Stay alert, control the virus, save lives – and keep social distancing

Another weekend of lockdown passes, albeit with some easing of lockdown restrictions.

Reading the news and speaking to our local police teams, most people followed the guidelines and observed social distancing rules. As more businesses open, and we spend more time outside, the most important thing is that we continue to keep our distance from people. 

The use of personal face coverings is down to individual choice. Personally, I support using them.  My wife and I both use home-made face coverings on our few essential trips out. I have to say that on these trips, we have sometimes been shocked at how many people, despite everything, are barely sticking to the minimum on social distancing. Please, abide by the minimum 2m physical distancing rules and help keep everyone safe.  

If you have any of the following symptoms – a high temperature, persistent cough or lose your sense of smell and/or taste, you need to stay at home and self-isolate. The taste/smell symptom has been added to the Covid-19 checklist. 

Another step forward, as we move from lockdown, is the plan for more pupils to return to school. It has been difficult to juggle all the scientific guidance and practical advice.  However, working closely with our headteachers, we now have a plan.  

All parents will be receiving a letter from Louise Rees, our Director of Children’s Services and Skills. It reassures parents that the key priority for the Council and schools is to ensure the safety of every child and staff member. Schools are undertaking detailed risk assessments and putting in place a range of protective measures before they will open their doors to more pupils.

The Government has the ambition of a 1 June return, but the reality in Solihull is that schools will need to use that first week in June to ensure they are completely ready for more pupils to attend.  So places may only be available from the week beginning 8 June.

The order of priority outlined by the government is: the children of key workers and pupils who already qualify for a place under current government guidance; nursery aged pupils; reception aged pupils and pupils in year 1 and year 6.

Your school will be contacting you, if your child is in one of these priority groups, to invite them to return once your school is ready to receive them.

At present, there are no confirmed plans for when or how secondary pupils (and in particular those currently in years 10 and 12) will return to school. Special schools are being asked to follow the same protective measures as mainstream schools, but are not being asked to prioritise particular year groups.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus is on kindness, something we have seen from all quarters of our society during this pandemic.  As the weeks have progressed, it has become clear how important it is we continue to look after ourselves (both physically and mentally). We need to support each other during these difficult and uncertain times. Information and how to get involved and how to look after your mental health can be found on the Mental Health Foundation website.

Our local Birmingham and Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group has launched a new mental health support service, a 24/7 telephone helpline. It offers confidential emotional help, guidance and reassurance to people of all ages and backgrounds, including key workers, who may be finding the current situation overwhelming. 

If you are experiencing mental health difficulties or need support with common issues such as stress, sadness, disrupted sleep and anxiety, call 0121 262 3555, any day or any time and speak to someone who can help.

I was heartened to read a blog from one of our younger residents, Mia, who has been helped to adapt to this new world we find ourselves in.  Solihull Action through Advocacy (SAtA), a local independent charity which for over 25 years has provided advocacy for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, has helped Mia cope with what for her were very challenging changes to her life.  You can read her heart-warming article here   

Yesterday our Household Waste and Recycling Centre at Bickenhill re-opened and from the length of the queues it was welcomed by lots of residents.  Thank you to everyone who is observing social distancing and keeping safe while there – but the site is very busy and there are long queues. If our traffic management staff ask you to leave, please respect this instruction and leave the queue.  The message is – if it is essential for you to go, then be patient;  if it isn’t essential,  then come in the future.   (If you have a permit, you’ll have to wait until 1 June to get access to the site).

Stay alert, help control the virus, save lives.  We don’t want a second spike.

Please take care

Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, 19 May 2020