Covid-19 has created challenges that could never have been planned for, with Wokingham Borough Council working at pace with many partners to support communities and keep essential services running over the last two years. As we reflect on this time, we can all look back and be proud of what we’ve achieved together.
Overnight, the council worked with the local voluntary and community sector, and hundreds of volunteers, to set up support for the vulnerable whilst they were shielded at home. Hundreds of staff were also redeployed from services including libraries and sports to support frontline colleagues.
From a food distribution hub at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre which sent out 2,000 packages in its first two months, to home delivery of prescriptions and thousands of welfare checks to vulnerable residents; working in partnership was crucial.
Self-isolation and testing
The dedicated council-run test and trace team made nearly 8,000 calls to residents to check in and signpost to support while self-isolating. Lateral flow testing sites were set up in January 2021, with nearly 35,000 tests processed on-site by the team and 57,000 home testing kits given to the public.
In June 2021, the council ran a surge testing programme, following the rapid spread of the Delta variant in the borough. This was a huge team effort, with over 20,000 tests complete and nearly 15,000 residential properties visited to help raise awareness. 8,000 test kits were also delivered to schools, nurseries, pre-schools and businesses.
Supporting with the vaccine programme
The council has worked closely with the NHS to support with practical elements (signage, car parking, marshalling etc), and encourage the local community to have their vaccines. In June 2021, it also worked with NHS partners to run the surge vaccine programme at Bulmershe Leisure Centre, where a staggering 4,000 over 18s were vaccinated.
Helping the community and local businesses
Covid Support Officers have been promoting best practices, carrying out mobile and foot patrols in town centres and other areas, signposting members of the public to nearby Covid-19 testing facilities and providing other important guidance. The council has also helped organisations access Covid-19 grants from Central Government, with millions of pounds paid out to local businesses that have been impacted by ongoing restrictions.
Keeping children and vulnerable adults safe
The council’s Adult Social Care Covid-19 Taskforce has provided vital support to care homes and their residents across the borough, ensuring they stay as safe as possible. From daily calls to share information and assist with any issues and concerns; to supporting with risk assessments, problem-solving and testing; the dedicated team has acted swiftly to put support in place when needed.
The Children’s Covid-19 Taskforce has also gone above and beyond to support schools and pre-schools/nurseries during the pandemic. They are in daily contact with headteachers by phone, email, and virtual meetings; providing advice, guidance, and important information to share with parents and guardians.
Support for care homes
In addition, the council took the decision to go against government guidelines by refusing to take patients discharged from hospital into some care homes unless it was certain they did not have Covid-19. It also distributed hundreds of thousands of pieces of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to social care providers and distributed millions in grants to the care sector; ensuring funding reached the front line as quickly as possible.
One Front Door
One Front Door, a service led by Citizens Advice Wokingham, delivered in partnership with many local voluntary sector organisations, and supported by the borough council, was set up at the start of the pandemic to help residents find the most appropriate support that they’re entitled to.
The council is continuing to work closely with these organisations and build on the positive partnerships developed during the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, a new charity and community hub opened its doors in January 2022 for residents to go to for help and support, and it is now home to 10 charities and organisations.
Remembering the pandemic: Covid Legacy Project
To capture the experiences of communities during the pandemic, and to provide a platform for residents to discuss their shared experiences of living through the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021, the council is launching a community display in local libraries. It is encouraging people to contribute their thoughts and experiences - please email any anecdotes and photos to CEM@wokingham.gov.uk.
Cllr Charles Margetts, the executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services, said: “We have faced so many challenges in the last two years and overcome many hurdles. It has been a stressful and traumatic time, particularly for those who have lost loved ones, or who have faced hardship. But the sense of community spirit has been strong.
“Thanks to the dedication of council officers, collaboration with our local voluntary sector and other statutory partners, and the support from residents, we are now able to look back and reflect on the huge amount of effort that has gone into our Covid response. We want to take this opportunity to thank all our partners for their ongoing support, as we truly have been in it together.
“This is by no means an exhaustive list of achievements, and we are so grateful for everyone’s hard work over the last two years. While we are entering a new phase of the pandemic, we are still here to support our communities, particularly those who are most vulnerable, and will continue to put our residents at the heart of everything we do.”
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