or format please let us know by email via customer@devon.gov.uk or phone 0345 155 1015 or by texting ‘Devon’ then your message to 80011.