A report presented by the Council's Chief Executive this week (Thursday 14 May) details the steps the Council has taken to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Endorsed by Councillors during a virtual meeting of the Policy and Sustainability Committee, the update details the plans which have put in place since February to minimise risk to residents and staff and protect Edinburgh's most vulnerable citizens.
The response is ongoing and plans are being drafted to prepare for the Council and City's recovery, when it is safe to do so.
Commenting on the update, Council Leader Adam McVey said: "Over the last few months, we've made an unprecedented level of changes to Council services and brought forward new and urgent support for our communities. From care staff to our refuse collectors, teaching staff to those helping families in crisis, our officers have been doing an amazing job on the frontline supporting people who need it most.
"This has been the biggest challenge our City has ever faced and I was pleased to see political support for the report detailing the swift changes we've made to help residents and staff during Committee. We will continue to do all that we can to support our most vulnerable during the pandemic and we're already working with business and industry to understand the long-term measures we'll need to make together to support the City's recovery."
Depute Leader Cammy Day added: "We've strengthened our welfare and benefit teams to provide immediate support to those in financial crisis and we're continuing to help people who are shielding. We've brought in measures to support families who need school meal payments and food parcels and we're providing childcare support to some of our city's key workers. Our communities are also in great need right now and we've paid out £83,000 in Community Care Grants.
"All of this work and more has been brought in rapidly and, while it isn't without its challenges, staff have made sure we continue to provide essential services like waste collections and advice to those in need. More work is required to ensure we continue to deliver as best we can for the people of Edinburgh for as long as this lockdown is in place, and beyond. This very much remains a priority. We will get through this and we'll do so together."
Read the full report online or find out how we have responded to the crisis in numbers, below.
Supporting our most vulnerable:
With our partners, we’re providing the families of children in need with around 2,000 food parcels every fortnight. We’ve already boxed up and delivered more than 1,600 food parcels and 87 prescriptions to those who are shielding and we’re working with EVOC to deliver thousands more deliveries to vulnerable people across the City.
We have around 170 teaching staff working across 11 schools to look after the children of many of Edinburgh’s key workers and, in April, over £500,000 was paid out to families in school meal payments.
Our incredible staff in the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership are some of those who look after more than 2,760 people in care homes and we’ve been helping those who need to shield by answering their questions, arranging deliveries and supermarket support. We handled more than 4,200 calls and 2,000 emails about shielding in April alone.
Helping those facing homelessness, we’ve also drastically increased our stock of temporary accommodation with flats and hotel rooms, working with partners to source more than 200 additional bed spaces to provide a safe place for people to stay. We're encouraging landlords to consider supporting those who need a home by renting out their empty properties to our Public Sector Leasing (PSL) scheme with Link, and we supported more than 1,000 people in crisis at our five resilience centres in April.
Providing Council services:
Making sure our services can still be provided in a safe way has been both a priority and a challenge and we thank residents for bearing with us.
We’ve moved many services online so you can report a problem through our website. Just last month, we handled almost 12,000 questions from residents on social media and 36,000 enquiries over the phone. Please keep contacting us online if you can, leaving our phone lines free for emergencies.
Helping to keep our Council tenants safe, we carried out around 180 essential repairs to their homes per day in April and enhanced cleaning and physical distancing in our 44 multi-storey blocks.
Our dedicated refuse collectors are still picking up more than 300,000 bins a week and we’ve been working hard to keep most waste services running. We collected close to 876 tonnes of food waste in April, which is like picking up and processing the weight of 30 Scott Monuments. We also collected more than 8,550 tonnes of general (non-recyclable) waste, or 1.5 times the weight of the Royal Yacht Britannia. Within the first 2 days of resuming the service we also collected the weight of 5 blue whales - 500 tonnes - of garden waste.
Your libraries may be closed, but they’re still here for you online. Last month we ‘loaned’ more than 18,500 ebooks and 11,800 audio books - an increase of more than 60% on April 2019 - and 181,550 magazines and newspapers, an increase of 118%. Demand keeps growing, with mystery fiction, recipe books and the Beano in particularly high demand. We've also created a Book Bus for the Edinburgh Children's Hospital Charity, filled with around 1,800 books for children and young people who need to isolate.
The city is being kept in bloom by our gardeners and natural heritage officers, providing you with access to 1,450 hectares of green space including 143 parks and greenspaces for your daily exercise. The Council-managed greenspace you can roam is the equivalent of over 2,000 Murrayfield-sized rugby pitches, twice the size of Gibraltar, or 22 times the size of Disneyland! Up to 40,000 plants are also being used to create a special Floral Clock design in West Princes Street Gardens, honouring all NHS workers.
A series of seven measures have been put into action for safer walking and cycling around the city, so that physical distancing is easier during exercise or while commuting, while Transport for Edinburgh have released 100 free cycle hire passes for NHS workers during the pandemic.
We're continuing to progress planning applications during lockdown, with over 360 applications already decided and 320 building warrants granted in the first three weeks of April.
Issuing millions in grant funding:
The pandemic is the most difficult event faced by Edinburgh in living memory and financial support is being directed to those who are struggling.
Almost £487,500 has been issued to people in critical need through 3,260 Crisis Grants and we’re helping to support projects in local communities, with over £83,000 paid out in Community Care grants last month. Our webpages contain detailed advice for anyone having difficulty with their finances, including welfare support. We've already processed over 4,600 applications and distributed nearly £600,000 in welfare payments since lockdown began.
We’ve also helped around 5,400 local businesses to get grant funding, paying out around £70m in coronavirus business support grants in April. Businesses can also check our advice pages on how to apply for rates relief, self-employed workers can ask for grant funding, and we're encouraging everyone who can to support the City's high streets by buying from small local businesses.