31st May 2020

Council staff take on new roles to lead Somerset’s coronavirus response

Redeployed staff outside County Hall, including Naomi King

More than 1,100 Somerset County Council staff have signed up to be redeployed in vital new roles during the coronavirus emergency.

From joining adult social care teams to distributing nearly a million items of PPE, staff are temporarily leaving their ‘day jobs’ in other departments and taking on fresh roles where the need is greatest to support our residents and communities

A total of 1,161 Council staff, along with over 300 external personnel, answered a call put out a few weeks ago and made the commitment to be redeployed as the authority continues to adapt during unprecedented times.

So far nearly 100 council staff and Councillors are training to take on important roles, including with our Adult Social Care service. A further 80 staff are poised to support the Council’s registrations service as it adapts to new ways of remote working and increased demand.

Several other staff from the Council’s procurement team have taken key roles distributing vital personal protective equipment to those who need it, and members of our Business Support and Highways teams are joining the Contact Centre to help take calls from our residents.

There are still many hundreds more staff ready to pitch in and waiting to be reassigned as priorities change over the coming days.

Cllr Mandy Chilcott, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic that so many of our staff are making this commitment to help the Council support the needs of our communities at this difficult time – it’s a magnificent response and one that underlines the crucial role the Council has to protect and serve our residents and communities.

“I’d like to thank everyone who is taking on a new role in Somerset’s hour of need – well done, you’re doing a brilliant job.”

Highways Contract Officer Stephen Whitbread’s usual role is helping to manage the County’s highways maintenance contract – but from last week he became a welfare officer looking after the needs of busy Contact Centre staff who have seen a large increase in calls from the public during the coronavirus emergency. The service is a vital gateway to help for many families and vulnerable people across Somerset.

A major logistical operation has seen the 80-strong team relocated to their homes to continue their important work seven days a week.

Stephen, who is also a wellbeing ambassador for the Council, said: “It’s incredibly rewarding work. I make up to 30-40 calls a day to check in on staff, make sure they have everything they need, that the tech is working properly and that they feel supported.

“Our Contact Centre staff are vital, so I’m making sure they have access to the information they need and can check in with me on a daily basis – especially after a busy weekend. I’d like to thank the Facilities Management Team for setting me up so quickly, they were amazing!”

Library assistant Naomi King is now working with a team distributing PPE packs, based at County Hall in Taunton. The packs contain vital supplies, like masks, goggles and aprons, and are being delivered by Somerset County Council drivers.

So far there have been 2,100 PPE packs distributed across the County, containing close to a million pieces of kit, along with 4,000 litres of hand gel.

She said: “It feels great to be doing something like this – we have huge admiration for those giving care on the frontline and the team is working really hard to get the PPE out.

“It’s a massive team effort, really busy and our Transporting Somerset team are playing a vital role in all of this.”

For more information on council services and support available during this time please visit https://www.somerset.gov.uk/coronavirus/

The five local authorities in Somerset are connecting those in need with support through the Somerset Coronavirus Helpline 0300 790 6275. It’s available 8am to 6pm, seven days a week for anyone who needs non-medical help.