The Committee were presented with a report detailing the risks relating to the coronavirus pandemic in the county, outlining those that may require a public service response in addition to a response to by the Council together with an overview of the regional multi-agency structure for emergency response and recovery. Members were asked to consider whether they felt that the key risks have been identified, that risk levels were proportionate and whether the right mitigating actions were in place, making any relevant recommendations to Cabinet or the Public Service Board.
Just to set the context for why the committee is receiving the multi-agency response today. Members will recall that we changed the terms of reference of this committee last year to enable this committee to look at broader multi-agency responses to matters faced by our residents. It is not the role of this committee to scrutinise the structure per se, as these are set up as part of national civil contingency legislation, however, it is important that the committee understand those structures. In terms of the risk assessment itself, given the range of partners involved, it felt pertinent to involve you in this prior to Cabinet considering it.
The report provided an overview of the emergency response arrangements in place and Appendix 1 provided a diagram of the reporting structures. Prior to May, it was explained that there was an Emergency Response Team in place, however, these usually deal with short term emergencies, so it felt appropriate to stand this group down and establish the Covid 19 Coordination group which comprises the Chief Officer for Resources, the Emergency Planning Lead Officer and the Head of Resources who report to the Senior Leadership Team and feed into the Gwent Strategic Coordinating Group. There are further appendices on the risks and the two plans on a page, which have been widely shared in the organisation by the Chief Executive and the letter from the minister Julie James who has asked the PSB to reconsider their objectives in light of the covid pandemic. These will be considered by the PSB at their meeting, but we are bringing this to you in advance to ask you whether this feels right and whether you have any feedback to pass on to the PSB.
Members attention was drawn to Appendix 4 where risk 3 was highlighted in terms or the risk to the economic well-being of the county, risk 6 in terms of harm to vulnerable children and adults, risk 8 in relation to the risks in failing to meet the needs of learners including vulnerable learners. Attention was also drawn to the four specific risks numbered 15-18 as being specifically related to the pandemic, risk 17 having an economic impact resulting in job losses and risk which referred to the risk of the virus increasing poverty in communities.
· In terms of risk 8 and learning, something that has arisen through discussions I’ve had with constituents and family and friends is the disparity between the support provided by Monmouthshire schools for children. Is there some way if we were to experience a second wave of the virus, that we could ensure the same level of support is provided to all? Another issue highlighted to me through a meeting with the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association community meeting in relation to a discussion on street games, was that no messages were given to the 16-25’s. It was felt that messages were aimed at adults or at parents for primary school age children.
In terms of schools’ support, this has proved
a huge challenge to the education department and schools and this
has provided us with a lot of lessons learnt through the first
wave. If we were to experience a second wave, a phenomenal amount
of learning and reflection will ensure we are better placed.
The second question you raised is really important and I recognise the comments. This age group are socially active and how we communicate with them is something that’s really important and is something we need to reflect on.
· It's important to ensure we communicate with the young age groups because the emerging data is suggesting that whilst they are least impacted personally, they are contributors to driving the spikes. The US data particularly shows long term effects.
You are right, it’s important we continue to look globally and consider the evidence.
· I don’t feel that risk 8 reflects the gravity of the situation, which I consider to be patchy. Online teaching is going to be really vital if we experience a second wave and I don’t feel this risk is adequately captured. I have asked the question of the cabinet member as to whether we know which schools were doing well at this and which weren’t but I haven’t had a satisfactory answer. We rapidly need to roll out good practice.
· I also feel that risk 1, rated low, which refers to not having a sustainable delivery model is at odds with risk 15 which relates to service delivery and post mitigation is rated high and then medium. This seems to be a disconnect to me and number 1 needs to be reassessed in my view or integrated into risk 15.
The logic as to why the scores are assessed as they are, particularly in terms of risk 1, we feel the risk that the authority could not continue is low, but in terms of risk 15, we know some services are stretched and we have had to step down some services such as the household waste and recycling centres and introduce booking systems. So this is the reasoning and logic behind the scores. This is a live document to reflect a dynamic changing environment. If the committee feels that risk level attached to risk 1 is too low, similarly with risk 15, they can recommend that it is reassessed and this can be fed through to Cabinet.
· The risk level pre-mitigation for risk 1 is fine, but I recommend that the post-mitigation 2020 and 2021 level is raised from low to medium, as I feel there are too many uncertainties.
· Would it be possible for officers to provide the detail as to how they arrived at the risk levels?
The full version of the risk assessment has greater detail and is generally taken to the Audit Committee but I appreciate the point that it’s hard for members to gauge without a full understanding of how the risk has been arrived at. Officers are happy to take forward any recommendations on the risk level to cabinet, similarly whether the committee feels the risks are adequately captured.
Issues have been raised about the consistency of online teaching and learning by schools and this is something that was raised in the Children and Young Peoples Select Committee, who raised this with the Education Achievement Service, who are preparing with schools for a blended learning approach from September onwards. Members also had concerns for children who will return to the exam system next year for children whose parents are not that adept at home schooling or are working long hours and are not able to provide that level of support to their child’s education. The committee was reassured that every child was being provided with an I pad. Finally, this committee has reached consensus that the risk level for risk 1 post-mitigation should be raised from low to medium, as discussed.