As England goes into lockdown, Oxford City Council is reminding residents of what support there is available and what services are changing.
More information will be provided by the government in the coming days, and the Council will update its web site as more on shielding, business support and other help becomes available.
Emergency support to residents
The Council’s customer services staff and its six Locality Response Hubs are ready to support vulnerable residents who are in urgent need of help because of lockdown. This may involve support to access food, medicines and essential supplies.
The phone number is 01865 249 811 or you can ask for help online on our Community Assistance page.
This support can range from simple information about local food services to more complex issues like financial hardship, disability issues or housing.
Winter Support Grants are available by referral for families and households in hardship, to help with food, utility bills and basic essentials. Residents should contact their local advice centre (Citizens Advice, Agnes Smith) to get a referral.
The face to face services at St Aldates Chambers are closed during lockdown, services and advice are available by calling the Council on 01865 249 811 or on our Do it online pages.
Clinically extremely vulnerable
The Council is contacting clinically extremely vulnerable residents to let them know what support is available. These are people who have received a Government letter to let them know they are clinically extremely vulnerable and must follow new shielding guidelines. Local support includes help with shopping and prescriptions, support in accessing food if needed, and a phone links service to combat loneliness.
Support for businesses
The Government furlough scheme runs until the end of April 2021, which will help many businesses through this difficult time. Money allocated for business grants under Tier 4 restrictions will continue to be administered. The business team will ensure local businesses are made aware of any new funding the Council is able to help them apply for, including the new retail, hospitality and leisure top-up grants announced by the Chancellor today.
Helping the homeless
The council continues to provide covid-safe accommodation for people at risk of or with experience of rough sleeping. This includes self-contained interim housing for people who used to live in shared hostels or who have become homeless since the original lockdown last March. During the current freezing spell the St Mungo’s outreach team is also offering emergency accommodation to people who have refused all previous offers of support, have returned to the streets or are newly homeless. The council’s housing options team is continuing to work with people to prevent and relieve the risk of homelessness.
Covered market opening
The Council is continuing to work with Traders to ensure The Covered Market can remain open for essential fresh produce, click and collect and takeaway services. Many Covered Market traders continue to offer products for home delivery please check with individual traders for details. Non-essential shops are closed, but many are operating online. Individual trader’s contact details can be found on the Covered Market traders page. For the latest general information about the market head to the Covered Market website
Recycling and street cleaning
Household recycling services will continue as normal.
Real Christmas trees will be recycled in January. Residents can leave their tree - lights, decorations and pots removed - next to their green bin/sacks or brown bin between 5 and 29 January for recycling. Residents can also drop trees off at one of the collection points across the city. Those living in a flat should not leave trees in the bin store, but rather take them to one of the collection points.
The street cleaning team will continue to work to make sure streets are clean and safe for essential shopping and deliveries.
Enforcement through COVID secure team
The Council’s COVID Secure team will continue working with the police in the daytime and in the evenings on checking public spaces and parks to deter group gatherings. They are also checking that non-essential businesses and licensed premises are closed as required and that food retailers such as supermarkets and other essential shops and businesses are keeping to the rules and operating safely.
Physical and mental health
Parks and playgrounds remain open for people to exercise and enjoy time in green spaces, which is great for mental as well as physical health. The new rules are that you can leave your home to exercise once a day. You can join one other person for your exercise. All Council leisure centres, tennis courts and outdoor gyms are closed under lockdown restrictions.
The GO Active Outdoors web pages map the city parks and waterways to help residents enjoy nature in the city. The Council’s Activity Hub has information on activities to support physical and mental health, and contact information for groups providing support.
Key worker parking
Free parking for NHS staff at the City Council’s car parks (with the exception of Headington and St Leonards Road) will continue through lockdown.
The Council has some enforcement responsibility for the lockdown restrictions. We work with Thames Valley Police as the local responders to reports of house parties or businesses trading that shouldn’t be. We also patrol the parks in the evenings to deter social gatherings.
Residents can report issues and concerns relating to businesses by email to [email protected]
Residents wanting to report other possible lockdown breaches on the Thames Valley Police website.
“The very high level of infections and hospital admissions is something we should all be deeply concerned about. I know another lockdown is not how we all wanted to start the new year, but the reality is that despite everyone’s best efforts, infection rates are increasing and it is now essential.”
“I know 2020 was a really tough year, and it has tested our resolve in so many different ways. But with numbers rising so fast, once again we need to come together as a city, to bring the rates of transmission back under control. That means supporting each other to properly follow the rules as we did in the spring. Oxford City Council will continue to do everything we can to keep essential services running while also providing additional help to the many families and businesses across the city that need it.
“I want to emphasise that it is essential that we all follow the guidance - minimise travel and only leave home if you absolutely must, wear a face mask, keep a distance from others, wash your hands regularly, don’t socialise indoors. Keeping children home from school is hard, but it will keep you and other families safer. Schools will still be open for key worker and vulnerable families. If you think you have symptoms you must self-isolate immediately and book a test, the NHS will let you know what to do next when they give you the result.
“There are now two vaccines being given to the most at risk which is a great step forward, but most of us will have to wait some months for our jab. Let’s all do what we need to get through this lockdown. Keep in touch with friends and neighbours to support each other, ask for help if you need it, and help our NHS by making sure you’re not the next case they have to treat.”
Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council
“The number of cases both locally and nationally have risen hugely during December and people are once again being asked to stay at home. The new variant of COVID-19 spreads extremely quickly and these rules are being applied for our own safety and protection. We have had some good news as regards the Oxford vaccine but in coming weeks it’s important that we keep up the discipline of abiding by the rules.
“We have seen how aggressively the virus spreads and during 2020 as a whole we have seen that this virus thrives on human contact. We clearly still have some very difficult times to get through before the vaccine begins to make a significant impact on COVID-19.
“The quick move to a further national lockdown is a stark warning that we need to be extra vigilant. I would urge people to take personal responsibility as individuals and families throughout the coming weeks to give ourselves a chance of containing the virus and clearing a path for the vaccine. It is great news that the vaccine made in Oxford has now become the second in circulation in the UK. However this is precisely the time of year when viruses thrive and we must be on our guard.
“I would urge everyone to protect themselves, the communities in which they live and therefore the NHS as we progress through the early days of 2021.”
Ansaf Azhar, Oxfordshire County Council’s Director for Public Health