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Changing workforce

Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council responded very quickly to the coronavirus crisis to ensure frontline services that residents rely on are maintained.

Redeployment of council staff was key to this response. Here, a few of those who have undertaken completely new roles or extended their workload speak about their experiences of recent weeks.

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Kerry
Council employee Kerry

Kerry 

Kerry is among dozens of staff who have been redeployed in the council’s rapid response to meet challenges from the coronavirus crisis. 

For the last five years Kerry has been a projects and performance analyst, liaising with council officers and managers across all departments to compile monitoring reports and updates on council schemes and projects. 

Her organisational skills have been put to excellent use over the last three weeks on a secondment to the voluntary umbrella group 3VA, along with two other council colleagues. 

3VA is co-ordinating the local community response to the deadly virus by connecting volunteers with groups and charities in need of support. 

Working from home, Kerry’s role is to contact volunteers to find out their skill set and match them with a relevant role in a charity that has asked 3VA for help. 

“It’s about getting the right people to the right places,” she said. “Volunteers with cars might be asked to shop for people who have to stay at home, right through to the more technically capable who are operating 3D printers to make facemasks. 

“People from all walks of life and all ages have come forward. It’s been amazing to speak with these lovely people who are willing to help in whatever way they can. 

“I’m not on the frontline of fighting Covid-19 but pleased that doing this job I am able to help our local effort.”

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Mike
Council employee Mike

Mike 

As a Neighbourhood First team leader, Mike and his colleagues work to maintain our environment across a wide range of areas from car parks to public toilets, pest control to flytipping. 

However far-reaching his duties usually are, they had never involved the delivery of food parcels – until the coronavirus pandemic struck. 

Now Mike and his Neighbourhood First colleagues are busy round-the-clock handing out lifeline food parcels to people most in need during this difficult time. 

“The requests have gone through the roof,” said Mike, who has worked for Eastbourne Borough Council for nine years. “A few days ago we delivered 30 parcels in a day and now it’s 200 daily.” 

The team start loading up the vans at 8am, batching the parcels into postcode areas as the most efficient way of distribution. The parcels contain long-life items such as tinned food, biscuits, rice, pasta, toilet rolls and chocolate. 

Other Neighbourhood First advisors have been transporting food parcels from the council’s community hub to Lewes and Newhaven Foodbanks. 

Mike added: “All my team have been fantastic and have truly risen to this challenge. 

“While I do miss my old job a bit, it’s priceless when you deliver a parcel and it puts a smile on someone’s face. It’s good to know we are helping people who need it."

While many of us took the opportunity to relax over Easter, Mike was busy over the long weekend delivering food to vulnerable and isolated people who had contacted the council’s Covid-19 email and telephone support line.

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Dave
Dave (left) with two colleagues from the Eastbourne Crematorium team, Sam (centre) and Adrian

Dave 

Fraud investigator Dave immediately put himself forward to take on any extra work to support the council’s response when the covid-19 pandemic broke out. 

“I was keen to do anything that was needed and ready to work anywhere I could be of use,” said Dave. “These are extremely difficult times.” 

With more staff needed at Eastbourne Crematorium, he was redeployed there and initially assisted technicians with cremations. He is now helping with chapel duties.

Dave said: “I take my hat off to the people who do this work, it can be a very sad and emotionally challenging job. But the staff at the crematorium have been great and helped me a lot."

Usually based at Southover House in Lewes, he has worked for Lewes District Council for 10 years in the fraud department dealing with tenancy, right to buy and other types of fraud. 

Formerly a police officer, Dave says he is used to handling difficult situations which has helped prepare him for this new role. 

“I’m glad I’m doing my bit,” he said. “We all have to knuckle down and get through this, supporting each other along the way.” 


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Alice
Council employee Alice

Alice 

Customer advisor Alice is among the small number of people who continue to work at the council offices during the pandemic.

“Our job means we can't work from home like many of our colleagues," said Alice. "It is a lot quieter now and we are more spread out because of social distancing, but we are busier than ever and operating on reduced staff levels.” 

As well as continuing to be the first point of contact for residents getting in touch with the councils via telephone, email, web chat and post, Alice and her fellow customer advisors are additionally manning the new Covid-19 community helpline. 

This has been set up to support people who are vulnerable and isolated to provide them with the help they need to stay safely at home. 

Alice said: “We are a really caring team and all of us are very pleased to be helping vulnerable people alongside doing our day-to-day job. We are working closely with local charities, volunteers and foodbanks to make sure that people are given the support they need and signposted to the right place.” 

While council offices have closed to the public, customer advisors have experienced huge increases in call volumes at a time when staff levels are reduced. 

Wherever possible, residents are asked to use the councils' online services and webchat to free up phone lines to assist those most in need. 

Alice added: “We want people to know we are still here and trying our hardest. If things take a little longer, please bear with us.”

Published Monday 20 April 2020