Councils locked out of plans to lift lockdown

By Heather Jameson | 31 May 2020

Plans to lift the lockdown for people who have been shielded were not revealed to local government before they were announced at the weekend.

Despite councils’ efforts to look after vulnerable people who have been asked to stay home due to illnesses put them at greater risk from coronavirus, communities secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement was not relayed to local authorities before he tweeted it in Saturday night.

In a twitter thread, he said the 2.2 million people would be able to go out for the first time from Monday, either with a member of their household or with one other person.

He said: ‘We are focused on finding the right balance between continuing to protect those who are at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the situation more bearable.’

He said there would be continued reports and updates.

However, Hart DC chief executive Patricia Hughes tweeted back: ‘Councils are working hard to ensure the shielded & vulnerable receive food, medicines and don’t feel isolated…. It would have been nice if you’d forewarned us. We spoke to your Shielding Team on Friday and they had no clue.’

There has also been widespread criticism of the move to lift lockdown for those in high risk categories as the COVID-19 ‘R’ rate remains around 0.7.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference today (Sunday). Mr Jenrick said he was ‘immensely grateful’ to the NHS for helping those most at risk.

‘We also recognise the role of local councils and parish councils, who have supported their residents with great effect.’

He added: ‘Now that we’ve passed the peak and the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community has reduced significantly, we believe that the risk to those shielding is lower, as it is proportionately for the general population.’

‘I can announce today that we have updated the shielding guidance so that from tomorrow, Monday the 1st of June, people will be advised that they can take initial steps to safely spend time outdoors.’

The communities secretary was joined by Dame Louise Casey, the Prime Minister’s advisor on rough sleeping.

Thanking those involved in bringing rough sleepers off the streets in the face of the pandemic, Mr Jenrick said: ‘We’ve ensured councils in England have the funding to help continue housing rough sleepers in emergency accommodation as part of the £3.8bn we’ve provided them in the last 2 months. And we will continue to fund this essential work to get the job done.’

He reiterate announcements made last week, as the Government pledged to make 6,000 new homes available, along with specialist support staff to tackle addiction and mental health issues.

‘These homes will be a springboard to better things. And they will serve as a new national asset and be a symbol of hope and our belief that no one’s path is predetermined,’ he said.

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