It’s now been more than a week since the First Minister announced a slight easing of restrictions which has allowed us to meet up with family and friends from another household as long as it is outside. The easing of this restriction, however slight, is one which we are sure has been enjoyed by many of you. It’s been particularly nice with the recent bout of warm, sunny weather we have been having.
We appreciate that for our staff, the last few months have been difficult and challenging and while it feels like things are definitely starting to ease and that gives us hope, there is still a long road to travel. Thanks to all of you that completed the recent staff wellbeing survey, which received over one thousand responses. We are currently reviewing the results which will lead to an improvement action plan.
As a Council, our recovery phase is picking up at pace. Education Services with support from a range of support services are working hard to prepare for the re-opening of schools and Early Years establishments for our children and young adults in August. It is planned that teaching staff will be returning to classrooms later this month as part of that preparation.
The health, safety and wellbeing or our staff as well as that of our children and young adults is our main priority. Risk assessments are being carried out by our Health and Safety Team for each and every one of our establishments to ensure safe social distancing measures are in place and Scottish Government guidance is followed. As you can appreciate this is a huge task and we are working with TU colleagues to ensure a safe transition.
However as we have become aware with recovery planning, every day throws up new issues that need new solutions. We know that many of you will have concerns around childcare when schools go back, particularly where there will be blended learning in schools. We would like reassure you that this is something we are thinking about and have discussed with TU colleagues. We are aware that solutions will require flexibility and pragmatism, and we will update you when we have more information.
We are being cautious in our approach to recovery and this has paid off with the successful reopening of our Forthbank Waste facility earlier this week. The resulting feedback we have received from residents though our social media channels has been extremely positive not only about the booking system that was introduced by our Environment and Waste Team with support from IT, but also about the friendliness and helpfulness of staff at the site. Thanks to everyone involved for their hard work.
As a Senior Leadership Group, we want to continue in this cautious vein and only scale up as and when we build capacity and are confident that are able to do this safely and successfully.
Finally, as we go into the weekend, we hope staff have enjoyed catching up with relatives and friends but please remember to follow Scottish Government guidance by only meeting up with members from one other household up to a maximum of 8 people, maintain social distancing and keeping within the 5 mile radius recommended. The position is still fragile and we have all worked so hard to reach this point. We want to keep moving forward on the road to recovery.
Have a great weekend and above all stay safe for the sake of all our loved ones.
Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete
I'm sure you were all heartened to hear Nicola Sturgeon announce yesterday that from today you will be able to meet up with members from one other household up to a maximum of 8 people.
It's yet another step towards the recovery that we have all been looking forward to. It’s been a long ten weeks and the thought of meeting up family or friends, even if it’s just from one household, is a welcome step forward for many.
For some, it's also the opportunity to get back to playing the outdoor sports they love such as golf, tennis or bowls, particularly with the sunny weather looking like it will last for a while yet.
However it's important that we still remain cautious. As restrictions ease, the Scottish Government has launched "Test and Protect" which aims to prevent the transmission of Coronavirus in the community. Test and Protect is key to enabling us to start to move closer to some sort of normality and while it may at times be inconvenient if you have to self-isolate, it’s essential that we all follow Scottish Government guidelines.
As a council, we will be there to help our residents who have to self-isolate as a result of the new measures and we would like to thank staff who have been working hard to ensure that this system is up and running.
You can read more about how Test and Protect will affect you on the latest news section of the staff section of the internet here.
As we mentioned in our message last week, we are starting to take the first tentative steps towards recovery planning but we are being very cautious about the services we bring back and at what capacity as the months ahead will continue to be uncertain.
As a result of the Test and Protect system, it is possible that our physical staff absence from work may rise again as more of us may be required to isolate. We are aware that a number of staff remain on special leave. We would like to thank you for your patience and understanding and reassure you that we are working hard to find a solution that will enable more of you to return to work in some capacity as soon as we can. This includes the continuing rollout of IT equipment to allow remote working and we are expecting more kit to go out to staff over the coming weeks.
We are aware that the past 10 weeks has, at times, felt like a long haul for many of you who are juggling long days with other pressures such as home schooling and childcare or supporting fiends or relatives who are shielded or in isolation, or just generally lockdown restrictions.
Looking after your mental health and wellbeing and finding time for what's important to you is crucial. Acknowledging that we all have days where our motivation is low and we don't feel as productive as we would want is also important. We can’t all expect feel at the top of our game very day given the current circumstances we are living and working in. We would like to thank all staff who took the time to fill out the recent staff wellbeing survey – we had more than 1000 responses which was fantastic. We will be working on an action plan based on the results of the survey which we hope we will be able to communicate a summary of the findings to you all in the very near future.
As we further consider the route map for recovery, it is likely that many staff will continue to work from home for a considerable period to come. The Senior Leadership Group is meeting to discuss this and we will provide more information in the coming week.
In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the great weather, and that bit more freedom that comes from the reductions in lockdown measures. Above all, please continue to stay safe.
Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete
Nicola Sturgeon's announcement this week about the easing of some restrictions from 28 May and her publication of the Scottish Government's four stage roadmap to recovery is welcome news.
There's no doubt that in the weeks since March it has seemed like a long and at times, difficult road that we’ve all had to travel. We've not been able to see extended family or friends and we've all had to adapt to a change in the way we work and how we work.
Hopefully as move forward over the coming weeks we will start to see the little "green shoots" of recovery and this is certainly something we are focussing on as an organisation.
We now have in place a recovery group with representation from across the organisation as well as Unions. The focus of this group is to ensure that the council adopts a safe and controlled exit from lockdown, ensuring that working arrangements are clear, practical guidance is in place, and a safe working environment is achieved for all staff. The health, safety and wellbeing of all our staff is the main priority as we start to take our first cautious steps towards recovery and any return to work will be on a gradual and limited basis.
For the foreseeable future, we anticipate a "blended" approach with some people working full-time at home, some part-time at home and part-time at work, and others full-time at work. This will all very much depend on individual roles and the needs of each service and department. Plans will be overseen by the Senior Leadership Group in discussion with managers, and managers will engage with you in due course to discuss arrangements further.
Our IT Team continues to roll out IT kit to enable remote working and are currently reviewing our digital transformation programme to support greater remote capability.
As part of the first phase of recovery, we will be reopening Forthbank Waste and Recycling Centre on 1 June. On Monday we ran a successful trial for the recycling centre – many thanks to all the staff who worked hard to ensure its success.
Our Education Team have also been hard at work preparing for the reopening of schools on 11 August and are well ahead with their plans. There will continue to be childcare provision from the school hubs over the summer holiday period and more information about this will be shared on the council's website and social media channels.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the tremendous efforts of our staff. We remain proud and overwhelmed by all of your skill, commitment and dedication to supporting our most vulnerable residents at what has been the most difficult times we have ever faced as a nation. Our staff have truly been living the values that we worked so hard to create together, and that have stood us in good stead throughout this challenged period. Your efforts are very much appreciated – thank you!
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking part in our wellbeing survey. The survey closes today and we have had a fantastic response. We are hoping to form an action plan based on the feedback and we will communicate more about this in due course.
Finally, we would just like to remind you that even when restrictions start to lift on 28 May, it will be important that we exercise caution and patience. We would urge you all to follow the First Minister’s message to stay at home as much as possible, continue to your wash hands every time you return home and wear a face covering when in enclosed areas such as public transport and shops.
We hope you all have a peaceful weekend.
Nikki, Stuart, Fiona and Pete
We hope that many of you were able to enjoy the bank holiday weekend at home. Our thanks go out to those colleagues who were working over that period to help support our most vulnerable residents and deliver essential services.
There has certainly been a lot of media coverage over changes to the lockdown measures in England. It’s worth remembering that in Scotland the only change at the moment is that we are permitted to go outside to take exercise more than once a day, and the advice remains that we should stay local for this activity. Many of us are enjoying that daily fresh air in what has been pretty good weather, so this development is good news. Overall, we’re all still advised to Stay at Home, Protect NHS Scotland and Save Lives.
At the Council, the work towards planning for the recovery phase has really gained momentum, and colleagues throughout our services are meeting together, with partner organisations locally and nationally and with our fellow local authorities to advance this preparation.
You might have seen that plans are well advanced for the re-opening of Forthbank Recycling Centre when the national advice changes to allow us to do this. We know that our residents are really keen to see Forthbank re-opening, and we’ve been planning for some weeks with our colleagues to make sure that we do this in a controlled and safe way to protect everyone. A new online appointments system to control access to the centre is now nearing completion, and colleagues are working hard to have arrangements ready to be rolled out once the national agreement is given.
At the same time, we’re all still keeping a focus on continuing to deliver essential services. While many teams are now operating at home, in work or a mix of locations, it is really important that we all continue to keep in touch. We know that there is some great contact continuing throughout our teams, and if any managers or staff need advice on how this can be achieved using technology, there is advice on the staff pages of our website.
Our SLG continues to come together for daily virtual meetings, with the extended SLG meeting weekly to discuss key areas such as public protection, education, children and young people, economy and business support, finance and capacity and workforce.
A reminder that we are really keen to hear your thoughts about your safety and wellbeing during this period of great change and uncertainty. You should have received an email with a link to an anonymous staff wellbeing survey by email, and you can also find it on the staff page of our website. Your responses will help us focus on improvements that are most important to you, so please do take part.
Please keep checking the staff pages for all the latest updates and advice. These pages can be accessed from the front page of the Council website, so you can read them anywhere on any device and at any time.
Thanks again for all your hard work.
Nikki, Stuart, Fiona & Pete
It’s a bank holiday weekend, our second one under lockdown conditions, and we’re all continuing to adapt to a new normal.
Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day when many will take the opportunity to pause and remember the millions of people across Britain who made many sacrifices to win the Second World War, as well as all those who tragically lost their lives. Whilst unable to do that in the way many had hoped, there are still many ways to mark VE Day safely from home. The Royal British Legion website has links to a variety of virtual events. We hope you take time to enjoy these events.
Today as we all stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS, it is fitting to remember the incredible contribution and sacrifices everyone is making 75 years later - this time, in the fight against Coronavirus. We would encourage you all to take part in the 2 minute silence at 11am tomorrow in memory of all those who died protecting our country more than 70 years ago as well as those who have lost their lives to this terrible virus.
In our message last week, we mentioned that as an organisation we are moving into a phase of recovery planning. Our Executive Health & Safety Committee met this week via video link chaired by Stuart Crickmar in his capacity as Acting Chief Executive and attended by senior managers and trade union colleagues. Although PPE, social distancing and building cleaning remain topical issues given the current crisis, it's important that with more and more staff working from home that our home working environments are safe. Please keep checking our staff page on the website for further information.
As an SLG, we have daily virtual meetings, and the council’s extended Senior Leadership Group continue to meet via video conference every Monday morning to discuss the council’s key responses. Workstreams include public protection, education, children and young people, economy and business support, finance and capacity, and workforce.
Although we are spending more time focusing on recovery, we are still very much continuing to focus on protection of life. We are making arrangements for more people to be able to work from home over the coming months and we continue to ask people to continue to work from home, wherever possible, for the time being. For those in essential roles who have to come in to their place of work, we have put in place strict social distancing and hygiene measures which we would ask you to adhere to.
We are keen to hear your thoughts in relation to your safety and wellbeing during this unsettled period. We have prepared a staff wellbeing survey and have today sent a link to you via the email address you get your payslip sent to. The link the survey is also on the staff page of our website. We would like to encourage you to take time to fill out the survey which is anonymous and will allow us to see which areas we can improve upon.
Finally, we appreciate that while there is speculation in the press that the UK Government may relax some lockdown measures on Monday, we would remind you that today (Thursday) First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has advised that there will be no change to the guidance in Scotland and the measures in place remain the same. We appreciate that whilst the weather is sunny this is incredibly hard, however it is important that we all continue follow the Scottish Government guidance and stay safe by staying at home.
Have a restful Bank Holiday Weekend.
Stuart, Fiona, Pete
It’s hard to believe that with May Day it is now officially the start of summertime. We’re also at Day 40 of lockdown and while we are starting to see a settling in process, we remain as busy as ever.
We feel that it is important that you are aware that Chief Executive Nikki Bridle has been off work ill and Stuart Crickmar, Strategic Director of Partnership & Performance, is currently Acting Chief Exec in her absence. Nikki is continuing to make good progress and we look forward to welcoming her back soon. In the meantime, the Senior Leadership Group continue to work as a team for the benefit of the organisation, staff and citizens during these challenging times.
We have noticed a shift in the national press who are talking about the easing of lockdown restrictions but until the Scottish and UK Governments announce this, we continue to encourage not only our staff but also our residents to stay safe and stay and at home. We understand how difficult this is but it’s important that everyone continues to follow the Government guidance on essential travel, only going out for essential shopping, medicines, or daily exercise.
As a Council, we are now moving into a phase of Recovery Planning. We are still very much working on a “preservation of life” phase and it will be some time to come before we reach a “business as usual” phase but we are now starting to plan ahead for a time when people can start to return to their places of work.
As you can appreciate, this is a complex piece of work, and we anticipate that any easing of lockdown is likely to be gradual when it comes. For the time being we are asking as many staff as possible to continue to work at home if they can, and only attend work if it is absolutely essential. Even when we return, this will be a controlled process and will be carried out in discussion with senior managers.
We’ve been delighted to see that the new staff portal on our Clackmannanshire web page is being so well used by staff. There is some great content on there, particularly around staff health and wellbeing as well management briefings and all the latest news from around the organisation. If you haven't seen it already, please take a look and make sure you keep updated with what’s going on.
On Tuesday we marked International Workers’ Memorial Day which was particularly poignant this year given the ongoing COVID-19 Crisis.
We also mourned the sad passing of our colleague Fiona Aikman this week. Fiona, who worked in IT for many years, was a well liked and well respected member of her team. At her funeral in Dunblane on Thursday a number of colleagues and former colleagues lined the streets of her home town to pay their respects. She was a special person and a talented colleague who will be much missed by those of us who knew her.
We would like to remind you all that VE Day next Friday, 8 May, is a public holiday and we will be operating a reduced staffing level to allow as many staff as we can to have a well earned break.
So at the end of another challenging week, in what is becoming the new norm, we would like to thank you once again for your hard work and dedication and wish you all a lovely weekend.
Stuart, Fiona, Pete
As we go into our fifth week of lockdown, we continue to be impressed by the sheer volume of work which is being carried out by our staff across all the services.
Like many other local authorities and organisations, the Coronavirus outbreak has presented us with difficult challenges and short timescales to try and overcome these challenges. We’ve all had to adapt to a new way of working and it hasn’t been an easy task.
Our IT team have put in a huge effort at what has been a particularly difficult time. From a priority list of 136 staff members identified as needing to be set up for working from home, they have now managed to get this down to just 12 outstanding priority requests. They are now working on the next phase of staff to be enabled for home working.
It’s also been a busy and challenging time for our Education team following the Easter break. They have had to adapt to a new digital way of teaching and have been working hard to ensure that parents and schoolchildren have the necessary toolkit and resources they need so that education continues, even if pupils aren’t in the classroom. There are many examples of innovative ways this is being carried out and the new FlipClacks resource is a fantastic resource. The Free School Meals provision has also changed this week from grab bags available from delivery vans to a new payment system. More information can be found on the website. Well done to everyone on the team!
Staff involved in the Contact Centre and Community Support Helpline have also been working hard making sure they are at the end of the phone for the most vulnerable people in our community, including those in the “Shielding” category who are not able to leave their homes. Just hearing a voice on the end of the phone is sometimes all they need and we have had some lovely comments about the good work that is being carried out by our staff. We continue to provide this support and will develop this as the situation changes.
Our Finance and Revenues Teams have processed over 300 grants to small businesses over the last 2 weeks. A tremendous amount of work, so a huge thanks to all the team.
We appreciate that while many members of staff are able to work from home, there are some staff who, because of the nature of their role are unable to do this. We have been looking at different ways that we can support these staff members and for some staff, redeployment to another vital service could be necessary. We have updated our information on staff redeployment here.
It’s important that at this time when many staff members are working remotely, that they continue to feel connected to the organisation and we regularly put Management Briefings on the staff page of our website “Keeping Staff Connected” which is available to everyone. We would urge you all to regularly check the page and the briefings section for the latest updates and news from across the organisation.
We recognise that the speed at which we’re currently operating may take its toll on staff which is why we would encourage staff to take time to rest and use annual leave to maintain positive wellbeing.
Hopefully the sun will continue to shine for you all this weekend and you manage to have a peaceful and restful weekend with your families. Again, thank you for all your support and efforts which are making big differences to residents within Clackmannanshire.
Stuart, Fiona and Pete
We have just completed our fourth week of lockdown and it’s been a strange time to say the least. Last weekend’s Easter celebrations were most probably unlike anything you though they would be. The hardest thing of all is being separated from family and friends but its heartening to see so many people sticking to the Government advice and guidelines.
One of our main priorities is the health and safety of our staff. Whether you are working from home, having to take special paid leave or are coming in to your workplace to carry out essential work, we want to make sure we are doing all we can to support you. That’s why we have added a new "Wellbeing" section to the staff page on our website which now has advice, tips and guidance on looking after your mental welfare, keeping active and eating well to remain healthy. We’ve also restructured the portal to make it much easier to navigate. We would encourage you to keep checking regularly for updates.
We also now have nearly 300 staff set up to work at home and we should have even more in the coming weeks. This has been no mean feat, particularly for our IT team who have been working tirelessly to ensure that where the job role permits, as many staff as possible have the ability to be able to work from home. They are working as quickly as possible as we appreciate the patience that has been shown while this work is ongoing.
Again, we have been humbled by the many fantastic collective efforts of our staff who have pulled together during a difficult time and worked extremely hard to ensure that we keep our vital services going. We have said it before but we will say it again, thank you.
We also want to thank you for following Government guidance by staying at home if it’s not essential that you attend your place of work. You are helping our NHS to save lives.
Stuart, Fiona and Pete
Created: Friday, 27 March 2020 17.00
I am so proud of all of your work.
You are doing some amazing things every day in circumstances we could not have even imagined whilst we were enjoying our Christmas holidays which doesn't seem that long ago.
I want you to know how much I appreciate the significant commitment I have seen across services. I know there are far fewer of us around just now and it is hugely unsettling. However our contribution both in supporting our most vulnerable service users and communities and collaborating with our colleagues in the NHS and emergency services has never been more important.
Our team in Clackmannanshire is one to be proud of.
I place a huge priority on ensuring our collective health, safety and well-being and we will continue to make improvements in our approaches to make sure this priority is delivered on by listening to you and working with you.
Please get some rest over the weekend and I hope to see many of you in person soon.
Created: Tuesday, 24 March 2020 17.00
I wanted to firstly take this opportunity to personally thank all of those staff who are at work today or working from home in these difficult and challenging times. You are carrying out a vital role and it is much appreciated.
For those staff who have been unwell, I hope that you are feeling better soon; and to those staff that are self-isolating, please keep safe and well. These are unprecedented times.
I am aware that many staff have raised questions as to why they are being asked to work when the message from the Government is to stay at home and only travel to work unless it is essential. I understand your concerns and recognise the difficulties that the current situation gives rise to.
Staff may not be aware that the Council is a Category 1 Responder under the Civil Contingencies Act. This means that we are providing essential statutory services that play a critical role in supporting our most vulnerable residents and in supporting the NHS, Emergency Services and partners in responding to the Covid-19 Public Health Emergency.
Our response is evolving rapidly. On a daily basis, new measures and Guidance are being received from both the UK and Scottish Governments. To date, we have not received advance notice of these measures, so I would like to ask for your ongoing patience and support as we work to develop local solutions and clarify how that will affect you and our community.
Over the last 48 hours, taking account of the changing Government guidance, I have asked that managers identify their lists of essential staff who cover key statutory duties which support the Council’s role as a Category 1 Responder. Can I ask that you engage, as a priority, this afternoon/evening with your line managers to clarify your position with regards your own role. This will allow us to ensure that statutory service delivery is sustained for our most vulnerable.
I understand that individual circumstances will differ and are subject to change, so even if you are self isolating, ill or homeworking, can you please ensure that you stay in touch with your line manager on a regular basis.
Thank you and please look after yourself, and each other, as we work together to carry out our role as Category 1 Responders.
Created: Friday, 20 March 2020 17:21
We find ourselves at the end of a week which has been unlike any that we have ever faced before. It has been challenging to keep pace with the advice and guidance we have been receiving as it has been changing so quickly but I have been so impressed by how we are all pulling together in such unprecedented times.
I have seen some amazing and innovative approaches evolving during the course of this week to ensure we provide support and assistance to those who most need it in our communities. Thank you.
The Incident Management Team and I are also very grateful for your messages of support and good wishes. This means a lot.
Please be assured, I continue to place significant priority on the health, safety and well-being of all staff.
I would like to wish you all a relaxing and well deserved weekend.
Created: Wednesday, 18 March 2020 16:02
Given the current unprecedented circumstances we are asking all staff who have leave booked in the next few weeks to consider whether they are able to postpone it to assist with priority tasks and work.
We appreciate this is a significant ask but given pressures on our stretched resources, all offers of support will make a huge difference.
If you can assist please let your line manager know. Please be assured that the Senior Leadership Group has agreed that any deferred leave will be honoured at a later date.
Created: Tuesday, 17 March 2020 17:25
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the fantastic collective effort demonstrated across all services today to sustain the delivery of critical public services during a difficult period of unprecedented challenge.
It goes without saying that your efforts are hugely appreciated and will be more so over the coming days as we work together to sustain service delivery for some of our most vulnerable citizens.
Created: Tuesday, 17 March 2020 08:49
We have updated our guidance to staff following the latest advice from the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland. It is really important that you take the time to read through the guidance and if you have any questions, speak to your line manager.
Staff members who are in a risk category should follow the Scottish Government guidance below:
If you are in one of these categories you should inform your line manager and immediately begin home-working or special leave today.
Further guidance for staff members who are NOT in these categories is being developed with managers at a meeting this morning and will be issued to staff after the meeting.
If you are showing symptoms of COVID-19 should self isolate for 7 days. If you do not have symptoms but are in a house with a family member who is displaying symptoms, you should self isolate for 14 days isolation.
GPs practices are under an incredible amount of strain so it important to emphasise that in line with government advice, if you have mild symptoms you DO NOT need to call your GP practice. All information about self isolation is available from NHS Inform.
It is important to stress that our business continuity plans have been prepared and are in place and we will be doing everything we can to continue to provide important services to the most vulnerable in our community. We will continue to keep you updated with the latest information based on advice and guidance from the Scottish Government as soon as we receive it.
Created: Monday, 16 March 2020 19:06
Colleagues, yesterday I indicated that I would issue an update following the political, Trade Union and Incident Management Team meetings that have taken place today.
During the IMT meeting this evening, the Prime Minister was making the first of his daily statements and this was followed by the First Minister statements in Scotland.
You will be aware of revised advice being provided to us as a consequence of these announcements.
I wanted to let you know that we are currently considering the implications of this, including obtaining some clarifications.
This work is in hand and a further update will be provided tomorrow to clarify the position with regards service delivery and staffing issues, including the scheduled by-election.
I would like to reassure you of the priority I continue to place on ensuring the health and safety and well being of our staff and our communities.
Created: Sunday, 15 March 2020 20:15
Further to my update on Friday, you will have observed the rapid unfolding of events over the weekend, resulting in a number of government and employer announcements across public, private and voluntary sectors.
I wish to provide you with a further update to reassure you of the steps we are taking to ensure your health, safety and wellbeing.
We have continued to monitor the situation and I have had discussions with senior managers over the weekend.
On Monday morning (16 March), the Strategic Directors and I are meeting with senior politicians to update and discuss next steps.
On Monday afternoon, the Council's Incident Management Team reconvenes to discuss a range of business continuity and operational matters including specific staff related issues. Additionally, I am seeking a meeting with Trade Union representatives to discuss next steps.
As soon as practicable following these meetings, a further update communication will be issued.
Please feel free to discuss any concerns with me, the Strategic Directors or your senior managers. We understand that this is an extremely unsettling time for everyone and we will aim to support you as much as possible.