This briefing provides an update on government announcements and guidance, including the continued importance of social distancing, ceasing all non-essential travel, support for those at highest risk and support for vulnerable children and young people. It also contains local information and updates on country park
National context Business financial support The Government has confirmed that businesses will be able to access government support from today (23) to keep operating. Details of two new loan schemes are being confirmed and an information campaign launched so that businesses know how to get help. Essential travel and rail Following on from the Government’s guidance on social distancing, the Government have said that people should avoid travelling unless it is essential. The Government guidance on essential travel states that people should remain in their primary residence, as essential travel does not include visits to second homes or holiday homes, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. The Government has announced a series of measures to ensure rail services remain operational to enable key workers to get to work. It was also announced that passengers will be able to apply for refunds for advance tickets that they are no longer able to use. Support for those at highest risk A range of new measures to protect people at highest risk were announced over the weekend. Individuals deemed to be at the highest risk will be contacted directly by their GP or specialist with detailed advice and will be strongly advised to stay at home for at least 12 weeks. It was also announced that a new local support system, called Locality Hubs, will ensure that individuals self-isolating at home and who are without a support network of friends and family will be looked after. Vulnerable children and young people Guidance on vulnerable children and young people was published on Sunday (22.3.20), the document includes questions and answers about the provisions being made for vulnerable children and young people and the roles and responsibilities of local authorities, schools, parents and carers. DBS checks The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has announced temporary changes to identification checking guidelines which enable ID documents to be viewed digitally, rather than having to see physical documents. This will allow necessary DBS checks to still be carried out to ensure that volunteers working with children and vulnerable people are suitable and safe to do so. Welfare The Government has announced that Working Tax Credits payments will be automatically increased by £1,045 to £3,040 per year from 6 April 2020 until 5 April 2021. Local context Hampshire schools Nearly all schools in Hampshire opened today for vulnerable and key worker children. The County Council has commended the county’s schools and early years providers for their positive response to the Government’s call and has also expressed gratitude to parents and carers who are not key workers for adhering to the guidance and caring for their children at home. Hampshire Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) All HWRCs remain open for Hampshire residents. However, the County Council is asking residents to use them only if necessary and to adhere to social distancing guidance if they do visit. Residents are reminded that kerbside collections are the most appropriate and the safest way to dispose of ‘black bag’ waste and mixed recyclables. To avoid unnecessary trips, residents are asked to store other waste such as card, wood and metal at home until social distancing measures are relaxed. County parks The County Council is encouraging residents to continue enjoying its range of outdoor spaces, but to follow the social distancing guidelines in place. County parks, walks and open spaces remain open, however on-site parking and facilities are closed until further notice. Water suppliers Water companies have provided reassurance to customers that water will keep on flowing during the pandemic. Payment schemes and financial breaks have also been offered – see Southern Water’s COVID-19 letter to customers.