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Kingston Council pays tribute to partnership working at heart of COVID-19 response

Kingston Council’s response to COVID-19, and the integral role played by partners, residents and the community, was highlighted at last night’s meeting of the Response and Recovery Committee.

The pandemic has had, and is continuing to have, a substantial and sometimes devastating impact on the lives of Kingston residents, its businesses and on the council’s operations. The council acted swiftly to reconfigure services to support and protect Kingston’s most vulnerable residents, working hand in hand with partners and the community across the borough. 

From reshaping Adult Social Care teams to provide seven day a week support, to coordinating the supply of PPE across the borough and establishing the Kingston Stronger Together hub, the changes have been fast and far reaching.

Kingston Stronger Together, set up in late March with Kingston Voluntary Action (KVA) and Volunteering Kingston, is a testament to the joined up working at the heart of the response. The hub provides essential support with food, medicine and the offer of friendship to the borough’s shielding and self isolating residents. It has now managed more than 2,000 individual requests for help and is receiving an average of 44 calls a day. 

Staff were rapidly deployed to the hub from the library service, Contact Centre, and a variety of other services. More than 300 medicine deliveries have been made and over 140 people have been matched with a volunteer buddy. It is also the central coordination point for volunteering efforts across the borough, with more than 1,200 people signing up to help. 

Working with KT Churches, a food distribution centre at Tolworth United Reformed Church was set up and KingstonAid was supported to expand. More than 1,800 food parcels and 10,000 frozen meals have now been delivered to residents.

A volunteer supported shopping service supports those who can afford to pay for food but are unable to leave home due to self-isolation, and a network of more than 100 community food champions grew to coordinate donations of food locally.

The challenges of sourcing and distributing PPE have been met head on through the council’s PPE hub, which public health teams have been instrumental in developing. Through the hub, provision of equipment to care homes, care workers and frontline staff has been prioritised. The community has made a huge contribution to this effort, with a number of donations made by local businesses, Kingston University and several of the borough’s schools. Since the start of the crisis more than 18,000 pairs of gloves, 21,000 masks and almost 35,000 aprons have been delivered to care workers and other critical staff. 

Teams from across the council, including Adult Social Care, Children’s Services, and Housing are working tirelessly, in a collective effort with health, care and education partners, to reshape services to meet the increasing and changing needs of the most vulnerable residents as the crisis progresses. 

Care providers are working with the council and local NHS to deliver a completely joined up approach to caring for the borough’s elderly and vulnerable adults. Wrap around support has been provided for higher risk patients discharged from hospital. Thanks to the efforts of our schools, Kingston has the highest numbers of vulnerable children in London continuing to attend. Alongside this, housing services have been making contact with council tenants who may be in need to offer support, with more than 2,000 phone calls and almost 6,000 texts and letters sent. A comprehensive drive to house rough sleepers has seen 56 people moved into temporary accommodation. 

Working closely with Kingston First and the Chamber of Commerce the council is delivering coordinated support and information to businesses, introducing a weekly business newsletter. Around 1,800 business grants have been paid, totalling £26.21m. That’s almost 86% of the total amount allocated by central government to help local firms deal with the immediate impacts of COVID-19. As well as signposting to national support schemes, the council also commissioned its own business recovery programme for local companies.

Kingston Council Leader, Caroline Kerr said: 

“I’m incredibly proud of the way the whole of Kingston has pulled together and hugely grateful to all the residents, community groups, businesses and partners who have supported each other through this crisis.  Working alongside one another we have been able to do all we can to protect those most in need.  

“Unfortunately the pandemic has had a significant impact on the council’s finances. There is currently a shortfall of £19 million. 

“We hope we can continue to come together to plan for the future and provide services in new and different ways as we move to the next phase of responding to COVID-19. We will also be calling on central government to make it clear how they will support local authorities through the biggest challenge we have ever faced.”