The innovative work carried out by the staff of Longford County Council during the COVID-19 crisis will be highlighted on #YourCouncilDay, which takes place on Wednesday 1st July.
“The current crisis has highlighted the true nature of public service in communities across the country,” said Cathaoirleach Gerard Farrell.
Longford’s swift reaction to the demands of lockdown saw the Council’s IT Department rapidly set up remote working for all employees so that all critical and essential services could continue throughout COVID -19. The Council’s focus over the last number of months was to ensure that employees, Elected Members and citizens were supported and kept up to date with national, sectoral and local guidance and decisions in a timely manner.
Virtual meetings, including Council and Municipal District meetings, were held. Longford Municipal District was the first in the Country to organise such a meeting through a digital platform. Websites and social media provided the most up to date information. Another first for Longford County Council was the introduction of Employee Briefings over Microsoft Teams, where all employees were updated, at the same time, on the Council’s response to COVID-19.
Paddy Mahon, Chief Executive said, “Underpinned by responsive leadership, the Council partnered with other principal response agencies and through the Community Call supported and strengthened communities resilience to the COVID-19 emergency.”
Longford County Council’s Community Call helpline has helped at-risk members of the public access non-emergency and non-medical supports and advice during the current public health emergency. This confidential phoneline service was established by the COVID-19 Longford Community Response Forum. The In This Together campaign focused on staying connected, staying active and minding our mental Health. Our Libraries, Community Development, Healthy Ireland, Sports Partnership and Creative Ireland Longford rolled out programmes and initiative to support communities and individuals.
Paddy said “All local authorities established Community Support Programmes to co-ordinate a multi-agency response to deliver services while Covid-19 restrictions are in force. Councils moved to support those faced with isolation, activating befriending services with regular phone calls and organising book deliveries to combat loneliness. Vital services moved online bringing a range of virtual supports into people’s homes such as inclusive exercise classes for all ages and adapted exercises for older people in self-isolation. We have seen live-streamed storytelling, hosted a virtual Bealtaine Tea Dance and organised a very successful Cruinniú na nÓg supporting community spirits through dark days.”
Longford Civil Defence helped support older people in the community delivering information leaflets, books, food and supplies and worked closely with County Longford Public Participation Network to support families in need right across the county. 15 volunteers assisted as part of the response team and to date completed 72 taskings and provided 440 Voluntary hours to the Community, providing assistance to the HSE and Local Authority. They have been involved in community calls to vulnerable people, transporting test samples to the laboratory, delivery of leaflets and newsletters on behalf of Longford Libraries and assisting at Irish Blood Transfusion Clinic.
Longford County Council provided funding from the COVID-19 Emergency Fund to help support many frontline community groups including the Family Resource Centres in Ballymahon and Granard as they supported and assisted the vulnerable, elderly and those individuals who were self-isolating or cocooning.
The Longford Local Enterprise Office launched Longford Business Online, which provided an online directory of all companies that locals could order from during the crisis, including food vendors, retailers and other services. They also ensured that small businesses have access to supports like Restart Grant, Trading Online Vouchers and the Microfinance Ireland Business Loans, all of which are still available.
Longford is one of the few Councils to introduce an online application process for the Restart Grant. Longford County Council’s uptake on the grant is currently around 42%, the highest in the country at the moment, and this is due to an early and sustained awareness scheme which included:
- The use of an on-line Webform (developed in collaboration with 3 neighbouring LA’s).
- An effective Social Media Campaign through Facebook and Twitter.
- Placing the Restart Grant information and links front and centre on our website.
- Our LEO actively promoting the Restart Grant and other supports to SME’s.
- Our Elected Members making SME’s aware of the support on a continual basis.
#YourCouncilDay will showcase what is happening on the day throughout the Council and also highlight the innovation shown by local authorities in supporting the community through the lockdown.
Social media users throughout the community are also asked to post their experiences of Council initiatives using the hashtag #YourCouncilDay.
Cathaoirleach Gerard Farrell said, “The unique circumstances of Covid-19 prompted Councils to innovate in how they provided both day-to-day services and additional supports to the public. Throughout the crisis, Longford County Council continued to maintain its services across a large range of functions including water services, housing, libraries, emergency services, environment, planning and veterinary.”
Paddy Mahon concluded that “Faced with the challenge of social distancing, and with many of our staff working from home, local authorities brought novel solutions to the complex problems posed by the new realities of lockdown. Thousands of public servants adopted new skills and devised innovative ways of delivering services to those who needed them most. Working together we have helped our communities through these very challenging times.”