The impact the pandemic has had on people living in Knowsley is the focus for Knowsley’s Public Health annual report 2020.
Although COVID-19 has impacted everyone in some way, people in Knowsley have been disproportionately affected when compared to many other local authority areas across the country according to the report.
There have been a high number of COVID-19 cases in Knowsley and the report looks at the likely reasons for this. It explains Knowsley residents are more likely to have jobs where working from home isn’t possible, such as care homes and supermarkets, and with people more likely to need public transport to get to work, shop or provide care.
It also considers the high levels of residents with pre-existing, long-term health conditions as a reason for the high case numbers, as well as many residents not able to afford childcare, who have had to rely on extended family for childcare arrangements, resulting in continued household mixing.
The impact on mental health
The report acknowledges the negative impact of the pandemic on the mental health of many people in the borough, and particularly those who were shielding and those living on their own.
It says existing mental health problems have been exacerbated, and new mental health problems created.
As we continue to live with COVID-19 and its impacts on all aspects of life, the report explains it is important that residents are given the resources and support to improve their mental health, wellbeing and resilience.
The report details the range of mental health support available for people of all ages in Knowsley including the Kind to Your Mind campaign which links in with the NHS Every Mind Matters website and the programmes which have been introduced in the borough’s schools such as the Mental Health Workers in Schools project and increased counselling capacity for bereavement and domestic abuse.
Knowsley’s response to COVID-19
Since the start of the pandemic, the council and its partner agencies have developed a number of initiatives to support residents and the public and private sector through these challenging times. These are detailed in the report, and include;
Supporting Knowsley’s most vulnerable adults by setting up the Community Support and Knowsley Volunteer Hub, helping residents classed as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable to stay safe with support including access to medication and food parcels. Also, increasing communication to encourage uptake of Domestic Abuse support and sheltering the homeless.
Supporting Knowsley’s most vulnerable children by implementing safe social care practices and introducing the Early Help Hub to support families facing challenges around parenting and also to support with referrals to foodbanks. Swiftly establishing a local Free School Meal voucher scheme and adapting this to meet the needs of local families. Plus, general support for schools throughout the pandemic.
Providing advice and guidance to businesses and employees via the Growth Hub and Knowsley Works and implementing an efficient approach to processing business grants. Supporting businesses to ensure their workplaces are COVID-19 secure and staff are safe with further support for workplaces that have COVID-19 cases.
Public Health initiatives include enhancing contact tracing and supporting residents to isolate, investing in services to increase compliance along with outbreak prevention and management, ensuring access to frontline NHS services including the COVID-19 vaccine and supporting Knowsley’s care homes and other social care settings.
Cllr Christine Bannon, Knowsley Council Cabinet Member for Health, said:
“I’m extremely proud of the way the council and its partners have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to meet the needs of local people. This collaborative working will continue, both now and in the future as we refocus our efforts from responses into recovery.
“It is also important to understand how we can adapt to COVID-19 circulating in the community over the coming months, whilst keeping cases at low levels. Our recovery plan includes a series of actions that will help to inform a long-term plan and recommendations which address the wider impact of the pandemic on the borough’s residents.”
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in supporting the COVID-19 response in Knowsley for their hard work. Thank you to the many people who volunteered their time to help make a difference to others and also to our local residents and businesses for playing their part in reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission and of course to all the staff in the council and across our partner agencies for all their efforts over the past 17 months.”
Planning for recovery
Importantly, the report highlights a recovery plan with preventative actions required to keep case numbers including effective outbreak identification and management and continuing to vaccinate the population. The plan also incorporates a clear Outbreak Management Strategy and services to support residents’ physical and mental health.
In addition, the report makes a number of recommendations which address the wider, indirect impacts of the pandemic on the community. It recommends undertaking an in-depth analysis of the health inequalities that have worsened due to COVID-19 to inform recovery plans. Support and influence catch-up programmes for both Education and Screening, is another recommendation, as is continuing to provide targeted support to children, families, and older adults.