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Members were presented with a draft strategy on stabilisation, the period between response and recovery, following the COVID 19 outbreak. The strategy set out a general framework that would support a consistent and co-ordinated approach as the Council moved towards recovery. It was noted that the draft strategy was being presented to all Scrutiny Committees for comments before presentation to Cabinet on 30th July 2020 for approval.
Officers gave a brief overview of the content of the strategy, explaining that it was split into three sections which consisted of looking back at what the Council did during the response phase of the crisis, looking forward as the UK moved out of the response phase and a road map of actions.
When looking back at what the Council did during the response phase, it was highlighted that a number of key actions were undertaken including setting up a seven day a week communication service so that guidance from UK Government, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales could be sent out as and when it was available. It was added that the Council closed down services to assist in reducing the spread of the virus and changed the way some critical services operated in order to operate safely, for example the refuse service. Officers mentioned that the first part of the strategy also set out the changes that were made in relation to leadership and governance, including the use of the Urgency Action provision set out in the Constitution, to ensure that key decisions were still being taken during the response phase.
The second part of the strategy was explained to Members, which consisted of looking forward as the UK moved out of response phase into a stabilisation period which is the stage before moving into the recovery phase. It was explained that there were three areas identified as a focus as the Council moved forward:
1. The Test, Trace and Protect Programme
2. Standing up of Council services and functions
3. Understand and respond to the effect and impact that the virus has had on citizens, organisations and businesses across Neath Port Talbot
It was added that the second part also set out the changes required to be made in terms of leadership and governance, as well as some of the risks and issues identified that will need to managed as the Council goes through the implementation of the strategy.
The third part of the strategy was presented as a road map of actions which was framed on the basis of a traffic light system, which set out how to move from a position of total lockdown, through the traffic light system, to a position where services are back up and running. It was noted that a number of services on the road map fall within the remit of the Education, Skills and Culture Scrutiny Committee.
Members asked for feedback on how the remote working with young people had been going, to which it was noted that the feedback had been ... view the full minutes text for item 1.
Members received a presentation on the current service delivery and recovery planning from the Education, Leisure and Lifelong Learning Directorate.
It was highlighted that throughout the lockdown period, Neath Port Talbot had provided a weekly payment of £19.50 to each registered child who was entitled to Free School Meals (FSM) to ensure that there was a significant and greater reach into the community. It was noted that previously, grab and go bags were provided, however they were only accessed by 20% of FSM pupils and now through the payment scheme, 95% of FSM pupils were accessing meals. Officers confirmed that to date, £1.1million in total had been paid out to eligible families and that this would continue through summer and possibly into the first fortnight of the new term.
As detailed in the circulated presentation, Officers expect that almost all members of staff would be able to return to work in September, although there were currently 12 teaching staff who were shielding. It was highlighted that risk assessments would be undertaken by each school to clarify the arrangements for the teaching staff who were shielding, being able to return to work in September. It was added that schools will go through risk assessments for all activities and the risk assessments would be delivered sometime in late August (with a deadline of 27 August 2020).
In relation to inclusion and wellbeing, it was stated that support was given to pupils throughout lockdown; this was continued with the help of the Councils IT service, who put provisions in place very quickly and provided the teams with the essential equipment to allow them to be able to continue their service to the vulnerable children in Neath Port Talbot.
Officers highlighted that the inclusive service had worked closely with Social Services to develop the vulnerable learners register and staff had worked collaboratively as part of a multi-agency group, to discuss provision, address issues and ensure the register was updated on a weekly basis. It was added that this work was very important due to the concerns that staff had with vulnerable children at home; the register incorporated a RAG (Red, Amber, Green) basis of the children’s risks and what support they were receiving on a weekly basis, so that staff were able to put sufficient support in place where it was needed.
A discussion took place in regards to leisure facilities which included libraries, Margam Park and Celtic Leisure. It was noted that staff had taken a very cautious approach in the re-opening of libraries and Margam Park and had at all times, followed guidance from Welsh Government. Officers highlighted the re-opening programme for libraries which was detailed in the presentation, as well as mentioning the re-opening arrangements of Margam Park, which was dealt with in stages.
In regards to Celtic Leisure, it was mentioned that on 17 March 2020, Members had agreed for a procurement process to be undertaken which consisted of finalising an invitation to tender for the provision of leisure ... view the full minutes text for item 2.