Executive Daily Update: Initiatives to deal with Coronavirus (22 April 2020)

Date published: 22 April 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.

Covid-19 Executive Update
Covid-19 Executive Update

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey published a Community Response Plan today, setting out how her department will support grassroots community organisations helping the most disadvantaged during the pandemic. 

The response plan, which has been developed in partnership with the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA), contains 15 actions and includes commitments to: 

  • provide additional funding to grassroots delivery of support on the ground;
  • establish a dedicated Community Helpline;
  • support the volunteering effort; and
  • coordinate the supply of emergency food parcels.

Minister Hargey said: “We are providing coordination, advice, guidance and funding to enable and support the response on the ground. We will continue to work closely with community organisations to ensure that efforts on the ground are being coordinated, supported and sustained.” 

NICVA is leading communications and engagement between the government and a wide network of local community organisations and is building a database of active organisations on www.CommunityNI.org to help join up services and make connections.

The release of the plan followed the announcement from Minister Hargey that access to emergency financial support for those on low incomes during the Covid-19 outbreak was being increased. 

After the Assembly approved a change to Discretionary Support legislation to provide increased access to emergency financial support for claimants in difficulty, the Annual Income Threshold will be raised to £20,405 (this is the level of income below which a person is eligible for Discretionary Support). 

The amendment will ensure more people on low incomes will be able to access emergency support and a new living expenses grant is included for people affected by Covid-19.  

Almost 1,300 living expenses grants for Covid-19, totalling approximately £219,000, have already been issued.

A significant decrease in child protection referrals in Northern Ireland concerned the Health Minister Robin Swann.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, children’s services remain open and are ready to help protect children and support families.

Minister Swann reported: “I am advised that the number of child protection referrals during the first three weeks of April 2020 was 38% lower that the weekly average of 2019. Normally social services receive referrals from a range of sources, including schools, GPs, extended family and hospital nurses.  But with school closures, and potential reluctance to attend GPs or hospitals, there is a risk that children in need are not being identified. I would urge members of the public to contact Health and Social Care Trust Gateway Services or the NPSCC helpline if they have concerns about a child not being safe or receiving the care they need. Any concerns that a child is in immediate danger should be referred to the PSNI via 999 without delay.”

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. 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
  4. 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
  5. The Department of Health NI has launched a new Covid-19 NI information app to provide 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.
  6. The online version of the app is hosted on a new website https://covid-19.hscni.net.
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. Psychological Support Help Lines will be staffed by psychologists and psychological therapists who can provide appropriate support throughout the surge phase of the crisis.
  10. 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.
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. Anyone wishing to volunteer for health and social care support roles can do so via: www.hscworkforceappeal.co.uk/.
  14. 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.
  15. Statistics on weekly deaths registered in Northern Ireland can be accessed on NISRA’s website at: https://www.nisra.gov.uk/publications/weekly-deaths
  16. Volunteer Now has launched a new online campaign #HelpEachOther for those who wish to volunteer for COVID-19 related opportunities and for those organisations which require the support of volunteers to deliver their services to the most in need. Further information is available at: www.volunteernow.co.uk
  17. 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.
  18. A link to the guidance on schools clustering is available here: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/guidance-schools-cluster-arrangements
  19. 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
  20. Information on the full range of support for businesses during the COVID-19 emergency is available at: https://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/campaign/coronavirus-updates-support-your-business
  21. The Department for Communities’ Community Response Plan is available at https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/covid19-community-response.
  22. Discretionary Support was introduced in Northern Ireland to replace Social Fund Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans for living expenses. Awards can be made as either a loan or a non-repayable grant to assist with a range of crisis situations. It can include an award to assist with living expenses where a person has no means of meeting immediate costs for themselves or their immediate family. To find out more about the financial support available, To find out more and to apply please visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/extra-financial-support.
  23. There are 29 Family Support Hubs across Northern Ireland.  Contact details for local Hubs can be accessed at www.familysupportni.gov.uk. To find out contact details of your local Trust Gateway Services please visit: www.safeguardingni.org.
  24. Child protection agencies:

    Gateway Services are open Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm

    Belfast Health and Social Care Trust - 02890 507000 - www.belfasttrust.hscni.net
    South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust - 03001000300 - www.setrust.hscni.net

    Northern Health and Social Care Trust - 03001234333 - www.northerntrust.hscni.net

    Southern Health and Social Care Trust - 08007837745 - www.southerntrust.hscni.net

    Western Health and Social Care Trust - 02871314090 - www.westerntrust.hscni.net

    Out of Hours Regional Emergency Social Work Service - 02895 049999

25. Members of the public can call or email the NSPCC to report a concern about a child or young person

NSPCC Helpline - 08088005000 - help@nspcc.org.uk

Should a child or young person need to speak to someone in confidence they can call NSPCC Childline – 08001111 - www.childline.org.uk

In an emergency the police should be contacted on 999.

26. Media enquiries should be directed to the relevant department using the following email addresses. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110.

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