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Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Roddie Mackay, has spoken about the ongoing work being carried out by the Comhairle and other agencies across the Western Isles in response to the COVID-19 crisis, in advance of the Easter weekend.


Councillor Mackay says: “Although our resources and capacity are largely devoted to our three key objectives in relation to COVID-19 - keeping our statutory and support services operating to the highest level possible; keeping our clients, customers, employees and members safe; and providing community leadership, information and external advocacy, we are continuing to run the ordinary business of the Comhairle as best we can.

“Work continues on policy issues and Councillor Uisdean Robertson, the Chief Executive and colleagues attended a teleconference this week, regarding the Islands (Scotland) Act, the Director for Communities attended a Workshop with Orkney and Shetland Councils on the projects which we hope will comprise the Growth Deal for the Islands, and we have responded to recent correspondence on Energy issues.  Although all of these matters are a key part of the ongoing work, we are also considering our preparations for the recovery phase post COVID-19.

“The Comhairle continues to work closely with Public Health, Department of Work and Pensions, Hebridean Housing Partnership and other local partners. This work will, of course, continue over the Easter weekend.

“I would reiterate the advice from Government to the public – please do stay at home unless absolutely essential and adhere to the physical distancing guidelines.

“We have sought to try and keep families engaged with activities on social media and will continue to communicate updates at the earliest possible opportunity.

The following are updates on the various Comhairle services which have been continuing, and will continue, this coming week.”


Care

Our Care Workers continue to show how dedicated they are to their profession and how much their service users mean to them, and they to their clients. We value their huge contribution to our response as a community to this challenge as they continue to deliver excellent service in these troubling times and we all appreciate and applaud them.

I have had confirmation that at the minute we are receiving sufficient PPE from the national distribution centre, and  all social care staff will be given PPE in keeping with the latest national guidance. As has been our practice from day one of this pandemic, we continue to follow national guidance and the supplies we get of PPE are based on that guidance.

Can I conclude by thanking all Care Staff for their patience and professionalism. We are repeatedly, across our island communities , seeing evidence of what a wonderful and highly dedicated workforce they are. I think it is becoming apparent what the social care workforce offers communities across the UK is at long last receiving the recognition it deserves.


Education

Throughout the holiday period, the Comhairle has operated provision for children of key workers in seven area hubs and a childcare centre. Two partner nursery providers have also continued to support key worker parents. We acknowledge the responsible use of this provision by key workers who are critical to maintaining local services and it will continue to be available to them as they need it. For the start of the new term on 14th April, we intend to open an additional three hubs to accommodate increased demand from key workers after the holidays. Details of these will be issued to parents ahead of the start of term

There has also been a very positive response to requests for volunteers to support our services, demonstrating the strength and resilience of our community and the professional commitment of our staff teams as they offer to work across other key services.

As well as maintaining key worker provision, the Comhairle is advancing plans to support continuing learning for children and young people who are at home as term recommences on 14th April. The Comhairle's innovative investment in eSgoil is proving to be a very wise decision as we utilise the excellent technology it provides us with to teach pupils across the islands and, indeed, we will continue to offer teaching across Scotland, which sees eSgoil increasing its prominence as an important national resource.


Volunteers

We have launched a Volunteer Registration Form and Contact Centre 01851 822899 to collect details of individuals and community groups throughout the Western Isles looking to provide volunteering support during COVID-19. The Contact Centre will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and enable the Comhairle to match volunteers against the needs of individuals and families in our communities.

We would also urge anyone in need of help or support to contact our Customer Services team in the usual manner on 01851 600 501. We are anticipating a high number of calls, therefore we would ask for your patience

Both the Volunteer Line and Support Line will remain open during the Bank Holiday and we are continuing to contact people who request support.


Business

We have launched a new COVID-19 Local Business Support Scheme to help businesses unable to access support from existing Scottish and UK Government business schemes.

We’ve heard from many businesses that are falling through the cracks of the existing support schemes, so we’ve listened to that and are making grant funding available of up to £5,000 to support local businesses through this crisis and help them prepare for recovery.

With our limited financial resources, we have to target support where it is most needed.  The first stop should be the various Government schemes and interventions and if that is unsuccessful, businesses should contact our Business Gateway team on 01851 822775 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to help them with their application.

Further information on the Scottish Government Business Support Grant 

Further information on the Local Business Support Grant can be found on our Business Resilience page.


Isles MP congratulates Comhairle on new Covid-19 Business Grant Scheme

The launch of a Small Business Support Grant by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been welcomed by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

The grant scheme will offer those small business in the Council’s area who have not qualified for other schemes announced by the UK and Scottish Governments grants of up to £5000 to support local businesses through this crisis and help prepare them for recovery.

After hearing of this initiative Mr MacNeil said: “It is good to know that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have been listening to the local business community and are being pro-active in supporting those most in need at this time.

“While there is a lot of help available for businesses of all sizes, there are inevitably some that will fall through gaps in provision. This move by the Comhairle targets those businesses in our own area who provide a valuable service but don’t meet the criteria for other schemes.

“I have had a number of constituents who are unable to get access to the business support schemes previously announced so it is good to have a local initiative to point them to. I congratulate all those involved in the formation of this scheme, Council Officers, Councillors and other members of the Comhairle’s Businesss Resilience Group.”