Support pledged for the most vulnerable as South and Vale close their offices
South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils are increasing resources to help groups in the community providing support to those most in need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to the ongoing public health risk from the virus, the two councils are also closing their office building and reception in Milton Park to the public and the majority of staff. The building will be closed to the public from 4.30pm on Friday 20 March.
Residents can continue to access information about council services, and make payments, or make an application or a report via the councils’ websites southoxon.gov.uk<http://www.southoxon.gov.uk> and whitehorsedc.gov.uk<http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/covid19>.
The councils’ phone lines will remain open, but anybody that needs to contact council staff is encouraged to go online first or use email as this is likely to be quicker and will help the councils respond to those most in need first, during a difficult time. Anybody with an appointment at the council building from Monday 30 March onwards should contact the relevant team if they haven’t been in touch already. All council meetings scheduled to take place in April have also been postponed.
The two councils are still aiming to provide their important services to the public as much as possible and are protecting the services to residents most in need as a priority.
The councils hope most people shouldn’t notice too much difference as many staff have already been working from home since Monday this week. However, there are some changes to services, which are listed on a dedicated webpage – southoxon.gov.uk/covid19<http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/covid19> and whitehorsedc.gov.uk/covid19<http://www.whitehorsedc.gov.uk/covid19> which are regularly updated.
The impact of virus is likely to affect vulnerable and hard-to-reach people the most, which is why the councils are committing more staff and resources to coordinating volunteers and community groups to ensure those who need the most support are getting it.
Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said: “It’s a challenge balancing our responsibilities towards protecting our services to the public while preventing the spread of the virus and protecting public health. Closing the building is a sensible precaution to take, but the good news is we’re still very much open for business on our website, by email and over the phone. We’re now putting more emphasis on providing more direct support to organisations working in the community that are helping those most at need.”
Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “It has been a busy week – we’ve worked hard to protect our most important services to the public while moving nearly all of our staff to working from home. We’re on a firm footing and are now increasing resources towards coordinating volunteer efforts helping community groups, the voluntary sector and town and parish councils who are supporting the most vulnerable and hard-to-reach people in our local communities. We’ll be focusing on public health to help alleviate demand on the NHS at a time it is likely to face a significant strain on its resources.”