COVID 19 – Cases and Vaccine Update
The Board received a presentation on the number of cases, testing, vaccinations and QE Hospital admissions and death for the Borough and how this compared regionally.
Covid 19 - Response Update and Assessment of its impact on Communities – Baseline Assessment
The Board received a report on the impact of COVID and the importance of understanding the needs of communities within Gateshead. The report provided a cumulative summary of COVID-19 in Gateshead and analysed its impact to date locally. It was based on data (although the hard evidence of impact remained limited as many relevant datasets would not be published for many months), the experiences and views of Council staff who had been involved in the response to COVID, and stories illustrating the experience of local residents.
This analysis was built around the Health and Wellbeing strategy themes and was followed by suggestions of key issues the Council may need to focus on as we lead the recovery in Gateshead.
The impact of COVID has been felt across Gateshead, but it can be anticipated that as more data becomes available the hard evidence of this will be more clearly seen. It is considered, for example from the experience of hubs, that whilst the whole community has felt the effects of COVID, it will be places with the greatest numbers of vulnerable residents and the highest needs that will have shouldered the greatest burden of harm, further exacerbating the inequalities within the Borough and its position relative to the country as a whole. The Gateshead system’s focus on ‘place’ will be crucial moving forward.
A number of priority areas for action emerge from the baseline analysis. The over-riding one of these is action on poverty and the importance of services that provide advice and support to those in the communities of place and interest who have been most affected by the pandemic. Without sufficient income people cannot satisfy their basic needs for food and shelter.
One group where such support will be crucial is families with children, as demonstrated by the increase in demand on the Council’s early help children’s services.
The clear message from the work of the Poverty Truth Commission, the insight around universal credit’s impact and the day-to-day work of partners and services with local people, highlights the need to find ways to work alongside our community and develop a participatory leadership model that allows local people to truly influence future direction and policy for their local area.
Continued investment is needed to meet rapidly growing demand for digital services and ways of working whilst recognising that there remain parts of our community for whom this will not be appropriate.
The long-term consequences of the pandemic for the health of the local population will also take time to become clear, but action on mental health and behaviours including alcohol consumption, smoking and physical activity would be early areas to address. However, it is impossible to untangle the community’s health from the economy as they are two sides of the same coin.
The final area to highlight is the need to recognise the loss of loved ones that many families will have experienced. Some way to acknowledge this could be found, possibly in terms of a physical memorial, but also through ensuring that as part of the focus on place we learn from other areas that have attempted to build wellness and kindness into their work with local communities.
It was reported that work was ongoing with the Council’s Communications Team and with our partners across the north east to manage the public’s expectations.
The importance of keeping the region’s MPs up to date on issues was stressed and it was pointed out that local MPs had been contacted to raise an issue at Prime Minister’s question time on schools and the number of pupils being sent home to isolate.
It was noted that schools would continue to follow stringent protection measures including the wearing of face masks.
Members highlighted concerns about digital inclusion and the need to support those people who are unable to access digital services. The Board was advised that a bid for funding had been submitted for a project to undertake academic research in relation to digital inclusion.
With regard to the Baseline Assessment, the Board confirmed that it supported the findings and thanked officers for their efforts and contributions on this work.
(i) That the contents of the presentation be noted.
(ii) That the findings of the Baseline Assessment be noted and supported.