Council resources are being pooled to support citizens in crisis, freeing up officers to provide critical advice to those who need it most.
• New Council Resilience Centres rolled out as Locality Offices close
• Measures to support those financially affected by the outbreak
• Residents urged to go online, only phone in an emergency or critical need
At this time, we kindly ask residents to contact us online, freeing up our phone line 0131 200 2000 for emergency calls only, such as social care direct, urgent repairs and welfare support. This will help us prioritise help for our most vulnerable and at risk residents.
Changing the way people interact with Locality Offices, these buildings and 249 High Street will be closed to the general public from today (Monday 23 March) as we roll out a new model of Council Resilience Centres. These centres will provide a base for Council officers to work from so that they can target support for welfare crisis, urgent housing issues, homelessness and household support. We are looking at how we provide food vouchers through these centres and further details of this will be released in the coming days.
To ease the financial position for people directly impacted by the outbreak, measures will be in place for citizens unable to make payments. The recovery of Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates arrears will be paused and, where necessary, Council Tax payments will be deferred for three months for those who are struggling to pay. It's important that all other residents continue to pay their Council Tax in the usual way to help us provide our essential services.
Following the Scottish Government announcement to increase funding for crisis payments, plans are urgently being put in place that will allow us to deal with an expected increase in applications for this important fund.
Council tenants who are concerned about being unable to pay rent during this emergency will be helped to manage rent payments and directed to advice on benefits they may be entitled to. No Council tenant is at risk of losing their home during the current emergency.
We will continue to increase the number of homes and bed spaces available for those who are or become homeless and are aiming to have a bed space for those who need it, prioritising families and those most at risk, alongside individuals needing to self-isolate. Street-based outreach services continue to operate to support those who are rough sleeping and shelters remain open.
We've created an online Q&A detailing Council Tax, benefits and welfare advice. Updates on our homelessness services and information for Council tenants can also be found on our website. Keep checking edinburgh.gov.uk/coronavirus for the latest service updates.
Council Leader Adam McVey said:
“This is a difficult time and we need to adapt as circumstances change in order to provide support to those who need it most. We're continuing to work round the clock with our partners to identify those most at risk and make sure people get the help they need.
“In just a few days, we've seen welfare fund requests rise rapidly - around 80% up on average volumes - so it's absolutely critical we work to meet this demand. By closing our Locality Offices we are able to limit face-to-face contact, pool resources towards our new Resilience Centres and, in doing so, target support for those who are most vulnerable.
“As part of this we're working really hard to step up the supply of temporary accommodation we have. This is to ensure those experiencing homelessness remain as safe as possible and we’ll be setting out further detail this week.
“I'd really like to thank all our staff, partners and volunteers who are working in what are challenging times and Bethany Christian Trust for their continued efforts to keep Edinburgh's shelters open.”
Depute Leader Cammy Day said:
“In order to provide these critical services, we’re asking everyone to bear with us and help us keep our phonelines free for emergency calls. Please do this by getting in touch online in the first instance if you can, so that enquiries from those hardest hit can be put first.
“This will drastically help our officers focus efforts on work to help our most vulnerable residents - those who are financially affected by this outbreak and really need our services right now.”
HOW TO ACCESS COUNCIL SUPPORT ONLINE
You can access a wide range of Council services at www.edinburgh.gov.uk and report many concerns through the website. If the matter relates to debt, benefits or welfare please contact ourr Advice Shop or the new Council Resilience Centre for your area:
Parking queries should be done online and email
Licensing queries should be done online and email
All other requests can be done via our website.
Support for those most at risk and hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak will be prioritised in all circumstances - if you are experiencing an emergency or critical situation please call 0131 200 2000.
The Council Resilience Centres - which will be based in Wester Hailes, Pilton Gardens, Captain's Road, Leith and Craigmillar - will provide a base for staff to provide welfare, housing and household support by phone and email. Customers are asked to attend in-person only if it is critical, for example if they are experiencing homelessness, threats to their wellbeing or require urgent cash payments. This will prioritise support for residents who face financial hardship. They will operate 10am - 4pm.