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SLG Messages

SLG Messages

Message from SLG - 14 January

Dear Colleagues

We are now in our second week of new lockdown measures and on Wednesday, the First Minister announced that she was tightening these measures further because of the current pressures on our health service.

The new measures take effect on Saturday (16 January) and include changes to click and collect services which will be restricted to shops selling essential items such as clothing, footwear, homewear and baby equipment and takeaways will no longer be allowed to have customers indoors and must instead operate from a hatch or doorway. You can read more about the Scottish Government’s stay at home guidance.

Statutory guidance will also be published for employers to support staff working from home. As a local authority, we are a Category 1 responder and have a number of statutory services that we must provide while working with our partners. Our services have identified essential staff who should continue to come in to the workplace but the majority of our staff remain working from home where possible.

The message from the First Minister is clear…this is a critical time for our NHS. It is now more important than ever that we all follow the rules, as difficult as we may find them, and stay at home as much as possible to help save lives.

There is however hope with more news this week about the rollout of the vaccination programme. Our health and social care staff have already started to be vaccinated and vaccinations for our residents who are over the age of 80 will begin on Monday 18th January. These will take place at a number of locations throughout Clackmannanshire including GP practices and Alloa Town Hall as well as at home for those who are housebound.

This week we also saw a return to remote learning and our education staff, children and young people have been busy accessing learning through the national Glow platform. They have been making excellent use of Glow along with Google G Suite and the Microsoft O365 platforms to support learning and teaching.

On Monday (11th January) there were 1,419 active Google classrooms while Google Meet has already seen 12,430 attendees using the platform to check in from a range of devices including the recently acquired Scottish Government digital inclusion Chromebooks. While Covid-19 has presented many challenges, our education staff and support staff including janitors and cleaners as well as catering are more than rising to the challenge.

The recent spate of icy weather has increased the workload for our Roads teams, supported by land services, and they are out day and night ensure the county’s main routes and pathyways are clear and safe to use.

Meanwhile our health and social care staff and social work teams continue to work tirelessly during the lockdown to keep people safe and cared for.

With so many changes and for some who are juggling work demands with home life it is can be easy to feel overwhelmed. We are putting together a Welfare Toolkit which we will be sending out to all staff next week with advice and guidance on how you can look after your mental wellbeing. In the meantime, you can find more information on this on the wellbeing section of our Keeping Staff Connected page.

Once again, here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 8 January 

Dear Colleagues

We would like to wish you all  a Happy New Year as we look forward to the year ahead.

As you know, the start of 2021 has arrived with a new set of challenges, but ones which we are taking forward positively with your assistance, input and support. We are also working very closely with Trade Union representatives to ensure any concerns and queries you are raising with them are being addressed and/or clarified as necessary.

Earlier this week the First Minister announced a further tightening of restrictions as mainland Scotland moved from Level 4 status, which had come into effect on Boxing Day, into "strict lockdown" which is due to last until the end of January.

This will impact further on the services we are able to offer. Our schools and Early Learning Centres will move to remote learning and on Wednesday (6th January) the Scottish Government issued supplementary updated guidance regarding places at schools for the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

It is clear from this guidance that the number of children who attend schools should be limited. As a result, we are having to put in place exceptional arrangements to ensure we are following this new guidance. You can read more about this on the Latest News page of Keeping Staff Connected.

We know that with yet more changes to the restrictions it can be confusing and you may have questions on what this will mean for you not just in how you carry out your role at work but what it means for you and your family outside the workplace.

We have updated our Staff FAQ page on Keeping Staff Connected to try and allay any concerns you may have and have also added a section with information for staff members who were previously shielding. We would also urge you to speak to your manager if you feel you still have questions.

We would like to say thank you to all the staff who worked hard throughout the festive period to support residents in Tillicoultry following a power outage that affected 295 houses in the town on Christmas Eve morning.

This resulted in a multi-agency emergency response over a period of several days to get electricity and heating back to residents as quickly as possible. The sheer volume of work that was carried out was incredible and we would like to thank all staff involved from a range of Council services including emergency planning, housing repairs, housing, social work, IT and communications. Their efforts were very much appreciated and this is yet another example of the dedication and resilience which has been shown by our staff throughout the most difficult of times in the past year.  The great partnership working also attracted praise from our colleagues in SPN, who themselves demonstrated significant flexibility in delivering our collective response to the incident.

2020 was definitely a most unusal year for all of us, both professionally and personally and it’s fair to say that 2021 has not, as yet,delivered the significant positive change that we were all hoping for. The next couple of months will be tough for us all so it  is more important than ever to make sure that you are looking after your mental health and wellbeing - particularly where you might be working from home, or are feeling isolated from your colleagues, friends or loved ones.

Managing your mental health and wellbeing during January can be tricky; particularly when the dark hours are long, and having the enthusiasm to go out into the cold makes getting exercise and vitamin D more difficult so we will be sending out a mental health toolkit shortly to help and support you through this time. This will also be available on the wellbeing page of Keeping Staff Connected. Please take the time and read through the information.

Finally, while we know that another lockdown and more restrictions means more separation from loved ones and friends for another period of time, we would urge you all continue to follow the rules and the latest Government guidance to stay at home as much as possible as help the NHS to save lives. 

There is hope for a brighter future with the roll-out of not just one, but two vaccines. But we just need to get through this tough period first and we all have a part to play in making sure we do this as safely as possible. You can find more information on how to do this on the Scottish Government website.

Once again, thank you for all your work over the past year. Here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Festive message from SLG - 17 December 

Dear Colleagues

Normally at this time of year, with just over a week to go until Christmas, we would be looking forward to spending time with family and friends. It would also be a time to reflect back on the year that has passed and all we have achieved. 

But 2020 has been unlike any year that we have ever faced before. At the start of the year we had a clear vision to become a Council fit for the future through our Be the Future programme. Thanks to the dedication, resilience and fortitude shown by all of you, this vision is still very much in sight.

You have pulled together in the most difficult of circumstances. You embraced changes to the way we work and deliver services to the most vulnerable members of our community.

But we know that it hasn’t been easy and there have been dark days. As a Senior Leadership Group we are proud of what you have helped us achieve. So we would like to thank you for all your hard work this year. You are helping us continue on our journey to becoming a Council fit for the future.

We know that Christmas will be different for many of us this year.

The rules will be temporarily changed to allow you to form "Christmas bubbles" of up to three households in a bid to help reduce the isolation and loneliness that can hit people particularly hard over the Festive period.

However we are reminded almost daily with the fast changing infection rates that the safest way to spend Christmas is to stay in your own household, in your own home and your own local area.

It's important to think carefully about the risks involved if you increase the number of people you have contact with, particularly if they are vulnerable and at higher risk of catching Covid-19.

Just because you able to form a "Christmas bubble" doesn’t mean that you have to. But we understand that it is very personal choice. So fi you choose to spend Christmas with family and friends, you can find guidance on how to stay as safe as possible on the Scottish Government website.

The First Minister announced this week that Clackmannanshire would remain at Level 3. For us to be able to move to a lower Level and be able to enjoy some of the benefits that come with that, we need to ensure that the transmission rate in the community is as low as possible. We all have a part to play to help make that happen both inside and outside the workplace.

Our Health and Safety Team has been working closely with Trade Union colleagues to ensure the safety measures we have put in place in all our buildings are being met.

Part of these safety measures include following the one way systems in buildings, washing hands regularly with soap and water, maintaining a safe 2m distance from colleagues and wearing a face covering when you are moving about your place of work. However it is important to remember that not everyone will be able to wear a Face Mask. We would encourage everyone to show kindness and understanding to any colleagues who wear a badge indicating that they are exempt from wearing a face covering.  If anyone has any concerns about health or safety while at work, please raise these with your line manager in the first instance.   

The Covid vaccination programme is now in its second week. Priority is being given to frontline health and social care staff who are working in the highest risk areas and caring for the most vulnerable people in our community. This includes our staff and residents in Care Homes and our Care at Home staff.

We would encourage all eligible staff to book their appointment for the vaccine as soon as possible. It is the best way to ensure that both staff working in high risk areas and the most vulnerable members of our community are protected.

We know that at this time of year, many of you would have enjoyed a festive lunch or night out with colleagues to celebrate the closing of another year. I think we speak for everyone when we say that if ever there was a need to celebrate the end of a year, it would be this year. It’s been heartening to hear of the creativity of some teams using technology to hold virtual Christmas get-togethers with their colleagues. It may not quite be the same as normal but reaching out to each other at this time of year is so important.

Finally, we know that many of you will have much deserved time off over the holiday period and regardless of how you will be spending Christmas, we hope you and your family have a safe and peaceful time. 

Once again, thank you for all your work over the past year. 

Best wishes

 Nikki, Stuart, Lorraine and Pete

Message from SLG - 8 December 

Dear Colleagues

The long awaited Covid vaccination programme gets underway today (Tuesday, 8 December) and with it brings hope and some light at what has at times seemed like a very dark tunnel.

This past year has been our most challenging as a Council and the hope is that with the vaccine we will be able to return to some sort of normality. However the rollout will be a major logistical exercise and as such, will take some time before it will be available to everyone.

The first phase of the vaccine rollout programme will prioritise frontline health and social care staff who are working in the highest risk areas and caring for the most vulnerable people in our community. This includes our staff and residents in Care Homes and our Care at Home staff.

Members of our community who are over 80 will also be included in the first wave of vaccinations.

Our HR team have already been in contact with our members of staff who will be eligible for this initial phase, advising them on how to book an appointment for the vaccine. The vaccinations will take place at Forth Valley Royal Hospital and appointments must be made in advance.

NHS Forth Valley have also created a dedicated vaccination team to support care homes and separate arrangements are being made with local care homes to vaccinate care home residents from 14 December 2020

In the coming weeks our staff will have a significant role to play in helping to deliver the vaccination programme and we are working with our colleagues at NHS Forth Valley to finalise the details.

We appreciate that you may have questions about the vaccine rollout, eligibility and even the vaccine itself so we have added some FAQs to to Staff FAQs page, which we hope will answer those questions.

While we welcome this latest news, the First Minister’s announcement today that Clackmannanshire will remain at Level 3 and not move down a level is a stark reminder that we still need to remain cautious. We all have a part to play in preventing the spread the virus within our community and we would urge you to continue to follow the rules. We know how difficult it has been to be separated from family and friends, especially at this time of year, but we don’t want to jeopardise the hard work and sacrifice that we have all made.

Finally, here's a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must all follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

 Nikki, Stuart, Lorraine and Pete

Message from SLG - 2 December 

Dear Colleagues

It’s hard to believe that we are now in December and just weeks away from Christmas. We remain as busy as ever as we play our part in ensuring that the Covid infection rates across Clackmannanshire do not increase.

We have been working closely with NHS Forth Valley and the Scottish Ambulance Service to set up a Mass Testing Unit in the car park of Alloa Town Hall. This is for anyone living or working in Clackmannanshire and will be there until Sunday 6 December.

The asymptomatic unit has been operating between 10am and 4pm on a daily basis since it opened last Thursday. Our staff have been on site every day to ensure the smooth running of the Unit as well as being on hand to guide members of the public to where they need to go and raising awareness through our social media channels. It has been a real team effort from across the council and we would like to thank all of those involved including Housing Repairs, Roads, Emergency Planning, Health & Safety and Communications. You stepped up to the challenge once again.

We know from the comments we have received on our social media channels that there has been some concern about carrying out asymptomatic testing. The reason why its so important is because it will:

  • help us identify those infected – without symptoms, people who are asymptomatic aren’t even aware they are carriers of the Covid virus and as a result may not be taking the necessary precautions to isolate themselves and protect others. By testing them we can urge them to self isolate until they have recovered and prevent further transmission and spread of the virus in the community. 
  • allow us to carry to carry out effective contact tracing - anyone who has recently come in to close contact with someone who is asymptomatic could also be infected with the virus and not yet know it. If an asymptomatic individual tests positive, Test and Trace teams can work with that person to recall everyone they have had close contact with during the timeframe they may have been infectious.
  • help us improve our understanding of the virus - asymptomatic testing can provide us with a more accurate picture of how widespread the virus actually is
  • help inform Scottish Government action - with data that includes asymptomatic cases, the Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland can make more informed decisions and plans for the community based on how widespread the virus is.

The most recent figures show that the percentage rate of people testing positive for Covid in Clackmannanshire is below the national average but we cannot be complacent. Earlier this week we had to remind staff of their responsibilities in relation to health and safety during the pandemic. This followed a number of incidents involving work colleagues over the last couple of weeks.

We fully appreciate the immense efforts and hard work staff are doing but it is more important than ever that we all follow all the relevant guidance in place whether in work or outside of work. You can read the full staff message with the workplace guidance by following the link.

Our education staff have been under increasing pressure with a number of pupils and staff having to self isolate. However they have been working hard with colleagues across the council to ensure that our schools and Early Learning and childcare establishments continue to remain open and only close in exceptional circumstances.

They have been following revised and detailed guidance on the steps they should take to operate safely including increased ventilation in classrooms, staff maintaining distance from pupils and ensuring almost everyone in secondary schools (unless exempt) wears a mask when moving around the school or in public areas.

In cases where pupils are having to self isolate, our education staff continue to support learning virtually using Google Classrooms and Flip Clacks.

While many staff continue to work remotely, we would encourage you to complete your Display Screen Equipment (DSE) form as soon as possible if you have not already filled this out. Please return it to hands@clacks.gov.uk.

In other council business, the Staff Survey went live on 6 November and acts as a follow on from the Health and wellbeing survey which was carried out in May. The results from both surveys will help us develop our approach to recovery from the pandemic and enhance our Workforce Programme which was recently approved at Council. It is more important than ever that you take part and make your views known.

The survey is available via Connect and should take no more than 15 minutes to complete. It closes on 11 December so there is still time to take part. If you have any difficulty, would like a hard copy sent directly to you, or to complete the survey by phone please contact our partners on 0800 027 2245 or survey@craigforth.co.uk.

Finally, as we head into the weekend, here's a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must all follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 26 November

Dear Colleagues

During her briefing on Tuesday, the First Minister confirmed that Clackmannanshire would remain in Level 3, however she said in her statement to Parliament that our case levels are causing some concern and are being closely monitored.

Although the infection rate has reduced over the last few days, it remains high at 116 cases per 100,000. It is therefore more important than ever that we do everything we can to bring the infection rate down and prevent the need to move to Level 4 restrictions.

We know that the last few weeks and months have been difficult but we all need to continue follow Scottish Government advice. In particular avoid crowded places, keep 2 metres apart, even with your work colleagues, and crucially wash your hands or use hand sanitiser as much as possible.

Along with that we need to keep to all the Level 3 rules. That means no non-essential travel out with or into Clackmannanshire from other areas.  We would remind you that if your role requires you to be in one of our council buildings please follow all signage and ensure that you are wearing a mask to move around the building. If you work in our communities or schools you should ensure you follow the relevant guidance/risk assessments in place. You can find the latest guidelines on the Scottish Government website.

With news that another new vaccine - the Oxford Vaccine - has also proven to be effective in the fight against Covid-19 there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel. However there is still some way to go. While the UK Government and the Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Welsh Assembly all agreed this week to a relaxation of the rules from 23 December to 27 December to allow 3 different households to form a "bubble" over Christmas, they are still urging people to be cautious. We all need to do our part to help protect our families, friends and businesses by making sure we’re sticking to the rules.

We know that all this information is a lot to take in and can feel overwhelming. If you haven’t had the chance already, we would encourage you to visit the wellbeing section on our Keeping Staff Connected pages. This provides advice and support on how you can look after your mental wellbeing which is important particularly at this this time of year.

In the midst of the pandemic we are also continuing to support other important work. Last week we held a by-election in the Clackmannanshire East Ward and Conservative candidate Denis Coyne became the area’s new councillor.

On the night we had 6 polling stations manned by 21 staff with a further 11 count staff and 4 postal vote management and opening staff.  As well as working at the count and poll, many of the council services provide support to Returning Officer Nikki Bridle to ensure that everything comes together on the day (& evening)!

The smooth running of the by-election in spite of all the restrictions in place was down to a real team effort by staff across the council including:

  • Trades who came up with innovative designs for screens and sanitiser stations for postal vote opening, polling and count and delivery of equipment;  
  • Leisure who opened and managed the buildings.
  •  Cleaning staff who made the venues hygienically safe.
  •  Planning who provided floor plans to assist with the design and layout of the polling stations for a one way systems to ensure voter safety.
  •  Health &Safety who advised on safety measures for staff and voters.
  • Emergency Planning for contingency planning - just in case!
  • Communications who delivered the messages to voters.
  • IT who ensured we all stayed connected.
  • Payroll and Finance who payed election staff and any by-election bills.

As Returning Officer, Nikki would like to thank all those involved for the hard work and commitment. Nikki also thanked Annette and Dana in the Elections team for overseeing the arrangements and putting in place all of the additional measures to ensure both staff and voter safety. Our teamworking showed Clackmannanshire at its best and has attracted praise from the Electoral Management Board as well as providing a real headstart on arrangements for managing next year’s Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2021.

Finally, the Scottish Government is encouraging people to come together and celebrate the resilience, community spirit and shared kindness that has helped us all get through the past few difficult months. They have launched a campaign called One Million Words of Kindness to mark St Andrew’s Day on 30 November. You can find out more on Visit Scotland's website.

Here's a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

 
Message from SLG regarding First Minister's announcement on restrictions - 17 November

Dear Colleagues

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced this afternoon that 11 local authority areas would be moving into Level 4, the highest level of restrictions, from 6pm on Friday. These areas include Stirling, City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and West Lothian.

Clackmannanshire remains in Level 3 but we have a number of staff who live in Level 4 areas and travel into Clackmannanshire for work and may be concerned about today’s announcement and what it will mean for them.

If you live in a Level 4 area, it is essential that you work from home where possible and only travel to your place of work if it is essential. Staff  who work in schools, ELC establishments and some Children's Services roles are classed as essential and as such are able to travel. Your line manager will be in touch with you if you are unsure if your role is deemed essential.

We would stress again that, no matter what area/Level you are in if you have any symptoms of Covid (fever, new or persistent cough, loss of taste or smell) , please DO NOT come in to your place of work, you should immediately self isolate  and make arrangements to have a test.

We also appreciate that staff living in Clackmannanshire may have children and young people who attend school, early learning or education elsewhere. The Scottish Government guidance is clear, all schools will continue to remain open and travel into another area is allowed for education or for essential work purposes.

While we remain in Level 3 in Clackmannanshire, we have seen elsewhere in Scotland that things can change quickly. Over the last week we have seen an increase in the rate of infection in our area so it is essential that we all continue to follow the Scottish Government guidelines and advice.  We must do everything we can to suppress the virus and hopefully move towards Level 2 rather than Level 4.

We would urge all our staff to continue to avoid crowded places, keep 2 metres apart and wash your hands often.  If you live in Clackmannanshire, you should not travel outwith the area except for essential purposes such as work that cannot be done from home, education, caring and childcare. You can find the full guidance and advice on the Scottish Government website.

We know that this is an extremely difficult time for many of you. Christmas is around the corner and there is uncertainty over whether we will be able to spend time with  family and loved ones over the festive period. We know this is not easy but if we all stick to the rules, as hard as they may be, there is a possibility that we might see an easing of restrictions.

So please, for the sake of the NHS, family, businesses and communities stick with it and remember to follow FACTS for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Lorraine and Pete

Message from SLG – 12 November

Dear Colleagues

This week the First Minister announced at her daily briefing that Clackmannanshire would continue to remain in Level 3 of the Scottish Government’s new Covid restrictions for the time being.

The infection rate in Clackmannanshire has dropped from 157 per 100,000 to just over 77 per 100,000. We’d like to thank you for playing your part, making sacrifices and following the Scottish Government guidance.

However we cannot be complacent. While the infection rate appears to have plateaued, it is still at a rate which prevents us from moving to Level 2. Please continue to follow the guidelines to help bring the infection rate down even further. You can find the latest guidelines on the Scottish Government website.

We would also like to remind you that if your role requires you to be in one of our council buildings please follow all signage and ensure that you are wearing a mask to move around the building. If you work in our communities or schools you should ensure you follow the relevant guidance/risk assessments in place.

Yesterday - November 11 - was Armistice Day and this year marked 102 years since the end of the First World War. While this year was unlike any other because of the Covid restrictions, we still remembered the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women in the wars and conflicts over the years from World War I to present day.

What has been remarkable are the stories of fortitude and resilience from those who lived through the most difficult of times but never gave up hope for a better and brighter future. This message seems more poignant than ever this year.

Earlier this week, the quest for an effective vaccine against Covid took a significant step forward with the announcement that preliminary findings of a vaccine being developed by Pfizer showed that it prevented more than 90% of people from getting Covid. While there is still a long way to go, it also gives us hope for a brighter future.

Finally, another reminder that the 2020 Staff Survey launched on 6 November and we hope to see the increased response levels that we saw for the Health & Well Being survey that so many of you completed in May. We really want to hear your opinions and feedback so we can make our organisation a great place to work.

The survey will run over 4-5 weeks, and you can access it from CONNECT. Paper copies have also been distributed to the homes of those staff who would usually have received a copy at their place of work.   

As we head into the weekend, here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG – 5 November

Dear Colleagues

Since Monday, along with the other Forth Valley councils and most of central Scotland, Clackmannanshire has been in Tier 3 of the new system of Covid restrictions.  We engaged closely with the Scottish Government prior to the release of the new Strategic Framework, and were involved in the decision-making process at every stage.  These discussions are ongoing, with the tiers reviewed for each Council on a weekly basis.  You can check the level of any area in Scotland using this postcode checker.

The level 3 restrictions are similar to those which have been in place here since Friday 9th October, with no in-home socialising allowed and socialising outdoors limited to groups of up to six people from two different households. 

Our schools and early learning centres remain open with enhanced protective measures in place. As part of this, increased rules around the wearing of face coverings in schools have come into effect, and they should now also be worn by adults at all times where they cannot keep two metres from other adults and/or children and young people in primary and secondary schools (with some exceptions in P1-2). Face coverings should also be worn by parents and other visitors to any school site (whether entering the building or otherwise), including parents at drop-off and pick-up.

As a Council area in Level 3, our pupils in the senior phase S4-S6 and their teachers should also wear face coverings in classrooms, as well as when they are moving around the school and in communal areas.

In addition to delivering essential Council services, colleagues have also been busy supporting local businesses in a number of ways, including the application process and awarding of funds to local firms under the Scottish Government’s Business Closure and Business Hardship Funds.  This is the latest in a number of such funds we have delivered, and it is likely that we will be involved in similar projects if they are considered necessary in the future.

Our Environmental Health team has once again reacted quickly to support local businesses operating under new guidelines in level 3, including cafes, pubs and restaurants which are now allowed to open until 6pm to serve food and non-alcoholic drinks.

The 2020 Staff Survey will launch on 6 November and we hope to see the increased response levels that we saw for the Health & Well Being survey that so many of you completed in May. We need to hear your opinions and feedback to help develop our organisation, make it a great place to work, and to help improve services and outcomes for the people of Clackmannanshire.  

This year the survey will of course reflect on the challenging circumstances which the pandemic has created and the effect on every member of Council staff. To help with this survey has a new focus on the themes of health and well-being, how we communicate with staff, and homeworking.

The survey will run over 4-5 weeks, and you will be able to access the survey from CONNECT, with paper copies also distributed to the homes of those staff who would usually have received a copy at their place of work.   Please do take the time to let your Senior Leadership Group know your views by completing the survey.

As we head into the weekend, here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 29 October

Dear Colleagues

During the past week, a lot of discussions have been taking place around the new five level tier system of Covid restrictions, which come into force on Monday 2 November.  You will have seen a lot of media coverage on this new way of tackling the virus, which puts each council area into a tier of measures depending on a number of factors and statistical indicators.

Initially Clackmannanshire, along with the other Forth Valley councils in Falkirk and Stirling will be placed into Tier 3, which is broadly in line with the central belt restrictions that have been in place over the past several weeks.

We continue to be very concerned about the high levels of infection in Clackmannanshire, and this week we issued a joint cross-party statement with NHS Forth Valley to ask people to be vigilant and do everything possible to protect themselves and others following the increase in cases over the last few weeks. 

The Forth Valley health board area has the fifth highest rates of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Scotland and while previously rates within the Stirling and Falkirk council areas were significantly higher than Clackmannanshire, this position has now reversed and Clackmannanshire now has the highest rates in the area.  It is very important that we stick to the guidelines for our area, and make sure we’re following FACTS to reduce the spread of the virus.

As key workers, our staff have delivered vital services throughout the pandemic, and our local residents have shown us great support for that work.  However, a minority of staff have, unfortunately, Wexperienced abuse in the course of undertaking their work. This week we introduced posters on some bin lorries reminding people that we have a zero tolerance policy with regards violence or aggression towards any member of staff. 

These posters were designed after a number of incidents towards waste staff.  In line with our zero tolerance policy any concerns should be discussed with your line manager and reported to the Health & Safety team as appropriate. 

A revised Homeworking Policy has been approved at the Performance & Partnership Committee, reflecting changes to working practices that have been accelerated by the pandemic.  The policy was developed following extensive discussions with the trade unions, and builds and strengthens our commitment to flexible working and allows us to modernise our ways of working.

Here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

We hope you have a fun and safe Halloween at home.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 22 October

Dear Colleagues

Over the last couple of weeks some staff will hopefully have been able to utilise some well earned annual leave, and if not we hope that you have some leave booked in the coming weeks. It is important for our health and wellbeing that we are  all able to have time away from the workplace.

Looking at the recent local data from Public Health Scotland, it is clear that Covid-19 cases in Clackmannanshire are rising fast.  At the moment, they are running at a rate of 149.4 per 100k residents, which is a concerning situation for our local communities.  We are continuing to remind our residents that all of our individual actions have a direct impact on the infection rate, and this includes all of us Council employees. 

We must keep following the Scottish Government guidelines and this includes the requirement not to make unnecessary journeys outwith the health board area in which we live.  The whole of central Scotland is under increased restrictions because of our high infection rates, and the First Minister has now confirmed that this will be extended until 2 November.

On Friday, the Scottish Government will also be announcing the proposed new strategic framework for restrictions which can place different parts of the country in one of five tiers of restrictions depending on infection rates locally.  This new framework is planned to operate from 2 November, with details available in the next few days, and the Council will certainly continue to have an active role in these arrangements.

As we mentioned last week, new guidance has now come into law making the wearing of face coverings mandatory in shared spaces in all Council buildings such as corridors and kitchens, except when you are eating and drinking. 

In open plan offices you should wear a face covering while moving about the building.  There is no requirement at this stage to wear one while sitting at your desk, but staff are welcome to do so if they wish.  Guidance on the wearing of face coverings for school staff already exists and should also be followed.

As we continue to keep providing essential services to our residents, we’re very grateful that staff have worked again across teams to ensure that the new business grant schemes for firms affected by the additional restrictions was operational in time.  This meant a great deal of work from colleagues across the Council, much of which is not seen by those outside the organisation, and we’d just like to thank everyone involved for working so hard to ensure this vital support was ready and highlighted to the public in time.

Colleagues are also working hard to ensure that our schools and ELCs are ready to welcome young people back on Monday after the half term holiday.  We will continue to follow the strict Scottish Government and NHS guidelines regarding public health and hygiene in our establishments to keep everyone safe.

Here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

 
Message from SLG - 15 October

Dear Colleagues

We hope that those of you having some time off for half term have been able to enjoy some well deserved rest and time with your families.

As we all get used to the latest restrictions to tackle the rise in coronavirus cases particularly in the central belt, teams throughout the Council have been very busy getting to grips with our role in the new rules, setting up systems and support for residents and businesses extremely quickly and efficiently.  Our Environmental Health team has quickly moved to contact those businesses such as hospitality who have had to close temporarily or change the way they operate, and have provided advice and support to them.  Our business and finance teams will also be helping to distribute new financial support to affected businesses.

Councils have also been given additional responsibilities to offer support to those people who have been advised to self isolate, to ensure that they are able to follow this important advice  to help stop the spread of Covid-19.  Staff across different services have come together to set up this team, which aims to offer support particularly to the most vulnerable in our community such as the over 70s and those people with medical conditions which put them at risk of severe illness from coming into contact with the virus.  

We’re also responsible for applications for the new Self-Isolation Support Grant which helps those who would lose income if they needed to self-isolate, such as people unable to carry out their work from home. This £500 grant is focussed on those on low incomes who are in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, with some discretion to make awards to others in financial hardship. 

As we have been throughout the pandemic, we are very grateful and appreciative of the way that so many of you have worked quickly and flexibly to ensure that communities and businesses in Clackmannanshire have the support they need.

As part of the new restrictions announced by the Scottish Government, it is now mandatory to wear a face covering in all communal areas of workplaces.  This includes all Council buildings regardless of the setting.  

In open plan offices you should wear a face covering while moving about the building - even if it is just popping to the photocopier.  There is no requirement at this stage to wear one while sitting at your desk, but staff are welcome to do so if they wish.  

For those staff undertaking roles such as janitors, cleaners, and tradespeople you are required  to wear a face covering at all times while other people are nearby when you are in any Council premises.  Face coverings are also required in all kitchen and rest areas, but can be removed once seated to consume food or drink. 

Those who are unable to wear a face covering for health reasons are exempt.  Staff should use their own re-useable face coverings where possible to minimise waste.

To protect you, your colleagues, your families and our communities, you must make sure you follow all the measures introduced in each workplace.  We are seeing a significant increase in infections in our local area, and our actions can help stop the spread, so please play your part by ensuring you keep to the rules in the workplace.

Here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 8 October

Dear Colleagues

Saturday marks World Mental Health Day and in these current times, it has never seemed more important for all of us to focus on our mental wellbeing.

We have said it before but will say it again. It has been humbling over the past few months to see the commitment and dedication you have all shown during the most difficult time we have ever experienced as a council. Despite juggling the complexities of home lives, and for many of you this included home learning, you have gone the extra mile to ensure we can continue to provide support to those in our community who most need it.

But we are aware that working at such high intensity over a prolonged period of time can have a big impact on your mental wellbeing. Weariness can creep in and with winter around the corner, the prospect of longer, darker nights and not being able to meet family or friends in our homes as we would normally be able to do is daunting.

The theme of this year's World Mental Health Day is "mental health for all". We are all being encouraged 'Do One Thing', something different that makes a connection. Whether it’s phoning someone instead of sending an email, going for a walk a lunchtime or even just taking time to enjoy the moment and the environment around you, little things can make a big difference.

We have updated our Wellbeing section on the Keeping Staff Connected page which has tips and advice on what you can do to improve your mental wellbeing. We would encourage you to visit the page at https://www.clacks.gov.uk/coronavirus/wellbeing/.

We are also encouraging all staff to take annual leave that they have booked. We appreciate that in the current situation, you may be reluctant to use leave while there is uncertainty around travel, particularly abroad, but from a welfare point of view it’s important that you have a proper break and are able to switch off from work.

Yesterday, the First Minister announced a raft of new restrictions which we know will affect many of you particularly as we head into the October school holidays.

From tomorrow (Friday) all licensed premises – with the exception of hotels for residents -  in the Forth Valley, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran health board areas.will have to close indoors and outdoors. Takeaways will be permitted and cafes which do not have an alcohol license will be able to stay open until 6pm

There's also going to be a closure of snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls and contact sports for people aged 18 and over will be suspended with an exception for professional sports.

Indoor group exercise activities will also not be allowed - although the current rules will remain in place for under 18s and gyms can remain open for individual exercise.

Although the First Minister has not imposed a travel ban on people living in those areas, they have been urged to avoid public transport unless it is "absolutely necessary".

The new rules come into force at 6pm on Friday, and will be in place until 25 October.

As hard as they may be, these new restrictions emphasise again the need for us to continue to follow Scottish Government guidance to help stop the spread of the virus.

Recently we have seen an increase in the number of staff returning to work in our buildings. Some of you have already been identified to provide support for people who are self-isolating.  The need for us to adapt our working arrangements and services to focus on essential and new priority tasks will continue. Thank you to everyone involved so far. 

The guidance from the Scottish Government which we continue to follow is that where possible, and if service need allows, you should work from home. There are times when we are at capacity in Kilncraigs and may have to consider introducing a desk booking system. Please discuss your individual circumstances with your manager.  Schools and ELC establishments remain open for education and childcare. 

Here's a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Finally we know that while the latest news from the First Minister is challenging, we would like to wish those who have plans during the October holidays a well deserved break. Thank you for your hard work throughout these past few weeks.

Here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

 
Message from SLG - 1 October

Dear Colleagues

You will all be aware that in recent weeks the number of cases of Covid-19 across Scotland and the rest of the UK has been on the increase. With the easing of restrictions, this was always going to be a risk.

While the number of cases in Clackmannanshire still remains relatively low compared to other areas of Scotland, we are now starting to see this number increasing. We cannot afford to be complacent.

We are all having to make sacrifices. Not being able to see family or friends inside our homes again and a reduction in the number of people we can meet outside is difficult. There is no doubt that we are facing a challenging time ahead with winter looming.

In our last message, we said that we had taken the decision to pause plans to re-introduce any more services at this time. We have identified core priorities which will allow our services to respond to the current situation and concentrate on priority areas which need the most support.

The Scottish Government’s Isolate and Support initiative involves new roles for local authorities to support the most vulnerable members of the community who may have to isolate through Test and Protect. This will begin from 12 October.

We know that you will be wondering what this means for you. Once again, we will be looking to redeploy staff to work on Isolate and Support just as we did back at the start of the pandemic. Many of you rose to the challenge then and we have no doubt that you will do the same again.

We will also be looking to strengthen our Environmental Health Team who have done a fantastic job ensuring that local businesses comply with the ever changing guidance and advice.

The school holidays in October are fast approaching and once again, we will be supporting families, children and young people when the normal supports of school will no longer be available. This includes a plan to extend free school meal payments for eligible families to cover the school holiday period in this year like no other.  

We understand that at times the demands on all of you may feel relentless and ever-changing. We continue to be hugely impressed and grateful by your commitment and demonstration of our corporate values.

The health and safety of all our staff continues to be a priority for us and we are working with our Union colleagues to ensure that all our council buildings, schools and other buildings are COVID secure in line with Scottish Government guidance, and at the same time responding to the challenges of being a Category 1 Responder.

Our next annual staff survey, which will build on the well being survey we undertook earlier this year, will be coming out in late October. This survey is important in helping us understand what we need to do to support you and your colleagues to ensure you feel engaged and listened to and to make our Council a great place to work.
 
We know that there is a lot of information to take so we are trying to keep our communication to you as clear as it can be in confusing times. We would urge you to speak to you manager if you have any concerns.

The next few weeks and months are going to be challenging but we will get through this by working together. As difficult as it is, it is more vital than ever that we all follow the Scottish Government advice and guidance. It is there to keep us all safe.

So here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

  • Face Coverings
  • Avoid Crowded Places
  • Clean your Hands Regularly
  • Two Metre Distance
  • Self Isolate and book a test if you have Symptoms

Finally, we would like to wish you all a safe and restful weekend.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 18 September 

As we write our message this week, we welcome a new member onto our SLG team. Many of you will already know Lorraine Sanda as our Chief Education Officer and this week she was appointed as Strategic Director for People.

The role was previously held by Fiona McOmish who left in August to begin a new adventure with her family in Italy. Whilst leading the People Portfolio Lorraine will also continue to undertake the role of Chief Education Officer  in addition to being part of  SLG team. Lorraine is looking forward to getting to know and work with people that she has not already had the opportunity to engage with up until now.

This week we have been hearing that the number of Coronavirus cases continues to rise across the country and the new "Rule of 6" came into force on aimed at to preventing the virus from spreading. The new rule means that the size of gatherings has now been reduced to a maximum of 6 people between 2 Households in Scotland – both indoors and outdoors. Children under 12 are not included in the "6" and the new restrictions do not apply to schools or workplaces.

We know that there is a lot of information to take in and it can be confusing trying to work out what you can and cannot do under the new restrictions. If you are unsure, please take time to look at the Scottish government's website for all the latest information and guidance.

We appreciate that this will be a concerning time for many of you, particularly those of you who had previously been Shielding. The current advice from the Scottish Government is that there is no need for those who had been Shielding to start this again as a result of these outbreaks. This is because quick actions are being taken to manage the outbreaks, contain the spread of the virus and keep everyone safe. You can read more about this on the Latest News page of Keeping Staff Connected.

During this uncertain time, it is more important than ever that you are looking after your physical and mental wellbeing. We would encourage you visit the wellbeing section on the Keeping Staff Connected page which has lots of advice and guidance to help and support you. 

COSLA has also joined forces with Trade Union colleagues to launch a new mental health awareness video. With many people still working from home and away from their colleagues six months into lockdown, the Don't Stay on Mute video aims to reassure people who are suffering from anxiety or uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic that they are not alone and that a variety of support is available. 

We are also asking all staff to continue to use their annual leave to help balance their wellbeing. We have agreed new guidance with our Union colleagues to ensure staff and managers can discuss how leave will be used for the remainder of the leave year

We are also in the final stages of agreeing our new home working policy which was discussed with Union colleagues and councillors this week. This policy enhances our existing home working policy and builds on the changes to working practices that have come about as a result of COVID-19. It also strengthens our commitment to flexible working.

We would like to thank you for your patience and for your continued hard work during these unsettling times. We would emphasise our message from last week and urge you all to continue to follow the advice and guidance from the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to prevent any further lockdown measures being necessary.

As hard as it may be, it is vital that we all follow the Scottish Government guidance and advice, which is there to keep us all safe. So here’s a reminder of the FACTS guidance we must follow for a safer Scotland:

Face Coverings, Avoid Crowded Places, Clean your Hands Regularly, Two Metre Distance, Self Isolate and Book a Test if you have Symptoms

Finally, we would like to wish you all a safe and restful weekend.

Best wishes

Nikki, Stuart, Pete and Lorraine

Message from SLG - 11 September 

Dear Colleagues

In our message last week we talked about the increase in the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 in Scotland. This number continues to grow and yesterday the Scottish Government announced restrictions which reduce the siz