Renfrewshire Council

Message from Chief Executive, Sandra Black - 19 February 2021

Some of our parents and carers will have been heartened by confirmation this week from Scottish Government that some children and young people will return to classrooms for face-to-face teaching from Monday, as part of a phased reopening of schools and nurseries.

This applies to all children in P1 to P3 and pre-school and nursery, as well as a limited number of secondary pupils in S4 to S6, who need to complete practical assessments and coursework.

Children and young people in P4 to S3 will continue to learn remotely, however there will be a further update on the next phase of schools reopening in two-weeks, however it is unlikely any other pupils will return to school before 15 March at the earliest.

Along with the other protective measures we have in place, the regular testing of staff and senior pupils will help to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 and support the safe return of pupils and staff to the school environment.

Many of our colleagues have already signed up and this week started the twice weekly at home testing. Home testing kits and consent letters have been distributed to all our schools, and we are encouraging all senior pupils who will be in school to use the home testing kits.

The twice weekly at home testing will help to identify anyone who has the virus but is not displaying any symptoms and I hope it provides additional reassurance to all our schools and nursery staff as well as parents and carers.

This is part of a wider expansion of regular, routine testing of those without symptoms which will also see testing made available to more of our council staff in the future  and targeted community testing for people whether they have symptoms or not in local areas and communities that are experiencing stubbornly high levels of the virus.

For the time being this is the only change to the current lockdown restrictions, and the stay at home message remains in place, and is likely to do so until the beginning of March and possibly beyond.

The one exception to this is that from Thursday 18 February anyone who is a confirmed contact of someone with the virus will be asked to self-isolate for ten days and will also now be offered a COVID-19 test. You can read more about this and what you should do if you or a close contact develop symptoms on the council website.

While at this stage it is deemed too early for the further easing of restrictions, the Scottish Government has announced that it will draw up a new framework - to be published next week - to set out how Scotland can exit lockdown and what conditions will need to be met before restrictions can be eased.

This is not to say that we are not making progress, in fact, the reason we are in a position to take these first cautious steps is because lockdown has been working, people have been playing their part and we continue to see a reduction in the number of cases and hospital admissions.

We are also seeing early signs that the roll-out of vaccinations is working, and this is particularly evident in care homes, where all staff and residents have been offered their first vaccination and will soon be receiving their second. Good progress is also being made at our three vaccination centres here in Renfrewshire. I'd like to thank our colleagues from across the council, Renfrewshire Leisure and Renfrewshire HSCP for implementing and adapting to the changes as the programme flexes to manage supply. The feedback we continue to receive from Elected Members and members of the public has been overwhelmingly positive, and it's yet another example of our values in action, with people and teams from across the council working together to deliver an outstanding service for the people of Renfrewshire.

Talking of positive customer feedback, I would like to echo the sentiment of Renfrewshire residents on our social channels and thank all our front-line teams and in particular our roads, gritting and waste teams who braved the recent sub-zero conditions to help keep our communities safe and clean.

And finally, as you may have read in this week's Take 5 the council has been recognised as an 'Exemplary Employer' for the great work we have been doing to support our working carers.

In presenting us with the level 3 'Exemplary' Carer Positive award, Carers Scotland commended us for the tremendous amount of work that has driven the development of carer support activities within the Council.

I fully appreciate how difficult it must be balancing work with caring responsibilities, especially in the current climate, and that's why it is so important that our unpaid working carers are given the information, support and understanding that they require.

For more information about being a working carer, including our Carer's Leave policy and access to the Carers Connected Forum, please contact Fiona Sinclair on 0141 816 7319 or fiona.sinclair@renfrewshire.gov.uk

Thank you and please stay safe

Sandra