Communities Update - Monday 22 June

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Monday, 22 June 2020

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Councils back free school meals extension

Education Leads across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have shown their support for the government’s change to extend the free school meals offer to eligible families over the six week summer break.

Despite initial uncertainty, government last week decided to back the scheme, following increasing pressure from schools and public figures such as footballer Marcus Rashford.

Families already in receipt of free school meals will continue to receive provision over the summer break, a period in which they would not usually be covered.

In Peterborough, 7,635 pupils are considered eligible, with another 237 new pupils now meeting the criteria since lockdown began at the end of March.

In Cambridgeshire, 14,064 pupils are eligible, with 1,362 new additional pupils now meeting the criteria since lockdown began at the end of March.

Some families are finding they are now eligible for the first time, as their financial circumstances may have changed during the lockdown period – and the Council would encourage them to check their entitlement.

 For more information on Free School Meals and eligibility criteria, visit the Cambridgeshire website or Peterborough website.

Safer Off the Streets partnership speaks out about work during Covid-19

The city’s Safer Off the Streets partnership has said Covid-19 provided its partners with a unique opportunity to engage with rough sleepers, who were previously unable to give up their life on the streets. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit at the end of March, Peterborough City Council was given a proportion of nationwide funding to move rough sleepers into hotel accommodation to keep them safe.  

But in Peterborough, this support went further than just a hotel room, as dozens of volunteers freely gave up their own time in the midst of the pandemic to help council officials provide around the clock care and support to these new guests. 

This included practical support, like three meals a day, laundry, GP services and art therapy. However, volunteers also provided company and a non-judgmental listening ear to allow them to spend many hours discussing the events that led to them sleeping rough and how they might break the cycle when they ‘pressed play’ on their lives again.  

And it doesn’t stop there. 

Peterborough City Council has been working with housing providers, private landlords and charities across the city to provide longer-term accommodation for those rough sleepers who want to make a fresh start. 

At its peak, 117 rough sleepers were being housed by the city council across three different hotels in the city. Now this figure is down to 70+ people, with more moving on to longer term accommodation each day, following an individual needs assessment, which determines whether they are best placed in assisted living, or a flat by themselves and which support services they need to continue following their move.   

Throughout the coming weeks, as the hotel accommodation begins to wind down, all the Safer Off the Streets partners will pull together to ensure that for those who want it - accommodation is available.  

Support for Armed Forces Day 

A virtual service and a special video will be broadcast this week in recognition of all those who are serving and have served in the Armed Forces.

Armed Forces Day is held annually to pay tribute to the sterling work of the armed forces around the globe.

Public flag raising ceremonies were due to take place on Today, 22 June, but have had to be postponed this year due to Covid-19. However, both Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council will be broadcasting online videos to promote the campaign.

A video featuring Councillor Mac MacGuire, Chairman of Cambridgeshire County Council, making an address and a collage of council staff pledging their support to the campaign will be broadcast on YouTube here from Today (22 June). 

In Peterborough, a virtual service will be recorded featuring a number of city dignitaries. Councillor Gul Nawaz, the Mayor of Peterborough, will make a welcome address, Revd Canon Ian Black will read greetings and payers and Major Tony Elsey, president of the Peterborough branch of the Royal British Legion will also make a reading. The service can be viewed here from Today (22 June).

To show our support for the campaign, both councils will be flying an Armed Forces flag from their offices - Shire Hall in Cambridge and Peterborough Town Hall - from June 22 - 29.

Residents are also urged to look out for the hashtag #saluteourforces asking staff and school pupils to record short videos that we can compile together.

For more information about Armed Forces Day visit here.

Leader’s Vlogs 

Councillor Steve Count, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and Councillor John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council have recorded separate vlogs for residents across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

Watch Councillor Steve Count’s vlog here where he talks about the temporary cycling and walking measures which were approved last week at the Highways and Transport Committee meeting and test and trace.

Watch Councillor John Holdich’s vlog here where he talks about how well Peterborough city centre re-opening is going and how the City’s Safer Off the Streets partnership has helped support rough sleepers.

Dementia patient gets ‘back to being more like herself’ with the help of a robotic cat throughout the pandemic  

Cambridgeshire County Council’s robotic cats have been used to provide comfort to a dementia patient who is unable to see her daughter during the pandemic.

Local resident Doreen is currently unable to see any of her family and friends due to lockdown rules. She has a diagnosis of Vascular Dementia and requires daily support from carers within her own home. Her daughter usually supports her at home alongside the care agency but as she is currently shielding, she is unable to visit.

Doreen’s daughter became worried about her wellbeing throughout the lockdown. Using cameras set up at her mother’s home to keep an eye on her, she watched Doreen look increasingly lonely and isolated. She said she saw her take less and less interest in life and became uninterested and bored in her surroundings, spending much of her time staring out of the window and only using her right hand to touch things on her table.

She decided to speak to an occupational therapist who told her about the work done by the council’s Technology Enabled Care team (TEC).

The TEC team provides guidance, training and advice to citizens and professionals. When appropriate, they can loan assistive technology to support the independence and safety of people living in Cambridgeshire. It was felt that a trial of a robotic cat would be beneficial as Doreen used to have a cat herself.

The robotic cats are designed to reduce anxiety and stress levels in people with learning disabilities and dementia.

Doreen’s daughter has given feedback about how positive this has been for her mother. Doreen will now often sit and stroke the cat and engage in conversation around the cat with care staff. It has become Doreen’s companion and her daughters says she often ‘chatters away to it’ and it’s helped her get ‘back to being more like herself’. 

As Doreen’s dementia had been progressing, she has also been using her right arm less in daily tasks. However, Doreen can now be found using the arm to hold and stroke the cat, which will help to prevent her from losing movement in this arm. Doreen has a hearing impairment that requires regular clearing; this has not been possible during Coronavirus, so Doreen’s hearing has decreased. Although Doreen can no longer hear the cat meow at this time, she can feel the cat purr, which she finds a comfort in.

To watch the video of Doreen and the robotic cat, click here.

For more information about support the TEC team offers, visit the website here.

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