Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (09 June 2020)

Date published: 09 June 2020

Northern Ireland Executive ministers and their officials have over the past 24 hours been involved in a number of initiatives and critical decisions relating to the Coronavirus emergency.

A strategic framework for the future of the health and social care system was published today by the Health Minister Robin Swann in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ‘Strategic Framework for Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services’ was accompanied by the publication of plans by the six health trusts on the immediate scaling up of services in the period to 30 June.

A new Management Board for Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services is also being established, consisting of senior Department of Health officials, Trust chief executives and other Health and Social Care leaders.

Minister Swann observed: “Our health and social care system was in very serious difficulties long before Coronavirus reached these shores. The virus has taken the situation to a whole new level. The Health and Social Care system has had its own lockdown – services were scaled back substantially to keep people safe and to focus resources on caring for those with Covid-19. As we emerge from the first wave of the pandemic, it is no easy task to build services back up to pre-existing levels.”

Praising health and social care staff for their response to the pandemic, the Minister said he was keen to build on the many examples of excellence, innovation and commitment.

He added: “I don’t want to simply restore the health and social system to the way it was at the beginning of 2020. That would do a disservice to our great staff and the people of Northern Ireland. I honestly believe we can make it better. That will require patience, careful planning, sustained investment and collective support - not just around the Executive table but across society as a whole.”

A £15.5 million fund to help local charities facing financial difficulties as a result of the Covid-19 health emergency will open on Monday 15 June, it was announced by the Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.    

The funding programme will financially support charities that have lost income and are unable to cover unavoidable costs until September 30th 2020.

With up to £75,000 available for eligible organisations, it will be administered on behalf of the Department for Communities by The National Lottery Community Fund. 

Minister Hargey said:  “The Covid-19 Charities Fund is proposed as a fund of last resort.   There is a limited amount of money in the fund and it, therefore, is available for those charitable organisations who can demonstrate that they have lost income due to the impact of Covid-19 and will be unable to cover unavoidable costs until the end of September 2020. As we continue to respond to the Covid-19 emergency, I want to thank the local charity sector for the crucial and important role they play in supporting thousands of people across our community.”

An initiative to encourage parents to read with their babies and young children was launched by the Education Minister Peter Weir.

The Bookstart programme, run by the UK’s largest children’s reading charity BookTrust and partly funded in Northern Ireland by the Department of Education, will provide books to families with very young children to encourage positive home learning environments from an early age.

Acknowledging the difficulties being faced by new parents during the Covid-19 crisis and the benefits of providing books directly to families, Minister Weir said: “It is recognised that many new parents may not have access to the same support networks during this very difficult period, or access to books for their children due to libraries being closed. Encouraging a love of reading in children from an early age is important to the development of their social and communication skills. Small steps, like reading to your child at night, can have a very positive lifelong effect in a whole range of areas.”

It is anticipated that book packs will be delivered to around 24,000 families with young children this year.

Notes to editors: 

  1. The Northern Ireland Executive is producing a regular digest of key initiatives and decisions that have been undertaken by ministers and their Departments relating to the Coronavirus crisis.
  2. Members of the public are encouraged to check regularly the Public Health Agency, NI Direct, NI Executive and government departmental websites and social media channels for public health advice on how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.
  3. The Coronavirus: Executive Approach to Decision-Making document, which outlines how the Executive is approaching key decisions relating to COVID-19 restrictions on society, is available on The Executive Office website - www.executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk/publications/coronavirus-executive-approach-decision-making
  4. Current information and advice in relation to COVID-19 can be found on the PHA website at: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus.
  5. Patients who have a persistent cough, or high temperature, together with any other members of their household must self-isolate according to the guidance on the PHA website at: https://www.publichealth.hscni.net/news/covid-19-coronavirus#what-should-i-do-if-i-think-i-have-coronavirus and should book a test immediately via can be booked by phoning 119 or through the website nhs.uk/coronavirus. Tests are available for everyone over the age of five.
  6. The ‘Test, Trace and Protect’ strategy can be accessed via:  https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/sites/default/files/publications/health/Test-Trace-Protect-Support-Strategy.pdf
  7. The Department of Health NI’s COVID-19 NI information app provides people with immediate advice and links to vital trusted information. The app will be updated as the pandemic evolves. Download the COVID-19 NI app - search for Covid-19 NI on the Apple app store and Covid-19 NI on google play. The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
  8. A COVID-19 statistical dash board can also be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiMWFhZDgzZDYtMTE4Yi00MTBjLWIzYmQtMTZhYzc1MGEyMTk1IiwidCI6IjljOWEzMGRlLWQ4ZDctNGFhNC05NjAwLTRiZTc2MjVmZjZjNSIsImMiOjh9.
  9. The Framework for the Wellbeing of Health and Social Care staff can be accessed at the following link: www.publichealth.hscni.net/sites/default/files/2020-04/HSC_Regional%20Staff%20Wellbeing%20Framework.pdf and is based on evidence and best practice guidance and is informed by The British Psychological Society Guidance Paper.
  10. Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
  11. The Helplines will be made available by each Trust to all their staff, to all GP Practices in their area, to all Ambulance staff based in their area and to all independent sector care providers in their area. In this way support is offered to all parts of the system throughout surge.
  12. The Framework document is supported by resources which are available on the PHA website: www.publichealth.hscni.net/covid-19-coronavirus/guidance-hsc-staff/staff-health-and-wellbeing.
  13. If you are in distress or despair at any time including the COVID-19 crisis, the 24/7 Lifeline helpline is available on 0808 808 8000 where trained counsellors are available to help you.
  14. Updated guidance for care homes is available on DoH website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/covid-19-guidance-nursing-and-residential-care-homes-northern-ireland
  15. Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
  16. The Freephone COVID-19 Community Helpline can be accessed by telephone on 0808 802 0020; email covid1@adviceni.net or text ACTION to 81025. It is available 7 days a week, 9am to 5pm.
  17. Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths.
  18. A list of schools which are open for educational supervision is available on the Department of Education website: www.education-ni.gov.uk/publications/schools-open-supervised-learning-key-workers-children-and-vulnerable-children.
  19. A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements.
  20. Forms for those applying to provide supervision to vulnerable children and the children of key workers can be accessed from the Department of Education website using the following link:  http://apps.education-ni.gov.uk/appc19vol/default.aspx.
  21. The online application form for small businesses that rent premises is available at: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/RentalPropertiesandNAVBelow1590.  
  22. Information on the full range of COVID-19 related support for businesses is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business.
  23. A £100m rates relief package for businesses was announced on 17 March – https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/news/covid-19-ps100m-emergency-rates-package-businesses. A copy of the Rates Relief Information policy advice for Minister can be obtained via https://www.finance-ni.gov.uk/publications/policy-advice-minister-rates-relief-information-paper 
  24. The ‘Charting a course for the economy: our first steps’ paper can be accessed at: www.economy-ni.gov.uk/publications/charting-course-economy
  25. Workplace safety guidance for Northern Ireland businesses is available at https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/content/coronavirus-workplace-safety-guidance-and-priority-sector-list
  26. Information about the COVID-19 Charities Fund is available from:  https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid-19-charities-fund
  27. The Department of Health’s new framework, ‘Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services - Strategic Framework’ is available on the Department's website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/rebuilding-hsc-services
  28. Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses

The Executive Office: Press.Office@executiveoffice-ni.gov.uk

Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs: PressOffice.Group@daera-ni.gov.uk;

Department for Communities: Press.Office@communities-ni.gov.uk;

Department of Education: Press.Office@education-ni.gov.uk;

Department for the Economy: DfE.PressOffice@economy-ni.gov.uk;

Department of Finance: dof.pressoffice@finance-ni.gov.uk

Department for Infrastructure: Press.Office@infrastructure-ni.gov.uk

Department of Health: PressOffice@health-ni.gov.uk

Department of Justice: Press.Office@justice-ni.x.gsi.gov.u

29. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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