Councils Can…

Victoria Ashcroft

In this post a local government professional reflects on their experience of working in local government during the covid-19 crisis. 

Working in a partnership role in a District Council has its challenges at the best of times, but working in a partnership role, from home, with kids and studying, in the midst of a crisis makes it all the more challenging. The work/life balance that we strive for is now melded together for the foreseeable future.

Since the start of COVID-19 things have moved rapidly (unusual in this line of work). We’ve been told by the Government we need to set up a Community Hub, we’ve been asked by the County Council for support, we know we need to support the voluntary sector, we know the community have mobilised in ways not seen before. These truly are unprecedented times.

Technology has never been so important; it’s no mean feat setting up an entire organisation to work remotely. The behind the scenes effort is huge. So far we’ve set up helplines, email addresses, a communications plan and produced numerous press releases. We’ve placed rough sleepers in as many available accommodation spaces as we can, we’ve set up a food bank, we’ve set up a scheme with the local supermarket to order food for isolators, this food is being delivered by our Elected Members, Solicitors and Environmental Health Officers to name a few – it’s all hands to the deck. The list goes on. We’ve closed the crematoriums and burial grounds and then opened them again. We’ve supported businesses too.

The next task is to call thousands of residents we’ve identified to see how they’re doing, if they have support in place, and if they need help or assistance or just a friendly chat. Quite reassuringly in the main they have good support networks in place but there’s a handful who need further assistance, signposting or a referral onto support agencies. Everyone is really appreciative of the call and thankful to the team of volunteers (diverted in from all departments across the organisation). They are so pleased to have not been forgotten.

Everyone is working hard, and all are doing something new and learning new things.   Such a mammoth task has been undertaken and it feels like there has been little recognition for the very important work being done in this sector, not that we need or want recognition, we are just doing our job contributing to the national effort. We’re not just bins and council tax.

Unprecedented seems to be the word of the moment, and it sums it all up perfectly.

But what comes next…we know domestic abuse will rise, we anticipate a rise in crime and anti-social behaviour, there are worries for the economy, we might lose friends or loved ones, our children will have lived through a crisis we could never have imagined. What we do know is that local government will not be the same again but how we fare in the long term remains to be seen…..

 

Victoria Ashcroft is a local government professional with almost 20 years’ experience in the sector. Currently her role is supporting business planning for the authority and she responsibility for a number of statutory duties and responsibilities. She gained her undergraduate degree in Social Science and Politics through The Open University and is now a student on INLOGOV’s Masters in Public Administration programme.

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