Social care under 'extreme pressure', but bin collections unaffected

Perfect storm of issues could hit social care in Norfolk this winter

Norfolk County Council’s director of people Sarah Shirtcliff said “the social care system is under extreme pressure supporting hospitals. - Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Norfolk’s public services are grappling with staff absences caused by record-high Covid infections, as a county council official warns that social care “is under extreme pressure”.

With Covid cases now topping 100,000 across the UK every day for almost two weeks, the Cabinet Office has asked public sector leaders to prepare for "worst case scenarios" of 10pc, 20pc and 25pc absence rates. 

Councils spoken to by this paper said day-to-day services were currently unaffected but that the situation was ever changing.

Norfolk County Council’s director of people Sarah Shirtcliff said: “Our public-facing services such as libraries are running as advertised, but the social care system is under extreme pressure supporting hospitals."

Ms Shirtcliff urged “everyone to get their booster vaccination and to be cautious to minimise pressure on health and care.”

The county’s assistant chief fire officer, Scott Norman, said the emergency service currently had “a higher than usual number of both firefighters and non-operational staff” off sick with Covid-19. 

Assistant chief fire officer for Norfolk, Scott Norman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Assistant chief fire officer for Norfolk, Scott Norman. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

He said however that “rigid mitigation measures” had meant the service was “able to maintain full operational duties, including fire crew availability for incidents across Norfolk”.

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“We would remind the public that we remain available, but only to call 999 in a genuine emergency,” he added.

The county’s police force said however it was experiencing “no issues in relation to providing a normal service to the public”.

Norfolk police road closure. Photo: Bill Smith

Norfolk police said that they had not experienced any issues in relation to providing a normal service. - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Staff absences have forced authorities across the UK to scale back bin collections, including Cheshire East, Birmingham, Chelmsford, Basingstoke and Greater Manchester’s Tameside borough. 

But Norfolk’s district councils insisted they were not currently suffering any significant impact from reduced staff numbers. 

A Norwich City Council spokeswoman said the authority was “not seeing any negative impacts on critical council services due to staff absences caused by Covid” but warned “this is a fast moving situation and case rates in Norwich – like the rest of the country – are high.

“We are doing everything possible to ensure local services won’t be disrupted but the situation is fluid.”

Great Yarmouth, Breckland and North Norfolk councils said they too had experienced no disruption to services. 

A person receiving a Covid-19 jab

The Norfolk and Waveney CCG has cancelled a meeting next week “due to the operational pressures in response to increasing the booster vaccination programme”. - Credit: PA

The Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had planned to hold a meeting of its primary care commissioning committee on Tuesday January 11, but agreed to cancel that meeting “due to the operational pressures in response to increasing the booster vaccination programme”.

Broadland, West Norfolk and South Norfolk councils - and the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which provides Norfolk’s mental health services - were also approached for comment. 

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