The Chairman stated that it had been four months since the country entered lockdown in response to the growing threat of coronavirus, and in those four months there had been some extraordinary efforts to support the most vulnerable, to help businesses and those unable to work or go to school, and to keep the council services running that residents relied on.
More than four and a half thousand people across the Sevenoaks District were asked to shield. The Government had supported almost 600 people every week with food and supplies, but the District Council and its partners: Town & Parish Councils; and an army of more than a thousand volunteers, supported many more.
The Council had spoken with 4,000 people to help them with their Covid-19 related concerns. Whilst some had contacted the Customer Solutions team, council staff were telephoning residents to ensure that they were keeping well and had all of the support that they needed. Where there was an urgent need the Council had delivered 250 of its own urgent food parcels, before the wonderful ‘Care for our Community volunteers’ and other local organisations stepped in and provided help and assistance to fifteen hundred people.
The housing team had provided accommodation for 40 people that would otherwise have faced coronavirus without a place to live, and the team were now working hard to find move-on accommodation for when the urgent support that the council had been able to provide came to an end.
The Council’s HERO Team had supported 160 people who had been referred to them with concerns about their housing or finances as a direct result of Covid-19. There were many more examples of people being supported across Council services, and he took that moment to thank all Council staff for their efforts: from the staff at Dunbrik who had collected, what at times, had felt like mountains of rubbish and recycling as people took the opportunity of being at home to spring clean, only to find the tips temporarily closed; to those in council tax and benefits who had sought to help people pay their bills; and of course to those in business rates who had made more than £25m in Covid-19 specific grants to more than 2,000 local businesses.
He advised that as focus shifted to recovery and supporting the high street, the Council remained absolutely committed to continue with the effort it had shown in recent months.
He asked Members to join him in giving our thanks to all of those people, organisations, volunteers and key workers that had responded so brilliantly across the District in response to the unprecedented situation that Covid-19 had bought upon us.
The Chairman reported that in the absence of any face-to-face social meetings, he and the Vice Chairman had been contacting and virtually meeting with local community and charity groups to see how they were adapting to the situation, and as ever they were quite inspiring.
He advised that he had organised a virtual meeting with the Chairmen and Mayors of other Districts and Towns in Kent, and that together with the Vice Chairman, had visited in person, the “Community Cupboard” at West Kingsdown, which he had had the honour of opening last year. They had both been amazed at how this facility, which had started as a food bank opening for a couple of hours a week serving local needs, had grown into an organisation which was open all day, every day of the week, providing emergency rations for residents not only from within the District, but outside the District as well, with deliveries being undertaken by an army of Community Wardens. It had been explained that this facility was likely to expand exponentially once the furlough system drew to a close.