Local government, including Wexford County Council continues to play a key role in the national and government response to the current public health emergency. In addition to our inter-agency role in the current series of response measures, a range of Council services have been deemed essential/critical by government and continue to be provided (albeit with some restrictions) to the public across the county.
While our public offices are closed, the public still has access to essential/urgent and emergency services and to our staff by phone, online, by post and by email. In exceptional cases there is still limited face-to-face engagement by appointment. There are currently very high activity levels in many areas, particularly in areas such as Housing, Finance, the Community Call Helpline, and Planning. A range of operational services e.g. street cleaning, civic amenity sites, environmental activities continue to be provided as do critical infrastructure support services (e.g. water/wastewater). In addition, our Emergency Services including Civil Defence continue to operate and are providing key elements of the response on a daily basis.
To assist in meeting demand in business areas that are experiencing higher than usual levels of activity, some of our staff has been reassigned from other sections within the Council to provide supports, for example, with the Community Call Helpline, 053 919 6000. The Helpline, which is available seven days a week from 8am to 8pm, is the result of collaboration between Wexford County Council and more than twenty-five voluntary organisation and agencies from every part of County Wexford who have come together at this time to form what is known as the Wexford Community Call Forum. The Forum meets weekly by conference call and through its Helpline, which is staffed by Wexford County Council employees, and aided by an army of volunteers drawn from the Forum participants, practical help and support is available to individuals and families by helping with the delivery of food, fuel, pharmacy and other essential items to people’s homes.
Like all public and civil service organisations, Wexford County Council is part of the national Temporary Assignment Scheme during the current public health emergency and plays a key role in this whole-of-public-service approach to the government response. We are currently engaged in the assignment of available Council staff to the Scheme which may see these staff working in partnership with the HSE and other agencies, for a period of up to three months, to ensure continuation of services in other key public service areas. There has been a hugely positive response across the organisation to this request for help and the process of providing staff, many of whom have essential skills and qualifications, to assist in other essential public service areas is likely to continue for some time.
Individual aspects of the overall COVID-19 response has been specifically assigned to the Council and we are in the process of allocating staff to manage these non-traditional work areas also. These include the provision and operation of additional mortuary facilities and also the provision of support for the upcoming Blood Donation Clinics, with the latter being managed via our Civil Defence personnel. We are also working closely with the HSE to ensure availability of emergency self-isolation houses where a need for such facilities is identified.
Wexford County Council’s overall response to COVID-19 is a constantly evolving situation as local demands and priorities change. The Council is responding to these national and local demands appropriately and we are continuously monitoring the situation to ensure all demands are met.