This is how Chesterfield council staff have rallied round to support the community during the coronavirus pandemic
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK in March – and our lives were turned upside down almost overnight – Chesterfield Borough Council teams pulled out all the stops to support the community.
Staff have been working hard all year to continue delivering vital services while helping vulnerable residents and assisting with things like Covid-19 testing.
Councillor Tricia Gilby, leader of the council, has told of her pride at how workers responded to the crisis.
She said: “Individuals and teams stepped up and took on new roles and responsibilities to ensure we could continue to support our local communities.
“Throughout this year it’s been really important that we use all our resources to effectively support the local community and any residents who may require additional support, especially those who are particularly vulnerable at this time.
“I cannot praise the team highly enough and it is humbling to see that their efforts have been recognised by residents too.
“Alongside our key workers in the NHS and other sectors, everyone has really pulled together during difficult times – and the resilient spirt of our community has shone through.”
Where service areas closed or work was reduced due to Government restrictions, council staff were redeployed to help in other sectors where there were shortages or increased demand because of the coronavirus crisis.
One of the key services where workers were redeployed was the crematorium. This was a huge adjustment for the employees who made this change.
Amanda Clayton, who usually works in the democratic services team – which involves managing councillor diaries, arranging meetings and civic engagements – was redeployed to support the crematorium at a really difficult time.
Amanda said: “It was really important for me personally to know that I was doing something to help with the Covid-19 response.”
Two other staff members who were also redeployed to the crematorium became qualified crematorium technicians – which is a fantastic achievement and also means they will be able to step in quickly again to help the service if required.
Derbyshire Community Response Unit
Strong partnership working has been key to supporting the community over the course of the pandemic so far.
Derbyshire County Council led the Community Response Unit to help vulnerable people who needed help with shopping and prescriptions and had nobody else to support them.
Borough council officers were involved in the delivery of this project from day one, alongside staff from other local authorities in the county.
Wendy Blunt is a health and well-being officer with the borough council.
During the coronavirus emergency, she and fellow health and well-being officer Tina Hensey played a vital role in ensuring that vulnerable residents were supported.
Wendy said: “Referrals for help in Chesterfield came through to Derbyshire Voluntary Action and were forwarded on to me.
“The referrals were for assistance from people in Chesterfield who were shielding, vulnerable or self-isolating.
“When we received the referrals, we phoned people and asked them what they might need help with.
“We arranged help for them with shopping and prescription collections - but some just wanted a friendly chat because they were feeling isolated, lonely or sad.
“I really enjoyed talking to people and helping them in whatever way we could.
“I love speaking to the fabulous people of Chesterfield.
“We have some wonderful volunteers out there who go above and beyond to help the people of our town.”
Five members of the council’s commercial services team stepped in to help support local pharmacies by ensuring that they could continue to deliver prescriptions to vulnerable residents.
From the end of April until the middle of August, the team delivered more than 10,000 prescriptions from Wheatbridge Road pharmacy, Sheffield Road pharmacy, Ashgate Medical Centre, Chatsworth Road pharmacy and the town centre pharmacy – ensuring that people across the borough received the medication they needed.
The council received lots of positive feedback from residents about the staff who were redeployed to help deliver essential services to vulnerable people.
More than 20 members of staff – pulled from teams across the council – volunteered to be redeployed to help with Covid-19 testing in Chesterfield.
The Technique Stadium (formerly known as the Proact Stadium) was initially set up as a drive-through testing centre in April and the council was asked to provide marshals to support the operation.
Duties included checking car registrations to make sure the driver was on the appointment list, directing them into correct lanes to approach the testing area and directing cars to exits on departure – helping the centre run smoothly.
Voluntary sector support
We are incredibly lucky in Chesterfield to have a strong voluntary sector which provides incredible support to our communities throughout the year - and during the pandemic this has been more important than ever.
Groups have found ingenious methods of continuing to support their members and the wider community.
Tackling social isolation and loneliness was a priority for many but they also supported residents with the delivery of food parcels, hot meals, prescriptions and much more.
Building on the established voluntary sector in Chesterfield, the area has also seen a range of new projects to help the community.
Coun Gilby added: “It continues to be a challenging and uncertain time and we’re reacting to ever-evolving circumstances – the team at the council have pulled together to do an amazing job in supporting the community in exceptional times.
“Thank you to everyone across the community who has gone that extra mile to support one another through a time of great need.”