During the pandemic, Dorset Council’s contact centre has dealt with more than 34,500 Covid-related calls and emails, distributed £250m in grants to local businesses, delivered 2,025 food packages to people who were shielding and processed 1,200 requests for PPE.
These figures will be presented to the next meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday 22 June when the way forward will be discussed.
The council redeployed employees to ensure critical services were maintained during lockdowns and other restrictions. This included adult care, emergency planning, support for people shielding, and support for waste services with the re-opening of household recycling centres.
Dorset Council has approximately 4,500 employees. A total of just two per cent of working days were lost due to employee absence linked to Covid-19, including caring for dependants, and there has been an overall reduction in general sickness levels across the council during the pandemic period.
The council also supported the start of the vaccination rollout in December 2020 – ensuring that frontline care and social work colleagues were among the first to be vaccinated. The council has also worked with Public Health Dorset to set up community rapid testing sites and supported local contact tracing to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Leader of Dorset Council, Cllr Spencer Flower, said: “When we look back at all that we have achieved during the pandemic, I feel incredibly proud of the way our employees, councillors, partners and local communities have all pulled together to help the residents of Dorset through what has been an unprecedented and difficult time.”
The council received £315M in additional Covid funding from the government to support initiatives including business grants, school transport, accommodation for rough sleepers, community rapid testing and more.
The majority of that funding (£250M) has been distributed to local business. This ranges from business grants through to business rate relief.
Like all local authorities, Dorset Council’s finances have been negatively impacted as a result of Covid-19. Although significant financial support was provided by government, this has not fully covered the financial consequences of the pandemic. The latest assessment is that the impact of the pandemic on the council’s own reserves is in the region of £15m. The council has now re-profiled its remaining reserves to prepare for any further financial and economic shocks.
Cabinet members will also receive an update on the council’s performance in terms of meeting the targets set out in its first Council Plan – which was published before the pandemic.
The council says one significant area of improvement has been around children’s social care – with the rates of children in care, children in need, re-referrals and children with a child protection plan reducing, and the number of care leavers (aged 16 to 25) in education, employment and training increasing.
Cllr Flower added: “When we published our first Council Plan in early 2020 we outlined our vision for Dorset and pledged to be bold and ambitious – so I’m really pleased that we’ve continued to make progress in so many areas, while supporting our communities during the pandemic. Both the impact of Covid-19 and work needed to help Dorset recover is substantial, so it’s important that this is reflected in our wider plan. There is still a lot to do, but I’m confident that we will carry forward our shared ambition of making Dorset a great place to live, work and visit.”
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