Playing our part to protect Calderdale from COVID-19

Cllr Tim Swift

Calderdale Council teams continue to adapt to new ways of working, to provide the best possible protection and support to each other and the entire community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Council staff are playing a vital role in helping local people, including the most vulnerable, alongside the amazing work of other organisations and volunteers.

Thanks to the talent, enterprise, kindness and resilience that define Calderdale, Council teams have stepped up to the recent challenges, adjusting to working from home, moving to different job roles and coming up with creative ideas for delivering services in new ways.

This ensures that as many staff as possible are working to support the COVID-19 response. It helps them to stay safe and well, protect the wider community and the environment, support those most at risk, and help build a strong future for the borough.

Like many organisations across the country during the outbreak, the Council has moved to homeworking as a key feature of the new normal for the majority of its workforce. Over 1,200 Council staff are working from home, and this is set to continue in the long-term. A recent wellbeing survey for Council staff highlighted the beneficial impact and the changes they want to build on in the future – greater flexible working, improved technology, employee health and protecting the environment.

We know that the virus is still with us in Calderdale and will remain in our communities for the foreseeable future, as restrictions are eased. Not only does homeworking limit the risk of COVID-19 in the workforce and the whole community, it also boosts efficiency and productivity, accelerates the Council’s digital transformation, is better for the environment due to less travelling, and is beneficial for staff health and wellbeing – in May 2020, the Council’s sick leave was 45% lower than in 2019.

If staff are unable to work from home due to the nature of their job, the Council has office space which remains open with extra safety features to enable social distancing, and a range of other measures and guidance to reduce the spread of the virus.

Enhancing workforce resilience and caring for staff is one of the priorities in the Council’s 10-point plan for responding to COVID-19. It will continue to do all it can to support a healthy, engaged and productive workforce throughout the current challenges and new ways of working.

This includes an Employee Wellbeing Board to drive support across the Council; a dedicated employee support line run by Council staff; an Employee Reference Group with diverse, inclusive representation to shape the Council’s COVID-19 response and vision for the future; regular checks and risk assessments to identify any vulnerabilities; and a wide range of innovative solutions from staff to keep everyone physically and emotionally well, such as online mindfulness and exercise sessions (which are also available to the public on YouTube).

Cllr Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said:

“Giving the best support to local people starts with staff keeping as physically and emotionally healthy as they can. Despite their own challenges, they have gone above and beyond to help people, and we continue to do everything we can to support them.

“Staff have also shown great flexibility and resilience to move to homeworking and some have been redeployed to very different roles when required, ensuring the needs of our most vulnerable residents are met. We will learn from our new ways of working and move forward into a safer and more efficient and effective future for Calderdale.”

Zain’s story

As a Better Living Trainer for Calderdale Council, work and hobbies completely changed for Zain Ghani when gyms closed due to lockdown. He previously played an active role in communities to promote physical activity, health and wellbeing, and gym visits in his personal life were a key way to relieve any stress. Both of the new roles that Zain was redeployed into – first supporting the COVID-19 Volunteer Hub, and now working with Staying Well to help tackle loneliness – have meant working from home and staying active in new ways. Zain says:

“My new role is so rewarding because I can really engage with people affected by COVID-19 and its challenges. It has contributed to promoting my mental wellbeing as I’m making a difference in people’s lives. Having the chance to offer my skills in becoming physically active and remaining healthy whilst at home has also been an important part of this job.

“It has been a big change to provide support over the phone rather than in a gym or out in the community, and at the start of lockdown, managing everyday worries became more of a challenge. However, I took the opportunity to focus on doing body weight exercises at home and walking with my family to maintain my current fitness and appreciate Calderdale’s beautiful landscapes. Exploring different ways of being active, giving more attention to my mental wellbeing and helping people through the crisis has definitely been a positive experience.”

As the virus is still within our community, we should all continue to keep at least two metres away from people outside our households wherever possible, wash our hands(external link) with soap and water often, for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching our face and follow the ‘catch it, bin it, kill it(external link)’ guidance to help keep ourselves and others safe. Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay at home and book a test(external link) as soon as possible, within five days of the symptoms starting. Face coverings must be worn when travelling on public transport or in a taxi. It is also recommended that people wear face coverings whenever they are indoors with people who are not part of their household or bubble.

For up-to-date and reliable information about COVID-19, use trusted sources such as: link) link)