Covid-19 support for individuals and families

In recent days there has been a lot of focus on councils and how they are assisting with supporting those financially impacted by Covid-19 particularly over the half term school holidays. 

From the start of the pandemic, we have had a team working to support the most vulnerable in our communities. 

The Community Hub continues to carry out this work and is the main point of contact for individuals and families in need not just for half term but as we continue to deal with the impact of the pandemic across our districts. 

Our message to residents is to contact the Community Hub if as result of Covid-19, they need help with access to food.  We have a dedicated team who can put them in touch with a network of volunteer groups and organisations who can offer help with food and essential supplies.  

The Community Hub team is available from: 

  • 8.30am-5pm Monday to Thursday 
  • 8.30am-4.30pm on Fridays 

Call our Community Hub on 01235 422600 or email  communitysupport@southandvale.gov.uk.  Attached is a document that the team have put together of the organisations offering food support over half term in your area which you may find useful. This is also available on the Covid-19 support section of our website for the public to access

COVID-19 high alert level (tier 2)

From 31 October Oxford will be a COVID-19 high alert level area with new restrictions.

Oxford in high alert level from 31 October

As of Saturday 31 October, Oxford City will move to a high alert level area and new restrictions will be in place. If you live in Oxford this means you must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.

The government has introduced a COVID-19 local alert system in response to rising cases across the country. This classifies areas as medium, high or very high based on their numbers of infection and the overall risk level.

The rest of Oxfordshire remains at medium level – although cases across the whole county continue to rise, including in Cherwell, South Oxfordshire, the Vale of White Horse and West Oxfordshire. If you live in one of these areas, remain alert and follow the rules to help us stop the spread of the virus across the county. 

Meeting family and friends

Can I still meet with friends or family?

If you live in Oxford you must not meet socially with friends and family in any indoor setting unless you live with them or have formed a support bubble with them. This includes private homes and any other indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants. You should follow these rules all the time, even if you are seeing friends or family who live in a medium alert level area.

You can continue to see friends and family in an outdoor space. When you do so, you must not meet in a group of more than six. This limit of six includes children of any age. You should also follow social distancing rules and limit how many different people you see socially over a short period of time. Meeting in larger groups is against the law.

What would happen if I break the law?

The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be fined £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

If you live in a high alert level area, you also cannot meet indoors with people outside of the area, unless exceptions apply.

Can I meet a friend in a pub or restaurant in another area of Oxfordshire or anywhere else that is in the medium alert level?

No. If you live in Oxford, you must not socialise indoors with people from other households, including in pubs and restaurants. This applies whether you are meeting in Oxford, in Oxfordshire as a whole or in another area at a different alert level.

You can, however, still visit pubs and restaurants indoors with up to six members of your own household or support bubble. You can also go to an outdoor pub or restaurant with up to six people from different households. At least one person in your group should give their contact details to the venue or check-in using the official NHS COVID-19 app so NHS Test and Trace can contact you if needed.

My friend lives in a lower level area and can still meet people indoors. Can they visit me at home or can we meet in the pub?

No. If you live in Oxford, you must not socialise indoors with people from other households, including at home, in pubs and restaurants. This applies whether you are meeting in Oxford, in Oxfordshire as a whole or in another area at a different alert level. If people are travelling to areas that are under a higher restriction level to where they live, they have to abide by the higher level rules during their visit. If you are unsure what level an area is in, use the postcode checker on the government’s website.

Online meeting of the Planning & Highways committee to be held on Wednesday 28th October 2020 at 7.15pm.

Notice is hereby given of an extra online meeting of the Planning & Highways committee to be held on Wednesday 28th October 2020 at 7.15pm.

The public are invited to submit questions at least 1 day prior to the meeting .You can join the meeting on this link: Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

Remembrance

Remembrance has been a major topic this year. I was born in March 1945, so every major anniversary of the end of WWII coincides with a significant birthday. For my 60th I represented the town at a Peace Festival in our twin town in Normandy where, together with the mayors of Le Mêle-sur-Sarthe and its twin towns in Germany and the Czech Republic, I gave a speech to commemorate the event. Mine was just three minutes, in three languages (text in one of the cabinets in the Old Town Hall) on what the 60th anniversary meant to me. The war had been the major event in the lives of my parents and for those of us brought up as children in the post-war years, the war was ever present through their memories. But the main point was that we had not had to add another name to the War Memorial since then because of post-war European unity. Afterwards, an elderly Frenchman* came up to me and said that mine was the only speech that had addressed what the festival was truly about; something that I have never forgotten.

The great pity this year is that, because of the Covid-19 virus, we haven’t been able to assemble for the 75th anniversaries of VE-Day and VJ-Day, as we did for the 70th anniversaries. I had compiled a book to commemorate all those either named on our WWII War Memorial, or with war graves in our churchyards, in order to keep their memory alive; so, to me, it was essential that the 75th anniversary of VE-Day should be commemorated on May 8th to honour those men. Despite lockdown, and the abandonment of all the arranged events, we held a brief ceremony and instead of making a speech then, recorded a few words about the significance of VE-Day, which is posted on the Town Council website.

I was glad that more of us could assemble, suitably distanced, on August 15th for the commemoration of VJ-Day to commemorate both the forgotten war in the far east that should never be forgotten and, for us, the end of the WWII. It was an honour for me to commemorate those who had fought, died and, often, suffered under unspeakable circumstances. They had achieved a remarkable victory against an implacable enemy and I was grateful have the opportunity to say a few words of indebtedness to all those who had fallen on our behalf.

*M Berthelot died last year, age 90; he was the head of the Collège Louis Grenier in Le Mêle and had reintroduced the teaching of German against much opposition because ‘it was time’.

Mike Wise

Supermarket Vouchers are available for residents struggling to afford food and essential provisions

Thanks to some funding from central government we’ve been able to purchase supermarket vouchers to give to those who are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19.  

If you come across someone or a family that is struggling to afford food or other essential supplies, please put them in touch with Citizens Advice or Wantage Independent Advice Centre.  

  • Citizens Advice – 0300 3309042 (South and Vale) 
  • Wantage Independent Advice Centre – 01235 765348 (Vale) 

In addition to providing them with a package of advice and support to help them in the longer term, for those who meet the eligibility criteria they may be able to give them a supermarket voucher to provide immediate relief. 

This is just one of a range of help that is on offer for anyone struggling as a result of COVID-19. The community hub at South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse District Councils can also signpost people to a variety of organisations that can help with any ongoing support that might be needed. 

There’s also Oxfordshire Food Services Map and Oxfordshire All In websites which have great interactive maps of community support groups, foodbanks, community kitchens and food surplus cafes. These maps will give you their contact details and all the information you need to support someone in need of food. 

If you require any further information or have any queries, please contact the Community Connector Team at communityconnectors@southandvale.gov.uk

READ MORE – COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Oxfordshire residents asked to cut scary amount of food waste this Halloween

Residents are being asked to look at original ways to make the most of their food waste this Halloween with a number of new ideas for seasonal recipes.

Halloween and pumpkin consumption can be to blame for a big spike in the amount of household food waste. This means that October and November have the second and third highest volume of food waste after the Christmas peak.

A pumpkin can weigh 3-8 kilograms, so even if these were of the largest type, this could equate to 160,000 of them being thrown away in Oxfordshire alone, and a terrifying total of 12.8 million in Britain!

Yet so much of what is scooped out could be eaten. The message is simple: Carve it, Cook it, Eat it – many people are opting for a treat and eating the tasty insides of the scary faced vegetable rather than throwing it away as waste every year – which means money is not wasted and an added bonus it makes a delicious meal.

Councillor Constance, Cabinet member for the environment at Oxfordshire County Council said: “Eighteen thousand tonnes of pumpkin are thrown away across Britain each year.”

“In Oxfordshire, on average over the three-year period from 2017 to 2019 we dealt with around ten per cent more food waste during October and November, compared to September.

“Yet, with a bit of thought and creativity, pumpkins can have a useful life beyond Halloween. There are so many healthy and green alternatives to throwing them away.

“You can make delicious soups, curries, cakes and even pumpkin brownies. Make sure you visit the Pumpkin Festival Good Food Oxford website or Love Food Hate Waste for recipes.

“If you do decide to dispose of your pumpkins, remember to compost them at home or put them in your food recycling bin. Pumpkins and other food waste can be recycled and used for future uses such as electricity and fertiliser for local farm land.”

Festival of Pumpkins

To coincide with Halloween, the Oxfordshire Pumpkin Festival is returning for its seventh year with events taking place across the county run by Good Food Oxford and Hubbub. This year’s festival runs from Friday 23 October to Sunday 1 November 2020.

This annual event is a celebration of food: creatively encouraging people to think about the food they throw away, challenging preconceptions and teaching new skills.

November usually starts with a flood of pumpkins going to waste, but Good Food Oxford organisations are encouraging people to squash food waste by eating rather than discarding the flesh of their Halloween pumpkins.

The festival is packed full of different socially distanced events from start to finish. There is something for everyone, with activities including online cooking demos, farm tour at Tolhurst Organic, pumpkin carving and cooking, pumpkin awareness day, farmers’ and community market stalls.

This year, Good Food Oxford suggest that we look forward to next year and grow our own pumpkins which we will have more incentive to eat because we have put all the hard ghoul-ing work into it, or why not buy a locally grown, tastier pumpkin. All the events will promote seasonal eating and not wasting food, with online recipes and tips to reduce food waste.

The full festival programme is here: https://goodfoodoxford.org/oxfordshire-pumpkin-festival/Hubbub UK is also hosting some recipes on its Instagram channel from the 26th October, including ‘Thai pumpkin curry’, ‘How to #EatYourPumpkin’ and ‘Trick or Eating with Kids.’

Fireworks safety in Oxfordshire on 5th November

As Bonfire Night approaches, Oxfordshire County Council is reminding residents that the safest way to celebrate is to attend a professionally organised public event that is confirmed as COVID-19 safety compliant, following local and national guidance.

However, as it will not be practical for everyone to attend organised public events, particularly this year, Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service is providing guidance for anyone having their own fireworks display:

Top safety tips for Bonfire Night:

  • Only buy CE marked fireworks from reputable and licensed shops.
  • Keep fireworks in a closed, metal box.
  • Light the firework at arm’s length with a taper and stand well back.
  • Keep naked flames, including cigarettes, away from fireworks.
  • Don’t put fireworks in pockets and never throw them.
  • Never return to a firework that has not gone off, and never throw used or unused fireworks onto a bonfire.
  • Never drink alcohol while lighting a bonfire or setting off fireworks.
  • Always supervise children and don’t give sparklers to a child under five.
  • Keep your bonfire at least 18 metres away from houses, trees and hedges. There should be a barrier around the bonfire to keep spectators five metres away. Before lighting a bonfire, check it is stable and that there are no children or animals inside.
  • Only burn dry wood, never use paraffin or petrol on a bonfire and think about the direction of smoke travel.
  • Keep some buckets of water nearby.
  • Have consideration for those around you, including notifying neighbours who may have pets or farm animals.
  • Consider where fireworks and debris might fall, ensuring safety distances are provided for people to keep safe. Safety distances are provided on each firework label or package.

This safety advice is part of 365alive, Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service’s vision to work every day to save and improve the lives of people across the county. For more information, visit www.365alive.co.uk 

Pete Mackay, Community Safety Manager from Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service, said:

“Organised fireworks displays are more fun, cheaper and far safer than hosting your own fireworks or bonfire party, but we know there aren’t as many to attend safely this year. If you are planning on using fireworks for a private event, please keep the Fireworks Safety Code in mind: www.saferfireworks.com/ as well as following the local and national COVID-19 guidance.

“Remember, only buy fireworks from a reputable retailer. Before purchasing, seek advice on the suitability of fireworks for the space available, and check that they meet current safety standards.”

To reinforce this safety-first approach, the County Council’s Trading Standards team will be inspecting all firework premises to give businesses advice on the responsible sale and storage of fireworks; checking they meet the necessary safety standards.

Anyone with concerns that retailers are not storing fireworks appropriately, selling fireworks that do not display a CE mark, or selling to anyone under 18; contact Trading Standards. They can also provide safety advice on disposing of unused or damaged fireworks. Do not put fireworks into your bin:

Trading Standards: 01865 895999.

District Council update 15 October – Vale

Covid latest

As expected, this week the government announced its new three-tier system to identify what kind of covid-restrictions will apply in which areas. As things stand, Oxfordshire is in “tier 1”, which means we’re following the same guidelines as we have been for several weeks.

The government has also provided an update for residents who are particularly at risk of serious illness if they contract Covid-19. For the time being, the guidance to them remains that they should follow social distancing guidelines, and in “tier 3” areas carefully consider if they need to go to public places.

This currently doesn’t affect people in our area, and we’re not anticipating this will mean the shielding programme will be restarting imminently, but we have nevertheless been preparing for if and when that day does come. We’ll keep you up to date with what this will mean as the situation develops.

We’ve attached a useful poster that visually shows the restrictions that apply to the current ‘medium’ level tier that our districts fall in.

Update on grants for businesses forced to closed due to local lockdowns

This week the government also updated the information about how much businesses will be able to claim if they are forced to shut due to local lockdown restrictions coming into force. Previously they said there would be two levels of grant available after three consecutive weeks of closure, depending on the size of the business.  

They have now confirmed that the grants will be available after just two weeks of closure as follows, subject to businesses meeting the eligibility and local restriction criteria.  There is now three levels of grant available depending on the business size ranging from £1,334 to £3,000 per month.

For more details, including information on what businesses are eligible for which level of grant, please see our Covid grants webpages.

Staff are saving thousands of miles each week

Ahead of Clean Air Day last week council staff took part in a short commuting survey to see what impact the lockdown was having on our commuting miles. Fewer miles by car, means less congestion and cleaner air!

193 colleagues – just under half of the council staff – completed the survey and, perhaps unsurprisingly given the majority of staff are working from home, there’s been a significant reduction in the number of miles travelled by car.

Before lockdown those staff who responded to the survey and  were driving to work clocked up a total of 22,399 miles a week getting to and from the offices– this has dropped significantly to just 1,743 miles a week, which is a 92 per cent reduction! Here are some other headlines from the report:

  • Before lockdown – according to the survey responses – drivers were on average travelling 119 miles a week and that’s now an average of just 9 miles. This represents a saving of 110 miles on average every week, not to mention the fuel savings.
  • Before lockdown 43.6 per cent of those taking part in the survey were travelling 100 miles or more every week and this is now just 2.7 per cent.

The Park & Charge project – consultation on electric vehicles

We’re working with Oxfordshire County Council on a project to install Electric Vehicle charging points in a range of public car parks in 2021. As part of that work, colleagues at the county council have launched a survey gathering data on residents’ opinions on electric vehicles.

The results of the survey will inform decisions on public charging infrastructure across the whole county and so we’re helping to promote it to our residents. The survey is available here.

Housing Needs team secures more than £130,000 to help prevent homelessness

Our Housing Needs team has recently secured £130,380 for South and Vale to provide support and accommodation for households made homeless as a result of the pandemic. 

The funding includes six units of what’s known as ‘Housing First’ accommodation, which is supported housing for former rough sleepers. We will deliver this in partnership with SOHA and Aspire Housing.

The team is already doing an incredible job at preventing homelessness in our districts – recent statistics show that in the Vale 79.1 per cent of potential homelessness cases were prevented. 

For comparison, the South East average is 54.9 per cent and the next best performing of the Oxfordshire district-level authorities is West Oxfordshire on 59.2 per cent.

Here are some more details and statistics:

 Total number of homeless prevention casesNumber of at-risk households secured accommodation for at least six monthsPercentage of successful prevention cases
England139,42081,50058.50%
South East20,40011,20054.90%
Cherwell28114852.70%
Oxford37520153.60%
West1428459.20%
South Oxfordshire31125682.30%
Vale27721979.10%

National Community Safety campaigns

This week, across our social media channels, we are supporting the following national awareness and communications campaigns:

  • Hate Crime Awareness Week 10-17 October
  • Anti-social behaviour campaign called Having that conversation 
  • Anti-slavery day – 18 October

Supermarket Vouchers

The government has given some emergency assistance funding to support any of our residents who are struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.

Supermarket Vouchers are available for residents struggling to afford food and essential provisions.

Thanks to some funding from central government we’ve been able to purchase supermarket vouchers to give to those who are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19. 

If you come across someone or a family that is struggling to afford food or other essential supplies, please put them in touch with Citizens Advice or Wantage Independent Advice Centre. 

•         Citizens Advice – 0300 3309042 (South and Vale)

•         Wantage Independent Advice Centre – 01235 765348 (Vale)

In addition to providing them with a package of advice and support to help them in the longer term, for those who meet the eligibility criteria they may be able to give them a supermarket voucher to provide immediate relief.

This is just one of a range of help that is on offer for anyone struggling as a result of COVID-19. The community hub at South Oxfordshire and Vale of the White Horse District Councils can also signpost people to a variety of organisations that can help with any ongoing support that might be needed.

There’s also Oxfordshire Food Services Map and Oxfordshire All In websites which have great interactive maps of community support groups, foodbanks, community kitchens and food surplus cafes. These maps will give you their contact details and all the information you need to support someone in need of food.

If you require any further information or have any queries, please contact the Community Connector Team at communityconnectors@southandvale.gov.uk

COVID19 Community Support Programme Team