first magazine: COVID-19 bulletin

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First logo 2019

'first' is the LGA's monthly membership magazine for our 18,200 councillors and local authority chief executives in England and Wales

Dear Reader

We all know how vital it is for a child's development and wellbeing to be in school, particularly for the most vulnerable children, and that is why councils are keen to support their local schools to get more children back as soon as possible.

Councils are uniquely placed to know what works best for their local areas and, as there are different infection rates around the country, schools and councils must be able to work together to decide how and when schools open to more children.

The health and safety of our communities is our top priority and any decision to re-open should be based not only on local circumstances, but the scientific evidence that underpins the Government’s advice as we learn more about this disease and its impact on young people.

This is why we are pressing for crucial testing data to be shared with councils and the powers to manage local outbreaks. This will help build greater confidence for teachers and parents around school openings, as well as in our local communities.

Just a reminder, you can discuss this and other issues with fellow councillors in our online forum. All councillors in England and Wales can join the Knowledge Hub group, by signing up with their council email address. We have also published a two-part webinar on the role of the ward councillor during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, do please keep sending us your concerns via our dedicated email inbox (, highlight them in your conversations with our regional principal advisers, follow @LGAComms and @LGAnews on Twitter for daily updates, and check our coronavirus hub and FAQs for the latest government and LGA guidance.


Councillor James Jamieson is LGA Chairman


Opening schools

As there are different COVID-19 infection rates around the country, schools and councils must be able to work together to decide how and when schools open to more children, the LGA has said. Some local authorities have already advised primary schools not to reopen or have warned that they would be opening later than the Government’s proposed 1 June start date.

The Department for Education has updated its guidance on safeguarding in schools, colleges and other education providers, and published an overview of scientific advice on COVID-19. It has also issued a planning guide for primary schools to help school leaders prepare for the arrival of more pupils. The LGA has produced a workforce summary on the guidance, which references the need for councils to sign off plans and to be party to decisions.


Insights into adult social care

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published an insight into adult social care during the pandemic.This document focuses on adult social care and explores data outbreaks (by region), deaths, the availability of PPE, the impact of the outbreak on staff wellbeing and the financial viability of adult social care services.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has published the results of its rapid survey, which shows councils are doing all they can to support care providers, despite being under huge pressure to combat COVID-19 and protect our elderly and most vulnerable residents. The LGA has reiterated that future funding support will be needed to help meet increasing demand and costs.


Disposal of PPE 

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is asking councils to help remind the public to dispose of personal protective equipment (PPE) safely. It has produced a key messages document together with social media content for Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

A letter from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has been circulated to councils providing information and guidance on PPE for personal assistants who are employed through a personal budget. If a personal assistant lives in the same accommodation as the person they are supporting, they will only need additional PPE if the person is in the shielded group or has COVID-19 symptoms.


Back-to-work support

Employment experts have called for a £1 billion 'youth guarantee' and urgent investment in education and back-to-work support as unemployment rockets following the coronavirus crisis. Failure to take urgent action risks creating a 'pandemic generation' of young people with poorer education and employment prospects, organisations including the Institute of Employment Studies, Learning and Work Institute and the Association of Colleges have warned.

Cllr Sir Richard Leese, Chair of the LGA’s City Regions Board, said: "Councils and combined authorities are already working closely with employers, colleges and many others involved in education and job-training to make sure that nobody is left behind after we get through this crisis, as they are ideally placed to bring employment and skills initiatives together."


Test and trace

All symptomatic people over the age of five are now eligible for testing and a loss of smell or taste has been added to the list of COVID-19 symptoms which send a signal to people and their household to self-isolate. The LGA continues to call for government to make use of the local knowledge and expertise of councils, to share vital and up-to-date data with us, and to accompany this with consistent and ongoing funding.


Councils 'need four times more funding'

Local government faces "unsustainable" financial pressures as the sector continues to lead efforts to beat the coronavirus pandemic, the LGA has warned. The Government has so far allocated an additional £3.8 billion to councils, but many continue to see costs spiral at the same time as a huge drop in income, from things like car parking and leisure centres. 

"Extra funding for councils will be helpful but they will need up to four times the funding they have been allocated by government so far," said Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the LGA's Resources Board. The LGA has published guidance on key questions and issues for finance portfolio holders during the pandemic.


Loneliness and social isolation  

We are seeing higher levels of loneliness and social isolation in our communities, because of the impact of the restrictions necessary to combat COVID-19. With the Association of Directors of Public Health, we have developed practical advice to help councils think through how they can support people who may experience loneliness or social isolation at this time.


Equipment for children with SEND

The Department for Education has announced the creation of a £37 million fun to support children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) during 2020/21.  Families with children who have complex needs and disabilities will receive grants for vital equipment to make their lives easier while implementing social distancing measures, including computers, specialist equipment and educational toys. Grants from the Family Fund are typically worth £400 to £500 per family, depending on need.


The next phase 

The LGA is looking to make the case for local leaders to have the powers and levers they need to address the challenges ahead, as they and their partners create new support and services in response to coronavirus.

We want to make sure that our lobbying for councils on recovery is based on your frontline experience, and would particularly like feedback on: what you are most proud of about your council’s response to the crisis; what you are most worried about in the next few months; and what new levers and powers you need to help support your communities into recovery. Please email your responses to


Virtual events for local government

The LGA is restarting its conference programme with plans for a series of virtual events and webinars. Events in the pipeline include supporting the economically vulnerable and those in financial hardship; and transport and decarbonisation, with a special focus on cycling and responding to changing travel patterns. Please keep checking our events hub – – for the latest updates, and do let us know what virtual events you would find helpful in the coming weeks and months, by emailing