This covid-19 pandemic has been a massive challenge here in the north of Torfaen, as it has everywhere.
However, our communities are strong and have responded brilliantly.
As a councillor in the north of the Borough, I see my role as playing a part in helping co-ordinate that response, to help keep people safe, keep services going as much as possible and helping provide people with the support they need.
Keeping services going in the face of this crisis has meant a lot of change – from social care to refuse collections to schools and so many of the other things council workers do to keep our area going.
Those services have had to plan for coping with fewer staff, as some council employees have had to shield or self-isolate for periods.
They’ve had to adapt to more home-working and to running services like refuse collections or the Household Waste Centre with the added strain of the need for social distancing where possible, to keep staff and the public safe. It’s been quite a balancing act.
Our care workers have been absolute stars, looking after those who need help in their homes and people in care homes, despite the concerns they must have felt for their own welfare.
Our schools staff and staff in areas like the Play Service and Sports Development have helped run key worker childcare facilities. Teachers have kept children learning remotely where possible, having to adjust suddenly to the new situation. None of this has been ideal, but they’ve stepped up to do their best, going above and beyond the call of duty.
Thank you to them all.
Covid-19 has also meant entirely new services having to be created, such as the tracing scheme to help stem the spread of the virus. Council staff have volunteered for redeployment to help with this scheme, working alongside Health Service staff. Business support staff have paid out over £9million to local businesses to help support them through these tough times.
Of course, the council is just part of a much wider community response, and I’d like to thank the organisations in the north of the Borough who’ve done so much good work during the lockdown, to tackle the health and financial challenges this virus has inflicted on so many local people.
Councillors set up a Coronavirus Support Fund at the start of the pandemic, all contributing to a fund. That fund has been added to by Community Councils, and has been used to purchase over £30,000 worth of food for local organisations across Torfaen.
In the north, we have worked with the Trussell Trust, Garnsychan Partnership, Noddfa Church, Trac2, Blaenavon Town Council and their Healthy Blaenavon Team to get food out to people in need, whether that’s because they’re shielding or because the pandemic has affected their finances.
Working with Torfaen Voluntary Alliance, the fund has also helped local organisations with £12,000 in grants to help with the local response, and we’ve also donated toiletries to patients in hospitals who were struggling to get supplies without family visits being allowed.
Thank you to all the organisations and volunteers who’ve made this response possible, and remembered that in tough times, we are stronger together than we are alone.
I know these last few months have not been easy, so I’d like to thank all the local people who’ve done their bit, including those who’ve followed the guidelines and stayed at home as much as possible to help stop the spread of the virus.
I know that lots of council services have had to run a bit differently to normal – some services have had to be delayed or changed – so I’d also like to thank local people for their patience and understanding.
This pandemic has caused so much suffering, and I look forward to the day when it is well and truly a thing of the past. But I hope that the community spirit it has fostered will remain in the future.
Cllr Giles Davies
Taken from Issue 2 – Inside Torfaen Online Magazine.