Covid-19: How councils rose to the challenge in Cambridgeshire

Hot Pots cafe

Thanks to the support from the local community, Hot Pots café in March continue to go from strength to strength despite the global pandemic - Credit: CCC

From celebrity campaigns to rapid testing, much work has been done to help residents across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough battle Covid-19 in the last year. 

Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council have worked throughout the pandemic to keep residents informed to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to support those who need it most. 

Hot Pots cafe in March

Thanks to the support from the local community, Hot Pots café in March continue to go from strength to strength despite the global pandemic. - Credit: CCC

Councillor Steve Count and Cllr John Holdich, leaders of Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, have recorded vlogs to reflect on the last 12 months. 

Meanwhile, Dr Liz Robin, director of public health for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, shared her thoughts on how the county has responded to the pandemic.

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"There's been so many personal tragedies and effects on our residents, both from the virus itself and its impacts on mental health,” Dr Robin said. 

Dr Liz Robin on Covid-19 vaccine

Dr Liz Robin has praised the progress of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and has urged residents across Cambridgeshire to continue following Government guidelines. - Credit: Cambridgeshire County Council


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“The vaccine is a real milestone, but it's important for us to remember it takes time to have its effect.  

“Up to three weeks after the first dose, and for maximum protection it is essential to have the second dose too.  

Community response service in Cambs

Enhanced Response Service (ERS) officers, Kirsty Ball, spoke to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about helping vulnerable people during the pandemic, what her role is like and why she enjoys it so much. - Credit: CCC

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"Because of this, it’s so important that we continue to follow social distancing guidance and the changes in the lockdown rules closely, as well as getting tested when necessary.   

“We are at a transition point. It will get better, but it will take time.” 

Here is some of the work both county and city councils have done since March 2020: 

- Test and trace support: since launching a countywide contact tracing service, officers across all councils successfully contacted 2,200 people who had tested positive for Covid-19, all of which the national team had been unable to reach. 

They gave reminders that they must self-isolate to help prevent the spread of the virus and also provided these residents with the advice and support they needed to do this. 

To find out more about Test and Trace, visit the Government website, or the Cambridgeshire County Council or Peterborough City Council websites. 

Cllr Steve Count Covid-19 vlog

Cllr Steve Count praised the work of volunteers and the NHS for helping pull the county through the Covid-19 pandemic so far in a vlog. - Credit: YouTube/Cambridgeshire County Council

- Grants to help more residents self-isolate when needed: £1.134 million has been handed out to residents across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough who were asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace and needed financial support to do so. 

Enhance response service for Cambridgeshire

The Enhanced Response Service (ERS) – which helps people with non-emergency assistance – has responded to over 6,000 call outs since it started nearly four years ago. - Credit: CCC

This financial support enabled those who had tested positive to isolate for a full 10 days to break the chain of infection. A total of successful 2,268 claims have been approved for this by Peterborough City Council and district councils across Cambridgeshire. 

If you need help to self-isolate, please visit Cambridgeshire or Peterborough websites. 

- Rapid testing to slow the spread of Covid-19 in communities: since rapid testing began at the start of February, more than 29,000 tests have been carried out. 

The tests are completed by people without symptoms who are leaving home regularly for work, volunteering or training to identify people who would not otherwise know that they have Covid-19. 

There is no cost to take a test and the process takes on average 15 minutes from arrival to departure. 

Keen knitters have been working hard to make vital items for those financially affected by Covid-19.

Keen knitters have been working hard to make vital items for those financially affected by Covid-19. - Credit: CCC

Testing sites are now open in Peterborough and every Cambridgeshire district. 

To book a test, people need to visit Cambridgeshire and Peterborough websites. 

- Coordination hub network helps vulnerable: a countywide Covid-19 coordination hub launched to help those who were most affected by the outbreak. 

The coordination hub, staffed by 449 redeployed council workers, has helped 4,877 people in clinically extremely vulnerable groups listed by the Government who were advised to self-isolate.  

In addition, a network of support hubs run by Peterborough City Council and the district/city councils across Cambridgeshire launched last March to support those who were not shielding, but still required support.  

In recent months, they have been providing support for people who have been asked to shield once again. 

Children and families receiving meals over the half-term

Children and families receiving meals over the half-term last autumn from the Cambridgeshire countywide hub service - Credit: CCC

If you or someone you know is vulnerable and does not have support of friends, family or neighbours, get in touch with your local support hub: 

  • Cambridge City Hub – visit the website or call 01223 457000. 

  • East Cambridgeshire Hub – visit the website or call 01353 665555. 

  • Huntingdonshire Hub – visit the website

  • Fenland Hub – visit the website or call 01354 654321. 

  • Peterborough Hub – visit the website or call 0345 045 5219. 

  • South Cambridgeshire Hub – visit the website or call 03450 450 063. 

You can also contact the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Coordination Hub – visit the website or call 0345 045 5219. 

- Community, faith and volunteer groups go above and beyond to keep residents safe: community, faith and volunteer groups across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have gone above and beyond to keep residents safe. 

Food deliveries made in Cambs during Covid

Some examples of food deliveries being made to residents in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough during the Covid-19 pandemic. - Credit: Cambridgeshire County Council

- Support to care homes: both councils have provided a variety of support, including making sure they have the correct PPE and deploying the Enhanced Response Service supporting care homes when staff have had to self-isolate.

They have also helped care home staff and residents receive their vaccines and supporting hidden carers.  

New HQ for Cambs County Council

A topping out ceremony was held at the new Alconbury Weald HQ in October to mark key progress. The new HQ building, which due to supply chain delays caused by COVID-19, is now set to open in late summer 2021 - Credit: CCC

We have also ensured the infection control government grant has been distributed to care providers, so they have had the resources they need. 

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Throughout the pandemic, Caring Together, Peterborough City Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and their partner services have adapted how they work to make sure carers stay connected at each stage of lockdown.   

Zoom has been used extensively to keep these communities together and, when allowed, meeting up outside, all keeping to social distancing guidelines, has been arranged. 

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- Free school meals: over 16,877 free school meal vouchers have been distributed to families in Cambridgeshire since the start of the pandemic. 

The vouchers have been distributed to families of two to 16-year-olds by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council.

Gritters out in Cambridgeshire

To infin-gritty and beyond! Buzz Ice Year and the rest of the council gritters were kept busy during the winter on Cambridgeshire roads. Less traffic but the job needed to be done.. - Credit: CCC

Both councils will do this by working with local schools, voluntary and community organisations, and childcare providers as part of the Holiday Activities and Food Programme. 

£30 vouchers for each child eligible, to cover the cost of a meal each school day for both weeks of the forthcoming Easter Holidays, will be released soon. 

To find out more about free school meals, visit the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough websites. 

- Covid-19 marshals keep communities safe: a total of 10 Covid-19 marshals have played a vital role in helping to keep Peterborough’s residents safe, working alongside community leaders to ensure residents are informed on the latest government guidance and legislation. 

Covid-19 marshals in Cambs

Covid-19 marshals have also been patrolling the streets of Cambridgeshire during the pandemic. - Credit: Cambridgeshire County Council

- Business grants help 3,800 city businesses: over the past year, 3,800 businesses in Peterborough which have suffered financially due to Covid-19 have received financial support.  

To find out if your business is eligible for a grant and to apply, visit the council’s website

- Vaccinations programme well underway in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough: nearly 350,000 residents across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough have received their first Covid-19 vaccination through our network of 36 vaccination sites. 


Covid-19 support scheme in East Cambs

Two East Cambridgeshire residents - John and Alan - spoke about how they met through the Covid-19 Support Scheme in Little Downham and Pymoor. The scheme has been set up and run by Cambridgeshire County Council member for Ely and Leader and member for the Downham Villages of East Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Anna Bailey. - Credit: CCC

- Fostering: the challenges and rewards of lockdown - lockdown has been a challenging but rewarding time for foster carers across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. 

Simon Gledhill and his wife currently foster two 14-year-olds at their home just north of Peterborough. During lockdown, they also adopted a two and a half-year-old with Down’s Syndrome. 

Simon said: “The past year has been challenging, but has also been a good time for bonding as a family – time we wouldn’t normally have had if we hadn’t been at home together.  

“We’ve also received a lot of help and support from the fostering and adoption team at Peterborough City Council.” 

To find out more about fostering in Cambridgeshire call 0800 052 0078, email fostering@cambridgeshire.gov.uk or go online

- Headteachers reflect on the past year: headteachers, staff, governors and education officers have helped keep children educated in what has been a challenging time. 

Bridget Harrison, Headteacher at Rackham School, Witchford near Ely, said: “I am proud of our pupils, their families, and all staff within the profession.  

“Similarly, the mental health of staff at our school has very much been lifted by the community that surrounds us.” 

- Rough sleepers housed thanks to Government drive and city support: at its peak during the Covid-19 pandemic, a total of 123 rough sleepers were housed by Peterborough City Council in hotel accommodation,  Government funding.  

The Safer Off the Streets partnership, including the Light Project Peterborough worked around the clock to provide meals, laundry and support such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation. 

Since this date, 103 former rough sleepers have been rehoused into long term accommodation. 

In autumn 2020, just nine people were found to be sleeping rough - a decrease of 75.7 per cent compared to 2020. 

- More than 40 campaigns issued: hundreds of thousands of people across a range of communities have been reached during the pandemic by more than 40 campaigns delivered by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council. 

These have ranged from campaigns that remind people of the things they need to do keep themselves, their loved ones and communities safe, right through to making sure people had access to mental health information, advice and support. 

Particular campaign highlights include: 

  • #CancelCovid campaign: aimed at young people which used well known celebrities to reinforce social distancing, including Miriam Margolyes and stars from Love Island and Ru Paul’s Drag Race; 

  • #StandFirm campaign: this used local people’s personal stories of how Covid had impacted them reached 407,334 across social media; 

  • Vlogs in a variety of languages that we’ve then communicated directly via tools such as WhatsApp. We have produced a total of 129 translated videos to date; 

  • Now We’re Talking campaign on mental health, which drove almost 900 calls to helplines promoted during campaign period.; 

  • Be Part of the Solution – videos and teaching guides designed with and by young people from the Peterborough and Cambridge Youth Forums, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and Cambridge City Council. 

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