There’s been a huge team effort by the council’s staff to help support residents and local businesses during the coronavirus crisis.
Massive demands have been placed on some roles and, in some instances, staff have been undertaking different tasks.
The council’s Finance Team has worked tirelessly to make contact with businesses eligible for assistance under the government support measures and has already paid out £11,575,000 to 814 businesses (72 per cent of businesses eligible). The Customer Services team has dealt with huge volume of calls over the past four weeks, answering 8,148 calls compared with 5,382 calls during the same period last year and the waste and recycling crews have worked to continue providing a full service, with the exception of blue box (paper) recycling collections.
Meanwhile some staff have been deployed to markedly different roles to those they usually undertake. Ben Cowan normally works in the council’s Legal Services team. Ben said: “My day job at the council is dealing with debt recovery, but I volunteered to work within the Finance team to help allocate grants to local companies as part of the government’s business support measures.
“As a resident of Hertsmere I am proud to be supporting local people and businesses during this uncertain time. People have really helped each other out with shopping, ensuring neighbours are safe and able to get the necessities they need.”
Liz McGill, who has worked for the council for nearly 20 years, is still working her day job in Parking Services, but is also calling vulnerable residents who may need help during the lockdown period. She said: “I am happy to help by calling residents that may be vulnerable during this period of uncertainty. I am working through a list of people of have been identified as at risk by the government. It feels good to know that I am helping in some small way.”
Ruth Stratton, the council’s Museums Officer, is still providing what support she can to the borough’s museums and assisting them with their online content. Normally, Ruth has a council van on hand to help transport equipment to the museums, but she’s got the van on standby ready to support anyone who needs supplies delivered to their households.
Ruth said: “My day job involves working with the borough’s four volunteer-run museums. Many of the volunteers are elderly and live alone and need support during these difficult times. For me, helping the vulnerable residents by offering to deliver their shopping and keeping in touch to make sure they are doing OK, is a small way to give something back to our residents.”
A number of council staff have been supporting Communities 1st by helping with the recruitment of volunteers. Over the past four weeks, more than 270 hours of work has been invested by Hertsmere employees.
Loran Kingston is the council’s Community Safety Intervention Officer, but has been setting aside time to help support Communities 1st. Loran said: “This is unlike my day job but it’s been really interesting and rewarding to be involved with a team which is making such a difference to vulnerable people. I am helping to coordinate the recruitment of volunteers to help Communities 1st in delivering aid to local people, which includes checking ID and references, as well as conducting interviews, with people who want to volunteer.”
Leader of the Council, Councillor Morris Bright MBE said the speed at which the council staff has adapted to their new roles and the huge demands has been incredibly impressive. He said: “Staff working in areas that are no longer operating in the same capacity have effectively changed jobs to ensure vital council services can continue to operate and meet demand during the pandemic.
“They’ve been absolutely first rate supporting businesses and the public, organising volunteers, getting food out to people, looking out for vulnerable families, I couldn’t praise them highly enough.”
Sajida Bijle, Managing Director of Hertsmere Borough Council, has praised the council’s employees for working so hard to keep essential services going during these exceptional circumstances. “I want to personally thank all our staff who are dealing with their own pressures and family commitments, as well as providing a great public service to the people of Hertsmere.
“Many staff are working from home and many are working on the front line supporting vulnerable families, communities and voluntary efforts to help us through this crisis. It is heartening to see people pulling together to deliver critical services. These are tough times – but, whether they are doing their usual role or temporarily taken on different tasks, our staff are rising to the challenge and I applaud them all.”
Service changes, access to advice, and information about financial support measures and how to get involved in volunteering are available via www.hertsmere.gov.uk/coronavirus. Updates to that page are being made on a regular basis.
Posts are regularly added to the council’s social media feeds about service updates; hygiene messages; fraud alerts; accessing support; community safety and a host of other topics.
Communities 1st, which is working with Hertsmere Borough Council and other public sector organisations, charities, community groups, and businesses, during the public health emergency to help those in need. Anyone in need of help should visit www.communities1st.org.uk/covid19support, call 020 3559 3559 or email firstname.lastname@example.org