Coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery plan for Barnsley

A lot has changed over the past few months which has meant that we’re facing tough challenges ahead. We’re doing everything we can as a council to support our residents and businesses across the borough.

In the background, we’ve been working with our partners to develop a Recovery and Renewal Strategy which sets out how we’ll work to restore our borough and help communities to move on from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We can only do this if we all work together to make sure that our work to recover and transform Barnsley truly takes effect.

We have learnt lessons from the pandemic and seen lots of positive developments which we want to keep, to rebuild a better Barnsley and action regeneration in our communities.

Our purpose

Our purpose is clear, and we must continue to support you and your families to positively move on from the pandemic. This includes:

  • Supporting our residents and businesses affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Helping vulnerable children and adults who need support.
  • Helping services to restart and businesses reopen safely, and in line with changing Government guidelines.
  • Reviewing and revise our budget to ensure we can deliver the services people need.
  • Celebrating the contributions made by people and commemorate the loss of those across the borough.
  • Supporting the health, social, economic and political wellbeing of our communities to recover and renew.
  • Aligning our plans to our Barnsley 2030 vision and ambitions.

Our strategy

Our strategy sets out five themes that we’ll focus our efforts on as part of our recovery and renewal plans; these include:

Health and wellbeing

  • Continue to help to reduce and suppress infection across the borough and restore the health and wellbeing of Barnsley people.
  • Support people affected by increased social isolation and other social impacts of the virus.
  • Provide mental health and wellbeing support to residents and employees.

Mobile testing units

A mobile testing unit (MTU) has been made available at a number of sites across the borough so that people can access a COVID-19 test. You can find out where it is by checking the COVID-19 information page on our website. The MTU is in addition to the local testing site at the Lower Courthouse car park in the town centre. During July and August, these were for anyone to get a test - even if they were just concerned but had no symptoms. Due to national demand, which has been widely communicated by the media, all testing sites are now only for those people with symptoms and appointments must be booked. This is in order to manage demand on the testing system and to maintain social distancing.

Local contact tracing and support

Over the coming weeks, we’re planning to enhance our local testing offer to compliment the national Test and Trace system. Six community engagement officers are being recruited to visit our most vulnerable neighbourhoods to offer support to access testing and provide advice about COVID-19 messages including social distancing, wearing face coverings, hand washing and getting a test and self-isolating if they have any symptoms.

Active travel

We want to encourage as many people as possible to walk and cycle for their short journeys or travelling to school or work. We’re developing and making improvements to the infrastructure around Barnsley so more people can use active travel easily. We are currently working on some fantastic new opportunities to promote active travel, with some routes in the planning phase. This includes the Stairfoot to the town centre route, from the interchange to Barnsley Hospital and the Trans Pennine Trail along the Worsbrough to Elsecar route.

For ideas on how you can stay active, and how to use active travel instead of relying on the car, check out the #WhatsYourMove campaign. Other inspiration is provided from the Walk Well initiative for free, short, organised walks around the borough.

Business economy

Thriving Barnsley

  • Protect jobs and keep people in work.
  • Bring back business confidence.
  • Keep our high streets and visitor attractions safe and welcoming.

We’re working with local businesses to ensure that they safely operate for customers across the borough. We’re listening to customers to understand their concerns, so Barnsley’s high streets and visitor attractions remain safe and welcoming.

EU transition

We’re keeping a close eye on the situation around the EU transition as a council.

Libraries

We are pleased that Barnsley Libraries were able to move into the final phases their reopening plan in August. Further Libraries across the borough began opening their doors, offering residents the opportunity to browse books, use the order and collect service and pre-book computers. All sites are following government guidelines and helping you to visit each site safely, so make sure you pop along to your local library and make use of the services again.

Community resilience

  • Protecting the most vulnerable people in society.
  • Ensuring our communities are strong and resilient and are able to thrive after COVID-19.
  • Preventing people from falling into crisis.

Financial hardship

The council was awarded £350,000 as part of the government's emergency financial hardship funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the council are matching this with £270,000 of internal funding. The money will be used to help people in the borough who have been directly affected by the pandemic. We know that many of our residents will have been affected financially as a result of the pandemic and find themselves in difficult circumstances through no fault of their own. We have several initiatives set up to support local people who have been directly impacted by the virus and this money will help us to support those projects and those people. We want to help people get back on their feet as soon as possible and hope that the hardship fund can go some way towards doing that.

For more information, or to see what support is available, please visit barnsley.gov.uk/money-advice-and-support.

Healthy holidays

Barnsley healthy holidays has had another successful year. Our area teams have been working with partners to support families who may have needed extra support to access food and activities to keep them healthy through the holiday period.  This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen families affected by financial hardship. To make sure the holidays were healthy, safe, and to encourage communities to support one another during these difficult times, the area teams have been on hand with activities and support; some of these included fruit bags, recipe cards, cooking videos, activity packs and discovery trails.

Winter planning

Colleagues across the council are working with partners at Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group, Barnsley Hospital and South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to forward plan for winter.

Work is happening around keeping people warm and well, and we will be supporting the Public Health England campaign with health partners and encouraging Barnsley residents who can get a flu vaccination to do so. This will help to keep people safe and well and prevent extra pressure on the NHS during the winter. Keep an eye out for information on how to reduce falls for people over 65 and the help that’s available to keep homes warm throughout winter.

If people need support accessing grants or vouchers to make their homes warmer or help with their energy bills, please call our Warm Homes Team 01226 773366 or find out more about getting ready for winter.

Education and skills

  • Safely return children and young people to early years settings, schools and post-16 learning.
  • Children and young people supported to catch up and succeed in learning.
  • Ensure adults can access learning to improve their wellbeing and employability.
  • Further improve access to digital and online learning for all.

Schools

Schools have successfully welcomed back pupils from all year groups, after undertaking thorough risk assessments and putting in place a number of robust arrangements to keep staff and pupils as safe as possible. There have been a number of positive COVID-19 cases, these have been unavoidable as we have seen a number of cases across the borough, originating in the community. Affected schools have acted quickly, working with Public Health England and our own Public Health team here in the council to ensure the safety of pupils and staff in all cases by closing the necessary bubbles. Parents, carers and staff have been notified immediately and kept updated.

Given that the government has announced that school attendance in September will be mandatory, the suspension of fines for non-attendance during the pandemic will now end. However, we'll be reluctant to issue fines as we understand that for some children, returning to school after such a long time will be hard. Some families might need support, which we're fully committed to providing.

We’re working with schools to identify where children may have lost learning over the last six months and to ensure that we have ways to continue education services, including online learning facilities.

Infrastructure and the environment

  • To safely reinstate public transport services and restore public confidence.
  • Progress with our infrastructure and transport projects.
  • Continue to support active travel and other modes of transport across the borough and build on our zero-carbon ambition.

Waste services

In terms of bin collections, we appreciate that the service has not been as good as it could be. Measures introduced to protect both residents and the workforce required changes to the way waste is collected. Over the last few weeks this has been also impacted by the fire at a waste transfer station on Grange Lane. Please be assured that we are working hard to improve the quality of the service for our residents.

We’re continuing with plans to create our Barnsley 2030 vision and ambitions, although the current crisis will change how we deliver this. We are, together with the Barnsley 2030 Steering Group committed to building a clear view of our future following on what you told us as part of the engagement activity in January and February. We will be providing you with an update on this shortly.

Challenges we’re facing as a council

We could never have imagined, or fully planned, for how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected our borough.

The additional cost of dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and maintaining critical services far exceeds the £18 million government funding we've received to date. The expected loss of income from council tax, business rates and other charges is anticipated to contribute to an overall funding gap, after the funding from government, in the region of £20 million.

One positive is that we have an excellent track record for sound financial management, and we came into the new financial year with a positive outlook. We're continuously looking at the council's financial position as the data is frequently changing, but it's clear that this is a significant challenge for us, and it will have an immediate impact, as well as in years to come.

We have to make difficult decisions about how we deliver our services, but our aim is always to keep critical services running for our residents while protecting the most vulnerable in our society. These are not easy decisions to make, and we understand from the previous years of austerity measures, the effect that this has on our residents.

It's a challenging position to be in, and we'll be planning how we manage our budget deficit over the coming months.

Barnsley's COVID-19 story

Our COVID-19 story campaign looks back at the borough's response to the pandemic. We're celebrating how the council, our partners, and Barnsley people have changed the way we work, and supported communities, businesses, and each other.

Learn more about the campaign and watch stories from across Barnsley on the Barnsley's COVID-19 story webpage.