Responding to Coronavirus together - a message from the Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Muhammed Butt
19 March 2020
I’m writing to you again during these unpredictable times to let you know what we’re doing to fight back against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We are all going to have to change our daily lives and, like me, I know many of you are rolling up your sleeves and doing everything possible to protect yourself and others.
Like many of you, I’m now washing my hands for 20 seconds regularly. Most council services are still working but some are starting to be affected – for example our libraries will be opening but not for as long.
I’ve started to have meetings using video conferencing as have many of my colleagues. This is a small change to make but we all need to change the way we work and live for a while.
As a council, our absolute priority is to keep essential services running, but in order to do this some of these services will be running a bit differently, which may mean opening hours have changed or some events have been postponed, and I want to give you a few important updates today to make sure you know exactly what’s going on right now. Just to be clear though, the situation changes quickly and all services are being kept under constant review.
As I’m sure all parents will know, yesterday the Government announced that from Friday, schools will be partially closed until further notice except for children of key workers and children with additional needs.
We’re working with the Department for Education to ensure that children of key workers, including NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers, have a place to go and the same for children with a social worker or those with special educational needs who will also still need to come into school to get the support they need.
Support for businesses
I know many local businesses will be understandably worried about the current coronavirus pandemic and how it will affect them.
You are the heart of our high streets and industrial areas and a vital part of our local economy, so I want to reassure you that as a council, we are taking every step possible to support you.
In the past week, the Chancellor announced measures to support businesses during the coronavirus pandemic and we are working closely with the West London Alliance and the Government to plan how we are going to implement these locally.
To find out more, please take a look at the message I sent out to businesses earlier today (Thursday 19 March).
Adult Social Care helpline
We’ve introduced a new helpline number dedicated to helping vulnerable adults who do not have support from friends or family or anyone else in the community. Please give us a call if you think you need help, the helpline is staffed by trained social care professionals between 9am-5pm from Monday to Friday – 020 8937 6589.
I’ve heard worrying reports that there are doorstep scammers offering coronavirus tests to residents in their homes. I want to stress that they are not genuine officials, and the NHS is not doing any home testing so please do not talk to them or let them into your home.
You can find up-to-date medical advice about the coronavirus on the NHS website.
If you think you’ve received a visit by doorstep scammers, you can report them to Citizens Advice by calling 0808 223 1133.
Changes to library opening hours
Every day we are making difficult decisions about how best to deliver key services that residents rely on, while ensuring we’re doing what’s best for the health and wellbeing of our staff, residents and councillors.
With this in mind, from today all Brent’s libraries will close at 6pm. Libraries will also close at weekends, except for Wembley Library which will be open from 10am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday.
I know this will come as a disappointment for many people, but I want to remind you that you can still access a whole host of online services that are open to everyone, and are the perfect way to pass the time while you’re at home.
Download the ‘My Library App’ today or visit www.brent.gov.uk/elibrary for thousands of e-books and audiobooks, hundreds of magazines and newspapers in different languages and a number of reference and study materials.
I want to reassure you that we are currently collecting recycling and waste across the borough as usual. We are in contact with Veolia every day and will let you know if anything changes.
There are some exceptional local charities and community services delivering brilliant work in the community, and I’d like to thank them for all they do to support Brent residents day-to-day but particularly during crises like these when we need them most.
The council is working closely with some of these local organisations, such as the Young Brent Foundation, Sufra, Citizens Advice Brent, Crisis and many others, to draw on the expertise of these services and identify those in the borough in need of some additional help and support during this time.
CVS Brent will take the lead on managing new and existing mutual aid in the community, and we’re going to make funding available to support a range of voluntary and community groups to help them continue to provide the good support and work that they do.
We’ll share more information on how organisations can access this support over the next few days.
Access to food
The government’s advice is that there is no reason to be ‘stockpiling’ or buying food and hygiene supplies in bulk.
It is important that residents only buy what they need to ensure that other people can also get what they need from the supermarket.
I’d like to thank our Care Leavers team within Children’s Services who are in daily contact with our care leavers to ensure that they have enough food, help and support during this difficult time.
At the moment, there’s no evidence to suggest that ibuprofen can make coronavirus worse but until we have more information, if you’re feeling unwell because of coronavirus, only take paracetamol, unless your doctor has told you not to.
If you already take ibuprofen for other health reasons, do not stop taking this without checking with your doctor first.
If you have a hearing impairment, Sign Health has produced a series of helpful videos translating the latest coronavirus information.
If you have any questions relating to coronavirus, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is all the information I have for now, but the coronavirus situation is changing by the hour so you will hear from me again when there is more news to share.