Coronavirus: What we are doing to help you
24 March 2020
A message from Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent Council
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, none of us have lived through a crisis quite like the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Following the Prime Minister’s statement last night (March 23) we will all have to change the way we live for a while – and accept restrictions on where we go and why – to help protect ourselves and others.
These measures take effect straight away, and you can now only leave your home to shop for basic essentials, to do one form of exercise per day, for a medical need or if it’s necessary that you travel into work.
It’s really important that everyone follows this advice which is in place to try to slow down the spread of the virus and give us some time to help save more lives.
Our amazing partners in the NHS and council colleagues working in areas like social care, with some of our most vulnerable elderly residents, are on the front line fighting against the effects of the virus. My thanks goes out to every one of them for everything they are doing to save as many lives as possible.
We should also remember that we are all part of this coronavirus fightback and we all need to do our bit by following the NHS advice and staying at home.
Given the threat to life and the fear and uncertainty that everyone is feeling, it makes me admire the World War generations even more. They faced worse challenges and odds than us and they should be our inspiration.
The good news is that there are well-developed emergency plans in place in Brent. We have suspended normal working and moved to a “Gold Command” system, chaired by our excellent Chief Executive Carolyn Downs.
We have taken quick and effective decisions in a range of areas that are all designed to respect the national guidance we are receiving while ensuring that the core local services that residents rely on the most are still running – even if behind the scenes we are delivering these services in a different way. Thank you to everyone who has been so understanding while we’ve had to change and stop services, your ongoing support is really appreciated.
The response of council staff has been amazing and it is a true privilege to work with people who go beyond the call of duty and are always there when you need them.
Councils, by their nature, employ local residents who care deeply about their communities and are proud of their places, and this “DNA” of local government will be worth its weight in gold over the coming weeks and months.
The response of the community has also been inspirational. This is a difficult time for everyone but a massive pandemic like this is hardest on people who don’t have anyone close to depend on. I can already see the huge groundswell of support coming through on my WhatsApp messages, on my social media and in my daily contacts with people across Brent. The best source of support for most people will be from friends, family, and the existing community ties that people have already. However, for those who need a little extra help, I want to reassure you we have put in place a package of help that means no one is left behind.
During this worldwide pandemic the council is working closely with:
- Brent Mencap
- Young Brent Foundation
- Age UK
- Step Up Hub
- And Brent Citizens Advice Bureau
This joint working focuses on people in seven main areas: disabled people; young people; older people; homeless people; people who use food banks; people with specific cultural needs and people who need extra advice and support. Working with the council, voluntary and community groups are getting extra cash to provide support – such as help with food, supplies and medicines – during the pandemic. There are more details here:www.brent.gov.uk/needextrahelp
We understand that there are many different communities in Brent and we want to work with as many of you as possible, so if you’re a local community group and think you can help, please contact 020 8937 1234 or email email@example.com.
We are lucky to have the NHS and its amazing staff at Northwick Park to work with our outstanding social care workers and carers. The biggest challenge is yet to come as we move towards the peak of the epidemic in the coming weeks.
We are working closely with the NHS, charities and local communities to make sure that those most vulnerable and at risk, such as people with underlying health conditions and our over-70s, remain connected through the period of self-isolation.
The economic impact for businesses is already huge with worries about cash flow, staff and uncertainty. The Government and Bank of England have put in place a series of measures to help and councils will be administering this through business rate relief and grants. The council is also actively trying to help by paying our suppliers immediately rather than the usual 30 days.
We have also postponed some Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture events that we had planned in the first half of the year to the autumn. Find out more by reading the statement made by the Artistic Director, Lois Stonock.
Finally, thank you to everyone across Brent who is helping. Please look out for your neighbours, phone someone to check they are ok, ignore the shameless online scammers, wash your hands regularly and shop responsibly so everyone can have access to what they need to live their lives. Stay at home if you can and I promise to send more updates when I have them.
If you know someone who would like to receive these updates, please do encourage them to sign up.
Let’s use that unique combination of Brent’s amazing diversity and the strength of our inter-connected communities to get us through this together.
Worried about someone?
If you or someone you know does not have the support of family, friends or the wider community, then Brent Council has set up a Wellbeing Duty phone line to make sure the most vulnerable people get the support they need. If you are worried about a vulnerable person and don’t think they have existing support, you can call the helpline on 020 8937 6589 between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week.
Need extra help?
If you need help during these tough and uncertain times, you can contact a range of local community groups that are working with the council to support those who need it the most. Call 020 8937 1234 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday for more information.
Right now, key workers are the backbone holding the whole country together, and we want to help you in whatever way we can. If you are a key worker or have a vulnerable child and need emergency childcare, please contact the Children and Families Information Service on 020 8937 3010 or by email
Schools are only open for vulnerable children and children of “critical workers” - parents who are critical to the COVID-19 response and whose children cannot be safely cared for at home.
The Government has provided guidance on the definition of critical workers and vulnerable children.
Every child who can be safely cared for at home should be. There is no requirement for parents and carers to send their children to school if they do not need or wish to do so.
Support for businesses and employers
The new measures announced by the Prime Minister on Monday evening will mean businesses across Brent - with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential services - will close, for at least three weeks.
If you are aware of a Brent business not following these guidelines, please email us and report it immediately.
The Government has also announced a package of support for businesses and employers, including grants, business rates relief and an employee retention scheme, and much more.
To find out what support you’re eligible for, visit the dedicated webpage on support for businesses and employers.
If you’re experiencing financial hardship through this difficult time, the following resources might be able to help you:
- If you know people who are struggling, the council can offer Local Welfare Assistance.
- Discretionary Housing Payments may be available to top-up housing-related benefit for a limited time to cover housing costs such as rent.
- If you are experiencing exceptional hardship, you may be able to claim a discretionary reduction in Council Tax. Visit our website to find out if you qualify.
- You have the right to pay your council tax over 12 months instead of 10 months, but you must just let us know in advance. Contact us about Council Tax to let us know if you’d like to do this.
- We also have the Council tax support scheme in place for residents on low income.
If you find these aren’t right for you and you need more support, email us and we will see what we can do to help.
Emergency food support
I know that many households are under increased strain at the moment. If you are struggling, and do not have enough money for food, there are a number of places where you can go for a free hot meal, whatever your circumstances.
You may also be able to apply for a food voucher from a food bank in the borough.
Closures to council buildings
To protect your safety and wellbeing, in line with the Government’s latest advice, we have closed the following buildings to the public until further notice:
- Brent Civic Centre
- Brent Customer Service Centre
- Leisure Centres
- Brent Museum, Galleries and Archives
You can still access and manage a range of council services online, by logging into your My Account, including managing your payments and applying for benefit and support claims. If you need to speak to someone, the telephone Contact Centre is still open as normal from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. Call us on 020 8937 1234.
Several upcoming council events and meetings have also either been cancelled or postponed.
Changes to Registration and Nationality service
If you need to register a birth or death, there are some important changes you need to know about. For the next three weeks the following services will not be available:
- Birth registration
- Notice of intent to marry or join in civil partnership
- Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies
- Citizenship ceremonies
- Certificate requests
If you have an appointment pre-booked, the registration team will be in touch to cancel.
Death registrations will still take place, but by pre-arranged appointments only. Please call 020 8937 1010 to book.
Our parks and open spaces remain open, but we are urging people to follow the latest public health advice while out and about. Playgrounds, gyms (where they are fenced in) and games areas like tennis courts are now closed following concerns over crowds gathering and people shouldn’t be using the outdoor gyms or play equipment until it is safe again to do so.
TfL stations to avoid
The latest guidance is to only travel if it is absolutely necessary. In Brent, we are still seeing high numbers of people using the following stations. If it is necessary to travel, please consider using alternative stations or changing your travel time.
- North Wembley
- South Kenton
- Stonebridge Park
- Wembley Central
- Preston Road