Daily News Headlines: 20 May 2020

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Up to 1,500 English primary schools to defy 1 June reopening plan
Up to 1,500 primary schools in England are expected to remain closed on 1 June after 18 councils forced the Government to say it had no plans to sanction them. With more councils likely to join them, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, met union leaders to address concerns that the plan could put staff at risk and contribute to the spread of coronavirus. The local authorities, which represent more than 1,500 maintained primaries, said they would not force primary schools in their areas to open. From 1 June, children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in England will be able to return to school if infection rates are reduced and it is safe. It follows reports earlier this week which suggested councils that refused to comply could be subject to legal action or even financial penalties. Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, was interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and BBC Radio 5 Live this morning and said that schools have remained open throughout the coronavirus pandemic, providing essential support for vulnerable children and families of key workers. However, she said parents were "anxious" about sending their children back to school and more needed to be done to reassure families that it will be safe to do so. Meanwhile, a survey by NASUWT union found only 5 per cent of teachers think it safe to reopen schools in England.
BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, BBC Radio 5 Live, ITV Online, Guardian, BBC Online, Times, Express

Data delay left care homes ‘fighting losing battle’ with coronavirus
Care homes in England were planning their response to the coronavirus pandemic "with their hands tied" because data about outbreaks in the sector was not published until the end of April, an industry body has said. The National Care Forum voiced concerns at the data not being shared but Public Health England said it was used by health protection teams and to brief Ministers. The LGA said it had not received the data and said it has been "difficult" to get postcode level data - and that real-time data sharing has been a problem both nationally and locally. The LGA added: "Data on testing, deaths and better surveillance will be required as we move into contact tracing and case finding." It follows latest figures that show that the number of deaths in care homes involving COVID-19 had passed 10,000 across the UK.
BBC Online, ITV Online, Sky News Online, Times

London councils launch procurement partnership as care homes face PPE challenges
A new London-wide procurement scheme has launched to provide protective equipment for frontline workers at risk from coronavirus. The partnership among all of London’s councils aims to distribute more than 48 million items of PPE kit in the next 12 weeks. The emergency supplies, which began being delivered last week, will be prioritised for the under pressure social care sector. Last month, the LGA warned that social care workers and council service staff were risking their lives keeping services going due to a “chronic” lack of PPE. The LGA said the Government’s Clipper system, intended to provide a central hub for the supply and distribution of PPE, had faced delays.

NHS prioritised over social care during early stages of outbreak, minister says
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the Government needed to make a choice about testing and focused on the NHS as it “was absolutely essential”. Following the latest ONS figures which show there have been more than 20,000 excess deaths in care homes, Robert Buckland admitted more must be done to tackle the outbreak in care homes and said he would be "appalled" if people thought the Government was passing the buck to councils when it comes to care home deaths.
Sky News Online

'Desperate' care homes plea with council for 'immediate financial support'
Care homes in Sheffield have written to their council saying that they are "in desperate need of immediate financial support". Palms Row Healthcare is one of five care providers in Sheffield to have written to Sheffield City Council requesting financial help due to the coronavirus crisis. It said that the application process for funding had delayed receiving the financial support pledged by central government last month. So far the Government has promised a total of £3.2 billion in additional funding for councils, with a further £600 million earmarked specifically for infection control in care homes.
ITV Online, Mail

Twice as many people have died in care homes in UK during COVID-19
Twice as many people have died in care homes in England, Wales and Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic than would be expected in normal times, according to new analysis. Office for National Statistics figures show that between 13 March and 8 May, 39,404 people died in care homes in England and Wales, an increase of 124 per cent over the same period when compared with each of the last five years. It said that by looking at the excess of mortality figures you can get a better understanding of the impact of the pandemic, including where people would have died from other causes than coronavirus. Meanwhile, Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England which represents care homes, told the Health and Social Care Committee that from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic care homes were a second thought despite housing the "most vulnerable people". He also said there had been no recommendation for how care homes should react to a pandemic when the Government planned for one in 2016.
Sky News Online

Luton Borough Council faced with 'stark' savings amid COVID-19 pandemic
Luton Borough Council expects to lose out on £37 million revenues from Luton Airport due to a huge drop in passenger numbers during the coronavirus crisis, the council has warned. The council said it is facing a £49 million black hole in its finances and is set to make £22 million cuts in an emergency budget because of the pandemic. It said that despite the additional £11 million central government funding provided to deal with coronavirus, it is facing a £49 million shortfall.   
BBC Online

Special needs schools face agonising decision on which children should return first
Social distancing will be virtually impossible to implement in special schools which look after some of the most vulnerable children, headteachers have warned. SEND Council, the National Association of Head Teachers, has warned that special schools still do not have everything they need to open safely despite the Government’s extra £37 million to help children with complex needs. It said some parents also fear that their children may not be able to return to schools until the pandemic is completely over, as they require 24/7 care. Meanwhile, the doctors’ union, the BMA, has said schools should reopen “as soon as it is safe to do so”.
ITV Online, Telegraph

Parents of special needs children 'skip meals'
A quarter of families of children with special needs have to skip meals during lockdown, a survey revealed. The charity Family Fund found many families of children with special educational needs and disabilities are struggling with food and energy costs, while lockdown measures mean they are unable to access the support they need. The Government has announced a £10 million emergency funding package to help low-income families care for children with complex needs at home.
BBC Online

Chancellor plays down hopes of quick economic recovery
The UK is "likely to face a severe recession the likes of which we have not seen" due to the coronavirus lockdown, the Chancellor has warned. Rishi Sunak gave evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and said that lockdown is having significant impact on the economy despite the “unprecedented mitigating actions” imposed to protect the economy.
ITV Online, BBC Online

Most apprentices losing work and learning opportunities amid Covid-19 – poll
Apprentices are being furloughed or made redundant by firms due to the COVID-19 crisis and the majority are missing out on work experience or learning opportunities, a survey suggests. A YouGov poll of 156 employers suggests that more than three in five say their apprentices have lost out on learning or work experience due to the pandemic. A Sutton Trust report also warns that there will be fewer apprenticeship vacancies available for young people as firms are likely to focus on recovering from the coronavirus crisis.
ITV Online

Extra bank holiday for October being considered
The Government is considering introducing an extra bank holiday, possibly in October around the time of half-term. The idea was put forward by the UK’s tourism agency, Visit Britain, who said it expected the tourism industry to lose £37 billion because of the coronavirus lockdown, including lost earnings over the two bank holidays in May. The Government said it would “respond in due course” to the proposal.
Guardian, BBC Online, Telegraph

9 out of 10 older people say their social contact has reduced significantly during the pandemic
Almost nine out of 10 older people say their social contact has reduced significantly during the pandemic, according to an Independent Age poll. The charity said there are now more people experiencing isolation and loneliness for the first time, while those without access to technology are having difficulty with tasks such as contacting their bank and booking food delivery slots.
Sky News Online

'Wash hands at least six times a day'
Washing your hands at least six to times a day makes catching infections such as coronavirus much less likely, a study by UK researchers suggests. The Medical Research Council looked at data from 2006 to 2009 on viruses structurally very similar to the pandemic strain circulating now.
BBC Online, ITV Online


Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our communities during COVID-19

Thursday 21 May, 10.45-11.45am

As our residents continue to experience self-isolation and social distancing measures, the impact on mental health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly apparent, including for children and young people. To help councils think through their local responses, this webinar will explore the public mental health and wellbeing impacts of COVID-19 across the life course and share how councils are working with partners to support people’s mental health and wellbeing both in this immediate phase and looking ahead to recovery.