Cardiff Council – COVID-19 Response
Edited on03 June 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented local authorities across Europe with extraordinary and unprecedented challenges to maintain essential public services and ensure the wellbeing of their inhabitants. In Cardiff this has meant redeploying staff to cover essential duties, setting up new forms of governance and rapidly innovating our service infrastructure. Staff and community members have been working together to provide a response addressing the health and wellbeing risks to the community. In this article, we provide a snapshot of just a few of the ways in which Cardiff Council has approached emergent issues presented by COVID-19, exploring food security, health infrastructure, and increased demand on frontline services.
The Council is evolving its services rapidly and adapting to the “new normal” in order to provide urgent responses to challenges on many fronts in the city. Free school meals provision has been adapted to provide children in low income families with a substitute while schools are closed. Patients have just begun to arrive at the ‘Dragon Heart Hospital’, one of the many field hospitals which are being opened to extend the National Health Service’s capacity. Staff in the Council and volunteers have taken on new roles to do their bit for the community and keep essential services moving.
Free School Meals
Primary and secondary school pupils will get free school meals if their family receives certain types of state benefits. Since schools were first closed on 23 March, there has been ongoing provision in different forms. During the first two weeks, council staff and external partners delivered 45,000 free school meal lunch packs.
By the start of the third week, the Council launched its voucher-based solution which gave parents £40 per child each fortnight to spend on food items. Parents received a letter with information on how to download the vouchers, which can be used in most chain supermarkets. Referral pathways were put in place to provide additional support if families had difficulty accessing the vouchers. In addition to this provision, from the 27 April 2020 an additional option was added – direct bank transfers to parents. If someone does not have access to a bank account however, they can opt to continue receiving vouchers.
Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, Cllr Sarah Merry said: “Ensuring that children and young people do not go without food during school closures has been a priority and we hope that this new arrangement will mean families have more choice and flexibility on where they purchase their children’s food. It also means that those adults who are self-isolating can still provide meals with the option of shopping online.”
Dragon Heart Field Hospital
A rugby stadium in the centre of Cardiff, the Principality Stadium, was transformed into a temporary hospital so that adequate ICU facilities can be provided to the National Health Service (NHS).
The temporary hospital, named Dragon's Heart Hospital, will provide capacity for up to 2,000 additional beds to support the NHS in Wales during the coronavirus pandemic. Patients who are coming to the end of their treatment for Covid-19 and require rehabilitation and support, or end-of-life palliative care will be transferred to the Dragon’s Heart Hospital. Facilities include mobile x-ray, CT scanners and an assured oxygen supply. The next-door Cardiff Blues stadium will act as a rest area for staff and a reception area for relatives.
Welsh Rugby Union, Cardiff Council, Cardiff Blues in addition to private and public sector partners worked hard behind the scenes to ensure that the Dragon's Heart Hospital was up and running ready for the NHS to use.
Cllr Caro Wild Cabinet Member for Strategic Planning and Transport said: "This project shows what can be done at phenomenal speed in very difficult circumstances. Council staff from a number of departments including planning, highways, building control and economic development have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that the project could be delivered and the facility operates correctly.”
As a result of the unfolding Coronavirus crisis, a shift to prioritising crucial council services and protect the vulnerable and those at risk in our city was made possible by Cardiff Council staff volunteering to change their current job roles.
Cardiff Council has redeployed 350+ workers since the start of the crisis. Staff were identified for redeployment through a Council-wide skills survey launched in mid-March. For many it means a huge change to the areas they work in and the daily roles they undertake. It could be an office worker, now delivering Meals on Wheels, supporting the homeless or collecting waste.
Identifying, matching and utilizing these skills in such a short time frame illustrates the diversity, adaptability and commitment of the workforce. Staff who can are working at home where possible, but frontline roles delivering essential services continues and this redeployment will be hugely important in keeping important services going.
Cllr Chris Weaver, Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation & Performance said, "The response from members of staff who are willing to voluntarily be redeployed has been fantastic and the job roles they will now perform are vital to the city and its residents moving forward through these unprecedented times."
Community Volunteering Scheme
Together for Cardiff is using the good will of people across our city to help others at these challenging times.
Volunteers from the Together for Cardiff scheme are supporting Council services to ensure that vulnerable people are able to get the provisions and support they need at this difficult time.
Almost 1,200 volunteers have registered to help and many of them are now assisting staff from the Hubs and Libraries Service and Into Work service at our Dominion's Way facility in picking packing and delivering food parcels to residents across the city.
Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, Cllr Lynda Thorne, said: "A crisis can bring out the best in many people and that is certainly proving true as we seek to come together to ensure each other's needs are met during this challenging time. The figures speak for themselves - just amazing, thank you so much Cardiff!”
While one Together for Cardiff volunteer who is delivering emergency parcels around the city said: “It's a great scheme the council have set up where those of us who can do so actually get a chance to help those in real need. Everyone I have visited has been really grateful but looking after each other is the least we can do in these difficult times."
Since the start of the crisis, 3,200 food and essential parcels have been distributed or delivered to people self-isolating or in need of food provision around the city.
It is clear that local authorities and other essential public services are on the frontline of this crisis.
We have strong relationships with our local voluntary sector, community and faith partners and we have taken steps to ensure that our local approach to COVID-19 understands and responds to the experiences of protected characteristic groups and our most marginalised residents.
In recent weeks we engaged in early and proactive dialogue with our local partners to understand how COVID-19 may impact different groups, and identify ways to mitigate the social and economic impacts of this crisis on our most deprived communities. The stark inequalities which exist in our society have never been more visible, and our city’s approach to managing this crisis and recovery must be driven by a clear vision for inclusion.
Whilst COVID-19 brings significant tragedy and struggle, there are glimpses of hope and opportunity for a fairer future. This could be a reset moment for equality and human rights if there is the will and cities like Cardiff will be seeking to capitalise on any chances we have to rebuild a stronger and more inclusive city.
Submitted by Angela Maria Lo... on