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Members Q&A

We are very aware of the need for Members to be kept informed as much as possible during this extraordinary time. The aim of this page is to provide you with the answers to commonly asked questions, in which you will be able to share with the community as appropriate.

On this page you will be able to check if any questions you’ve asked before have been raised and answered, as well as submit new questions. Once you have submitted a question, please check back on this page as the answer will be uploaded in due course.

We hope you are keeping safe and well.

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Recently Answered Questions

We are initially redeploying and upskilling staff to undertake the contact tracing work. We have four teams already assembled and in training, and expect to have six teams with associated support available to operate from 1st June 2020. Managers have confirmed that the initial group of staff can be redeployed for at least three months

We know that as we bring other services back into operation that some of the staff we are redeploying will need to return to services. There are a number of options for resourcing this which might include external recruitment, however, we would need to be confident that there would be funding from Welsh Government if we were required to recruit large numbers of people into these roles.

There are further discussions taking place between local authorities, Welsh Government and representatives of the business sector in relation to those organisations who are not able to access the financial assistance announced to date. We will be able to provide further information as it is released. In the short term, businesses can contact the Council's business support team who are happy to provide guidance and support.

Yes, ice-cream vans can still operate as they are classed as a take-away food, albeit social distancing should be employed should queues develop.

 

Any suspected issues should be reported to food@npt.gov.uk along with the details of the ice-cream van business if possible.

The by-law prohibiting dogs on the beach is now in force. However, the Council is not intending to strictly enforce the by-law on the basis that people should be exercising locally and therefore we do not expect to see large numbers of people using the beach for the foreseeable future. A public announcement to this effect has been made.

The online library service is able to supply audio books etc for people. People can register online for the service.

The Government has just issued a draft strategy on testing which we are examining. The arrangements for health and social care staff is that the Health Board is co-ordinating the testing, however, the arrangements for the remainder of the population are unclear and we will be seeking urgent clarification from Government. As we understand it, sufficient testing capacity is a condition of lifting the current restrictions so we need to be very clear about the testing arrangements that will support our local population and it seems that there is still work to do before that is full operational. We will send an update on this issue out as we get more clarify.

The UK Government has clarified the Guidance it has issued for England, where they have permitted some travel to take exercise. This guidance does not apply in Wales.

The recent Regulations created by the Welsh Government, which set out the various restrictions, state that an individual can only leave their place of residence with ‘reasonable excuse’. Guidance has been produced by the Welsh Government in respect of this which is available on the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-regulations-guidance.

  • Staying indoors for extended periods of time without relief may exacerbate certain mental or physical conditions. Examples of specific health conditions or disabilities include learning disabilities, autism, dementia or other mental health conditions which can be alleviated by an established routine or by exercise outdoors. Where people with particular conditions would (accompanied as necessary by their carers) benefit from outdoor exercise more frequently than once a day, this would be a reasonable excuse to leave home.
  • The intention is that exercise should be undertaken locally – as close as possible to the home. In general this should not involve people driving to a location away from home for this purpose. No journeys of any significant distance should be taken, for example, just in order to exercise in the countryside or at beauty spots (many of which are closed in any event to prevent this).
  • People with specific health or mobility issues may, however, need to travel from their home in order to be able to exercise. For example, some wheelchair users may not be able to start to exercise immediately outside their homes for practical access reasons, and may need to drive to a suitable flat location, such as a park, for this purpose. In these circumstances the journey should be to the nearest convenient accessible location and no long journeys should be undertaken unless absolutely necessary.
  • Going for a walk and then having a picnic or spending a prolonged period on a park bench, for example, is not considered to be exercise and is not intended to be a reasonable excuse.
  • Combining exercise with walking a dog or going to a shop to buy food, for example, is considered to be reasonable.
  • Cycling should be local, as a rule of thumb limited to travelling no further than a reasonable walking distance from home. Exercising by cycling significant distances from home is not considered to be a reasonable excuse for leaving home.
  • Cycling to work, or for work, is a reasonable excuse to be outside (so long as going to work, or doing the work, is itself justifiable).

Parks and cemeteries remain closed at this present time. The leadership is very aware of residents’ views that these should be re-opened and will be studying the First Minister’s announcement this afternoon and the associated regulations and guidance.

There have been calls to re-open Civic Amenity sites, however, at this present time there are no plans to re-open the CA sites in our County Borough. Regrettably we have seen a significant increase in fly-tipping despite the communications we have put out to discourage this.

Social Services is co-ordinating the distribution of PPE to our own staff and the local social care sector. We have teamed up with Swansea Council who had managed to source some supplies from external providers. This means that we have enough PPE at present. However, Welsh Government are the main suppliers at this time and their supply to us is below that which we will need. In short, workers are not working without PPE but unless we can source more supplies in the near future we will not have enough. We believe that we have enough stock and supply from Welsh Government to last us for about another week before we would have to start to limit the PPE we send out to providers across the sector.

PPE guidance has changed several times, with the requirement for PPE in social care now significantly increased to what the guidance advised at the beginning of the outbreak.

On testing, we had been putting forward names for the Cardiff testing station but very few met the stringent criteria and there is an ongoing issue about who gets the results. We are co-ordinating testing for the whole of the care sector locally, not just our own staff. We have now negotiated local testing from our Health Board which we believe will more suit our needs across the sector. In future, providers will be able to refer their staff directly into this service. We believe that our locally negotiated testing will be more flexible, responsive and inclusive than what we have seen so far from the national system. Ministers have been talking about revising the National Testing model making it less bureaucratic, more timely and less restrictive which is to be welcomed by those across Wales who have not been able to agree a local testing method.

It is important to remember that Social Services, Domestic Abuse agencies and Substance Misuse agencies are still open for business and anyone needing help should continue to contact these services through the usual numbers.

All of the urgency actions and the supporting, more detailed reports are available on Modern.Gov. Please access Modern.Gov as you normally do and you will need to select a new set of Committees that have been set mirroring the normal committee structure. If you are having difficulty accessing the reports please contact the Democratic Services team

Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund is making emergency, fast-track funding available for organisations in the Fund area. The fund’s areas of benefit covers the upper reaches of the Neath, Afan, Rhondda and Cynon Valleys, although applications can be based outside these areas if they can be clearly explained how their proposals will benefit people living in the Fund communities. Information can be found here: https://penycymoeddcic.cymru/community-covid-19-emergency-funding-2/

Council offices are now closed to the public, staff and councillors. Very few critical workers remain in the office and it is essential those who have to be in our buildings maintain social distance measures to protect their health and the continuity of critical services. Please contact officers by email in the first instance or by telephone. It may take longer to respond than normal. I thank you for your patience at this time.

All details of services that have been stopped or changed are either in the Member Bulletin which you can find on the website. www.npt.gov.uk/staff or on the public website www.npt.gov.uk/coronavirus.

If you have queries/concerns, you can raise those with officers using their e mail contact details where ever possible. Some officers have also been able to redirect their telephones and may be able to take calls directly. It may take slightly longer to respond than normal.

Please note the council contact centre and out of hours numbers are still being staffed so if you are unable to get hold of someone please ring the contact centre/out of hours service and they will try to help you.

Ring the usual social services referral number during the day, Adult’s Social Services - 01639 686803 and Children’s Social Services - 01639 686802.
The Emergency Duty Team out of hours number is 01639 895455.

Please ONLY Share information from trusted sources. Please help the national effort by sharing information contained on the Public Health Wales, Welsh Government and NPT Council Websites.

The service has been set up for people who have been identified by the NHS as medically vulnerable and who cannot rely on family, friends or neighbours for support.

If you get enquiries from people about the service, please refer to the leaflet we have distributed across the county borough:

  • If people already have support from family and friends they should continue to rely on those arrangements. They do not need NPT Safe and Well, but family and friends must follow the Public Health Guidance on how to protect people who are shielding;

  • If people have support from neighbours they should continue to rely on those arrangements. They do not need NPT Safe and Well, but neighbours must follow the Public Health Guidance on how to protect people who are shielding;

  • If people have no support, they are the very people we are here to help. They should ring 01639 686868 and we can then establish their local support needs and make arrangements for food. The community lead will also work with you, to match them with a suitable person in your local street volunteer networks, so they have a local person who can keep in touch with them.

Public Health Wales describes shielding as a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others.

Public Health Wales strongly advises that guidance is rigorously followed to keep this particular group of people safe. If people are in the group of people to be shielded, they are at very high risk of severe illness as a result of Coronavirus, requiring admission to hospital.

People in the group to be shielded are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face to face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks, from the date they receive their letter.

You can find the guidance on shielding on the website of Public Health Wales “How to protect extremely vulnerable people (Shielding) – Public Health Wales” phw.nhs.wales

People must now all stay at home – there are only 4 reasons to leave the house and these measures apply to everyone:

  1. Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible;

  2. Exercise such as a run, walk or cycle; making sure you exercise is particularly important at this time, but it must be dine alone, or with your immediate household, and not more than once a day;

  3. Any medical need, or to provide care or help a vulnerable person;

  4. Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

You can find the guidance on social distancing on the website of Public Health Wales “Stay at home and away from others (Social distancing)”

We are still waiting for the detail of the legislation to enable us to deal with these outstanding issues before the end of May. We know that no Councillor has a problem with the 6 month rule until the end of August 2020 and expect to be able to call remote meetings of the Council to deal with the period of time after this, when we have remote voting powers.

You will have received advice on how to set up Microsoft Teams on your devices. Please note that online guidance on how to use the new software tools is also available on line, to help you get the best out of the digital tools that come with the new software service.

You can find the training guides on www.npt.gov.uk/staff

The Government has given local authorities powers to enforce some of the measures that have introduced to try to stem the spread of the virus.

We will use our enforcement powers if we have to, however, in the first instance we will engage with people, explain the risks of not complying and then encourage people to adopt the right behaviours. Enforcement is seen as a last and not a first resort.

You can access the Enforcement Policy via Modern Gov.

People can ring the pharmacy and ask for a delivery service. Where the pharmacy isn’t able to deliver, the resident can ask the pharmacy if someone can collect the items on their behalf. If the pharmacist agrees, the person who has been identified as a trusted person by your resident will be able to collect the items on their behalf.

It is vitally important if people are collecting medication that they observe social distancing and they should NOT be entering people’s homes where residents are shielding or self-isolating.

Please note that we are also aware there are long queues in some places and we have raised concerns about this with the Local Health Board.

The starting point is to try and find a shop that will allow people to order on-line or take payments over the phone. If the shop accepts orders and payments but doesn’t provide a delivery service, a volunteer can help to collect the items from the shop and leave it on the doorstep of the resident. They should make sure to alert the person that they have left the items on the door, retreat to at least 2m from the door and wait for the person to open the door and take the items before leaving.

Where people cannot order and pay on line or order and pay over the phone, we have worked out a system with our Finance Department to enable us to help people with essential items such as topping up energy meters or buying items that our food hub is unable to deliver. Your Community Lead will be able to explain this to you.

Please note that we will only become involved in meeting urgent and essential needs that cannot be accommodated in any other way.

We will first of all check whether you have enough volunteers in your local volunteering arrangements (eg street champions). If you need additional people the Community Lead will be able to pass the details of new volunteers to you and agree how you will get the volunteer up and running.

If you don’t have a local network, the Community Lead will match anyone asking for help and support to a volunteer in the NPT Safe and Well volunteer bank but the Community Lead will tell you that we are doing this.

If you don’t need any additional volunteers, there are other things that volunteers can help us with and we will co-ordinate that corporately. We are working with CVS to make sure we have all the right policies and arrangements in place to safely manage volunteer effort that needs to be co-ordinated at a corporate level.

Waste Collection information is updated regularly on the NPT website.

At the moment the website states that the council will continue to collect garden waste as this is collected on the same day as your wheeled bin or black bag waste (and in most cases by the same vehicle).

However, should throughput increase beyond capacity, the Council will have to re-evaluate the situation. We would advise any member of the public to regularly check the website for any changes.

They are closed as elsewhere, our Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) have been closed in response to issues as follows:

  • Reducing non-essential travel and social distancing;
  • A concern of significantly increased visits and waste volumes associated with good weather;
  • Traffic congestion and delays on highways where vehicles are queuing to enter HWRCs;
  • Abusive behaviour towards site staff trying to manage sites and traffic flows;
  • Site staff absence through sickness and self-isolation

Yes, Waste Enforcement Officers are working but with a reduced number of staff due to COVID 19, as a result it might take a little longer than normal. If you ring the Contact Centre the call will be logged and dealt with as normal.

The Welsh Government Guidance stipulates that "If you preferred form of leisure is one that can only be undertaken at specific locations, this still needs to be carried out locally. Examples of this might include golf, angling or watersports. If there is a place where you can do these within your local area, then you are free to do so, but it would not be permissible to drive outside your local area for these purposes".

It would appear therefore that recreational boating is now available, with those who have direct access to their boats provided they use them with members of their household, within five miles of their home.

RYA Cymru (https://www.rya.org.uk/rya-regions/rya-cymru-wales/Pages/hub.aspx) provides very good guidance for recreational boating which could be a good source of information to individuals who are interested in undertaking this activity. In particular they highlight:

* Certain forms of exercise which, though start locally, may temporarily take individuals further afield. Their guidance is to boat within ability, be aware of the weather conditions and stay in familiar waters navigating in daylight hours.

* Follow Welsh Government advice, the COVID-19 preventative measures are vital to protecting health and well-being and to minimising pressure on front line services.

*Take a considerate and responsible approach. Be mindful of potential impact that individuals may have on other water users, local communities and do not place unnecessary extra strain on the RNLI and emergency services.

Yesterday the Education Minister announced the reopening of schools for all pupils on 29th June with the term extended by a week, therefore ending on 27th July.

In each school there will be a phased approach.

 

It is expected that this will mean, at most, a third of pupils present at any one time, though schools may need time to reach this level of operation. There will be much smaller classes, providing secure dedicated time with teachers and classmates.

 

The logistics of opening are being discussed with each headteacher and each school will need to develop its own bespoke re-operation plan and risk assessment. These will need to be signed off by Chairs of Governors. They will include details on how many pupils will attend each day and from each year groups, how social distancing and hygiene will be managed, catering arrangements, how learning will be modified to meet children’s needs and many other aspects.

 

It should be emphasised that remote learning continues to be a key part of our learning and counselling provision for pupils. We would expect this model of delivery to be further developed and enhanced by the Check In, Catch Up arrangements announced by the Minister.

 

This work has already started in Neath Port Talbot and builds upon our successful operation of childcare hubs. 

 

A number of weeks ago the Education Directorate established 12 headteacher focus groups to provide weekly contact and discussion opportunities for our senior school leaders. Headteachers have already modelled how classrooms could look under the 2m social distancing rule, they have also modelled how schools would operate safely for pupils taking into account issues such as entry and exit strategies, break and lunch times, use of resources etc.

 

Furthermore, a question and answer portal has been established on HWB to allow headteachers and school staff to ask pertinent questions and provide answers that are shared with all schools.

 

Training on cleaning and hygiene will be delivered to all schools next week, focusing on the enhanced practice needed to provide safe environments for pupils.

 

We collect and collate daily attendance data at our childcare hubs; we collect weekly data on the staffing capacities within our schools; this currently stands at 80%. This provides useful statistical patterns on demand and allows us to learn from the current hub provision.

 

We have established 5 distinct workstreams aimed at managing the phased operation of schools, these groups include headteacher and local authority representatives and are focusing on:

a) transport;

b) cleaning and hygiene;

c) daily organisation and operation;

d) communication;

e) emotional health and wellbeing of pupils and staff.

 

These workstreams have secured a clear and coherent understanding of the issues we face and are beginning to provide operational solutions. We have undertaken a parental survey through our schools to capture and understand the concerns and aspirations of parents in these difficult times.

 

We will now escalate this work to ensure that all schools are supported through the preparation period for the Check In and Catch Up provision. This will be done in accordance with current guidance on social distancing and hygiene and will take account of the yet to be published guidance from Welsh Government on this specific development.

 

We appreciate that there will be specific challenges relating to home to school transport and we will be strongly encouraging parents to transport their children to school in accordance with the advice provided by their headteacher.

 

However, we also acknowledge that this may not be possible in all circumstances and we are currently modelling a range of potential solutions to ensuring access to schools. This could include providing half-day sessions thereby increasing the number of journeys undertaken by our transport providers. No final decisions have been taken, we are considering all options and permutations.

 

We accept that some solutions may not be universally welcomed, however we are committed to working with schools and their communities to explore innovative ways of meeting pupils’ needs.

 

During the first few weeks of reopening we hold the view that significant emotional health and wellbeing support will be needed for school based staff and pupils alike. To this end, we have prepared a range of resources, including lesson content, and guidance to support schools in this key aspect. Our School Based Counselling Service will also be available, as they have been during lockdown to provide dedicated advice and input on a school by school basis.

 

The Education Minister has created the opportunity for children to Check in, Catch Up and prepare before the start of September. Parents are not obliged to send their children to school and will not be prosecuted for not doing so.

 

We will continue to work closely with our schools over the next three weeks to ensure that they are all in the best place possible to reopen safely for pupils. Whilst there will be universal guidance and support, we cannot legislate for all local issues and these will need to be considered carefully and captured in each school’s re-operation plan and risk assessment.

 

Whilst the reopening or reoperation of schools needs to be approached with great care and caution, with detail and deliberation, it also is an opportunity to take a step closer to a new normality that will provide support through counselling and learning for the children and young people of Neath Port Talbot.

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