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Coronavirus Staff Update, 4 June

We're moving to Level 1

Hurrah! What a turnaround in a few short weeks as we move from Level 2 to Level 1 from 00:01 on Saturday 5 June.

Given last month we were in the grips of an outbreak, the massive reduction in cases thanks to increased testing and the acceleration of the vaccination programme means we can now enjoy a further easing of restrictions.

You can meet socially in groups:

  • up to 6 people from 3 households in your home or theirs - and can stay overnight
  • up to 8 people from 3 households in an indoor public place like cafe, pub or restaurant
  • up to 12 people from 12 households outdoors in your garden or in a public place

There's more information about Level 1 restrictions available on the Scottish Government website (www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/pages/protection-level-1/)

Please keep getting tested regularly, go for both doses of the vaccine, and follow the appropriate restrictions if you're visiting other areas of Scotland or the UK. There's no change to current working arrangements, either.

How are you, really? We want to know

If we asked "how are you?", would your default response be "I'm fine"?

Well, we are asking in our mental health and wellbeing survey which launches next week, and we want your honest answers so we can offer targeted support where it's needed, and learn how colleagues are coping with the personal and professional challenges the pandemic has had on our lives.

We'll also be asking for your thoughts on what your workplace might look like as restrictions ease, so watch out for information coming into your inbox, via these updates, or through your line manager. Please take a few minutes to respond before 9 July.

Cycle to Work scheme

The Cycle to Work scheme has opened for 2021. While we're mindful that many staff are working from home, we do still have some colleagues attending the workplace - and you may have been one of the many taking up cycling during the last year and fancy commuting to work in the not-too-distant future.

It's great exercise, keeps your body and mind healthy, and is much better for the environment than commuting by car.

http://interchange.moray.gov.uk/int_standard/Page_107264.html

28 April 2021

Case numbers in Moray

Not the nicest way to start our weekly updates, but stark figures showing the increase of cases of Coronavirus in Moray.

Between 18 - 24 April Moray recorded 43 positive cases, giving a rate per 100k population of 44.88. For comparison, Aberdeen City's rate is 15.74 per 100k population, and Aberdeenshire's is 8.81 per 100k.

Remember in-home socialising is still not permitted, though it's hoped this will change on 17 May. If you're meeting people then make sure it's outdoors, and there should be no more than 6 adults from 6 households in total (kids under 12 aren't counted in this limit).

And, as restrictions ease and we can travel, eat out and enjoy shopping again, we must make sure we do all we can to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. We do not want to enter another lockdown, and see our local businesses forced to close again.

If you don't have symptoms, you can take part in community testing. You can visit the testing centre in Elgin (details at www.moray.gov.uk/Covid19) or order lateral flow tests - which give results within around 30 minutes - to be delivered to your door. They're available to order at: https://test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/order-lateral-flow-kits/condition

Shielding

Level 3 restrictions mean those who were shielding can return to the workplace. But it's important you are supported through this process. Individual risk assessments are being carried out, and return-to-work plans completed. Your line manager will be in touch with you shortly, if you've not heard from them already.

Teams update

Our ICT colleagues are still receiving a lot of enquiries about the roll-out of Teams. Please don't log ICT helpdesk calls asking for updates on this - as soon as there's more to share on the progress of this work, it'll be posted on the news section of the interchange: interchange.moray.gov.uk. Thanks.

International Workers Memorial Day (28 April)

We remember those who have lost their life at work, or from work-related injury or illness. As it was last year, it feels particularly poignant given the ongoing efforts of workers during the pandemic.

This year's theme is 'Health & Safety is a fundamental workers' right'. We fully back this, are committed to reviewing and creating policies which safeguard colleagues, and welcome the support and representation from Trade Unions in ensuring our work places and practices are safe environments for us all.

Remember FACTS

F: Face coverings
A: Avoid crowded places
C: Clean hands and surfaces regularly
T: Two-metre distancing
S: Self-isolate immediately and a book a test if you have symptoms

26 March 2021

Shielding guidance

Updated guidance has been issued this week on shielding, in anticipation of a move from Level 4 to Level 3 on 26 April. This move means people in front line roles who are on the shielding list may be able to return to the workplace if they're unable to work from home.

Managers will be in touch directly with colleagues who are shielding, to review individual risk assessments and discuss any concerns. Please don't return to the workplace until this has taken place.

The latest guidance is available on the Scottish Government's website: www.gov.scot/publications/covid-shielding/pages/highest-risk-classification/

Covid-19 community testing continues

Help stop the spread; open to those without symptoms.

Buckie: Fishermen's Hall
22 March - 2 April
9.30am – 4.30pm (Mon, Tues, Thur & Fri)
1 - 7pm (Weds)

Elgin: Williamson Hall
29 - 30 March and 1 - 2 April: 9.30am - 4.30pm
31 March: 1 - 7pm
5 - 16 April: 7am - 7pm

'Stay at home' restriction lifts next week

From 2 April 'stay at home' is being replaced with 'stay local' - this means within Moray. If you're out and about you may see colleagues from our roads maintenance, and lands and parks teams, installing signs at harbours, parks and open spaces reminding you of the FACTS guidance.

This is happening all over Scotland and, as restrictions ease further and travel restrictions are lifted, they're hugely important as we safely welcome visitors back to Moray. Please read these and follow FACTS guidance.

Visitors e-form

Access to council buildings is still strictly limited. If you're working in HQ or Annexe and you have an essential visitor, you're responsible for making sure the visitor e-form is completed for Test & Protect purposes: http://interchange.moray.gov.uk/int_standard/Page_109683.html

Scottish Military and Age Scotland Veterans updates

The latest update from these organisations, including the launch of Op COURAGE, and a free CSCS for Veterans course is available on the interchange: http://interchange.moray.gov.uk/int_standard/Page_134613.html

Issued 26 March 2021

It's been exactly one year since we issued your first Coronavirus staff update. None of us thought we'd still be sending these out a year on! Thanks for reading them, and for feeding back on how useful you find them.

19 March 2021

Lockdown update

Day of Reflection

You're encouraged to take part in the National Day of Reflection to remember those lost to Coronavirus.

The fire alarm within HQ/Annexe will sound at noon on Tuesday 23 March to mark a minute's silence, and colleagues in other locations - including those homeworking - are encouraged to take part.

Later that evening, at 8pm, you're invited to shine a light from your window or doorstep. More info: www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/day-of-reflection/reflect

Community testing: Fisherman's Hall, Buckie

Covid-19 community testing is available in Buckie from 22 March for two weeks.

It's only for those without symptoms (those with symptoms should book an NHS test) so go between 9:30am - 4.30pm (Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fri) or 1 - 7pm on Weds, if you live or work locally.

Pre-retirement course

There are still spaces available on the pre-retirement course running on 31 March between 10am and noon. Email organisational.development@moray.gov.uk to book a place on the virtual course.

Lockdown update

Some positive news this week as we look forward to the easing of restrictions over the coming months. The first comes on 2 April, when the 'stay at home' message is lifted and replaced with 'stay local' - which means within Moray. Then, from 5 April further restrictions ease on non-essential retail, hairdressers and barbers, and outdoor contact sports for 12-17 year-olds.

It's hoped even more relaxations will take effect from 26 April, and then from 17 May. By June, it's the aim that Scotland will be at Level 1. More info available: www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-timetable-for-easing-restrictions/pages/timetable/

Your current working arrangements will continue until you're notified otherwise by your manager.

Pre-election guidance

Now that the notice of election for the Scottish Parliamentary Election on 6 May has been published, we're in what's called the 'pre-election period'.

Although most council business continues as normal, there's an increased focus on political neutrality and council publicity. A team brief has been issued by Returning Officer, Denise Whitworth, and if you've any questions speak with your line manager in the first instance.

Issued 19 March 2021

Moray's 7-day rolling average of new cases per 100k population is for the first time in many weeks the lowest in Grampian - great work! But we can't be complacent. FACTS and community testing are vital in stopping the spread - helping to bring those numbers down as we get closer to the easing of restrictions.

5 March 2021

Lockdown update

From 15 March P4-7 pupils will join P1-3 in returning to full-time in-school learning. Secondary pupils will continue to be on a phased and blended return.

While S4-S6 will be prioritised for face-to-face learning, all pupils will spend some time in school from 15 March until the Easter break. It's then expected that all secondary pupils will return full-time after Easter.

New guidance is being issued by Scottish Government on the phased return, and we're still working through arrangements for how it'll be delivered in Moray. Families will be contacted directly by their school(s).

Been invited for your vaccine? Roll up your sleeves!

A reminder that although many appointments will fall out of work time, if yours is scheduled for during your working hours, let your manager know so arrangements can be made to support attendance. Vaccines are crucial to the routemap out of this pandemic, so let's all play our part when we're asked to roll up our sleeves.

Community testing: Forres House Community Centre

Community testing is available in Forres until 12 March. It's only for those without symptoms (those with symptoms should book an NHS test) so go between 9am - 3.30pm (Mon-Fri) if you live or work locally.

ICT improvements for remote workers

We've all faced challenges over the last year, but our ICT colleagues have had more than their fair share. From preparing and distributing hundreds of laptops and PCs to allow many of us to work from home to allow essential frontline staff to remain safe while working in the community, to supporting schools deliver remote learning - and much more in between.

There's a power of work still going on. For those working remotely, you can now stay on the VPN while on video calls, so you'll be able to access files on SharePoint or a shared drive at the same time (yay!). The rollout of Microsoft Teams is also progressing; once this is in place you'll use your own work email (not the temporary account some users have) and it'll integrate with your Outlook diary. Thanks for your patience.

Employee benefits

A new addition's on the employee benefits section of interchange. With your council ID badge you can get a tasty 20% discount on all food in the restaurant (when it reopens following lockdown restrictions easing) and the takeaway service from the Lossie Restaurant.

Not sure what other deals you can get? Check out the national and local bargains.

19 February 2021

Lockdown update

It's been confirmed that more learners can attend school from Monday (22 February) as part of a phased return.

This includes: pre-school, P1-3, some senior phase secondary pupils (part-time to allow practical work to be completed) and a slight increase in existing provision for children and young people with significant additional support needs.

Remote learning will continue for those not currently attending school, or due to return from Monday. The Scottish Government has indicated it's unlikely that phasing the return for other pupils to school will begin before 15 March. We'll keep you updated.

Meantime other lockdown restrictions remain in place until at least the end of February, and possibly longer. This means you can only leave your home for an essential purpose as set out by Scottish Government.

This is hard going, and it's ok if you're struggling. There's support available; we've set out some links and information on the interchange for mental health support and wellbeing guidance.

Community testing for those without symptoms

Community testing kicks off in Keith on Monday (22 February) for two weeks. It's available at the Scout Hall on Fife Street between 10am and 3.30pm, Monday to Friday, is free and there's no need to book.

It's only for those without symptoms (those with symptoms should book an NHS test) - you may not be aware you have Coronavirus if you don't have symptoms, but you can still spread it.

Other sites are confirmed, however because it's a mobile unit to be able to respond to outbreaks, we've not confirmed dates for other locations yet. Once we have, it'll be on our website, social media, local press, so keep an eye out.

Roll up your sleeves!

You'll have seen the nationwide TV ads, posters, press adverts and social media promoting uptake of the vaccination. If you're invited, please roll up your sleeve and take the vaccination.

Although many appointments will fall out of work time, if yours is scheduled for during your working hours, let your manager know so arrangements can be made to support attendance. If transport to the Elgin vaccination centre is an issue, Stagecoach has launched a new shuttle service.

 

Moray's 7-day rolling average of new cases per 100k population remains higher than the Grampian-wide picture. New strains are more infectious; FACTS and community testing are vital in stopping the spread - helping to bring those numbers down. We all want to be in the best possible position for any potential easing of restrictions, whenever that may be.

04 February 2021

Lockdown update - what's changing?

On Tuesday the First Minister confirmed that lockdown measures will remain in place until the end of February, with a further review in a fortnight.

However, it's hoped that children who attend nursery, those in P1-3 and those in the senior phase of secondary can go back to school on 22 February, as part of a phased return for education. Confirmation of the return of these learners will come from the Scottish Government on 16 February. Remote learning will continue for those not currently attending school.

If cases continue to fall, and as the vaccination roll-out progresses, there's a possibility we could see a loosening of some other restrictions as early as March, so let's keep pushing through.

You can only leave your home for an essential purpose

Follow the FACTS:

F - Face coverings
A - Avoid crowded places
C - Clean your hands regularly
T - Two-metre distancing
S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

Community testing for those without symptoms

We're establishing mobile testing units which will travel to sites across Moray from mid-February, for a three-month period.

Testing is free and available to all those in the community aged over 5 years, and booking isn't essential. You'll be able to walk-in, carry out a test and have the results in around 30 minutes.

It's only for those without symptoms (those with symptoms should book an NHS test) and it's in place to identify chains of community transmission and break them - you may not be aware you have Coronavirus if you don't have symptoms, but you can still spread it.

We'll let you know where these sites are going to be, and when, in future updates and through the local press, our website, interchange, and social media.

Scottish Parliamentary Elections

These elections take place on 6 May; if you're interested in working on polling day, or at the count, have a look at the website to see what roles are available, rates of pay, and how to apply: 

22 January 2021

Lockdown extension

It's been confirmed that lockdown measures have been extended until mid-February.

Remote learning remains, with schools and nurseries only open for children of keyworkers and vulnerable children.

As hard as it is to continue in lockdown, as set out by the Scottish Government, you should not leave your home unless it's for an essential purpose. The number of cases recorded in Moray in January alone is almost 400 - the virus is here and we need to follow the FACTS.

A reminder of the restrictions is available online.

How do you get to work?

As well as understanding the impact of the pandemic on our commute, our colleagues in transportation want your help in developing a council travel plan. We want to encourage as much active and sustainable travel as possible, so telling us what your normal (pre-Covid!) transport looked like - and what could make you consider other methods - will be really useful.

It's available on interchange news, and you can enter into a prize draw to win a £100 Elgin gift card. Bonus!

HQ and Annexe exit/entry door system

If you're attending HQ/Annexe for work, from Monday please make sure your ID badge is swiped every time you enter or leave the building(s).

Do not follow someone in, or hold the door open for any colleagues. Facilities staff are putting up posters to act as a reminder, so please get into the habit of swiping. This will help us keep a record of who has attended on which day, for Test & Protect purposes.

Thanks for your co-operation.

Follow the FACTS

There's no room for complacency, following these simple steps can - and will - save lives.

F - Face coverings
A - Avoid crowded places
C - Clean your hands regularly
T - Two-metre distancing
S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

Reminder

Hand sanitising stations are available at every entrance and exit of our buildings. Please use these.

Scottish Military Community update

The latest update detailing events, training and support for our military community has been published. Along with online music events and Age Scotland updates, there’s a chance for those living with conditions such as Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis or Dementia to collaborate with Scottish Ballet.

12 January 2021

Lockdown Briefing

Last week a team brief was sent to all staff outlining immediate changes as a result of the temporary lockdown put in place by the Scottish Government. It includes advice for those with health vulnerabilities, and those with caring responsibilities.

As set out by the Scottish Government, you should not leave your home unless it's for an essential purpose. This does include work, though for those who can work remotely, you should continue to do so. Where remote working is not possible, and your service has not been told to stop by the Scottish Government guidance, you should continue to attend work. Risk assessments are being reviewed and our manager will tell you about changes, should there be any.  

Back to basics

Cases of Covid-19 are rising nationally and locally, and we're hearing lots of stories on the news about how our health services are being impacted.

The most important things we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe - and lessen the burden on the NHS - is to follow the stay at home guidance, and stick to the FACTS: Face coverings; Avoid crowded places; Clean your hands; Two-metre distancing; Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

Home learning, children of key workers and vulnerable children

Vulnerable children, and the children of key workers (as set out by the Scottish Government) are attending school as normal.

However we know for many of you home learning makes a return this week. You'll be supported by your child's school, and also by us as employers. We recognise how difficult it is to fit work around home learning, so please chat with your line manager to see what options are available to you to work more flexibly and help manage this tricky balance.

Handy links

We know there's a lot of info out there just now, so we've pulled together a few links you'll find useful. Bookmark them on your device for quick access:

Stay at home guidance

COVID-19 Vaccine

Mental Health Support

17 December 2020

Christmas is coming - please enjoy responsibly

Understandably after a tough year, many of us will want to relax and enjoy the festive holidays with our loved ones.

Whether you've made the decision to stay at home and celebrate virtually with family and friends, or you've chosen to bubble up between 23-27 December, the message is to enjoy Christmas responsibly. As we all know, the virus will not take a break and mixing indoors with other households does increase the risk of transmission.

If you are forming a bubble, the advice is to limit contact with others before and after 'bubbling up'.

Detailed advice for Christmas, produced by the Scottish Government, is available on their website.

Remember that bubbles are only permitted between 23-27 December, for Hogmanay and New Year you should follow the rules for socialising as they apply in Moray.

CONSUL trial - thanks

Thanks to all those who've taken part so far in the CONSUL discussion pilot. You've got until Friday (18 Dec) to take part, so don't miss out!

Moray remains in Protection Level 1

Moray remains in Protection Level 1 of measures to suppress Coronavirus, following this week's Scottish Government review of the new strategic framework.

The restriction of no in-home socialising also remains in place in the region. Our neighbours in Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City regions move to Level 3 from Friday, so you should not travel to these areas unless it's essential.

There is due to be a further review of protection levels next Tuesday. Please ensure that if you're travelling over the festive break, you're aware of the restrictions. You can check on the Scottish Government website.

Remember FACTS

No apologies from us for reminding you of these!

F - Face coverings
A - Avoid crowded places
C - Clean your hands regularly
T - Two-metre distancing (please remember this also applies in the workplace!)
S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

Have a safe and Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. We'll be back with more in 2021.

07 December 2020

Moray remains in Protection Level 1

Moray remains in Protection Level 1 of measures to suppress Coronavirus, following this week's Scottish Government review of the new strategic framework.

The restriction of no in-home socialising also remains in place in the region. Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City regions remain in Level 2, however this is being kept under close review by the Scottish Government, so if you're planning a trip to these areas before Christmas please make sure you're following the latest guidance.

For a reminder of the restrictions in all areas, visit the Scottish Government website: www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/

Dig out those Christmas jumpers

If you're not already proudly sporting your festive attire, make sure you've dug it out the back of your cupboard and washed it before Christmas Jumper Day on Friday 11 December.

Even though we can't all be together this year, we hope you'll be feeling jolly in your knitwear and able to donate to Save the Children.

Colleague Teresa Ruggeri has set up a text donation line - you can text TEAMMORO1 to 70050 to donate £2. (That's the letter O - not a zero!)

Pay for car parking by phone

You'll be able to pay for parking in any of our Elgin car parks using your phone, from 16 December.

You'll still have the option to pay by cash but, if you'd rather, you can pay using a smartphone in a contactless transaction which doesn't require the printing of a parking ticket.

Reminders can be issued that your ticket is about to expire, and time can be extended without revisiting the car park or your vehicle. Look out for the stickers on the parking machines for a 'how to'.

Planning a virtual Christmas do?

Of course things are going to be different this year - no Mad Friday in the pub, or sitting round the table in your favourite restaurant with your colleagues as you tuck into turkey dinners and tell each other cracker jokes.

Are you planning to celebrate in a more creative way? Christmas quiz, virtual drinks - or something else? Let us know by emailing pr@moray.gov.uk and we'll share suggestions in a future edition for those who are struggling to find inspiration.

It's fresh out there

The days are getting colder, but ventilating shared workspaces is critical in reducing the risk of transmitting Coronavirus. More on this next week.

20 November 2020

Moray remains in Protection Level 1

Moray remains in Protection Level 1 of measures to suppress Coronavirus, following this week's Scottish Government review of the new strategic framework.

The restriction of no in-home socialising also remains in place in the region though, with effect from 19 November, groups of up to eight people from up to three households can meet outdoors.

For a reminder of the restrictions in the area under Level 1,  visit the Scottish Government website and select Moray or enter your postcode.

Watch your space!

A reminder that physical distancing continues to be an important measure to reduce the transmission of the virus, and this is just as vital in the workplace as it is when we're out of work.

Please also pay close attention to, and comply with, room capacity signs and capacity limits in communal areas like breakout areas and toilets. Remember to make regular use of hand sanitising stations, which are located at the entrance and exits of all council buildings.

Everyone has a responsibility to do all they can to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus.

Winter walking challenge

Teams of five colleagues are being encouraged to sign up for this year's workplace walking challenge. It runs for eight weeks from 11 January, but sign-ups must be completed by 4 January.

Teams will record their steps for eight weeks on the challenge website (walks, runs, bike rides, yoga and swimming all count) and complete mini challenges, sharing progress with others. Fantastic local prizes are up for grabs as participants compete virtually with colleagues and other Moray businesses and organisations.

Contact Claire from Health & Social Care Moray to register a team: Claire.Buchanan2@nhs.scot or call 07931 228444.

Flexible food fund re-opens for applications

Applications have re-opened for our flexible food fund, paid for by the Scottish Government. Anyone experiencing financial hardship can apply for help in paying for food during the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

Successful applicants will receive their first payment in December, followed by another payment in January.

To access this support applicants should call Money Advice Moray on 0300 123 4563.

12 November 2020

Moray remains in Protection Level 1

Moray remains in Protection Level 1 of measures to suppress Coronavirus, following the first Scottish Government review of the new strategic framework.

The restriction of no in-home socialising also remains in place in the region. For a reminder of the restrictions in the area under Level 1, visit the Scottish Government website and select Moray or enter your postcode.

Got kids at school? You need our ParentsPortal!

Want one less thing to worry about? How about a few? With the ParentsPortal, you can:

- report your child's absence
- view attendance records
- approve permission slips
- update your contact details
- pay for lunches, uniforms or trips (options may vary from school-to-school)

Sign up for the ParentsPortal for 24/7 access from any smart device.

So far families in Moray are using this for over 1,600 pupils. Speyside schools are recording the highest uptake so far, but it's available across all primary and secondary schools in Moray.

Remember FACTS for a Safer Scotland

We're in Level 1 thanks to the efforts everyone in Moray is making to keep infection levels down. Following FACTS is a vital part of suppressing the virus - and there's no room for complacency.

F - Face coverings
A - Avoid crowded places
C - Clean your hands regularly
T - Two-metre distance
S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

Walking home for Christmas

As an antidote to the national lockdowns and restrictions, here's something positive you might like to take part in.

Every year at this time the impressive veteran's charity, Walking With the Wounded, hold a fundraising event.

Although the normal event's been scrapped, action is still needed this year to support our ex-military who may be in need of mental health care and who are being particularly affected by the pandemic.

The charity has come up with a Covid-compliant fund-raiser, and has asked us to promote it. Given the enduring relationship Moray has with our military community, we are very happy to do this. 

October Staff Updates
23 October 2020

Retirement looming?

There's another chance to attend a free pre-retirement course next month.

The council has arranged this online course, which is ideal for those looking to retire within the next three years. Planning is important.

Though this is now a two-hour online session the topics covered will be the same as previously, covering the state and workplace pensions, tax allowances and savings. All designed to help you make informed decisions about retirement.

If you have never used online resources to attend a course before, don't be put off. The presenter will do all the work and there will be a `chat' feature where you can still ask your questions.

If you book a place you will be given a step-by-step guide on how to log into the course and technical support. It's on 26 November 2020.

To book your place just email: employee.development@moray.gov.uk or go direct and log onto Learnpro.

Check out our guide on how Learnpro works.

Armed Forces support

If you or someone you know is a veteran, serving personnel or related to either, there's a couple of developments they should know about. Veterans Railcards are now available; make sure to check that you're eligible before applying.

NHS Scotland will be launching the Scottish Veterans Care Network on Thursday 19 Nov. This is a National Strategic Network which will address a number of current issues, including access to specialist services such as Veterans First Point and mainstream services.

A key objective and early priority for the network will be the development of a Veterans Mental Health Action Plan. The event provides an opportunity to contribute to the shape of the Network and its priorities.

Make sure to register your interest for the event before 19 November. 

Holidays and clocks

For those of you that have had a week or two off for the Tattie hols, hope it's been a good break - if a little wet - and you'll have enjoyed school-free time with family.

Don't forget, it's the last Sunday in October and traditionally the end of British Summer Time, so the clocks go back this weekend. A later start to the day might make back to work a little easier.

16 October 2020

Face coverings in the workplace

The Scottish Government has confirmed that face coverings are to be worn in the workplace in canteens (with effect from today) and communal areas from Monday (19 October). This includes corridors, photocopy rooms, kitchens, breakout areas, etc. Managers have been issued with a briefing, and more information has been uploaded to the interchange.

If you have any questions, you should approach your line manager in the first instance. If applicable there is an exemption form for people who cannot wear a mask, such as someone with a hidden disability or health condition. Where appropriate, we would encourage the use of reusable face coverings, which save money in the long-term and are more environmentally-friendly.

Support for our military community

A new section has been added on interchange which focuses on supporting the local military community.

Whether you're a Veteran or the partner, spouse or child of a serving member of the Armed Forces, you can find details about Veterans groups, entitlements to benefits, and links to employability websites.

Managing a team during Covid-19: advice and support

Managing teams at the moment is requiring a change in working practices for many of us. Managing remotely, virtually and 'team bundles' seems to be the shift we are all grappling with.

So, we're piloting a Manager Advice Service which will help you get the support you need. You can have a conversation with someone from our HR, OD or Health and Safety teams, where practical support and advice can be shared.

It could be help with a stress risk assessment, or a friendly ear to talk through an issue so you know where to start in resolving a situation.

If you would like to have a conversation with a colleague from HR, OD or Health and Safety, please email employee.development@moray.gov.uk. Include a brief summary of your issue, and a virtual meeting will be set up with the most relevant member of the team.

Bus Revolution

While we've got your attention, please take a few minutes to tell us what (in a non-Covid world) would attract you to use public transport. We need your views to help shape the green bus revolution, a £4 million project which is part of our £100 million Growth Deal.

08 October 2020

Don't stay on mute

No, we're not talking about video conference faux pas - it's something much more important.

COSLA - the national body which represents all 32 Scottish councils - has teamed up with trade unions to release a video called 'Don't Stay on Mute'. It features messages from COSLA staff and trade unions, recognising the challenges the many thousands of council workers have faced over recent months, and outlines what support is available.

Its aim is to encourage anyone struggling with loneliness, anxiety or uncertainty as a result of the pandemic to get help.

World Mental Health Day

It takes place this weekend (10 October) and the theme is 'mental health for all'. It's never been more important to take care of our physical and mental wellbeing - this year has been difficult, and there's been a lot of pressure and uncertainty in our lives.

There's a suite of resources online, covering what mental health is, recognising the problems and what good mental health looks like.

Take a look at the Mental Health Foundation's website.

Brush up your skills with CLIVE

Understandably, only essential face-to-face training is being carried out just now. But that doesn't mean that no other training options are available to you.

CLIVE is our online training portal, and features courses including: Building Personal Resilience; Customer Service Excellence; Manual Handling; Money Advice; Stress Management; Equality & Diversity Awareness.

A guide to using CLIVE is available on the interchange. It's well worth a look.

Holidaying over the tattie hols?

On Wednesday the Scottish Government said they are not advising those who have already booked holiday accommodation in October need to cancel. But they are asking people to think about the need to travel, especially if you would be travelling to central belt areas under greater restrictions.

Your homeworking set-up

There's a handy infographic available which offers advice on optimum set-up for your home workspace, staying mentally fit and creating the right environment.

02 October 2020

Continuation of home-working

Roddy Burns, Chief Executive, is sending a message to staff with an update on the current picture for home-working and giving an insight into the medium-term arrangements.

In line with national guidance, it is very unlikely that we will ask those who are home-working to return to their normal workplace this year.

We will keep the situation under review for any changes and exceptions, but for now people are asked to remain working from home where that has been their normal arrangement during lockdown.

Laptops and home-working tech

Our ICT colleagues are hard at work reconfiguring the laptops required to allow more of us to work from home.

If they have been in touch with you to arrange collection of equipment, or to discuss the specifications required for your tech, please get back in touch with them to allow them to progress the work.

Also, please turn up at your allocated collection time. If you have to change this for any reason, let the team know so they can rearrange your collection.

Reusable face coverings

We're encouraging all residents to use reusable face coverings as much as possible. Disposable ones work out more expensive in the long run, and disposing of them improperly can damage the environment.

Recent figures show that by using a reusable, you could save £185 a year. Given the likelihood of the use of face coverings continuing for some yet, it's definitely worthwhile investing.

How do you want to be kept informed?

What do you think of these updates? Are they too frequent, not frequent enough? Is there a different way you'd want to be informed of what's happening? Let us know by emailing pr@moray.gov.uk.

Thanks to all those who do get in touch with us with feedback, every email is appreciated. We know you're reading these updates (in fact there's been over 31,500 views on interchange alone - thank you!) but we want to make sure we're getting it right for you.

Remember FACTS for a safer Scotland
F - Face coverings
A - Avoid crowded places
C - Clean your hands regularly
T - Two metre distance
S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

September Staff Updates
03 September 2020

Coronavirus complacency 

Last week we urged those in the workplace to be vigilant with social distancing, particularly in shared areas like breakout rooms, print rooms, toilets and kitchens.

Sadly we're continuing to hear from staff who have concerns about their colleagues' behaviour in relation to social distancing both in work and in the community.

We know it's tough, but it's vital that you follow the latest guidance.

Specific advice is available on the Scottish Government's website, and outlines safe practices for seeing friends and family during Phase 3 of route-map out of the Coronavirus crisis

We all have a duty to keep ourselves and others safe, and flouting social distancing - in or out of the workplace - risks the health of your family, friends and colleagues.

Attending school

Last weekend, Clinical Director for the Scottish Government, Professor Jason Leitch, issued a letter to all schools, which was then sent to families. In it he outlines when children need to be booked in for a Coronavirus test.

In it, he stresses that if your child does not have Coronavirus symptoms (a new continuous cough, fever/temperature, loss or, or change in, sense of smell or taste) but they have other cold-like symptoms like a runny nose, they do not need to be tested and they, and you, do not need to self-isolate. If your child is well enough, they can go to school.

Remember FACTS for a safer Scotland

F - Face coverings

A - Avoid crowded places

C - Clean your hands regularly

T - Two metre distance

S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

August Staff Updates
28 August 2020

Face coverings in schools

From Monday, pupils in our secondary schools will have to wear a face covering (unless they're exempt from doing so) between classes and in communal indoor areas, including corridors and toilets.

Pupils aged 5 and over will also have to wear one while using school transport (exemptions apply here, too).

It comes after a change in national guidance issued by the Scottish Government earlier this week.

Growth Deal

Moray's transformative £100 million Growth Deal was signed on Monday,formalising the funding packages pledged by the Scottish and UK governments.

More info about the game-changing projects which will be embarked upon over the next 10 - 15 years is available on the MyMoray website: www.mymoray.co.uk/moray-growth-deal

Don't get complacent about distancing

If you're back in the workplace, please remember to stick to social distancing rules. They're critical in reducing the risk of transmission of the virus, and are there to keep us all safe. Remember distancing also applies in shared facilities such as printing rooms, toilets, kitchens and breakout areas.

ICT helpdesk response times

The work of our colleagues in ICT has been thrust into the spotlight this year. Responding overnight to a nationwide shutdown in March was just the start, as they rolled up their sleeves and helped hundreds of us set up for homeworking.

The latest batch of tech, with laptops for schools and for staff to allow more to work flexibly, has now arrived. This means there's a huge focus on reconfiguring them ready to be rolled out to those that need the devices urgently.

Meanwhile, critical ICT helpdesk calls will continue to be answered, however non-urgent ones will take a bit longer to be responded to.

Thanks in advance for your patience.

Best Value Assurance Report

A reminder that on Wednesday we issued a staff update in relation to the Best Value Assurance Report, released by the Accounts Commission on Thursday.

If you've not seen the message to staff on this, and would like to read the report, you can download a copy from Audit Scotland.

21 August 2020

Library and leisure services - what's happening?

Some great news as we progress with partial re-opening of services in this 'new normal'. An order and collect service is operating at Elgin library; materials can be ordered online or over the phone and collected during an allocated time slot. We'll roll this out to other libraries if it's successful in Elgin.

Meanwhile outdoor leisure facilities open from Monday (24 Aug): grass and astroturf pitches, and pavillions. Pre-booking is essential.

Yesterday we heard from the First Minister that gyms and pools can open from 31 August; there's still more planning to do and staff training ahead, so we'll confirm opening dates as soon as we can.

Growth Deal

The growth deal for Moray, which will mean a £100million investment in the local economy over the next 10-15 years, will reach a critical stage on Monday

Council Leader, Cllr Leadbitter, and senior ministers from Scottish and UK governments will sign the Heads of Terms agreement that commits to the multi-million programme of development.

The signing will be undertaken virtually, and broadcast live on our website. More on this in next week's update.

Planning for retirement

If you're approaching retirement or contemplating making that move early, it's important you know what that could mean to you and your family.

We've arranged an online pre-retirement course, aimed at those looking to retire within the next three years. Planning is important. This course was previously held physically in the Annexe training rooms, but the restrictions mean it has to go online for now.

Though this is now a two-hour online session the topics covered will be the same as previously, covering the state and workplace pensions, tax allowances and savings. It's a comprehensive package designed to help you make informed decisions about retirement.

If you've never used online resources to attend a course before, don't be put off. The presenter will do all the work and there will be a 'chat' feature where you can still ask your questions. You'll be given a step-by-step guide on how to log into the course, and tech support.

Book direct through Learnpro, or by emailing employee.development@moray.gov.uk.

There's a guide on how to use Learnpro

14 August 2020

Hand sanitiser reminder

Hand sanitising stations are available in all council workplaces. Please ensure you use these each time you enter and leave the building.

Hand sanitiser is not a replacement for regular handwashing, but should be part of a robust hand hygiene routine.

Back to school

Thank you to all staff involved in facilitating a safe return for our young people this week.

Our teachers, school support staff, catering, cleaning and transport teams; it's been a huge effort to work up and implement guidance which has allowed pupils to come back to welcoming, reassuring and safe learning environments.

Improvements?

It's fair to say we've never experienced a challenge like Coronavirus before, and we're learning every day.

As an employer, what are we getting right? Is there anything we can improve upon?

If you've any ideas for improvements that can be made to make things simpler or safer, please contact your line manager in the first instance so ideas can be escalated and, if feasible, taken forward for implementation.

Aberdeen lockdown

The First Minister confirmed that restrictions will be in place for another week within Aberdeen City.

This position will be reviewed on Wednesday 19 August. In the meantime, you should not travel into Aberdeen for leisure purposes, or to visit friends and family, unless part of an extended household, while the restrictions are in place.

More info regarding transiting through Aberdeen is available on the Scottish Government's website: www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-measures

Car parking charges

Councillors agreed to review the implementation of car parking charges in October. Until then, all pay and display car parks remain free of charge.

This includes staff car parks at Greyfriars Street and the Annexe.

Remember FACTS for a safer Scotland

F - Face coverings
A - Avoid crowded places
C - Clean your hands regularly
T - Two metre distance
S - Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

July Staff Updates
24 July 2020

Continuation of homeworking

At yesterday's Coronavirus briefing held by the First Minister, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop commented on the continued need for those who can work from home to continue to do so. She said that homeworking remains the “default” and, by homeworking wherever possible, it was making it safer for those who have to return to the workplace.

New guidance was issued yesterday by the Scottish Government, which we will review and incorporate into our own protocols and guidance where it's needed.

Next Thursday marks the next scheduled review of lockdown. Recent announcements suggest there may be no change to reopening non-essential offices, but we will keep you updated.  Meantime, you should continue with your current working arrangements.

Car parking charges

For those currently attending HQ and the Annexe for work, the staff car parks at Greyfriars St and the Annexe will continue to be free-of-charge. A review of the reintroduction of car parking fees is due to take place next month, and we'll let you know the outcome of this.

Schools re-opening

Education Secretary, John Swinney, has updated parliament on the progress towards the re-opening of schools for all pupils from 12 August. It will be conditional on low rates of infection within Scotland, which are currently reducing by 30% each week. It comes after advisors to the Scottish Government's Education Recovery Group said there was an “overwhelming justification” for the opening of schools, with mitigations in place.

Advisors have indicated that, with these mitigations, there will be no requirement for primary pupils, or those using school transport, to socially distance among themselves. 

Secondary schools will be asked to take a practical approach to distancing where appropriate, which could mean controlling the flow of pupils or adjusting the layout of classrooms. 

Staff should observe social distancing from pupils wherever possible.

A final position on the return of schools will be set out to parliament next Thursday (30 July) and guidance to set out protocols and practical arrangements to prevent transmission of the virus will be issued the same day. 

Blended learning will remain an essential contingency, in the event of a localised, or wider, outbreak and an impact on the opening of schools as a result.

16 July 2020

You should have seen in the recent Team Brief that there are changes in the operation and occupation of council buildings and offices. There are Safe Working Procedures in place, so please familiarise yourselves with these, and if you are returning to work in a building follow the signage and one-way systems in place. Compliance with these changes to our routine isn’t discretionary, and it’s in all our best interests to keep ourselves and colleagues safe from infection.

This also applies to the clear desk policy; make sure you clean before you commence working at a desk, and repeat this when you finish. Materials to do this will be close to hand and again, it’s to protect you and your colleagues so please make sure this is done.

Finally, if you’re going on holiday remember that a 14-day quarantine period still exists if flying to UK from some countries. The list of countries differs within the UK and Scotland, so please check before jetting off. Staff will have to agree with their line manager how they propose to accommodate this extra two weeks of isolation on top of the annual leave taken to travel.

09 July 2020

As the committee cycle enters recess until mid-August, there is still much to be done as the council and country progresses out of lockdown.

Much of this activity is in preparation for some staff to return to council offices. Planning capacity while complying with physical distancing means a reduced number of staff will be working from fixed office-based locations. Those that do return to council offices and buildings may well find their original location changed in order that distancing guidelines are met, but any of these changes will be communicated to those affected by team leaders and line managers once agreed.

Inevitably this reduction in space available will require more of us to work from home or be part of a rota, and ICT have been working hard to ensure that those that do will have the appropriate equipment to stay connected. This will be a new era for us all.

Many of us have been getting familiar with video conferencing for meetings, and this is likely to continue until further notice. It makes for a more efficient use of time and travel, so this will be encouraged as the default method. Conducting job interviews remotely should be considered as a viable option too, with an in-person facility seen as an exception.

While we await confirmation of the guidelines for safe office working from the Scottish Government, the council is putting signage into place to assist distancing in communal areas. This includes a one-way system where there are stairs and corridors to be negotiated. It may take a short while to get used to the new system, but the signage will be there to help and remind us all.

Coupled with this an enhanced daytime cleaning regime is being designed for high-touch areas within the council buildings, such as handrails, door plates, etc. Colleagues from HR, health and safety and facilities are working together to ensure your safe return to offices.

03 July 2020

Social distancing and returning to the workplace

Yesterday the First Minister outlined a change in physical distancing measures for specific sectors, expected to take effect in Phase 3, including indoor and outdoor hospitality, public transport, and retail.

Our advice remains to our colleagues to continue with your current working arrangements until you're notified by your line manager otherwise. There is a lot of work going in to planning for a safe return to the workplace: guidance and protocols are being drawn up to ensure you're informed about how to keep safe (for example using shared facilities like printers, meeting rooms, toilets and kitchen facilities) and maps have been drawn up to allocate space based on 2m physical distancing.

Because of this 2m requirement, the capacity of our buildings is significantly reduced and that's likely to be the case for some time yet. If you are asked to return to the workplace, you may be allocated a different workspace than you occupied before lockdown. But we'll keep you updated as these plans progress and, if you have any questions, please contact your line manager in the first instance.

Allocating ICT equipment

Work is continuing on allocating appropriate ICT equipment to allow for homeworking in line with priorities identified by service managers. There is an increase in the number of 'flexible' roles - all that will change will be the tech that's allocated to that role. Flexible roles will have a dedicated laptop, keyboard, mouse and phone. This means that, should there be another lockdown (nationally or locally), these roles are already equipped with the appropriate tech to allow for  homeworking.

This also ties in with the reduced capacity in our buildings due to physical distancing requirements, and will allow us to maximise the number of roles which can be undertaken from home.

Car parking charges

Charging for car parks will resume from 1 August. This relates to all pay-and-display car parks in Elgin, including £1 per day staff car parks at the Annexe and Greyfriars Street.

Public toilets

Public toilets at eight locations across Moray will re-open from 13 July. These are: Dunes (West), Findhorn; Cooper Park, Elgin; Victoria Street, Craigellachie; Regent Square, Keith; Tomintoul; Grant Park, Forres; Esplanade, Lossiemouth; Albert Place, Dufftown.

All will be cleaned twice daily, and have hand sanitiser securely installed for use on entry and exit. Signage will be put in place to encourage users to distance appropriately.

 

June Staff Updates
26 June 2020

Return to school in August

Earlier this week the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, announced in Parliament that the Scottish Government is now planning for a return to full-time education from August.

This will be conditional on the continued downward trend of Covid-19 cases, and additional cleaning and hygiene measures will still be required to mitigate the risk of virus transmissions within schools.

The 'blended' model of learning - in-school and at home learning - will remain as a contingency.

Depute Chief Executive, Denise Whitworth has thanked all school and support staff for the tremendous effort to prepare for the return to school: "I and all the senior management team thank each and every one of you for the way you have responded to this crisis, and to the demands we have placed upon you.

"The dedication and professionalism shown by all of you across the service, at all levels, has been inspirational."

Free school meals confirmed to continue over summer

Families receiving free school meals as part of their benefit entitlement will automatically continue to receive e-vouchers to the value of £25 per eligible child, per fortnight. This includes families with children who academic year.

Roads crews begin safe return to work

From Monday, 10 roads maintenance workers will return to work to focus on the backlog of pothole and street lighting repairs. Urgent works will be carried out on a priority basis.

This is in-line with Scottish Government guidance on the return to work for the construction sector. Physical distancing and strict hand hygiene measures will be in place.

Birth registrations to resume from 29 June.

In late March, birth registrations across Scotland were temporarily suspended to allow registrars to prioritise death and still-birth registrations. As set out by the Scottish Government's route map through and out of the Covid-19 crisis, registration offices will re-open for high-priority tasks from 29 June.

We are introducing a staggered birth registration system, based on the date of birth of the child.

Most details will be captured over the phone by registrars, with a strict appointment system for face-to-face signing of papers. Social distancing will be observed and residents will only be granted access to the building with a valid appointment.

19 June 2020

Lockdown phase two

Yesterday the First Minister confirmed the move to Phase 2 of the Scottish Government's route map out of the pandemic.

Our Chief Executive, Roddy Burns, has issued an all-staff message in response to this, which is available on the interchange.

Recycling centre restrictions relaxed

From today, restrictions on recycling centres have been relaxed.

A booking system remains in place, which has been well-received by residents for its ease-of-use. More materials are now accepted at sites in Elgin, Forres, Keith and Buckie, and small vans and trailers (no larger than six feet) are allowed access.

Decision-making during an emergency

In March, councillors agreed to suspend committees and the Chief Executive was given the authority to make low-risk decisions on behalf of the council. Any high-risk decisions go through an emergency cabinet, which meets regularly and complies with social distancing.

At yesterday's emergency cabinet meeting, it was agreed that the Chief Executive will retain these powers with a further review on or before 24 February 2021.

Committees will be reintroduced from 2 September, after the summer recess, as part of a simplified structure. This will be in place on a temporary basis.

Spaces for People

To allow for safe social distancing as lockdown restrictions ease, a number of streets across Moray towns will have traffic restrictions in place until the end of the year.

Sections of Elgin High Street, Forres High Street, Fochabers High Street, Queen Street and Clifton Road in Lossiemouth will all be subject to prohibition of waiting orders.

This means vehicles can't wait or park, or stop to pick up or set down passengers, from 26 June.

Test and Protect

A reminder that if you have a new and continuous cough, fever/high temperature or a loss of, or change in, taste or smell you should stay at home and arrange for a Coronavirus test.

More info about the Test and Protect scheme, and how to book a test, can be found on NHS Inform.

Hand dryers in council buildings

Hand dryers will be isolated in council buildings, and will be out of use until further notice. Paper towels should be used instead, and binned appropriately after drying hands. Thanks for your co-operation.

11 June 2020

First Minister praises "exemplary" work by councils

The First Minister has thanked local authority staff in Scotland, on behalf of the government, for their emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At last week's meeting of the Scottish Government's Resilience Room, she asked members of the resilience partnerships - which includes local authority Chief Executives - to pass on the government's collective thanks for the "exemplary work" undertaken by councils.

Keyworker childcare for summer holiday and beyond

This week we issued a request for places for childcare over the summer form to keyworkers using our existing hubs, to assess demand for childcare over the summer, and for when the schools return in August.

For families where both parents or carers (where relevant) are keyworkers, and there are no other childcare options, the survey should be completed so we can plan provision. More info and the survey is available on our online newsroom.

The survey should be completed and submitted by midnight on Sunday 14 June, and the allocation of places will continue to be prioritised based on Scottish Government keyworker criteria.

Recovering from a pandemic - what's next?

The effects of an emergency are often felt for long after the event or incident, and part of our role is to plan for what happens next. So far it's all been about the response; now we're at the stage where we're working on both the response phase and the recovery phase.

The Grampian Local Resilience Partnership is now meeting fortnightly to plan what the next steps will look like, with a specific focus on meeting the needs of residents in Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City council areas. Chief Executive, Roddy Burns, represents Moray Council at these meetings. We'll keep you updated as discussions progress.

Test and Protect

The Scottish Government's Test and Protect programme is now under way.

If you, or anyone in your household over 5 years-old, displays Coronavirus symptoms, testing is available. If your result comes back as positive, you'll be asked who you've been in close contact with recently.

Contact tracers working as part of the Test and Protect programme will then trace these people and instruct them to self-isolate for 14 days. Or, if you've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, even unknowingly, you may be asked to self-isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus.

05 June 2020

Health and safety reminders

Face masks: where face masks have been assessed as required through occupational requirement (e.g. front line care work) or risk assessment, these will be provided to staff.

The use of face coverings is an individual choice, and up to each person to provide their own should they wish to do so.

Symptoms of Covid-19: if you start to display symptoms which may be symptomatic of Covid-19 you should inform your supervisor, team leader or manager, and return home immediately. Your area of work will be quarantined for 72 hours or until an enhanced clean has been carried out.  

Schools

Risk assessments have been carried out and many head teachers are back in schools from this week, supported by their management teams.

They're undertaking planning to allow more school staff to return safely, and preparation for transitions and a return for pupils in August.

Parents will be contacted by their schools with more information on transitions for those going into primary and secondary schools, as well as wider planning for August's return.

Childcare options

With more people returning to work, our colleagues in education have seen an increase in those applying for childcare at the keyworker hubs. Please remember these are designated facilities for keyworker children, where their parents have no other possible options, so parents who are not eligible for this provision will not be allocated a space for their child/children.

Childminders can return to work in phase one, this may be a suitable alternative option for families looking for childcare.

RAF Benevolent Fund

Moray has a high proportion of RAF Veterans who settle here after completing their service. And within the council we have many Veterans, whose skills and experience are invaluable.

We've had a special request to share information on the RAF Benevolent Fund, which can support all members of the RAF community - those currently serving or Veterans, and their families, through these really challenging times.

If you need practical, emotional or financial support, and are part of the RAF community, you may want to consider asking the RAF Benevolent Fund for assistance.

Find out more on their website: www.rafbf.org.

02 June 2020

Volunteers Week Special

We're full of admiration for the residents and community groups who have stepped up to support their communities through this pandemic. And to our colleagues, whose normal day-job has changed, and they've volunteered to be redeployed to support local residents.

This Volunteers' Week we're saying a special thank you to you all! We've been highlighting the efforts of colleagues throughout the emergency response, but here are a few new and inspiring ones.

Eileen and Jacqui delivering for our communities

Usually, they work in our leisure centres in Lossie and Keith respectively but, as centres are closed, they've volunteered to help in different ways. They're currently delivering essential supplies to support vulnerable people in Moray  - Eileen in Elgin and New Elgin, and Jacqui in Mosstodloch and Garmouth.

Health & Safety's Julia supports Grampian Hub

Julia is one of 47 colleagues redeployed to answer calls and match support for vulnerable folk, including those shielding in Moray, through the Assistance Hub.

“This is very different to my usual job within the Health & Safety team as I am usually out and about throughout Moray, whereas this role is being carried out at my dining room table! I'm happy to be able to be part of an organisation set up to help people in our local area during this pandemic, and I've found this to be interesting and rewarding."

PPE Hub team protecting our most vulnerable

One of the most critical groups at work just now in the council is the PPE hub. They're co-ordinating PPE for social workers, care workers and care homes, among others.

Led by former British Army officer, Hamish, the team comprises of colleagues from social care, roads maintenance, procurement, social work and our mobile library driver, who all volunteered to be redeployed to support the emergency response.

Bringing together their different skills, they've formed an effective supply chain in the most challenging of circumstances, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among Moray's most at risk of contracting the virus.

Hamish said: “They all came into the team knowing the importance of the job we had to do. They have done, and continue to do, a remarkable job. I am very impressed and grateful for their efforts."

Thank you to Hamish, Diane, Darren, Sam, Pam, Moira and Katrina for volunteering to support the work of the vital PPE hub.

May Staff Updates
27 May 2020

Hand sanitiser

Rollout of hand sanitiser at entry/exit points of council building is complete. At each hand sanitising station, facilities have displayed laminated instructions for use and how to request replenishment of stock.

Hand washing continues to be the most effective way of preventing the spread of coronavirus. Please wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.

Trade union collaboration

We continue to have regular and in-depth discussions with trade unions on the coronavirus outbreak.

This includes exchanging and sharing information on a range of issues such as PPE provision, annual leave guidance and mental health support for staff. We value the input of trade unions and will continue to work closely together in the best interests of our colleagues.

Childcare hubs

We said from the start that hubs should only be used by keyworkers who have no other childcare options. It's encouraging to see parents and carers are taking on board this advice. We and our early years partners are providing childcare for around 220 children each week.

ICT thank you

We've had a special request to say thank you to a certain group of colleagues for their support to staff during the pandemic.

Senior Social Worker, Ailsa Williams, asked us to pay tribute to our ICT team, to "acknowledge the great support we are all receiving from our colleagues in ICT, as they are pretty invisible, but clearly working very hard to enable us all to function. The demands for them across these weeks must have been - and continue to be huge. I've found them all to be consistently supportive and positive, no matter how daft or complex my needs are!"

Free school meals

Uptake of evouchers for families who, for financial reasons, qualify for free school meals, continues to grow. Latest figures show that there has been a 94% uptake.

Last week evouchers were provided for more than 1,600 children. That's on top of the 500 meals being provided each week in our childcare hubs.

Thank you to our education and catering colleagues for their hard work in supporting our communities.

To see if your family qualifies for free school meals, view the criteria on our website

25 May 2020

Keeping our workspaces safe

Even though lockdown remains in place, we're beginning to plan and prepare for making sure it's safe for when we begin to welcome more colleagues back into the workplace. This is part of the 'recovery' phase of an emergency, rather than the 'response' phase we've been in as we've tackled the impact of the pandemic on the ground.

This work includes a review of our office buildings to make sure all workstations can, for the foreseeable, achieve 2m social distancing, and that our buildings are operating to optimise safety for all of us.

This work has begun, and will help us work out how office space will be used in the future, in line with health and safety guidance issued nationally.

For the time being, it's important to remember that staff who are not working within critical service teams are to remain at home, unless asked otherwise.

Cyber security

We issued advice on cyber security a couple of weeks ago, and while this was aimed at personal use of technology, as a council we're also alert to the threat of cyber attacks, and we need you to be vigilant against these as well.

For example last week an email was received by several colleagues which claimed to be from the ICT service desk, saying that the user's password would expire, and asking them to click a link.

Thanks to the staff members who reported this to ICT, who sent out an email to all users reminding them not to open the email, or click on any links within it.

Emails of this nature are not legitimate and, if even in error you have clicked on a link within a suspicious email, please contact the ICT service desk so your account can be checked.

Time for talking

Our employee assistance programme, timefortalking, has been extended until the end of March 2021.

We've all faced, and are still facing, personal challenges as a result of the pandemic. There's been rapid change, uncertainty about the future, and a change in circumstances for many of us - this can have a significant impact on our own health and wellbeing.

If you're struggling, free and confidential support is available 24/7 through website, live chat and telephone counselling. Face-to-face counselling is, understandably, being held virtually just now.

0800 970 3980 (24/7, 365 days a year)

www.timefortalking.co.uk

Live chat available: enter the website, click on 'live chat' and enter password 'TfTnow'.

18 May 2020

How are you?

The way we're working just now doesn't bear any resemblance to a couple of months ago.

Maybe your home working, trying to juggle home learning as well? You could still be in the office, but few of your colleagues are around? Or, if you're out and about as part of your job, you're still observing strict social distancing guidelines where possible, and when it's not, PPE has become part of your work attire.

All of us haven't seen colleagues, friends or family - face-to-face, at least - for weeks on end. Throw in other changes, potential money worries and uncertainty about the future, or what the 'new normal' will be. It's a lot to handle, even for the most resilient folk.

One of the most important things we can do is to keep in touch. A simple 'how are you?' message can make someone's day.

Mental health awareness week

It's the Mental Health Foundation's 'Mental Health Awareness Week', and there's lots of information on their website about how you can get involved.

If you're after advice for yourself, you can find it, or if you want to raise awareness to help others, there are tips on how you can do this: www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week

Support and initiatives

Here's a round-up of some of the initiatives taking place around mental health, providing extra support during the pandemic. Managers have more detailed guidance, which you can ask them for, or check out the below. Many of these initiatives are aimed at the particular challenges faced by health and social care colleagues.

Grampian Psychological Resilience Hub: This is open to anyone in Moray, including children. As well as information about local healthcare, you can self-refer for three support sessions. https://covid19.nhsgrampian.org/mental-health-support

National Wellbeing Hub: This is aimed at health and social care staff and their families, offering self-help resources to promote resilience and wellbeing. It's hosted on PRoMIS.

care colleagues, led by the NHS chaplaincy team. Trained staff lead 50-minute sessions to support listening to your story, in your time, for your wellbeing. Email gram-uhb.trimmoray@nhsnet or leave a message on the answering machine on 01343 567116.

Trauma Risk Management:  Supporting health and social care staff, focusing on the emotional impact on health and wellbeing. Call 01343 567116 or email gram-uhb.trimmoray@nhsnet.

14 May 2020

Face coverings

The Scottish Government has issued advice on face coverings, recommending them for use in an enclosed space when socially distancing is hard to observe. Examples they've given are using public transport, or inside shops.

Those of us who are working closely with service users will already be issued with appropriate PPE. For those who this doesn't apply to, and are still in the workplace, it is your decision whether you wish to use a face covering.

Your line manager will be able to advise you on PPE if a risk assessment shows it's required.

Food fund

People who are facing financial hardship can get help with paying for food during the coronavirus crisis.

Money is being provided to councils through the Food Fund to support families in Moray, which will allow families to retain choice and independence. More info is on our newsroom: https://newsroom.moray.gov.uk.

Entitlement is based on individual household circumstances and is part of a wider package of support provided by Money Advice Moray. Call 0300 123 4563 for more information or to apply for this support.

VPN upgrade

Thanks to an upgrade of the VPN system, more staff are able to access the council's network.

It's meant that the cap of 250 users at any one time has been lifted, enabling more to work remotely. New guidance has been issued by ICT on how to access the new VPN. If you have any questions, these should be directed to the ICT helpdesk. The helpdesk has introduced temporary extended hours and can support users between 7am and 7pm.

Catering colleagues serve up in the kitchen

School catering staff in Moray have been volunteering in kitchens to help feed the local community.

Eight catering assistants are volunteering to work in the kitchen at Lhanbryde Community Centre. They are supporting Moray Food Plus in their project to feed vulnerable local residents, with 200 meals made and delivered each week.

Catering assistants are volunteering three days a week, on a rota basis, getting involved with everything from the prepping of food to packaging and labelling. Then, the packaged meals are collected and distributed by Moray Council’s Community Justice team to residents in Buckie, Lossiemouth, Aberlour and Lhanbryde.

Catering Manager, Elaine, said: “When Moray Food Plus asked for volunteers, we were happy to get involved."

07 May 2020

Dear Colleagues,

The Scottish Government has announced that the current lockdown period is being extended. This means there will be no significant changes to the restrictions that are currently in place. We will continue to operate critical services and attendance at work is only required where there is no other option to deliver a critical service.

This means that there will be no immediate changes and you are not expected to change your current working arrangements. The council will consider any further government advice that may be issued over the weekend early next week so you should continue with your current arrangements until you hear otherwise.

We have been very fortunate in Moray that we have not experienced the number of COVID-19 cases that are in other parts of the country. However, we are seeing an increase in cases and predictions are that the situation in the more rural parts of Scotland is a few weeks behind other more populated areas.

It is therefore vital that we continue to adhere to current social distancing and other restrictions to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our area, even as it becomes more and more difficult the longer this goes on.

You will see that government information is being issued on a plan for recovery and what comes next. The council is also planning for this and making decisions on services that need to be re-activated (such as grass cutting).

However, we are not at a point yet where we envisage significant change or return to workplaces. Indeed, planning at the moment is on how to continue with much reduced numbers of employees attending the workplace in future.

This is a difficult task and it will take some time to work through, particularly where we want to enable more people to work from home. Further information will be provided in the regular staff bulletins over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, please continue with your current work arrangements and continue to follow government advice on measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you and enjoy the public holiday and weekend safely.

Roddy Burns

Chief Executive 

05 May 2020

National awareness campaigns

Quite rightly, we’re seeing a lot about local support for individuals and communities during this crisis, but there are also many national initiatives under way to combat the social and economic impacts of Covid-19. 

Here’s a round-up of some of them:

Child Protection

Child Protection Committees Scotland is urging us to keep our eyes open for vulnerable youngsters who may be at risk of child abuse or neglect. If you have any worries about a child, please contact the Police in an emergency, or our social work team: www.moray.gov.uk/moray_standard/page_55497.html

Online Safety

Many of our kids are spending more time online while the schools are closed. Police Scotland is advocating the use of Think UK Now, which has age-appropriate info for kids to learn about online safety: www.thinkuknow.co.uk

Be Fraud Aware

Fraud has reportedly risen 10% so far during this crisis, and we’re being urged to be vigilant against scams. Here’s more information on taking five to stop fraud: https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk

NHS is still open

Please continue to seek medical help if you need it.

Accident & Emergency units are open, GPs are still helping patients. The Scottish Government is reminding us all that NHS is still open for urgent medical needs.

Zero Waste Scotland – managing our waste

With the temporary closure of recycling centres, and a reduced recycling collection scheme, we all need to be mindful of the waste we are creating at home. Remember to fold card tightly and crush plastic and cans to create more space.

All waste should be disposed of responsibly. There is no excuse for fly-tipping, it remains a crime.

Scottish Fire & Rescue

As many of us stay at home, there can be an increased risk of fire. A Covid-19 home fire safety checklist has been put together by the fire service, including:

What next?

The Scottish Government has published its first document about the approach and principles to transitioning out of current lockdown arrangements: www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making-further-information/.

With the next review of lockdown due later this week, we’ll update you on any decisions taken that impact the council and our colleagues.

01 May 2020

Grass cutting under way

At the start of this week, our  land and parks colleagues began this season's grass-cutting work.

The schedule, due to begin at the start of April, was halted to allow services to restructure and ensure social distancing measures could be complied with.

Large areas of grassland, parks and playing fields that can be safely cut with a tractor or ride-on machine to allow for social distancing will also be in the first phase, alongside flood schemes and reservoirs.

Leader of Moray Council, Cllr Graham Leadbitter, said: “The safety of our lands and parks staff and the public using these spaces has been crucial for us in planning the reinstatement of grass cutting at this particular time. We believe we can service the areas of most value to people just now - cemeteries, memorials and parks followed by sightlines and and road junctions - while protecting our staff and adhering to social distancing.

“While the advice remains for us to stay at home, we appreciate that some people want to take their daily exercise in their local park. My own experience of this is that people are acting responsibly, watching out for other folk and observing social distancing. It is vital that people continue to do this."

The home grass-cutting scheme offered to council tenants is not currently part of the re-instatement.

E-voucher extension for ELC free meals

In an extension of the scheme already in place to support those families eligible for free school meals, meal vouchers are available for pre-school children who, before the Covid-19 closures, were having a meall in their childcare setting, and who meet the eligibility criteria for free school meals.

Supermarket vouchers are given to parents or guardians, to make sure these young people have access to nutritious food

Vouchers to the value of £25 for each child are issued for a 10-day period, the value per day higher than the current price of a school meal.

Hand sanitiser donations

We're grateful to Diageo, and to the Craigellachie distillery, for donations of hand sanitiser.

The Craigellachie distillery donated hand sanitiser for use by our waste and recycling teams, while we're working with Diageo to distribute more than 3,000 litres of sanitiser to front-line services across the council.

Keith Miller, Diageo Distillation & Maturation Director, based in Elgin, said: "We have such admiration for the people in our community working at the front line of the fight against this virus, and we are pleased to be able to make what contribution we can to help them."

April Staff Updates
24 April 2020

Coronavirus testing under way

Last week, testing began for health and social care colleagues who are displaying Covid-19 symptoms. It’s also available to those who are self-isolating due to a member of their household displaying symptoms.

We are now in a position to open testing up to other critical workers in the council. Managers have details of the referral process; you can seek advice on the process from your line manager.

A-symptomatic person in a household, whether that’s an employee or a member of their family, will be tested at a drive-in facility in Elgin (a mobile unit will soon be operational, which will be used exclusively for non-health and social care staff), between 2-3 days after the onset of symptoms. This includes a nose and throat swab, which is then sent for analysis.

With testing in place, it means that those who have a negative result can return to work as soon as is practical, ensuring we can have a strong and healthy workforce to continue to provide essential public services during this pandemic.

Emergency cabinet meetings and decisions

Instead of the usual committee structure, there’s a cross-party emergency cabinet in place. This was approved by councillors in March, and will be reviewed on or before 17 June 2020.

Its job is to make decisions which would normally fall to Full Council to make.

Yesterday it met for the first time, agreeing a temporary change to the council’s Scheme of Delegation for Development Management. This will allow officers to make decisions on major planning applications and larger local development applications. In normal circumstances these would be determined by the Planning & Regulatory Services Committee.

Sitting on the emergency cabinet are:

  • Councillor Shona Morrison (Chair)
  • Councillor Graham Leadbitter (Depute Chair)
  • Councillor George Alexander
  • Councillor John Divers Councillor
  • Tim Eagle Councillor Donald Gatt
  • Councillor Derek Ross

Enhancing critical services

Over the next week or so, we’re running a series of posts on social media to highlight the fantastic work so many of our colleagues are undertaking.

If you follow us on Facebook or Twitter, you can like, comment or share these, and help spread the word of all the good work going on both behind the scenes and on the front line.

22 April 2020

Lockdown extension

As you'll be aware, the UK Government has announced three further weeks of lockdown. For many of us, things will go on as they have for the last three weeks. If you've not seen the latest news article on the interchange about this further period of lockdown, and how you can look after your wellbeing.

Once we know what the position is after this three-week lockdown extension has passed, we’ll be in touch for what this means for council services, and how it affects you.

Supporting local businesses

Our revenues team is working flat-out to process many hundreds of applications for the Scottish Government's Coronavirus Business Support Fund.

So far they've received around 1,000 applications, and half of these have been approved and paid already - amounting to some £6.7 million funding for sectors including tourism, hospitality and leisure. Around 400 require further work, which the team is undertaking.

We're proud to help local businesses access this important funding, and thank our revenues team for their hard work in processing these applications.

Contacting vulnerable residents

Hundreds of residents in Moray are at high risk of contracting Covid-19, so have been instructed by the government to 'shield' for a 12-week period.

Support is in place, through the Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub (GCAH), to make sure they have everything they need during this time. Last week, through the GCAH, we started contacting some of these residents. Over the coming weeks, our colleagues who have been redeployed to support the work of the GCAH, will continue to call.

Not only will there be a friendly voice at the end of the phone for some of these residents who may be feeling lonely and vulnerable, we'll be able to reassure them that there is support available, and organise any help required. This could be medicine or grocery pick-ups, referring to money advice services, or sign-posting to other appropriate services.

April's pay

Payroll is identified as a critical service, and colleagues are working hard to make sure we all continue to get paid on time. A reminder that this payrun will see the final pay increase as agreed nationally in 2019. For local government employees this is an additional 3%, effective 1 April 2020. Teachers will also receive an additional 3%, effective 1 April 2020.

17 April 2020

Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub

Dozens of our colleagues have been redeployed to support the Assistance Hub.

Some of the 35 have been handling calls from members of the public seeking help. Others are 'resource allocators', and match the request from residents to a voluntary group or volunteer who can provide the support. The Hub is providing this support to the three council areas: Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City.

So far more than 700 residents have been directly helped, and some 2,200 individuals or groups have volunteered to support their communities

Social media is providing a great way to promote this hub - in fact more than 96% of traffic to the website is coming from Facebook. However not everyone is online; if there's anyone who needs help from the hub they can call 0808 196 3384 (8am - 8pm, 7 days a week).

Community Resilience Team

We've established a team which is working on the ground to support communities, linking up with the Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub.

So far our colleagues have helped promote grants and helped complete grant applications for local organisations, matched volunteers, undertaken leaflet drops and more. We'll shortly be running some case studies on our social media channels, highlighting the work of this team, and also other essential services, to show residents how we're enhancing critical services to provide support to residents who need it most.

Annual leave guidance

Responding to this pandemic is going to go on for some time, so it's important that we take annual leave to have a break from work, for our health and wellbeing.

We understand this may be more difficult for those working in critical services, so specific guidance has been drawn up, with different scenarios for those working in critical and non-critical services.

Guidance is available on interchange and sets out how managers will consider approving requests, the movement or cancellation of annual leave, and carry over of unused statutory leave to subsequent years.

Reinstatement of recycling collections

You may have seen that, from Monday, we'll be reinstating recycling collections, albeit on a reduced cycle, as we have capacity within the service. Full details are available on our online newsroom. We'll continue to keep services under review, reintroducing where it's safe and practical to do so.

15 April 2020

Remote learning

Term four is under way, and our teaching and other school colleagues are supporting learners through remote learning and in our eight community hubs.

A letter has gone to all parents from the Head of Education, Vivienne Cross, to thank parents for committing to home learning and for the way they've adapted in such rapidly-changing circumstances, to make the most of learning packs, online and offline resources issued. If you've kids at school, their teacher(s) will be in touch as regularly as possible to support remote learning.

Thank you to our colleagues, who are also adapting to provide the best learning experiences possible.

Support for those at high risk of contracting Covid-19

A national helpline has been launched for vulnerable people who don't have family or community support. They'll be directed to us, for help to:

  • get essential food and medication
  • access links to local social work services for vulnerable children or adults
  • access emotional support
  • contact local volunteer groups

It's aimed at those who can't get online, who are over 70 years-old, disabled, require the support of mental health services, are pregnant or receive a flu jab for health reasons. This service is in addition to localised support already available for people who have received letters advising them to shield themselves.

The phone number (9am - 5pm) is 0800 111 4000.

VPN - accessing the council's network from home

Many of you will have seen the message issued last week to users, aimed at reducing the pressure on the council's network from those logging in from home.

There is a limit to the number of people who can login to the council's network remotely at any one time, however we're working to extend this capacity so more of us can work from home.

Right now, we're asking only the most critical staff to access the network. If you're using a pool laptop, you can't use your laptop without connecting to the network, but if you've a dedicated laptop (one you'd usually use full-time in your normal place of work) you can work on it - including accessing emails - without connecting to the network, so please consider doing so. We're constantly reviewing our list of critical services, and line managers will be in touch if any of these changes affect you.

For the statistic lovers among us, you can track the number of users connecting via VPN on interchange.

Issued 15 April 2020

Coming in the next edition: more about the Community Resilience Team, and how this links in to the work of the Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub.

10 April 2020

PPE

Some of you will have been aware of a shortage of some types of PPE (personal protective equipment) in some areas.   This has now been resolved with clear lines of supply and distribution in place so you should now be able to access the PPE you require to do your job.  If anyone is still having problems, please let you line manager know.

The position on PPE is a national challenge across health, social care, council and other key service providers. We are working hard to make sure that we follow the most recent guidance on the use of PPE.

Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of PPE across the country.  We are working with colleagues in the NHS to make sure that we share what we have to meet our joint needs.  We will continue to monitor this on a daily basis.

Homeworking

For those of you who are set up to work from home you may have experienced some difficulties in connecting to the council network this week.  This is because the network is under considerable strain with the increased numbers of people homeworking.   We are working to expand access to the council network but suppliers are unable to deliver this until into May.

In the meantime, we will be reviewing access the network and this will be restricted to key workers in critical services if we are unable to manage the demand downwards.  Please ensure that you only connect to the network for essential access to systems for critical services and that you work offline if possible. 

Further instructions will be issued through managers and employees are asked to refer to the advice on the interchange which will be adjusted as we monitor the situation.

Communication 

We are now coming to the end of the third week where substantial numbers of staff are not working in their normal location, are home working, self-isolating, or not at work because they are in a vulnerable or shielded group. This is significantly different to our normal ways of working and interacting with each other.

Combined with the uncertainty and scale of the pandemic situation, it is not surprising that this may be causing increased levels of anxiety and stress.

If you are looking for some support, there is some helpful advice and resources on interchange which is regularly updated.  If you have your own good ideas or useful sources of information and support please let us know and we will add that to our pages as well.

Post Easter Weekend

Many of you may be wondering what impending government announcements there may be with regard to the national lockdown given the initial 3 week period is due to expire on Monday.

The Council will need to consider any government advice that may be issued over the weekend.  So, there will be no immediate changes on Monday and you are not expected to change your current arrangements for Monday.

If you are currently working from home you should continue to do so.  If you are at home because you are not able to do your job because your work building is closed, you should remain at home. 

If you are currently working in a community hub within a school setting, please confirm with your line manager what arrangements are for you for next week.

We will consider any advice that is issues early next week and any changes to working arrangements in response to government announcements will be communicated to you by your line manager and you should therefore continue with your current arrangements until you hear otherwise.

03 April 2020

Recruitment

Usually on a Friday our latest round of vacancies would be advertised on the myjobscotland portal. However with reduced staffing, and a focus on providing only critical services, general recruitment is on hold for the time being.

We will continue to recruit for essential services, and once we're in a position to assess where we are in the recovery phase (after we've finished the emergency response and we're supporting things returning to normal), we'll restart recruitment activity.

Contact centre

Our contact centre is continuing to provide an important information service to residents.

Enquiries have been pouring in, with a huge increase in emails. Typically we'd receive 30-50 emails daily, but our customer service colleagues started the week with over 1,500!
We're enhancing staffing in the contact centre to cope with demand - for example some access point staff are now answering customer queries. Our hours are 0845-1700, but we're keeping this under review.

Outwith those times our existing emergency OOH number and staffing arrangements apply.

*NEW* OH tele-consultation service

Our Occupational Health provider (PAM) has launched a Covid-19 tele-consultation service, aimed at colleagues who need OH support with a work-related concern including issues related to working from home, emotional support, etc.

To book a consultation, call 07957 666296 and you'll get a call back to discuss your work-related concern and advice to support you; this may include signposting you to a more appropriate service. A report will be generated by OH to register your call and the advice given, which will be shared with your manager. If a further referral is needed, your manager will action this through the normal referral process.

This OH consultation shouldn't be used as a replacement for the 111 NHS service.

Thanks

Councillors have asked for their gratitude to be passed onto staff. For all those doing all they can to keep critical services running, volunteering to work in childcare hubs, or take on jobs outwith their normal area of work to safeguard essential services.

Also to those responsibly self-isolating at home, or who are at home who may be called upon to be redeployed. Thank you.

01 April 2020

Public Holidays

With Good Friday around the corner (10 April), many of you will be wondering what's happening about public holidays during our emergency response to Covid-19.

For those not at work, either in their normal work place or from home, there will be no change and Good Friday will be a public holiday for you. For people working at home, if your service is normally closed on a public holiday and you would not have been due to work, you will not be required to work on Good Friday.

Colleagues in services that normally work on public holidays, currently working at home or at the usual location, may be required to work and normal arrangements will apply. Colleagues continuing to come to work to a location/service that is normally closed on a public holiday (e.g. HQ) will not be required to work, unless there is an exceptional situation.

Colleagues continuing to attend work because they're key workers in critical services (e.g. childcare hubs) are likely to be needed to work if scheduled for duty on Good Friday.

For those working Good Friday, the normal  arrangement is that you will be paid double time plus time off, which can be taken later.

Managers will be in touch regarding exceptions.

Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub

It's encouraging to see communities coming together across Moray, working together to support our most vulnerable. To help better co-ordinate this, a Grampian-wide framework has now been put in place, called the Grampian Coronavirus Assistance Hub.

There's a website to service as an information hub, signposting to the most relevant services across the area. It includes advice on finance and benefits, education, assistance for businesses and community support. You can also register your interest in volunteering.

Find out more at www.gcah.org.uk/.

Connect

April's edition of Connect is a slimmer version than you're used to, but it'll be live on the interchange by the end of the week. The main feature is timely, explaining in more detail how the council responds to a crisis or emergency.

Hundreds of you sign up to receive this to your personal inbox; if you don't, and you want to make sure you never miss an edition, send your personal email address to ConnectNews@moray.gov.uk and the comms team will see that you get added to the distribution list.

March Staff Updates
30 March 2020

Community hubs

Today eight community hubs open across Moray, based in:

  • Millbank Primary
  • Keith Primary
  • Lhanbryde Primary
  • Aberlour Primary
  • Greenwards Primary
  • Seafield Primary
  • Kinloss Primary
  • St Gerardine Primary.

We're also placing around 150 pre-school children in our nurseries, and with partner providers in:

  • VIP Childcare
  • Seafield Nursery
  • RAF Lossiemouth Childcare Centre
  • Lady Cathcart Nursery
  • Keith Play Centre
  • Earthtime
  • Aberlour Primary School Nursery
  • Kinloss Primary
  • Ladybird Development Group.

In total we and our partners are providing childcare for more than 700 children, allowing their key worker parents and carers to continue their important work.

A huge thanks to all those involved in the setting up of these hubs, and supporting them through other services like catering and transport. To those working in our, and partner, ELC settings. Your support will enable key workers in the area fight on the front line of the pandemic.

A special mention to those who have given up their Easter holidays to work, this has not gone unnoticed - thank you. Some of these hubs are already up-and-running on Twitter (@GreenwardsH, @GerardineSt, @HubKinloss) you can follow them to see the vital work they're doing to support our communities.

How the council responds in an emergency

There are well-established procedures in place in all public sector organisations for dealing with emergencies. In recent times, we've mostly activated these for flooding. But Covid-19 is unprecedented, and our response is being shaped by ever-changing guidance being issued at regional level (Grampian-specific), nationally (Scottish Government) and UK-wide (UK Government).

Within the council, we've set up an Incident Management Team, and this group is responsible for leading the council's response to the pandemic. It's chaired by the Chief Executive, and those on the team include our Depute Chief Executives, Heads of Service, Emergency Planning Officer and a Communications Officer.

There are sub-groups, which focus on particular areas, like workforce planning, finance, technology and community support and childcare. To make sure we and our partners (NHS, Police Scotland, neighbouring councils, etc.) are all co-ordinated in our efforts, there's a Local Resilience Partnership.

Reps from all the public sector agencies across Grampian meet regularly (virtually!) to plan and deliver services for the area.

PS. We're focussing in more depth on how the council responds to an emergency in the next edition of Connect, out later this week.

27 March 2020

Updated 27/03/2020

With all the info out there about Covid-19, we're starting regular updates for colleagues, setting out the latest measures being introduced by the council, explaining various employment issues and sign-posting you to where you can check for the latest service disruption.

Social distancing

Government advice on social distance should be observed by all, regardless if you're in the workplace or not. If you're out about during your work, or travelling to work, you can show your council ID badge to Police Scotland, and explain what your role is as a key worker, if you're stopped and questioned. Police Scotland are supportive of this.

Employee Assistance Programme

An extension of the employee assistance programme - Time for Talking - has been approved. This is a worrying time for many of us; our families may have their income affected, the toll of worrying about loved ones, and the sudden change in routine, from stopping work altogether for the time being, to adapting to homeworking while juggling the kids being at home.

Whatever you're worried about, please use this service. It's free, anonymous and available 24/7. We've extended the provision for at least the next three months. Find out more on the interchange.

Pay

If you're not at work, either because you're caring for someone or following government guidance to self-isolate, you'll receive normal pay. For those without standard hours (relief or supply staff, for example) we're working to make sure you receive normal pay without you needing to submit a timesheet - there's more work to do on this, so we'll keep you posted.

Supporting critical services

We've prioritised our services to make sure we're continuing to provide essential services, this is why many of you may have been asked to go home. However we're matching your skills to shortages in critical services areas and we may ask you to work in another service for a temporary period. 

HR will be in contact directly with you, if this is the case. We're also looking to set up a way for colleagues to volunteer to support critical services, so you can choose the role you want to take on. We'll be in touch with more info when this is available. 

Just so you know, if you're redeployed through either of these ways to support critical services, you'll receive your normal pay, or the pay for the role you're taking on - whichever is higher.

Staff car parking

All charges for Moray Council pay-and-display car parks have been suspended until further notice. This includes the staff car parks at the Annexe and Greyfriars Street.

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