Annual Report 2020/21
This report provides a summary of our achievements in 2020/21 as well as recent successes.
There are sections for each of our four priority outcomes:
- Driving Sustainable Economic Growth
- Keeping Vulnerable People Safe
- Helping People Help Themselves
- Making Best Use of Resources in the Short and Long Term
These cross-cutting priority outcomes guide the decisions we make when setting our delivery plans for services, the Revenue Budget, and Capital Programme.
The Council’s work is delivered by working in partnership and we would like to thank our many partners for their very significant contribution to the progress we have made and their continued commitment to meeting the challenges we all share, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented challenges facing the Council, our partners, and the people of East Sussex. This report provides examples of the work done to help people cope with the challenges of the pandemic and the work towards recovery which has now started.
We hope you find this report useful and interesting.
2020/21 A year in numbers
68% of our procurement spend was with local suppliers
Trading Standards advised 704 businesses on COVID-19 closures
147 highway improvement schemes were completed, and 26,360 potholes were repaired
56 people completed online learning courses in libraries, and 300 calls were made to support vulnerable people to use IT at home during the pandemic
Over 10,000 young people, parents and carers watched a Virtual Careers Hub event ‘What’s Next Sussex’ in November 2020
The Registration Service registered 6,969 deaths, 19% more than in 2019/20
Approximately 17,000 pupils were provided with food vouchers in East Sussex at a cost of almost £1.4m
Over 38,000 people in East Sussex were identified as being Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV)
612 children were Looked After (March 2021)
525 children had Protection Plans (March 2021)
There were 218 interventions by Trading Standards to protect people targeted by rogue trading or financial abuse
8,486 people received Technology Enabled Care Services
7,829 people received support through housing related floating support
16,757 items were collected from libraries using a new COVID-19 secure ‘select and collect’ method
816 families eligible for the Government’s Supporting Families programme received a family support intervention
£4.3m of procurement savings were achieved
There was a 14.6% reduction in CO2 emissions from Council operations compared to 2019/20
124 members of staff enrolled on to an apprenticeship
There was an 8.3% reduction in staff sickness levels when compared to 2019/20
56.4% of household waste was re-used, recycled, or composted or used beneficially
Driving Sustainable Economic Growth
COVID-19 recovery and economic growth
The pandemic has had a significant impact on our local economy, so a significant part of our work over the past year has been to develop, with partners, East Sussex Reset: The Economy Recovery Plan for East Sussex. This plan will inform the work we do as part of Team East Sussex, the local growth board to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP). The plan aims to build sustainable prosperity for businesses and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors, and to support residents to access new opportunities that drive economic recovery and resilience. The plan also supports other activities important to the county, such as climate change and health and wellbeing initiatives. The ambitions in the Economy Recovery Plan, to see the economy recover and grow in a way that also helps address the challenges of the climate emergency are also supported by the East Sussex Environment Strategy 2020. This strategy sets out the opportunities for growth in low carbon sectors, which will also preserve and enhance our natural environment. The Environment Strategy also outlines how adapting to climate change can increase productivity in the local economy, whilst also boosting the resilience of local businesses to the environmental changes that will inevitably occur due to climate change.
We have co-ordinated a number of schemes to support businesses and communities to deal with the financial challenges of COVID-19. Eight projects, including the restoration of a Victorian pavilion in the Winter Gardens in Eastbourne and the Observer Building in Hastings, were nominated by the Council to the Government’s Getting Building Fund in 2020/21, and received £11m of funding. These projects are scheduled to take place by September 2022, it is expected that they will create 445 new jobs, and safeguard a further 177 jobs across the county, as well as unlocking 8,000 sqm of commercial space and allowing 400 new learners to be assisted through new skills facilities and programmes.
In April 2020 we brought our one stop shop for business support, the East Sussex Growth Hub (Business East Sussex), in-house just as the first national lockdown took effect. Hundreds of calls were received by the Growth Hub from businesses seeking financial and other support during the pandemic. The Council also commissions several business support programmes to help businesses expand and create jobs, in 2020/21 these programmes helped to create 179 jobs. Our commissioned Inward Investment service, Locate East Sussex, assists businesses to move into, or relocate within, the county; in 2020/21 it helped 32 businesses.
Supported by SELEP investment, we have worked in partnership with Visit Essex, Visit Kent and Sussex Modern to deliver support to the visitor economy, a key part of our local economy which includes the tourism, hospitality, and events industries. This support has included a £25,000 Sector Support Fund (SSF) investment for Garden Gourmet Trails and a £200,000 SSF business support programme. We are working with West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and Brighton & Hove City Council (BHCC) to establish a pan-Sussex group to lead on the recovery of the Sussex visitor economy, with a particular focus on key market segments and the future opening up of the overseas market.
The first monthly Public Health Wellbeing at Work newsletter was released in October 2020. These newsletters aim to link employers with workplace wellbeing resources, events, training, news, guidance, best practice and campaigns, that will in turn support the business to improve health and wellbeing in their workplace. A new Wellbeing at Work webinar series, launched December 2020, links up with external partners and experts to provide information, support and signposting to businesses on pertinent workplace wellbeing topics. Webinars cover topics such as, for example, how to manage redundancies compassionately and how to gain and maintain resilience during the winter months.
The support we have provided for the cultural sector has included regular weekly communications to support and advise the sector throughout the Pandemic. The ‘Do We Really Want to Bounce Back?’ programme was developed by the East Sussex Arts Partnership and the South Downs National Park to support freelance creatives who have been particularly badly hit. The Cultural Leaders network has met weekly to navigate changes in guidance, address funding challenges and to inform key partners on strategic interventions and advocacy activity that were taking place, to ensure these were well co-ordinated and had maximum impact.
South East Creatives is a SELEP wide business support programme adapted and delivered online, which offers creative businesses support and grants. 123 business grants have been approved, with a further 61 businesses receiving 12 hours of direct support, such as mentoring and access to workshops and events.
Skills East Sussex and its sector task groups for Construction, Engineering, Health and Social Care, Visitor Economy, Creative and Digital and the newly established Net Zero group, have brought together businesses, education providers, and other key stakeholders to collaborate on careers provision for young people and adults and further and higher education training offers. The groups have also developed work based on government funded initiatives for their sectors, such as the Sector-based Work Academies Programme (SWAP) to support individuals with work-readiness preparation and employment opportunities.
The East Sussex Careers Hub works with all secondary schools, special schools and colleges and seeks to improve employment and skills opportunities for young people, and the talent pipeline for future employees for businesses. The Hub has continued to develop its online resources, hosting an annual ‘What’s Next Sussex’ event, for over 10,000 young people, parents, and carers in November 2020. The event provided advice and guidance on the options available to young people when they finish their GCSEs. The Hub enabled several thousand students to access workplaces both virtually and physically during the pandemic, through the Open Doors programme and work experience. Online virtual work experience featured East Sussex employers giving workplace demonstrations; a real business challenge task for students to work on independently; and lessons focusing on employability skills.
We have continued our work to increase the number of people studying for apprenticeships in 2020/21, with 124 members of staff enrolling on an apprenticeship. In response to expected rises in youth unemployment as a result of the pandemic we have also used several new Government initiatives, such as the Apprentice Incentive Scheme and the Kickstart Programme, to help young people into employment. The Kickstart Programme provides funding for six-month job placements for young people on universal credit at risk of long-term unemployment, the Council has around 30 vacancies advertised through the programme.
Up to 25% of the Council’s Apprenticeship Levy funding from 2020-2023 is available as match funding for the TRANSFORM programme, funded by the European Social Fund, to provide support for small and medium-sized enterprises to access apprenticeship training, unspent Apprenticeship Levy, and government incentives. The project will also deliver annual Apprenticeship Roadshows aimed at young people and parents, and training for business support organisations on apprenticeships.
The Employability for Supported and Temporary Accommodation and Refuges (ESTAR) programme is funded by Public Health and Adult Social Care to help those in temporary, supported housing and refuges into learning and work by collaborating with housing providers to build capacity to support learning and employment amongst this vulnerable group. The ESTAR forum has brought together housing providers with those offering pre-employment support alongside Job Centre Plus, the Youth Employability Service and the National Careers Service to provide networking opportunities for those who need pre-employment support provision. The team has mapped the range of pre-employment and training interventions and support available to vulnerable learners across the county and has created a pre-employment support brochure. As part of the ESTAR scheme, we provided £615,000 of funding in 2021 to deliver a Supported Apprenticeship programme. The scheme will support up to 120 adults and identify 50 people to move into Supported Apprenticeship opportunities with local employers.
Our Social Value Measurement Charter (SVMC) boosts the amount of social value delivered when we procure contracts. We have updated our SVMC to incorporate new reporting and measurement standards to ensure consistency across public and private sector organisations. These changes include new measures designed to directly address the recovery of the local economy and our impact on the environment. In 2020/21 we awarded 40 contracts which were in scope of the SVMC, which resulted in almost £7.5m of social value.
Over 97% of premises in the county have been connected to fixed wire fibre broadband, both due to commercial investment, and Council investment in three contracts to improve digital connectivity throughout the county. The current (third) contract is aiming to extend connection to as close to 100% of premises in the county as possible. We invested an additional £500,000, alongside the Government’s Rural Gigabit Voucher scheme in 2020. This scheme helps businesses and residents in rural areas access improved broadband by pooling vouchers to fund the cost of infrastructure. Our funding provided a top-up subsidy of up to £1,000 per eligible property, making a total of £2,500 available to residential properties and £4,500 to business properties.
Despite a significant drop-in development activity at the start of the pandemic, the industry saw a dramatic recovery from May 2020 onwards. This was reflected in the number of planning consultations received and responded to as part of the Council’s Lead Local Flood Authority and Highway Authority roles. By the end of 2020/21, these teams were responding to 20% more applications than compared to pre-pandemic levels.
We delivered 147 highway improvement schemes in 2020/21 as part of our multi-year plan to maintain and improve the condition of the County Council’s roads. The plan, investing tens of millions of pounds, has helped to improve roads or restrict the number requiring maintenance. We used a rapid repair technique called Velocity Patching to fix 6,500 road defects permanently in just a few minutes in 2020/21, allowing us to keep the roads open and traffic moving.
Roads in East Sussex were given a makeover in Summer 2021, thanks to a £1.3m surface dressing programme to improve their condition. The programme covered both urban and rural roads across the county and treated 14 miles of roads. Surface dressing extends the life of the road surface by up to 10 years, as well as improving the waterproofing and grip of the treated surfaces.
Construction of the Newhaven Port Access Road was completed in October 2020. Supporting the Newhaven Enterprise Zone, the road will help to drive regeneration in Newhaven and provide an economic boost to both the town and East Sussex as a whole. In March 2021, Newhaven Port started work on a new link road, connecting to the Port Access Road, which will allow HGV traffic to enter and leave the East Quay Port without having to use local residential streets as they have previously. It will also allow for the full extent of the Brett Aggregates plant to be utilised, providing the main source of aggregates necessary to support new development in the county. The cycle path and footway that runs alongside the Port Access Road was opened to walkers and cyclists in July 2021, providing access to Tidemills Beach and linking up with existing paths to create circular walking and cycling routes.
A major programme of road improvements in Crowborough was completed in September 2020. Work began in March and continued throughout the summer despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, with social distancing measures implemented to ensure the scheme could be completed on schedule.
Powers to enforce parking restrictions in Rother came into effect in September 2020, leading to reduced congestion for residents caused by inconsiderate parking, whilst also improving road safety, air quality and making it easier for visitors and shoppers to park.
We worked to ensure schools and education settings remained open for vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers during the pandemic. We also provided significant support to schools to interpret and manage the changing local and national restrictions, including setting up ‘Keeping Schools Open’ and ‘Early Years Communication’ groups. Our Children’s Services department and Public Health team worked jointly to develop a COVID-19 cases tracker and provide information to schools on how to deal with cases and to support our ‘Back to school – We are Ready’ campaign which launched in summer 2020.
Our work also focused on ensuring vulnerable children still attended school or accessed educational resources. The multi-agency Vulnerable Children Risk Assessment Group had a strong focus throughout lockdown on securing full time school attendance as a protective factor. The result of this work was that we had one of the highest rates of attendance for pupils with an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) and pupils open to social care in the South East. Looked After Children who couldn’t attend school, mainly for COVID-19 related reasons, were home educated and received support from the virtual school.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we continued with some of our regular educational activities. Youngsters across East Sussex were encouraged to stand up for the planet as part of the Summer Reading Challenge 2021. As part of the challenge children aged four to 12 were encouraged to read six books over the summer and help six heroes make their town, Wilderville, a better place for people and animals.
Keeping Vulnerable People Safe
COVID-19 safety measures
We played a key role in establishing Community Hubs in early 2020/21 to support those people identified as being at the greatest risk of poor health outcomes from COVID-19; those classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV). Over 38,000 people in East Sussex were identified as being CEV during the pandemic. We provided information and support, including details of local services they could access such as help with getting food, medicine and other essentials whilst shielding. We also developed a range of support measures for those worst impacted by the effects of COVID-19, in partnership with voluntary and community groups and foodbanks. With funding of just under £600,000 in East Sussex, provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), schemes included fuel vouchers being made available via Citizens Advice, funding to foodbanks to provide meals to those most in need, and support for new and emerging food partnerships. During the initial lockdown, we also used this funding to deliver 9,000 food boxes to vulnerable people.
Trading Standards saw the emergence of a number of COVID-19 related scams in 2020/21, targeting the most vulnerable at a time of increased uncertainty and panic due to the pandemic. Alongside partners, such as Sussex Police, our Trading Standards team have been proactive in publicising these scams to make people aware they’re malicious, whilst also supporting those who are at risk of becoming a victim. Over the course of 2020/21 Trading Standards made 218 positive interventions to protect vulnerable people, including home visits, installing call blockers, and interventions by the rapid response team when people were imminently at risk of being defrauded.
Keeping children safe
During 2020/21 we continued to provide a safe and effective children’s social care service despite the acute challenges of COVID-19. Maintaining contact with children and families was critical so during the initial phases of the pandemic, we adapted our approach to include a mix of virtual methods and face to face visits. From January 2021, our social work staff maintained direct face to face visiting for children wherever possible and this helped to facilitate positive change for children and families. We maintained contact for Children on Child in Need (CIN) plans at more than 85% throughout the year. For our most vulnerable children, those subject to Child Protection Plans, contact levels were even higher at an average of 95%.
With the return of schools in September 2020, the number of contacts to social care through our Single Point of Advice (SPOA) team increased to near pre-lockdown levels. We were able to respond safely to these changes and to increased pressures around mental health, domestic abuse, and substance misuse without changing our thresholds for services, through the strong links between our early help services and statutory social work teams.
Adoption South East, our regional adoption agency, supported a campaign to challenge the myths around adopting in 2020. #YouCanAdopt sought to tackle misconceptions around who could adopt, and to encourage more people from ethnic minority backgrounds to consider adopting. Up to 120 children need an adoptive family in the south east at any one time, and the campaign, which used social media and online adverts, included videos from adopters on their experiences.
Six schools, across East Sussex, participated in the trial School Streets scheme in March 2021. This scheme aimed to restrict non-essential traffic around school sites at specific times to make more space for social distancing and encourage walking and cycling amongst students and parents. The schemes were funded by a £1.8m grant from the Department for Transport’s tranche 2 Emergency Active Travel Fund. The schemes were generally well received. The impact of the trial is currently being evaluated as part of our work to look at potential options for how this initiative can be taken forward.
We supported the launch of a new free mobile app in January 2021, which aims to help protect children against online dangers. The Safer Schools app provides information and advice for maintained schools and families about sexting, bullying, mental health, gaming, and sexual exploitation online. The app also allows teachers, schools staff and safeguarding practitioners to access information and resources addressing these issues.
Keeping vulnerable adults safe
Our work on health and social care integration in 2020/21 focused on how we could further integrate our services with partners to best support people during the pandemic, including with out of hospital support and discharge hubs to ensure the timely discharge of people and that they were provided with appropriate ongoing care. 2020/21 saw an unprecedented demand on the health and social care systems, and our integrated management arrangements were key to managing this demand and delivering the Sussex-wide health and social care COVID-19 winter plans. We are looking to establish a joint group with partners to look at how we can implement the recommendations of recent research on the challenges and opportunities for improving how we work together to help people with mental health conditions access supported housing in East Sussex.
Public Health funded a project to provide mental, psychological and substance misuse treatment to ex-rough sleepers and as part of that project offered a Horticulture training programme with the potential to participate in a City and Guilds qualification and apprenticeship. One of the participants has already gained employment due to the scheme, and it has now been extended to cover Hastings, Lewes and Wealden as well as Eastbourne.
Rough sleepers have benefited from the Dentaid van which visits Hastings, once a month, and Eastbourne, twice a month, to provide an oral health check, fluoride varnish, fillings, extractions, dentures, and onward referral if specialist care is required. Up to 12 patients are seen per day by the service.
Our Safeguarding Adults Board (SAB) oversees the work we do with partners to ensure adults at risk of abuse and neglect in the county are effectively safeguarded. The areas of focus for the Board in 2020/21 included work on making safeguarding personal, ensuring that adults are involved and consulted in the process of helping them to stay safe. The Board also continued to support partners to effectively embed learning from case reviews into their work.
During the periods of lockdown in 2020/21, the SAB reduced its work programme to support front-line health and social care services in responding to the pandemic. Despite these challenges, significant progress was made in launching the Board’s new three-year Strategic Plan, developing safeguarding protocols and continuing to deliver the recommendations from Safeguarding Adults Reviews (SAR) action plans. These recommendations included the launch of the Adult Death Protocol, which has improved how agencies respond to deaths where abuse or neglect are suspected. Improvements will also be made to the way in which vulnerable women who have experienced trauma and are dealing with multiple issues such as drug and alcohol dependency, homelessness, poor mental health, and domestic violence are supported. Key priority areas for the SAB in 2021/22 include embedding the Mental Capacity Act in practice, safeguarding transitions for young people at risk and working with people with multiple complex needs.
During 2020/21, 5,711 safeguarding contacts were received, a 13.5% increase from 2019/20. As a result of these contacts, 1,942 safeguarding enquiries were carried out and in 91% of these cases the risk was either reduced or removed completely. It should be acknowledged that it is unlikely that risk will be reduced or removed in 100% of cases, as people may exercise choice and control over the steps taken by authorities to mitigate the risk.
Health and Social Care Connect (HSCC) provides a single point of information, advice and access to community health and social care services. During the pandemic HSCC also provided Shielded Line support to those identified as CEV during periods of national or local lockdown. The team also adapted their systems to allow staff to work as effectively from home as from the office, ensuring there was no reduction in service when staff were self-isolating, and that social distancing could be maintained for those in the office.
During 2020/21, HSCC received an average of 11,875 contacts per month, compared to an average of 11,402 per month in 2019/20, a 4.1% increase. HSCC also received 4,197 safeguarding contacts and 5,021 Emergency Duty Service calls outside of usual office hours. Between 20 December 2020 and 31 March 2021, HSCC provided support to 369 CEV individuals who following national registration, via the National Shielding Support Service, requested a local authority call back.
The East Sussex Safer Communities Partnership (ESSCP) is responsible for creating and monitoring plans to tackle crime and disorder, re-offending, and substance misuse in East Sussex. It brings together strategic and frontline expertise from teams within the Council including Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Public Health as well as those from Policing and Probation, district and borough councils, and the voluntary and community sector.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic the ESSCP has continued to work to deliver the main priorities set out in its 2020-23 Business Plan, these include reducing serious violent crime, all forms of domestic violence and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol-related harm and serious organised crime including modern slavery, county lines drug dealing and fraud and scams. Alongside these priorities the ESSCP has also continued to work with other local and regional partnerships to reduce anti-social behaviour and hate crime, educate against violent extremism, improve road safety, and reduce reoffending. This is achieved by identifying vulnerable people and their local networks, working with perpetrators to alter their behaviour, and educating communities to reduce risk, impact, and potential harm.
We have been working with Hastings Borough Council to implement the Government’s Project ADDER in Hastings, to help tackle the harm caused by the supply and use of drugs. The £5m pilot project will run for two and a half years in the town, and help agencies and organisations work together to reduce drug-related deaths, offending, and the prevalence of drug use. As well as using the funding to commission services from local groups, the Council is also employing officers to work with those affected by drug dependency.
The national lockdowns experienced during 2020/21 had the potential to increase domestic violence. To counter this risk the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence services jointly commissioned by the Council, the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and the Clinical Commissioning Group continued to offer support to vulnerable people throughout the lockdowns. We also ensured that commissioned providers were able to continue to offer services, including that they had sufficient supplies of Personal Protective Equipment and robust procedures around testing and isolating staff and refuge residents. We also worked with providers to support staff wellbeing. Change, Grow, Live (CGL) were awarded a new contract to run East Sussex Community Domestic Abuse Services in April 2021 and Clarion Housing Association were awarded a new contract to deliver East Sussex Refuge Services from 1 November 2021.
Helping People Help Themselves
To help people access COVID-19 vaccinations, we relaxed restrictions in January 2021 to allow concessionary bus pass holders to travel before 9.30am. The changes allowed people more flexibility on when they could use their bus pass, to help them access a wider range of vaccination appointments.
We worked with our NHS partners throughout the night in December to ensure over 100 lorry drivers were able to make it home safely in time for Christmas. As part of the Sussex Resilience Forum, we helped to put in place emergency testing at Newhaven Port after rule changes for travelling to France introduced the requirement for drivers to produce proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their planned departure time. Many of the people who organised the testing had already worked a full day shift, before volunteering to go to the port to assist with the testing.
The Council commissioned an Everyday Creativity programme in 2020/21; this was made up of five projects, each led by a separate group of artists working with CultureShift to co-design creative activities and resources to help people overcome the strains of lockdown. One project focused on people who had become unemployed or furloughed due to COVID-19, offering a varied programme of free artist-led activities including creative writing, photography and life coaching. The other projects also targeted groups of people most affected by the pandemic including former rough sleepers, young people, care home residents and their families, and Personal Assistants who were supporting people with care needs in the local community.
In November 2020, the Government announced funding to provide holiday activities and food to young people eligible for free school meals (FSM) over the Easter, summer, and Christmas school holidays in 2021. 34 providers ran activities across the county during Easter 2021, which were attended by a total of 1,378 young people. Make Good Trouble, a youth-led production company, produced a short film celebrating the Easter provision. Our Holiday Activities and Food scheme (HAF) was initially targeted in the areas of highest need across the county; however, it has subsequently been developed to support young people right across East Sussex including extending eligibility to provide access for more children who might benefit from the programme. Provision for the summer holidays in 2021 included 71 providers running more than 26,000 sessions at over 85 different locations, with 7,000 funded places available to eligible young people.
The Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford, and the Children’s Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Rachel Da Souza, visited the county in August 2021 to learn more about our HAF scheme. During the visit Vicky Ford and Dame Da Souza visited sites in St Leonards-on-Sea, Sidley, and Eastbourne to see the benefits the schemes were bringing to young people across the county. Vicky Ford said, ‘It has been absolutely fantastic to be here in East Sussex today to see children and young people having the best time at their Holiday Activities and Food clubs, all funded by our national programme.’
During the pandemic we developed new emotional wellbeing and mental health support offers for children, families, and schools. This included: a helpline for parents/carers to offer support in managing home-learning and emotional wellbeing, confidential phone support for school leaders and supervision for school-based staff. We also helped to provide Emotional Literacy Support Assistants who provided additional training to school-based staff to support emotional wellbeing in schools. We were successful in our bid for funding for three Mental Health Support Teams as part of the Government’s trailblazer scheme, these teams will become fully operational during summer 2021 and work across 45 schools to provide early mental health support for a population of 24,000 pupils.
During the last 18 months we made a £550,000 contribution to Sussex Community Foundation’s (SCF) Sussex Crisis Fund. This contribution was added to the funds that SCF had received from the National Emergency Trust, and local donors, helping to create a fund that has supported 261 local voluntary, community, and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations with grant funding of over £1.3m.
The ability of the SCF to bring in other sources of funding helps to increase the potential impact of the Council’s contribution and ensures that the funding pots available for East Sussex VCSE organisations are larger than if the Council was to work alone in the administration and management of small grant funds. We will be making a further £330,000 contribution, and we are working with SCF to design an updated fund for East Sussex VCSE organisations opening in the autumn 2021 that will run until the end of March 2022. These contributions to SCF were made using the Government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund (COMF).
We also used the COMF to provide an additional £500,000 worth of one-off grants to eleven VCSE organisations in 2020/21, to help offer advice and support to people financially affected by losing their job, being on furlough or having to shield.
Helping people maintain their independence
A key part of the service we provide in adult social care is reablement support, which helps people to regain mobility and daily living skills, especially after a hospital stay. There were additional pressures on this service as a result of COVID-19, however we continued to maintain high levels of performance. 89% of people discharged from hospital to reablement / rehabilitation services were at home 91 days after their discharge from hospital. In addition, no further request was made for on-going support for 88% of people who received short-term services.
Our Warm Home Check service provides telephone advice on how residents can keep their homes warm, how to reduce their energy bills and the financial support available for heating. The service has continued to offer free home visits to people on low incomes, as well as help with minor improvements such as improved insulation and boiler repairs. Frederick Mepham from St Leonards-on-Sea had a number of health issues which left him vulnerable to the cold, and his flat was difficult and expensive to heat. Following a visit from an energy advisor as part of the Warm Home Check service, a new central heating system and cavity wall insulation were installed at Mr Mepham’s home. Mr Mepham said of the changes ‘It’s fantastic, when you go in now there’s such a difference.’
The Support with Confidence scheme, which accredits care and support providers in East Sussex, reached 300 members in May 2021. The scheme checks personal assistants and care and support providers, approving them for quality, safety and training to ensure they provide a professional and trustworthy service. Members of the service benefit from free training, support and guidance from the Council.
Helping people stay healthy and secure
Libraries and many community facilities were forced to close at various stages of the pandemic, and when they were able to open could only provide restricted services due to the need to ensure social distancing and that buildings were COVID-19 secure. While closed, libraries adapted their offer to continue to offer as many services to residents as possible. ‘Select and collect’ was introduced which allowed people to order library items online and then collect them outside libraries, between November 2020 and March 2021 16,757 items were collected using this method. A new online service, IT for You, was also launched at the start of 2020/21 to support vulnerable customers to access online services. During 2020/21 volunteers made almost 300 calls to support vulnerable people to use IT at home.
Our Public Health team, alongside partners, set up a number of Local Testing Sites for COVID-19 in 2020/21 to ensure testing capacity was available across the county to help stop the spread of the virus. Public Health also worked with WSCC and BHCC to implement asymptomatic community testing, enabling those who needed to leave home for work, volunteering or caring roles to take regular tests. Alongside WSCC we also established a Local Tracing Partnership (LTP) to trace individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 who the National Tracing Team hadn’t been able to contact. We created several working groups in 2020/21 to help increase vaccine uptake. Hastings was identified as the area of the county with the lowest uptake, with one of the main barriers being access. To address this, we worked with the NHS to put in place ‘pop up’ centres, allowing residents to easily walk to their appointments and free travel was also provided for those further from centres. Infection Control and Prevention (IPC) Advisors provided targeted support and advice to managers at care homes with less than 70% vaccination uptake in 2020/21. IPC Advisors also assisted homes that had an outbreak of COVID-19 to help contain the outbreak. The Council’s Local Outbreak Control Plan has been reviewed by Public Health England and the Department for Health and Social Care and was considered to have met all of the required criteria.
Our behaviour change trials, and speed management programme continued in 2020/21 to try and improve the safety of the county’s roads and reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI). The final results of the Notice of Intended Prosecution (NiP) Trial showed that receiving the redesigned NiP and leaflet significantly reduced speeding reoffending by 23%, which would mean there would have been 560 fewer reoffences over six months if everyone in the trial had received the new notifications. The results of the Anniversary Trial showed that 8% of the participants were less likely to reoffend after engagement with the trial, which meant 80 fewer reoffences. Initial results from the eight schemes that were part of the Speed Management Programme, where we made improvements to roads and junctions, showed a 50% reduction in the average number of crashes and over a 60% reduction in the average number of casualties per year.
295 people were killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads in 2020, 17 of these were fatalities. The number of people killed or seriously injured in 2020 was 28% lower than in 2019, however we are unable to draw any conclusions from these figures as the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in reduced traffic flows and altered the pattern of traffic on the roads.
Special Educations Needs and Disabilities (SEND)
The SEND strategy 2018 – 2021 sets out the shared aims for all learners with SEND in East Sussex. It has been developed, and is delivered, by us and partner organisations who are involved in education, health and social care. Through this strategy we have worked to improve the availability of places for children with SEND in high quality early years and nursery provision, schools and colleges. We have also ensured there is effective planning and support for our children and young people as they transition through the education system and into adulthood so they can achieve their aspirations. We have also worked to improve our communication and engagement with families.
To help us prepare for the next strategy we completed a comprehensive Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) which pulled together a range of evidence about the needs of children and young people in our area and how well current services work. This included gathering views from people and organisations who receive or help deliver support for children with SEND including over 700 parents/carers of children with SEND. The JSNA has identified a number of priority areas for us to take forward in our new strategy, which we will develop with parents/carers and other organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Four applications for new schools (three special schools and one alternative education provider) were approved by the Department for Education in April 2017. The first schools, The Workplace, an alternative provision free school, and Ropemakers Academy, a specialist school for children with social, emotional, and behavioural difficulties, opened in September 2020. The Ropemakers Academy project was awarded the ‘Outstanding Customer Satisfaction’ SECBE (South East Centre for the Built Environment) Award for 2021. The Flagship School, a special school for children with autism and social, emotional, and mental health difficulties opened in September 2021. We have also supported two new Specialist Facilities to open in secondary schools in September 2020, in Lewes and Robertsbridge, which will offer additional provision for pupils with autism.
Making Best use of Resources in the Short and Long Term
Efficient and effective working
Our Emergency Planning Team provided support to all services across the county in 2020/21, including district and borough colleagues and the pan-Sussex Local Resilience Forum. The team provided advice and support on the latest Government restrictions and business continuity through the various lockdowns, as well as supporting testing facilities across the county. Volunteers from across the Council also stepped forward to help with tasks such as making emergency calls to vulnerable people and delivering food packages to those shielding during lockdowns.
We continued to manage a difficult financial position throughout 2020/21, whilst also coping with the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As well as providing substantial support to local communities, businesses and VCSE organisations to help them survive and adapt to the pandemic, we continued to work to meet need for our adults’ and children’s services.
We continued concerted lobbying, working with local MPs and through partnerships such as the South East 7 (SE7) and County Councils Network (CCN), to highlight to Government ministers and officials the ongoing financial pressures we and other local authorities face. As a result of the ongoing lobbying with partners, the Spending Review in November 2020 included provisions which assisted the Council’s financial position in 2021/22. However, as in previous years, much of the increase in the Council’s spending power was funded through permitted Council Tax increases, which is an unsustainable way to fund increases in demand for social care. We will continue to lobby Government for a sustainable funding settlement that enables us to meet our residents’ needs in the future. During 2020/21 we also worked with partner councils to influence national policy development in a range of areas, including the rapidly evolving COVID-19 response, to ensure Government reforms and interventions were effective and the interests of the Council and East Sussex communities were represented.
Full details of the Council’s financial position at the end of March 2021 can be found on our website https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/yourcouncil/finance/spend/download/
We declared a climate emergency in October 2019, recognising the threat of climate change to the county and the world. We have set a target of carbon neutrality from our activities as soon as possible, and in any event by 2050, in line with the target for the UK. During 2020/21 the Council agreed a Climate Change Action Plan for 2020 – 2022, which includes projects to reduce our emissions, such as improving the efficiency of street lighting, decarbonising our heating at Council buildings, and implementing an Electric Vehicle Strategy.
Several partnerships the Council is involved in secured significant external funding to help reduce carbon emissions in 2020/21. This included a £13.9m SELEP programme to help businesses cut their carbon footprint; £2m for the East Sussex Energy Partnership to address fuel poverty; and £135,000 to drive new investments in projects to off-set carbon emissions, such as tree planting. We also secured £470,000 of funding from the Government’s Decarbonisation Fund, which will be spent during 2021/22 on a range of projects including the installation of photovoltaics on six Council owned properties. The amount of carbon produced by Council operations fell by 14.6% in 2020/21, compared to 2019/20. Energy demand has been affected by the temporary closure of some buildings, and the part utilisation of others during national lockdowns.
The County Council election was held on 6 May 2021, with the election of 50 councillors to represent the 50 Council divisions for the next four years. Election planning was undertaken with the district and borough councils who administer the election, with a number of precautions put in place to ensure people could vote safely in a COVID-19 secure way. A comprehensive Member induction programme was delivered for new and returning councillors between May and July 2021; with 17 virtual induction sessions provided to equip councillors with the information and resources needed to undertake their roles.
In response to the changes experienced over the last year, we have been reviewing our working practices to develop modern, flexible workspaces that enable hybrid ways of working, building on the success of existing flexible working options. New working practices will support service delivery, drive efficiency, and significantly reduce our carbon emissions through a reduced requirement for staff travel.
The Council’s People Strategy has been developed around the four themes of Leadership and Management; Performance Development and Reward; Employee Engagement and Inclusion; and Employee Health and Wellbeing. The strategy was refreshed in 2020/21 to respond to the changes in working practices brought about as a result of COVID-19. These changes address both the immediate needs of staff and the business, as well as providing the strategic overview for the activities needed in the medium term as we plan our future ways of working.
An external review in 2021 confirmed that Orbis, a partnership between East Sussex County Council, Surrey County Council, and BHCC, continues to add value for all the Orbis partners. The Orbis Partnership has achieved ongoing savings of £13.9m plus a further £8.7m of one-off savings. The partnership helped us to purchase urgent Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline services, providers, GPs, crematoriums, and pharmacists, and provide guidance to our local business networks, schools and the VCSE on sourcing PPE and Medical Devices. Through the Device Refresh Programme, IT and Digital have replaced 2,800 Windows 8 computers, giving our staff access to Windows 10 devices. The wide availability of Windows 10 and Office 365 has ensured that our workforce was equipped to work remotely during lockdown which helped to keep services running. The partnership has also supported the organisation to maintain business continuity on key processes such as prompt payments to suppliers.
A motion to stop plastic pollution, which was proposed by East Sussex Youth Cabinet member James Jenkins, was chosen as one of the UK Youth Parliament 2021 campaigns. James’ motion received over 18,000 votes in the Make Your Mark ballot of young people across the country in November 2020, becoming the first ever motion proposed by the East Sussex Youth Cabinet to be elected as a national priority.
Full details of our results against 2020/21 Council Plan targets and budgets can be found in our end of year monitoring report. Details of our future actions and targets to deliver our priority outcomes are set out in the Council Plan 2021/22. A full review of the Council’s position and future challenges can be found in State of the County 2021 (please see Cabinet Item 5 Reconciling Policy, Performance and Resources - State of the County).
There is a lot more information on our website about the services we provide, how the Council works, how to contact your local councillor and how you can have your say about Council services and decisions.