Media round-up for Thursday, March 26, 2020

This round-up is intended to keep the media briefed on the COVID-19 impact on Council services across Aberdeenshire. The public can keep up to date with changes online at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/featured-items/coronavirus-covid-19/


National position
The Scottish Government has issued a number of updates, including arrangements to support the seafood fishing industry and plans to enable more testing of key workers to enable them to get back to work. Visit: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/ They also have a free phone number for those who do not have symptoms but area seeking general advice: 0800 028 2816.

All the latest public health advice continues to be available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus


Childcare for key workers
A number of children have taken up places in our childcare hubs. Priority is being given to the children of key workers listed as Category 1 in the first instance. While only one parent/carer is required to be a Category 1 worker in order to qualify for this provision, we strongly recommend you keep your child at home if at all possible. See our Key Worker Childcare Flowchart.
 
In order to plan for the future, we would now also like to gauge the needs of key workers in all three categories. If this applies to you, please complete our Request For Childcare form online as soon as possible.
 
If you are a Category 1 key worker and have not yet taken up a place in your local community hub but would like to, please also complete the online form above. You can also contact your hub school directly.
 
Details of all of our childcare hubs (which are operating from designated primary, not secondary schools) and key worker definitions, as well links to the form and flowchart, are available on our website at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/schools/schools-covid-19/ 


Financial Hardship
We appreciate that many residents will find themselves in a very different financial position than they may be used to. We will respond to queries regarding financial hardship on a case-by-case basis.
 
If you are struggling to make payments to Aberdeenshire Council (like Council Tax) please speak to us on 03456 081201. We will make arrangements for a payment plan, based on what you can afford.

You can also apply for a Council Tax reduction online at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/benefits-and-grants/welfare-reform/council-tax-reduction/

You may also be considered for a Crisis Grant or Community Care Grant from the Scottish Welfare Fund: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/benefits-and-grants/welfare-reform/scottish-welfare-fund/
 
If you are experiencing financial difficulty, you may also be able to seek support from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP): https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/department-for-work-pensions 
 
Find out how to apply for Universal Credit at: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit
 
To help owners of non-domestic properties, including businesses, deal with the impact of COVID-19, the Scottish Government has made changes to non-domestic rates (business rates) for 2020/21. View these at: https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice
 

Housing
While the majority of construction works are currently on hold, the housing service remains committed to undertaking emergency repairs. Tenants requiring an urgent repair should contact 03456 081203.
 
The housing service also continues fulfil its homelessness duty. Information on support available to customers facing immediate homelessness can be found at  https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/housing/housing-covid-19/#homeless
 
Information about temporary arrangements for these and other housing services can be found at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/housing/housing-covid-19/


Building contracts
Over the past few days, we have worked with our contracting organisations to suspend work on sites and to leave them in a safe and secure manner. 

The vast majority of our contractors have now ceased operations, decisions that have been both encouraged and supported by the council follow detailed consideration of the individual circumstances of each project.
 
We continue to be in dialogue with our remaining contractors, including at the Stonehaven Flood Protection Scheme, to ensure appropriate steps are taken to meet the requirements of Government in respect of reducing transmission risk. 

Major construction sites are complex by nature and the decisions have to be taken on a site-by-site basis reflecting the individual circumstances.
 

Household waste collection services
During recent days, some members of the public have been telling our household collection crews to go home. Please note that these members of staff are working diligently to provide a critical service to empty bins to ensure public health is maintained. Please let our crews get on with their essential job and keep a safe distance away.
 
Some people are also leaving waste material at the gates to our recycling centre gates which are now closed. This constitutes fly-tipping and enforcement action will be taken against those responsible. Please act responsibly and dispose of all your recycling and waste using the bins you have at home.
 
We are experiencing a large volume of bagged and in some cases loose rubbish alongside household bins. Please note having to handle bags directly poses a health risk to workers. All waste should be contained in bins as per usual collection policy.
 
To save space in bins, avoid buying items with excessive packaging where you can, squash air out of plastic bottles, stack plastic pots inside each other, put paper and card inside a cereal box, squeeze air out of non-recyclable waste bags and compost your garden waste at home.
 
We are doing our best to get bins emptied on scheduled collection days. If we miss your bin, please check for updates on Facebook on whether we will be able to come back, otherwise put your bin out on your next scheduled collection day.
 
With many people now working from home, additional cars parked on streets are causing serious access issues for our refuse vehicles, resulting in missed collections. We appreciate there are limitations, but if it is at all possible, please park somewhere else on your bin day.