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South Somerset District Council staff play their part in Somerset Covid-19 vaccine effort

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Staff from across South Somerset District Council are playing vital roles in supporting the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations across the county.

More than 80 staff have already been redeployed either full-time or part time to support vaccination centres around Somerset in a variety of roles including project management, acting as stewards and coordinating volunteers.

And more of our team is expected to be involved in the coming weeks alongside those volunteering to help make vaccination appointments at weekends or in the evenings.

SSDC assisting cars to park at a Vaccination Centre

Photo above: Staff who have been working Monday to Friday undertaking their normal working duties are also working weekends to assist NHS staff in the running of vaccination centres.

Councillor Val Keitch, Leader of South Somerset District Council, said: “We fully recognise the importance of supporting the vaccination programme as this will be critical to getting us through the crisis caused by this COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we are fully aware that we need to provide services to the public, we are also assisting our NHS colleagues as much as we possibly can to get as many people vaccinated as soon as possible to help bring an end to this crisis.”

With over 80 staff being redeployed many are undertaking roles that they would not normally be doing. Staff have been assisting by:

  • Making calls on behalf of the NHS and booking vulnerable residents in for their vaccinations at local centres
  • Data inputting and admin tasks
  • Helping to run vaccination centres by directing cars to the venue, assisting with parking, meeting and greeting, signposting, helping maintain social distancing and sanitisation, assisting with exiting the venue and other general marshal duties
  • Working with SPARK Somerset to manage volunteer efforts
  • Sharing social media content to assist with NHS messaging

Staff that were furloughed from The Octagon Theatre and Westlands Entertainment Venue have been working at the Wincanton vaccination site undertaking car parking duties. Other members of the team have also been helping to co-ordinate staff at sites with the NHS.

Staff from the Arts & Entertainment services who had been furloughed are now working out at vaccinations centres to assist with marshalling duties

Photo above: Staff from the Arts & Entertainment services who had been furloughed are now working out at vaccinations centres to assist with marshalling duties.

Members of our Customer Connect team, who would normally be dealing with enquiries on our 01935 462462 telephone line are assisting with administration at vaccination sites such as checking people in for their jabs. The team are also heavily involved with appointment booking for the vaccinations alongside their day job.

Here are some examples of how other members of staff are getting involved:

Angie Cox is SSDC’s Democratic Services Specialist. Angie’s day-to-day job requires her to manage committee meetings and ensure the democratic process of decisions is taken correctly. Angie also helps to project manage the running of elections and with Somerset County Council elections due this year, would normally be starting to turn her attention to work required to help with this. But Angie has been redeployed full time to help project manage a vaccination centre. This involves sorting the venue and organising other volunteers. Angie said, “In the beginning it was a little scary, we wanted this to work well and efficiently as possible. It was great to see people so excited to come and receive their vaccinations and I was very impressed with the work being done by the doctors and practitioners. I am overwhelmed by the amount of volunteers that are working with us, for example from the North Petherton Rugby Club and the local Rotary Club. They are the real unsung heroes.”

Martin Hacker, a Specialist in Communications, Marketing & Media at SSDC has been helping during weekends by making calls to vulnerable residents and booking them in for their COVID-19 vaccination. Still working Monday to Friday in his normal role, Martin has given up some of his spare time to help the NHS in their battle to get everyone vaccinated. He said, “The first few calls I made were quite emotional. Speaking to people who haven’t been outside their homes for almost a year in some cases, who now will be stepping out to go for their vaccine for the first time – it’s almost like you are helping to potentially prolong that person’s life and bring some normality back for them. It’s an immense sense of pride for me and means a lot to help.”

Martin Hacker (Specialist – Communications, Marketing & Media) has been working from home at weekends booking vulnerable residents in for their COVID-19 vaccination

Photo Above: Martin Hacker (Specialist – Communications, Marketing & Media) has been working from home at weekends booking vulnerable residents in for their COVID-19 vaccination.

Netta Meadows, Director for Service Delivery at SSDC, has been helping coordinate resources to support the NHS, said: “Our staff are doing unbelievable things by either helping out at weekends as much as possible or by dropping their day-to-day jobs to be redeployed in assisting with this national effort. We even have staff who have been furloughed such as our theatre and entertainment venue staff who have actively asked to now help with our efforts. A massive thank you must go to all staff who are pulling together as one team to really help each other and the NHS with this massive task to get everyone vaccinated as quickly as possible. I am incredibly proud of our staff for all they are doing.”

Providing this essential support has had an impact on some of the services our council is able to offer.

Area Committee meetings and the Audit Committee in January and February have been cancelled and further actions may be put into place in the coming weeks depending on the level at which we are needed to support the roll out of vaccinations.

READ MORE: Area Committee meetings to be cancelled in January and February to help SSDC prioritise community support and vaccinations during national COVID-19 lockdown.

Cllr Keitch added: “Supporting the vaccination programme has to be a priority for us as an organisation. The vaccine will ensure that over the coming months we can start to move to some form of normality and get large aspects of our lives back that we have missed for the past nine months. It will help protect our vulnerable residents and ensure our communities and economy can start to recover. But please be reassured, our council will continue to provide the vital support and services our communities need just as it has done throughout the pandemic and just as it did before.”

Health and care teams across Somerset are working exceptionally hard to roll out the local vaccination programme in Somerset in line with the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation’s prioritisation.

This week, the mass vaccination centre at Taunton Racecourse opened alongside community vaccination sites, which includes Yeovil District Hospital, Wincanton Community Hospital and The Meadows Surgery in Ilminster.

Remember you do not need to call to book a vaccination. Please be assured that the NHS will contact you directly when it is your turn to be booked for your vaccination.

For more on how South Somerset District Council may be able to help you during the COVID-19 pandemic, including business grants and hardship grants, visit www.southsomerset.gov.uk/coronavirus

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