Covid-19 - Support for Councils

Scotland’s councils do a superb job every day delivering essential services for our communities. We understand that due to COVID-19 we are living in unprecedented and challenging times and that our local government colleagues are under incredible pressure at the moment.

We are here to help if you need it.

We are adapting our products and services to make them more relevant to our stakeholders at this time. Find out more below.

We are also building up a collection of case studies showing how councils have responded to COVID-19. Visit our page on COVID-19: Good Council Practice to read these.

Research and Briefings

Briefing document on Poverty, Inequality and COVID-19.

Coronavirus - Considering the Implications for Child Poverty

The Impacts of COVID-19: An Overview of the Research to Date

A quick guide to webinars

COVID-19 Economic Impact Dashboard - This tool summarises the publicly available data relating to the current economic impact of COVID-19. It shows, at a Scottish local authority level, the current uptake of government support including:

  • The Coronovarius Job Retention Scheme - Employments Furloughed
  • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
  • Unemployment benefit claims
  • The COVID Business Support Grant Fund

This will be of interest to local authorities and other partners in understanding the economic impact in their local area and how this compares to other areas. Data will be updated as it becomes available.

  • Given the significant demands on frontline advice workers, the decision was made to relax guidance on deadlines for annual performance management returns. Advice services staff in councils have been encouraged to utilise the Knowledge Hub for highlighting issues, responses and good practice.

    Contact: sandra.sankey@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The Change Team are continuing to provide support to councils and their partners to deliver transformational and operational level change during these challenging times. We’ve moved our network meetings to a virtual setting and will be hosting these monthly to ensure there is the opportunity to share practice and learning across the network. We have moved to an online mode of delivery for our project management and business analysis qualifications. We recognise support needs for change and transformation may have a different focus at this time therefore would be happy to discuss what this may look like and help where we can.

    We have also produced a scenario planning toolkit to assist in COVID-19 recovery and renewal. Scenario planning supports and informs the strategic planning process by providing a set of tools for thinking about the future and exploring possibilities of what that might look like. The toolkit is designed to be flexible and to augment existing strategic planning tools and processes. It can be used at a strategic level and also at a service or team level, throughout the recovery and renewal phase.

    Contact: changemanagement@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The Scottish Community Councils website has been providing useful links for community councils that offer advice, information, funding and resources to help during COVID-19. Included are links to latest government and health updates, responses from all of Scotland’s local authorities as well as advice from a host of other national agencies and organisations. A section has also been added to the website which brings together examples of how community councils are responding to COVID-19 and helping their communities. The page is regularly updated to provide a showcase for the great resilience work of Scotland’s community councils.   ​

    Given that many community councils have been unable to meet face to face during the pandemic the project has also been looking at how it can support CCs who wish to meet using virtual meeting software.  Working in partnership with the Scottish Tech Army the project is looking at how it can support CCs in terms of access to digital skills and training and is keen to launch a pilot project which will provide CCs with a website template, social media support and access to training in the use of virtual meeting software.

    On Twitter the project has also been signposting community councils to useful information and advice.

    The project is also responsible for the Community Council Liaison Officers (CCLO) Development Network and has been on hand to offer advice and support to CCLOs where possible during COVID-19. Normally the project hosts two face to face events per year at which CCLOs can share best practice and experience.  In June this year, the project hosted its first CCLO Network event online which has been well received by CCLOs so future online events are likely.

    The project also runs Knowledge Hub Groups for CCLOs and Community Councillors where they are encouraged to share ideas and best practice examples. Several CCLOs have been in touch to let us know how they are coping as well as asking for advice on how best to support community councils in their areas.

    Contact: scottishccs@improvementservice.org.uk

  • myaccount

    myaccount services continue to operate and be available as normal and are helping the expansion of digital services which are playing a critical role during the current pandemic. We continue to ensure organisations can still achieve future go-live dates as planned, including by liaising directly with suppliers to maintain progress of technical integrations.

    We have improved the online help pages for myaccount to enable more self-directed support. We have also streamlined processes for queries to be raised with the helpdesk to make sure support requests are answered quickly and by the right people.

    The role of digital public services in a pandemic is significant. A position only set to continue. As well as removing cost from the system, online channels alleviate pressures on local authorities and on frontline services, in normal times and during a recovery period.

    25 Councils are now live with the service, 2 are onboarding now and a further 5 are awaiting to onboard. Subscriber numbers continue to grow, reaching 1,050,873 on 24 July 2020.

    Contact: digitalpublicservices@improvementservice.org.uk

    Parentsportal.scot

    We have improved the online help pages for parentsportal.scot to enable more self-directed support. We have also streamlined processes for queries to be raised with the helpdesk to make sure support requests are answered quickly and by the right people.

    We are supporting some councils which are preparing to launch parentsportal.scot earlier than planned, helping them increase their state of readiness for when schools are able to return to some degree of normality.

    We have supported one council to launch parentsportal.scot early to enable it to push school report cards through the platform, reducing administration and cost to print and post all school reports.

    We plan new developments for the portal, including Android and iOS apps.

    Contact: digitalpublicservices@improvementservice.org.uk

    National Entitlement Card

    Production of the National Entitlement Card (NEC) has been suspended temporarily as a direct response to Scottish Government and UK Government guidance. Given the vital role played by NEC in facilitating access to public transport, our partner, Transport Scotland has worked with the bus industry to ensure that eligible passengers, including key workers, are not denied access to essential travel.

    Plans are being finalised for the resumption of card production, the initial priority being the processing of the backlog of applications that were suspended due to lockdown restrictions. Production is dependent on applications being verified. In compliance with Scottish and UK Government guidance, currently councils (and Strathclyde Partnership for Transport) are not offering face-to-face verification of NEC applications. (SPT handles card applications on behalf of 12 local authorities in the west of Scotland).

    The National Entitlement Card Programme Office is actively working with all Councils (and other parties) to develop an understanding of their plans for the resumption of face-to-face channels and in what form it will take. Keep up to date on card recovery and card application process by reading NEC FAQs.

    On 14 July 2020, we launched getyournec.scot, a brand new online service, enabling Scottish residents to apply for and manage their National Entitlement Card online from the comfort of their own home. It will allow applications to be submitted and verified entirely online. The roll-out will involve five phases, the first initially supporting online applications for those aged 60+. Further phases planned over the next few months will support other client groups as well as offer new features. Councils have responded positively to getyournec.scot’s launch, with 28 expressing an interest in adopting it and 23 councils already having received a virtual demo, West Lothian is already live, with City of Edinburgh to follow on next and more than a dozen more councils working with us to onboard with the service.

    Contact: digitalpublicservices@improvementservice.org.uk

    Data Hub

    Data Hub is one of a number of tools available now to councils and other public bodies as they look to address the data-related challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis. We have experienced a spike in use of the Data Hub to support councils match data held in multiple back office systems to identity persons at risk.

    We have also responded to interest from other councils looking to use Data Hub for the first time. We have begun taking forward plans to develop the Data Hub for non-residential addressing, opening up the opportunity to expand the capability of other products in the portfolio, especially the OneScotland Gazetteer.

    Contact: datahub@improvementservice.org.uk

    Bisaccount

    We are actively exploring the role bisaccount, a simple and secure sign-in service designed to help businesses prove who they are when transacting with public services online. The Scottjsh Government introduced financial support for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local authorities have been responsible for processing over 101,000 applications received (by 10 July 2020 closing date) and for dispersing funds. An undertaking of this scale has reinforced the utility of having a clearer picture of businesses and an accurate register of them. We are exploring how bisaccount can support this goal.

    Contact: digitalpublicservices@improvementservice.org.uk

    Young Scot Membership Platform

    At Young Scot’s request, we fast tracked changes to the membership platform to give young people new and additional communication in relation to COVID-19 support, including to access bespoke support packages for young carers. In June 2020, the Membership platform celebrated the first anniversary of its launch.

    Contact: digitalpublicservices@improvementservice.org.uk

    Advice, Support and Consultancy

    • The team worked with Scottish Government and councils to support the application process for COVID-19 Business Support Grants, enabling a standardised form to be digitised by all councils.
    • Given the many challenges associated with administering a scheme of this magnitude, we are deepening our work with local authority economic development colleagues to look at opportunities to further develop and expedite bisaccount’s use in transitioning to the new norm.
    • The team is exploring how tools of ours, like Data Hub, can be deployed for data matching purposes to assist investigations into potential instances of fraudulent claims relating to COVID-19 Business Support Grants.
    • The team is working with Scottish Government, COSLA and councils to look at practicalities and solutions for administering the freshly announced Transitional Support Fund for Childcare Providers worth £11.2m due to take effect from August 2020. This includes deploying tools of ours to meet the overwhelming demand for a single standard application process.
    • The team and Improvement Service research and evaluation colleagues are working in collaboration with Scottish Government on the evaluation of the impact on recipients of COVID-19 business grants worth £1 billion.
  • Although local authorities will no longer be legally obliged to deliver 1140 hours of funded childcare from August 2020, our two Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Business Analysts and our recently appointed ELC HR Advisor are continuing to work alongside key partners to support councils with the delivery of ELC now and in the recovery phase. This includes analysis to understand the impact of COVID-19 and associated Scottish Government guidance to their plans for 1140 and the delivery of the current statutory entitlement of 600 hours.

    Dedicated knowledge management support is also continuing to be provided for the online Knowledge Hub ELC groups established for the programme, as the sector responds.

    Contact: elc@improvementservice.org.uk

  • A significant level of work is taking place in supporting SLAED across a range of issues relating to the economic fallout of COVID-19. We are inputting to regular SLAED Executive Group and SOLACE economic development leads meetings. We are liaising with councils on behalf of SLAED to gather local intelligence to help shape policy and responses for both mitigation and medium and longer-term economic recovery as well as providing support to SLAED in responding to important ongoing consultation around covid-19 response and recovery.

    With support from the IS, SLAED provides a mechanism for local government economic development specialists to link into Scottish Government/SOLACE/COSLA discussions – and receive feedback from them. Those discussions provide an opportunity for local government to lobby, influence and shape policy relating to the economy, including COVID-19 mitigation and recovery responses. It also provides an opportunity for local government to show how it has effectively and quickly responded to the crisis.

    IS (through the Partnership Agreement with Scottish Government) is contributing to the Senior Leader and Operational Employability COVID-19 response groups. There is a focus on supporting individuals through:

    • aligning local support to a new national helpline
    • re-purposing existing support measures
    • designing new interventions to ensure the responses to labour market impacts are managed collaboratively.

    Regular meetings with local authority leads are taking place to ensure effective alignment and integration of policy and resources.

    Contact: eop@improvementservice.org.uk

  • We are providing ongoing support to the Scottish Elected Members COVID-19 Network which was set up in partnership with COSLA. The programme is also working closely with COSLA to identify other ways in which we can support elected members.

    Our coaching offer for senior elected members remains active and our coaches are equipped to offer virtual coaching sessions. If you would like to find out more, please contact David Barr: david.barr@improvementservice.org.uk

    For more elected member resources visit our dedicated page.

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen the establishment of several new groups in Scotland on the Knowledge Hub to collaborate, share information and ideas. Other groups are also using the Knowledge Hub to keep their group members up to date with what has been a rapidly evolving situation.

    For further information there are examples of current groups on the Scottish Public Network Services page of the Knowledge Hub or feel free to contact us to discuss how we might be able to help at khubsupport@improvementservice.org.uk

    Contact: km@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The Local Child Poverty Action Reports (LCPAR) national co-ordinator is liaising with local leads on issues and responses, as well as inputting to Public Health Scotland work on COVID-19. Discussions are ongoing with Scottish Government on the focus and timetable for LCPARs. In addition, discussions are ongoing to repurpose and increase flexibilities in the Parental Employment Support Fund to help parents increase their income through employment.

    We have also developed a short paper - 'Coronavirus - Considering the Implications for Child Poverty' - which considers the impact of COVID-19 on child poverty and how local authorities and health boards can use their Local Child Poverty Action Reports to address the challenges that lie ahead. A special briefing for elected members - 'Child Poverty and COVID 19' - is now available.

    We have recently launched a virtual peer support network for local child poverty lead officers in local authorities and health boards to allow them space to share their experiences, thoughts, ask questions and support each other. Meetings are planned to take place every 6- 8 weeks.

    Contact: rebecca.spillane@improvementservice.org.uk or sylvia.blaikie@improvementservice.org.uk

  • We are reviewing with stakeholders how we reset the Local Government Benchmarking Framework in light of COVID-19 to support councils in their response, recovery and renewal efforts.

    Contact: benchmarking@improvementservice.org.uk

  • As a result of the Place Programme contribution to public health reform, Irene Beautyman (Planning for Place Programme Manager) was invited to sit on the Public Health Scotland Social and System Recovery Groups on Environments and Space and Transport. These PHS led these groups are cross sector stakeholder groups pulling evidence on how Covid19 lockdown will impact each topic area to inform national and local responses within partner organisations.

    Irene Beautyman was invited to represent the Improvement Service on COSLA's Local Government Economic Strategy for Recovery Working Group. Irene will be contributing her Place Programme experience to the group's remit to identify immediate, practical solutions to the economic challenges caused by COVID19. Also to ensure the longer term work of COSLA's Recovery Special Interest Group on Economic Recovery is underpinned by a clear and informed strategic direction.

    Contact: planningforplace@improvementservice.org.uk

    Irene is also one of a group of specialists which has been formed to consult on the revitalisation of town centres in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Experts in town planning, public health, transport, and business will take on board views of local communities to build on the progress of the Scottish Government’s 2013 Town Centre Action Plan.

    To involve the widest spectrum of input, review activities will include oral evidence sessions, survey, fact finding as well as desk-based research. It will report back by the end of 2020.

    Contact: irene.beautyman@improvementservice.org.uk

  • We are working with Heads of Planning Scotland (HOPS) to support local authority planning staff. Research and support work is being carried out by HOPS in conjunction with COSLA and the Scottish Government. All HOPS meetings have moved to online platforms at this time. Planning Authority staff are encouraged to use the HOPS Knowledge Hub Group  for regular updates and to share working practice.

    A series of webinars is currently being run by the Planning Skills Programme. Please check the link for further details.

    Contact: planningskills@improvementservice.org.uk

  • In order to support recovery and renewal planning in councils, the PSIF team have developed a number of checklists that can be used to capture learning from the COVID-19 outbreak for council services, at a corporate level or for CPPs. This learning can be captured using the PSIF self-assessment approach and we are happy to discuss support available to utilise these. Please contact us at psif@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The IS research team responded to a recent request from a council to support scenario planning work on COVID-19, with the intention to share the outputs across all councils. The report produced - The Impacts of COVID-19: An Overview of the Research to Date -  provides an overview of research published exploring the potential and forecast impact of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and public health response, including the lockdown that was brought into force in March. In particular, the research focuses on the economic impact of the pandemic and restrictions, the implications for poverty, and summarises the situation in a range of international settings with focus on any lessons for Scotland. The report is regularly updated as new research is published.

    As a supplement to this report the research team has also recently published the COVID-19 Economic Impact Dashboard, which summarises the publicly available data relating to the current economic impact of COVID-19. It shows, at a Scottish local authority level, the current uptake of government support including:

    • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - Employments Furloughed
    • The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
    • Unemployment benefit claims
    • The COVID Business Support Grant Fund

    This will be of interest to local authorities and other partners in understanding the economic impact in their local area and how this compares to other areas. Data will be updated as it becomes available.

    Contact: research@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The Roads Collaboration team is facilitating a national COVID-19 roads group, responding to government guidance to lead the Scottish roads construction and maintenance sector out of lockdown. It is gathering weekly roads service activity information from all 32 councils and Transport Scotland, providing an opportunity for questions and ideas to be shared. It is facilitating the national coordination of councils' temporary reallocation of road space, in conjunction with Sustrans. It is also providing input into the government's public sector young workforce planning forum, representing the roads construction sector.

    Contact: angus.bodie@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The spatial information team has been liaising with the Scottish Government and local government about how data and technology can be used to assist with the COVID-19 response. We have offered our resources and capability to anyone dealing with the response and are an integral part of the COVID-19 Data Task Force that is being created to assist with the numerous data challenges that the crisis has brought to the fore.

    Contact: spatialhub@improvementservice.org.uk

  • The Violence Against Women (VAW) programme has adapted its focus to support responses to COVID-19 across the VAW sector and is working with stakeholders to understand how services are able to meet the needs of women and children during this crisis.

    The VAW team has been sharing resources with the VAW and Cedar Networks on Knowledge Hub, working with COSLA to ensure local challenges are highlighted to Scottish Government colleagues and providing support to stakeholders in the sector when requested.

    The Violence Against Women team  worked with COSLA, Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Government to develop guidance to ensure a sustainable, joined-up approach to safeguarding the needs of women and children experiencing violence during COVID-19 is embedded at a local strategic level. A template is available to enable local authorities to monitor their progress in addressing the risks and suggested actions identified in the guidance, and support is available from the Improvement Service to take forward any improvement actions that local partners identify.

    Contact: vaw@improvementservice.org.uk