Update on COVID-19 Activity
- Meeting of Communities and Equalities Scrutiny Committee, Thursday, 8th October, 2020 2.00 pm (Item 37.)
Report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods)
This report provides a further update summary of the current situation in the city in relation to COVID-19 and an update on the work progressing in Manchester in relation to areas within the remit of this Committee.
The Committee received a report of the Strategic Director (Neighbourhoods) which provided a further update summary of the current situation in the city in relation to COVID-19 and an update on the work progressing in Manchester in relation to areas within the remit of this Committee.
Officers referred to the main points and themes within the report, which included:
- The impact and challenges relating to residents at risk, community resilience and equality and inclusion; and
- Key planning and recovery activity being undertaken in relation to these areas.
Some of the key points that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
- To welcome that libraries were using the Track and Trace app but also offering an alternative for people who did not have a smartphone;
- To welcome the donation of 400 Chromebooks with 6 months of internet access to address digital exclusion, to ask what the criteria would be for distributing them and whether support would be available on how to use them; and
- The Test and Trace isolation payment system.
The Head of Libraries, Galleries and Culture confirmed that those receiving the Chromebooks would be paired with a Digital Champion to provide telephone support and that the criteria for who would receive the Chromebooks would be circulated to Members. He informed Members that 20 libraries were now open and that the service had been planning to extend opening hours but this had been postponed until November pending an announcement from the Government on restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. He reported that there had been a good level of library usage since the libraries had re-opened. He advised that approximately 20% of this had been people wanting to access PCs and the internet but that in some areas this had been up to 40%, reflecting different levels of digital access across the city.
The Director of Customer Services and Transaction informed the Committee about the new payment scheme, which would be administered by her service, for people who had been instructed to self-isolate and who had to take time off work as a consequence. She reported that the main scheme was for working age people who were in work and claiming benefits and who had been told to self-isolate by the Test and Trace Service. She informed Members that there was also a discretionary scheme for people who were on a low income but were not claiming benefits. In response to a question from the Chair, she confirmed that the Government would provide the funding for the scheme, comprising of an initial upfront payment and a top-up to meet the cost of the payments made through the main scheme; however, she advised that Government funding for the discretionary scheme was a fixed amount of £226,000.
Members discussed the many other individuals and businesses which would be affected financially by the pandemic but did not meet the criteria for this scheme. The Executive Member for Adult Health and Wellbeing reported that, if additional restrictions were introduced in Manchester, this should include a support package for those affected and that local politicians were making the case to the national Government for more financial support. The Chair expressed his support for this.
The Executive Member for Skills, Culture and Leisure informed Members that there was a lot of uncertainty in the Culture sector at the moment as it was not known what restrictions might be put in place to curb the increase in infections but that the Council and its partners were working to respond to the changing situation.
To note the report.