Renfrewshire Council

Staff Newsletter - January 2021

Welcome to our first staff newsletter of 2021, bringing you all the latest updates and stories from our people across the Council. In each issue we introduce the newsletter with a message from a different staff member. This time, we hear from our Head of Communities and Public Protection Oliver Reid...

In this issue:

A message from our Head of Communities and Public Protection Oliver Reid
A message from our Chief Executive, Sandra Black
Our Wellbeing: Wishing you a healthy, happy new year
The latest Coronavirus update
Spotlight on Environmental Health and Trading Standards
Launching Scotland's first asymptomatic testing centre at Johnstone Town Hall
Our Values in action
For Your Information:

  • Skype to Teams switch over
  • ICT Acceptable Use Policy

An introduction to adult and child protection
Social Shout Outs
Share your stories and photos

Open the  PDF here [5MB] to download the full newsletter


A message from our Head of Communities and Public Protection Oliver Reid

First, let me begin by wishing you all a very Happy New Year!

2020 was a year of unprecedented challenge and uncertainty for everyone and while there will be challenges in the year ahead, what we've learned from 2020 will undoubtedly stand us in good stead for meeting these challenges head on.

I'm incredibly proud and humbled by the efforts I've seen across the Council in recent months. The way in which everyone has rolled up their sleeves, taken on new roles and collaborated to meet changing priorities has been nothing short of inspiring.

It would be impossible to name every single person or team, so here are just a few of the examples from across Communities and Public Protection that I wish to highlight. The Local Assistance Team (LAT) led by Community Protection saw the development of a brand-new service with over 50 staff from across the Council redeployed to take calls and co-ordinate welfare requirements for those required to shield and self-isolate. More recently the LAT has supported test and protect schools contact tracing in schools - vital in seeking to minimise transmission of this virus.

Additionally, our Civil Contingencies Service supported four Councils in developing their response to the pandemic; our wardens and officers from our community safety teams were out and about on the front line and in the CCTV hub supporting local communities; and amazing resilience has been shown by our Community Learning and Development teams in their efforts to develop new ways to support children and young people throughout the pandemic. You can also read about the critical role of environmental health and trading standards in the spotlight feature of this newsletter.

All this incredible work gives me a huge sense of optimism as we look forward to the year ahead and I would like to thank everyone from across the Council that has been involved in these and similar efforts.

I am confident that our proven ability to collaborate and work effectively in the face of enormous challenge, will see us through whatever 2021 has in store. Already some aspects of our future are looking brighter - with the ongoing roll out of coronavirus vaccines and clarity around the terms of the recently agreed deal on Brexit just two examples of reasons to be more positive about 2021. I hope you enjoy our first newsletter of the year and I can't wait to read about all our achievements this year in future issues.

A message from our Chief Executive, Sandra Black

I would like to wish you and your families a very happy new year and for those who have had time off, a warm welcome back. I hope you all managed a break and some well-deserved rest over the festive period and the quieter time meant some peace for you and your families after a year like no other.

I would also like to sincerely thank all our staff who worked tirelessly throughout the festive period and will continue to do so over the winter, keeping our communities safe and in particular our roads gritting teams working round the clock. I would also like to thank our Health and Social Care Partnership colleagues who continued to work to support the vital vaccination of our care home staff over the period. This work is the start of important progress against this virus and key to some return to normal in future.

The start of the year has sadly been marked by a return to measures announced by Scottish Government more familiar to us from the first lockdown last March. The increase in the number of positive cases in Renfrewshire was replicated across the rest of the country and the identification of a new variant of the virus with more rapid transmission resulted in tighter measures which came into effect on Tuesday 5 January and will remain in place until mid February.

This means that you must now only leave home for essential shopping or other essential reasons, including to collect medicine, for essential work if you are unable to work from home, outdoor exercise and caring responsibilities.

You can read more about the Scottish Government's guidance on the lockdown regulations on their website.

As part of these new temporary measures, this means that if your role allows you to work from home, then you should please do so — Covid-19: Stay at Home guidance.

If you are required to attend work because you are delivering or supporting the delivery of one of our essential services, then please be assured that all necessary measures are in place to ensure your safety and you should continue to attend work. If any changes are required, you will be informed by your line manager.

We have consistently followed advice and guidance from the Health and Safety Executive and Scottish Government and continue to engage with the trade unions to ensure our workplaces are safe. All workplaces have been risk-assessed and strict measures put in place to ensure you can continue to carry out your role safely. Where required, risk assessments have also been carried out for individual members of staff. Please ensure you know our what our Covid-19 safe work practices are and follow them at all times.

A further change is for those staff who are Shielding who must now remain at home. You will have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer and also from the council with more information.

The new measures also mean the extension of arrangements for our schools and nurseries until mid February. I would like to again thank all our teaching and schools staff for their hard work in adapting to these changes and continuing with vital support for our children. I would also like to thank the trade unions for their continued positive engagement as we work to manage the impact of these changes. I fully recognise that again this change will be disruptive for many parents. If you are struggling, please speak to your line manager who will work with you to help.

If you have concerns at any time when carrying out your role, please speak to your line manager who will work with you to resolve them. And please remember that if at any time you, or someone in your household, develop symptoms of Covid-19, you should self-isolate immediately, book a test via the NHS Inform website and inform your line manager as early as possible who will then advise on your next steps. If you are advised to self-isolate as a close contact of someone who has tested positive, please do not come to work and please remember we are here to support you.

We are all hoping for a brighter year ahead and the recent news about approval of the additional Oxford Astra-Zeneca and Moderna vaccines are very positive developments. The priority will be supporting the rollout of the vaccination programme here in Renfrewshire to help protect people and local businesses from this virus. We will do everything possible to emerge from the current situation with a focus on renewal and recovery.

It is clear we face perhaps the biggest challenge now and over the coming weeks since the start of this pandemic. It will require our continued resilience and support - both for our communities and businesses impacted - but also for each other. So please take time to look after yourself and know support is there if needed. We will be highlighting the different types of support available over the coming months and you can read more about it here Our Wellbeing. If you are struggling, please speak to your line manager for help and we will support you.

I know these measures are not the start to the year we wanted, but I am heartened by the fantastic commitment and professionalism shown by our staff day in and day out, serving the communities of Renfrewshire and reflected in the feedback we get both from our residents and our partners. I am proud of all our teams and look forward to working with you in the months ahead.

Please take care and stay safe.

Sandra Black

Our Wellbeing: Wishing you a healthy happy new year

We hope you got some time to relax over Christmas and New Year and safely spend time with loved ones either virtually or as part of a temporary household bubble on Christmas Day.

As we return to our workplaces, ready to take on the new year, it's important that we continue to look after our wellbeing and that of those around us.

That's why we are launching a new wellbeing campaign, Our Wellbeing, for everyone at Renfrewshire Council to support you with your wellbeing needs whatever they may be throughout this time.

We'll be sharing key tips from health, fitness and wellbeing experts as well as valuable insights from our people so that we can learn from each other and continue to support our colleagues right across the organisation.

We will continue to provide you with useful information and access to resources to help you stay safe and well during this time.

Look out for emails, staff news items and posts on our social media channels to stay in the loop. If you have access to Yammer, you can join the conversation online with the hashtag #ourwellbeing.

The mental health charity Mind has some really useful resources on their website at including free Wellbeing Action Plan templates. These are a great way to kick off the new year and will help you identify your wellbeing needs at work.

Everyone has a role to play in this. Starting with recognising and taking care of your own needs to ensure that you can continue to be there supporting the needs of others.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Your line manager is there to support you and there are many things they can do to help whether it's a physical or mental health concern. Just reach out.

Don't forget our employee counselling service is still available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Professional counsellors are on hand to provide you with free, confidential support via telephone and digital channels such as Skype. Visit the webpage for more information or call 0800 970 3980 for free support now.

The latest Coronavirus update

As part of the current temporary lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus in our communities, the Scottish Government has advised everyone in mainland Scotland to stay at home as much as possible, only leaving for essential purposes such as shopping, collecting medicine, essential work that cannot be undertaken at home, outdoor exercise and caring responsibilities.

This means that everyone who can work from home should continue to do so.

We want to assure all those delivering or supporting delivery of one of our essential services, who are required to attend work in-person, that all necessary precautions are in place to ensure your safety and you should continue to attend work.

If you have concerns at any time when carrying out your role, please speak to your line manager who will work with you to resolve them. Those who have previously been asked to shield by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) should not to come to work even if you cannot work from home. The letter you will have received from the CMO will serve as your fit note—you do not need a separate one from your GP.

Thank you once again for your continued hard work and dedication to delivering our services in Renfrewshire, whether that is on the frontline or from home, and please know that your work does not go unnoticed and is hugely appreciated by all at the Council and within our communities. You can find all the latest guidance on the Scottish Government website.

Spotlight on Environmental Health and Trading Standards 

Since March last year our Environmental Health and Trading Standards teams have played a critical role in tackling the spread of coronavirus.

This has involved working with various businesses in different sectors across Renfrewshire to offer guidance on sticking to coronavirus guidelines and safety measures and carrying out interventions where necessary.

By effectively following and practising the 'Four E's' (Engage, Explain, Encourage and Enforce) model, the teams were able to minimise the instances where the final 'E' was needed.

Getting the right messages out to businesses this way has been especially important as the legislation and guidance continued to develop.

Another lesser known yet crucial contribution has been that of our environmental health officers who have been working as mentors within the NHS Scotland Test and Protect programme run by the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board for Renfrewshire.

The full team received training to assist with Test and Protect and Rachael Flanagan, Duncan Shaw and Alison Ross have been dealing with challenging coronavirus cases, helping identify where people could have picked up the virus and who they may have passed it on to (close contacts)—not an easy task! But they were able to draw upon their previous experience of contact tracing in response to infectious disease calls and food poisoning enquiries.

The team has also been working alongside Children's Services to deal with cases discovered at schools and early learning childcare centres.

We may still have some way to go before we fully emerge from this crisis, but it's reassuring to know our team of committed environmental health and trading standards officers will be there continuing to work tirelessly to help keep Renfrewshire safe.

Chris Dalrymple, Communities and Regulatory manager said, "This has been an extremely challenging time for our teams. However, they've all faced it head on, working through the obstacles, using their professional skillset and delivering an outstanding service to the people of Renfrewshire. I want to thank them all for their great work over the past several months."

Rachael Flanagan, Environmental Health officer added, "Working with Test and Protect has been a really interesting and rewarding experience. With the skills from our normal role and our local knowledge, we've been able to assist in tracing close contacts and give advice to individuals and businesses, helping to limit the spread and protect public health."

Launching Scotland's first asymptomatic testing centre at Johnstone Town Hall

Back in early December we took part in a mass asymptomatic testing programme to help us learn about the prevalence of coronavirus in the Johnstone community.

The huge effort to organise and set up the facility at Johnstone Town Hall was the first of its kind in Scotland and saw fantastic collaboration between various teams across the council.

In a very short time, we managed to plan the logistics, ensuring the facility was safe, efficient and well-staffed and effectively share the right information so that local people could come along and take a test.

We got a great response from those living, working and going to school in Johnstone and the information we gained has helped inform future plans for testing this year.

Director of Environment and Infrastructure, Gordon McNeil, led the pilot and said the contribution of council staff had been outstanding.

"The professionalism and effort shown by staff from across the council and our partners was a fantastic demonstration of the work carried out every day by our teams. Pulling together such a facility in a short space of time was a valuable exercise and has helped inform the future testing approach in Scotland going forward. Thanks to all those who played a part and also to our community partners who were crucial in helping getting our message out to the Johnstone community to come along and take part."

A massive well done and thank you to everyone involved.Once again, we have demonstrated what we can deliver when we come together, collaborating and working hard to help our communities.

We received a lot of positive feedback from participants who agreed the testing centre was well run by our team of friendly and helpful staff. Here's just some of the comments we received...

Comments from the public

"Everything was really well laid out and the staff were so nice. Everyone was very friendly which made you feel very comfortable"

"Well done to all the staff everyone 2 metres apart staff very helpful. I have been tested this morning result back and I'm negative so thank you. This was so safe and a lot safer than going into a supermarket etc."

"Went today tested negative very well organised well done to all involved"

Comments from local staff who took part

"Just wanted to say I went along at the weekend and it was really well organised. Thanks to all who set it up and worked at it"

"Just to say that I went last week and what an organised outfit it was organised with military precision. By the time I drove home after leaving my negative result was through"

"Just to say thank you for organising the event, so well organised, staff were really supportive"

"Stevie and the wider team have done an amazing job, felt so safe and delighted with my negative result, I hope you get the numbers you are looking to attend the event!"

Our Values in action

In 2019 we started a conversation with our staff and communities to develop the values that support the kind of organisation we all want Renfrewshire Council to be. Core values to shape and reflect how we work together, how local people view the council and importantly—how we act and support each other.

In 2020 we officially launched those values. The timing couldn't have been better with 'Our Values' front and centre of our day to day lives as we all came together to support each other in response to the coronavirus crisis.

2021 will be the year that we embed those values at every level, right across the organisation. You will see our values become an integral part of our language and culture. As we continue to develop our People Strategy, we will review our policies so that our values are woven into every step of your journey with the council.

Gordon McKinlay's Story

Before the festive break, we heard from our Head of Schools, Gordon McKinlay. Gordon hopes not to hear the phrase of 2020 "You're on mute" quite so much in 2021. Instead, he wants us to make sure that our values continue to underpin the way we work together and that we are able to listen to one another so that none of us is on mute.

Watch Gordon's video and read his blog

Paul values learning

At age 48, with around 30 years' experience of the workplace and settled down at home with two children, the prospect of becoming a student seemed more than a little daunting for energy officer, Paul Heron.

But that didn't stop him from achieving his BA (Hons) degree in Business Management last year. Paul was delighted to find out he'd passed when he received his results in September last year from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

Paul said, "When I heard about the Skills Development Scotland and GCU partnership scheme to provide distance learning opportunities for those in the public sector, I knew it would be a great development opportunity for me. I've really learned a lot from it and broadened my horizons as I got to learn alongside employees from the NHS, Police Scotland and other Local Authorities.

"The course modules are designed to relate directly to the student's job role and workplace, so I know I'll be bringing a lot of value back to the team with what I've learned."

"I want to thank my managers Craig Doogan and Craig Thorpe for all their support during my degree. It's been very full on over the past year for everyone, and I've had my fair share of trials while homeschooling the kids, caring for my elderly parents and working full time all while completing my Honours year project! So, without their backing it wouldn't have been possible."

In the spirit of helping others, Paul has even offered to be a contact for help and advice for any colleagues who are undertaking the course in the future.

He said, "I was really taken aback by the enthusiasm of all my colleagues from across the council who supported me with this. So many individuals took time from their busy schedules to impart their knowledge on the areas of my study. It gave me a chance to meet people I might not ordinarily have had a chance to work with. So, thank you to all of you - you know you are! You were, each and every one of you, responsible for vastly improving my results with your input."

Finally, Paul added, "I think it's really important for others to know that Renfrewshire Council is one big team and we are here to help and support each other."

For Your Information

Sype to Teams switch over

Microsoft Skype has now been replaced with the more advanced platform Microsoft Teams.

We hope you followed the ICT updates issued on the run up to the festive break and that you found these helpful in preparing for the switch over.

Guidance on how to use Teams is available on our intranet under 'Employee Essentials > ICT Support'. This provides an overview of the platform, including the instant messaging function which is called 'Persistent Chat' in Teams.

Don't forget you can use Teams on your council smartphone if you have one. Simply download the app from the Company Portal to give it a try. This will be particularly useful for those of you who are out and about and will help you stay up to date and in touch with your colleagues.

Remember, everything you could do on Skype, you can also do on Teams, and more!

But don't just take our word for it. We caught up with senior marketing officer, Graeme McLatchie, and project managers Andrea Hensley and Mark Borland to find out what they thought about Microsoft Teams...

When did you start using Teams and why?

"We started using Teams in 2019 to engage with our separate project teams, share tasks and as a document repository as well as to schedule and hold meetings. Teams is great for engaging with colleagues in our team and across the council. It lets us share information and allows quick and effective communications with everyone involved." - Andrea

Teams or Skype?

"Teams not only provides the same chat and audio/video call functions available within Skype but also provides much more such as calendar functionality linked to your Outlook, file management, integration with SharePoint, OneNote and task management, not to mention the ability to create different teams and work in that team wherever you are." - Mark

"I like the record Teams keeps of the chat function during a meeting—it's very accessible, and easy to go back and pick up comments and suggestion people made during a meeting that you may have missed." - Graeme

Do you find Teams easy to use?

"The layout of Teams is different to Skype as it is a much more feature-rich application so at first it can seem a bit complicated. That said, within days I could navigate it easily." - Mark

"It does take a little bit of getting used to but once you try it out a few times, it's pretty easy to work out. I'd recommend trying out a couple of calls in your team for a catch-up or on a minor issue—don't put pressure on yourself and make your debut Teams call one with lots of colleagues from across the Council about a major issue!" - Graeme

Do you think Teams will benefit us going forward?

"It will bring huge benefits in the way we communicate and collaborate with each other both internally and with our external partners. It allows us to engage across multiple services and efficiently work together to build good working relationships." - Andrea

"Definitely. Not to sound like the man in the Microsoft Teams advert from early lockdown, but this is what we do now - collaborating with colleagues on Teams is becoming second nature. We've found it really useful to set up Teams and invite external partners—we'd never want to go backwards from this way of working." - Graeme

ICT Acceptable Use Policy

As our ways of working continue to evolve, particularly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it's important that we keep our policies as up to date as possible.

The ICT Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) has recently been updated to better reflect both how we work today and the modern cyber threats we face. The policy details what we should and should not do when using Council ICT resources and the updated version pays close attention to acceptable behaviour when using Council technology.

As you know, our employee Terms and Conditions (TCs) highlight that adhering to council policies is a requirement for all staff members. There is a particular reference to our AUP in the TCs Statement of Particulars and this is for all staff who use Council ICT services and/or devices. So, if this applies to you, we would encourage you to read through the new policy and familiarise yourself with the updated terms.

At regular intervals, you will now be asked to confirm you have read and understand the AUP when you login via a pop up. If you see this please read the document before clicking on the 'accept' box to confirm. The AUP can be accessed via our staff intranet under 'Policies, Procedures and Guidance > ICT Support.

An introduction to adult and child protection

Helping protect children and adults at risk of harm is a responsibility we all share. We want to ensure you know what to look out for and what to do if you think someone is at risk. This is important for everyone no matter where you work.

'An introduction to Adult and Child Protection' is a course available on our iLearn platform. Access the course via the 'Social Work Services' section under 'Childcare, policy, procedures & guidance'.

The course is designed to give you a basic overview of adult and child protection issues and is for staff members in all service areas.

Whether your role is linked to adult or child protection or something else entirely we would encourage you to equip yourself with the knowledge covered in this course so you are ready to act appropriately and effectively should you find yourself in one of these challenging situations.

We'd also love to hear your feedback. So, if you have any comments on the course content please contact the Social Work Professional Training team at training.sw@renfrewshire.

Social Shout Outs

On the run up to the holidays, our Facebook and Twitter channels received lots of fantastic feedback and well wishes from the people of Renfrewshire. Just goes to show all your hard work is recognised and appreciated. Here are just a few of the comments we received...

"The guys at the dump are genuinely lovely, I was going 2 to 3 timess per week and got to know their friendly faces." - Louise McMurray

"@RenCouncil This is a great idea. I went shopping in Paisley this week instead of Braehead because of it, and got some lovely presents for Christmas. Thanks" - Tracie commenting in response to our Spend Local campaign

"To all those from @RenCouncil and @RenHSCP who are working in care services today thank you and when you do get a break I hope you can enjoy with your family and merry Christmas " - John Trainer

"Bin delivered this morning! Thank you so much. Have a great Christmas and stay safe!" - Natasha Ferguson

"That is just amazing! I'm sure all parents are particularly thankful for all that teachers do in this most difficult year (well, I am!). Let's hear it for the teachers!" - Steffi Keir commenting on Kirklandneuk Primary School's thank you display for staff

"Aww this is so lovely well done to the pupils and staff at St Anthony's x" - Cclarey Bev commenting on the Kindness Trail at St. Anthony's Primary School

"Fantastic response to the weather today roads, risky areas gritted well" - Suzanne Cameron

Johnstone looks so good. Well done." - Alison McCaffery commenting on the new lighting at some of Renfrewshire's landmark locations

"Hi I just want to say a massive thank you to yourself and everyone else ... We do appreciate everything u all do for us. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year too you all I hope it's a magical one." - Jade Muir

Share your stories and photos

Don't forget we'd love to hear from you! It could be a photo of you working from home, something interesting from your daily walk, or a photo of your new "colleagues" (furry friends most welcome!). Have you started volunteering or taking on new roles and responsibilities you never thought you would? Tell us all about it and we can share your stories.

Send them in to