Coronavirus (COVID-19) local information and advice:

Advice and how our services are affected

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Advice for business

Coronavirus - advice and how our services are affected

Visit NHS UK for health and wellbeing advice on dealing with coronavirus (Covid-19) or Gov.uk for the government's guidance on coronavirus.

We have closed most of our public buildings but will continue to run essential frontline services. Our priorities at this time are to:

  • ensure continuity of care
  • support vulnerable people
  • support the local economy

If you need to contact us please do it online in the first instance, or by phone on 0118 937 3787 if it is an urgent welfare issue. We appreciate your patience as we deal with enquiries at this busy time. We will prioritise those in most urgent need of our help, and we will respond to everyone as soon as is possible.

Team Reading: Coronavirus response volunteers

We are asking people to sign-up now to join a list of response volunteers who can be called upon to support the activities of local organisations in their response to the coronavirus outbreak as required - Reading Voluntary Action - coronavirus volunteer sign-up information

The government's advice on coronavirus will change regularly. Please check back here for the latest council service information.

How services are being affected

Adult social care

Reading Services Guide

Children and education 

School closures

Reading Play

Reading Services Guide

Libraries

Parking

Permits for healthcare professionals

Housing

Homechoice

Homelessness

Housing repairs

Rent Guarantee Scheme

Rent

Financial difficulties

Concessionary bus pass travel

Births, deaths and ceremonies

Crematorium and cemeteries

Planning

Building control

Waste services

Garden waste service

Street care and highway maintenance

Leisure

Museum, Town Hall and Berkshire Record Office

Parks

Cancelled events

Allotments

Local business advice

Trading Standards advice

Food safety advice

Ward surgeries

Corporate and councillor complaints

Reading Magistrates Court

Adult care forums

How services are being affected

Children's services

Key workers' childcare

School closures

The Department for Education announced on 18 March that schools, colleges and early years settings will close from Monday 23 March, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children. Schools open to key workers' children and vulnerable children

Contact your school or provider to determine places for your children from Monday. If your provider is closed or you are unable to contact them they will be in touch with you before Monday.

Please keep checking Brighter Futures for Children website Covid-19 page which will be updated throughout the

Reading Play

Holiday clubs

Due to the latest government guidance regarding school closures and the need to support key workers, Reading Play will be running Waterloo Meadows Holiday play club childcare service for key workers only. We will not be running Green Park or The Hill play club until further notice in the holiday periods to allow the service to support provision for key workers at Waterloo Meadows.  We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Southcote Children's Centre will be closed this week but will reopen next Monday (30 March) for midwifery.

After school clubs

Reading Play intends to continue running its after school clubs to support parents and guardians who are key workers only. If you are a key worker and plan to use the club from Monday please contact us to ensure we have your most up to date contact details, email address and to confirm you wish to use the service.

Play refunds and credits

We will be issuing refunds or credits for future clubs depending on preference. We will be contacting parents with existing bookings and we encourage parents to email us at reading.play@reading.gov.uk or phone 01189372632 for advice or further information.

Please note that we are following the latest government safety advice and we are expecting a government announcement with details on key workers shortly.

Brighter Futures for Children - coronavirus update

Financial difficulties

The Debt Advice Team offer phone appointments to council tenants and people affected by the benefit cap to help you explore ways to receive all the income and claim the benefits you are entitled to along with reducing your outgoings to help you deal with the impacts of the crisis. We can also help you deal with any debts or arrears you might have with practical advice and support.

You can book an appointment by contacting the Debt Advice Team on 0118 937 2197 or by email debt.advice@reading.gov.uk

More debt advice

The government is bringing in emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or private rented accommodation until the current national emergency ends.

You are expected to work together with your landlord to make an affordable repayment plan for any rent arrears you owe, and to take immediate action to reduce the level of any rent arrears by claiming benefits you are entitled to.

If you are struggling to make rent payments, contact your landlord to let them know as soon as you can and get advice.

Paying for energy

If you have a pre-payment meter and are unable to add credit due to the disruption caused by the coronavirus, contact your energy provider and discuss the options to keep your energy supply. Options include nominating a third party for credit top ups, having a discretionary fund added to your credit, or being sent a pre-loaded top up card.

If you do not have a pre-payment meter and are in financial difficulty, you should still contact your supplier for help. They may be able to reassess, reduce or pause bill and/or debt repayments.

Loan and credit card payments

Contact your bank and explain that you are experiencing difficulties due to the impacts of the Coronavirus. Most banks offer a three month 'payment holiday', whilst some will also not charge you for missed payments or accept reduced payments.

If you are experiencing difficulties due to the impacts of the Coronavirus contact your lender and explain your issues.

Most lenders will not charge you for missed payments, some will allow you to increase your credit limit or give you a 'payment holiday'. Be careful when extending your credit limit.

Being paid whilst off work

The government has issued guidance for households with possible coronavirus to stay at home and self-isolate. Contact your employer as soon as you know you are unable to attend work and discuss the arrangements for pay.

For the latest advice regarding the coronavirus emergency visit www.gov.uk

Check if your company has a sick pay scheme, you can check this with your manager and details will be in your employment contract.

If you cannot get company sick pay, check to see if you are eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. This is when your employer pays you £94.25 per week whilst you are unable to work for up to 28 weeks. You will be able to receive it from the first day you are unable to work (from 13 March 2020).

Visit www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay for more information.

If your employer asks you not to work and you are not self-isolating, you should receive your full pay.

If you are self employed you are not eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay, so if you cannot work due to the government guidance regarding coronavirus you may need to claim benefits to increase your income.

Claiming benefits

If your income is disrupted, you need to claim all the benefits your entitled to straight away.

The situation regarding benefit entitlement in relation to the coronavirus is changing day by day, the best way to find out the benefits you might be entitled to is to use an online calculator.

Reading Borough Council has a benefit calculator you can use at www.reading.gov.uk/uc/claiming click 'Universal Credit online calculator', this will check entitlement to all benefits.

If you are already claiming benefits you will need to notify them of your reduction of income so they can be reassessed.  

If you lose your job

The coronavirus is having an effect on jobs, with some employers are asking employees to take unpaid leave and other employers having to lay off a number of their employees.

If this happens to you, its important that you get all the advice available to you so you can make informed decisions and benefit applications quickly. You can get more information from www.citizensadvice.org.uk and www.acas.org.uk/advice

Births, deaths, and citizenship/civil partnerships/marriage ceremonies

While the Civic Offices are closed to the public, appointments for registering deaths  will continue by telephone only. To make an appointment, call 0118 937 3533.  

Birth registration appointments are now deferred until we are through the current pandemic period. Where families need to access benefits, the advice is that customers can now make a claim for child benefit or universal credit prior to the birth being registered, where they have not been able to do so because of these measures.

The birth certificate printing service is available. Please call 0118 937 3533 to make payment. Express (next day) replacement certificate service closed, but standard 14 day service still available.

Weddings and civil partnerships at the Town Hall are suspended until further notice. We will email all current bookings and offer to move appointments when the suspension is over.

We will not be taking any new appointment bookings for Notice of Marriage or civil partnerships, or ceremonies until further notice.

Citizenship ceremonies are now cancelled until further notice. Customers would normally be expected to book their citizenship ceremony within three months of being sent an invitation from the Home Office. Due to the current pandemic circumstances UKVI have extended this period to six months and will keep this under constant review. No adverse decisions will be made on applications because of delays caused by Coronavirus

Crematorium and cemeteries

To comply with the latest government initiatives to combat the spread of Covid-19, the following decisions have been taken:

  • All funeral services (burials and cremations) are limited to immediate family only. This includes spouse/partner, parents/carers, siblings, children (and their partners). Remember social distancing - keeping two metres apart will have to be in place at all times.
  • Webcasting of funeral services is available for those who cannot attend, please ask your funeral director.
  • We cannot offer to witness charging of the coffin at this time.
  • We are suspending or postponing witnessed burials or scattering of ashes and other similar services until further notice.
  • Collection of ashes from the crematorium office is suspended until further notice. There will be no charge to families for storage. If you wish your funeral director to collect, please make arrangements directly.
  • Please note their may be delays in completing the transfer of ownership of graves due to solicitors offices not opening. Priority will be given to those cases which require a grave to be transferred prior to the full burial and not for the installation of memorials.

The Crematorium office is closed but can be contacted by telephone 0118 937 2200 or by email cem.crem@reading.gov.uk. Funeral services are still taking place with a request that families try to limit attendees. We will update as soon as we have any further information.

Adult social care

Face-to-face visits are being limited to essential only. We are making phone assessments where necessary and viable.

Most day centres are running as normal. 

Maple Day Centre closed until further notice.

Nursing homes - please contact nursing homes directly for their policies and guidance.

Local services - see Reading Services Guide's Wellbeing Newsletter and latest updates about local services for Covid-19

Concessionary bus pass travel

For the duration of the coronavirus emergency, Reading Borough Council is allowing anyone with an elderly persons concessionary bus pass to use this service at any time for free travel on local bus services, including before 9.30am on Mondays to Fridays. Wherever possible elderly residents should order a food delivery or ask someone they trust to shop for them, but by allowing earlier travel with a concessionary pass we can offer a better option for those who cannot do so.

Libraries

Recorded information for libraries available on 0118 901 5950 or info@readinglibraries.org.uk

  • All sites closed
  • Items can now only be returned at Central Library bookdrop
  • No items will be due back whilst we are closed. Systems will update soon to reflect this. No fines relating to these fines will exist
  • All events and rhymetimes cancelled
  • Home Library service suspended
  • eBooks, eAudio and eMagazines service unaffected

Waste services

Please do not put out extra waste next to your bin. If you have had a clear-out please store the waste at your house, in your garden or garage, until the current government restrictions are lifted to reduce pressure on collection crews. This is very important as the recycling centre (tip) is now closed.

Bulky waste collections and bin delivery will stop from Monday 23 March until further notice.

Both recycling centres - Island Road, Reading and Longshot Lane, Bracknell - are now closed.

Garden Waste Collections Suspended

We have suspended garden waste collection service to focus limited resources on the collection of household waste from black bins and recycling from doorsteps.

Due to staff shortages related to the Covid 19 outbreak, garden waste collections are suspended from today and for the immediate future. This will allow council crews to maintain priority collection services from black bins and recycling boxes.

As it is the final week of the 2019-20 garden waste collection service refunds will not be issued, but we are delaying the renewal of subscription for the 2020-21 service, which was due to begin on April 1st. This delay means residents will still receive the full year's collection of garden waste they have paid for from the point at which the service is resumed. All new garden waste subscription renewals have been suspended until further notice, as have the delivery of new garden waste and recycling containers/bins.

For the period that garden waste collections are suspended, residents are being advised to consider storing garden waste at home or making a compost heap if gardening is needed. For information on composting containers please visit www.getcomposting.com. The Household Waste Recycling Centre in Reading remains closed at this time.

Getting rid of your waste if you are self-isolating or confirmed to have coronavirus

If you have been confirmed to have coronavirus or suspect you may have, you should dispose of waste that is heavily contaminated - such as tissues and cleaning cloths - in a different way than usual:

  • place the contaminated waste in a plastic bag or bin liner, tied securely
  • place this bag in another bag and tie it securely
  • store these bags separately from other waste for at least 72 hours before putting it in with your general rubbish for collection

Street care and highway maintenance

Cleansing services will be maintained but some changes to frequencies will be introduced.

Essential highways maintenance and emergency work will continue until further notice

Leisure

Due to the latest government advice, we have taken the decision to close a number of buildings, including the leisure centres from Tuesday 17 March.

It is not possible to say exactly how long they will be closed. We will monitor the situation and follow government and public health guidance.

Latest information on Rivermead leisure service

Membership Direct Debit

All Direct Debit payments for both membership and people on courses have been suspended. No further Direct Debit payments will be taken until the centres are running as normal. Any credits on accounts will be adjusted on resumption of the Direct Debit, or if customers prefer we will give a pro rata refund for fees paid.

Block bookings

All bookings have been suspended whilst the centres are closed. Booking slots will be held so you won't lose your slot when we return to normal operation. If payment in advance has been made then our administration team will be in touch to arrange refunds or credits

Party/event bookings

All bookings for the next six weeks have been suspended. We will be in touch and either rearrange the booking or issue a full refund for any party/event affected by the closure.

General enquiries relating to credits and payments can be made by contacting rsl.enquiries@reading.gov.uk quoting your name, address and membership number.

Parks

Parks remain open but please comply with the government restrictions and social distancing advice.

All children's playgrounds and outdoor gyms are closed until further notice. We are putting notices in all our playgrounds, ball courts and outdoor gyms, asking people to respect the new restrictions during this difficult time. Where possible we will secure the entrances - but this is not practical in all locations.

Allotments

We are reducing the allotment maintenance service - grass cutting, waste removal and general maintenance from 26 March. We will still carry out emergency repairs.

Housing

Homechoice

As a result of the closure of the Civic Offices in line with the social distancing advice from the government, we are limiting the post coming to our teams.  Therefore please be aware of the following:

  • To apply for Homechoice at Reading, please complete the online form only - paper copies will not longer be issued or posted
  • If you are unable to complete the form please contact the team on 0118 9372172 to discuss and they will be able to assist you
  • If you would like a medical form, to declare a medical condition that is being impacted by your accommodation, please email allocations@reading.gov.uk and a form will be emailed to you
  • If you would like to provide any supporting information, or you are requested to provide documents during this time we will accept a photo or scanned copy of the document, which can be emailed to us at allocations@reading.gov.uk - please be advised that this will need to clear and legible
  • Any correspondence will be sent to you by email
  • The telephone service will operate as usual

Homelessness

Please be advised that as a result of the closure of the Civic Office in line with the social distancing advice from the government, we are changing the way we are delivering our service. Therefore please be aware of the following:

  • Our Homelessness Prevention Teams and Tenancy Sustainment Team will still be operating their essential services, however the Civic Offices will not be open for face to face appointments
  • We will no longer be home visiting, unless this is considered an essential visit
  • If we consider the visit to be essential you will be asked screening questions prior to the visit taking place, and as a result this may change to a different format of communication
  • If you are at risk of becoming homeless and would like some advice please contact 0118 9372165 to discuss, or email less urgent enquiries to housing.advice@reading.go.uk
  • If you have accessed our service and have been made an appointment, this will be carried out over the telephone, therefore please ensure that your phone has enough charge and that you are in a private location in order to receive the call at the allocated time to discuss your housing situation
  • If you already have an allocated Officer please contact them directly on their direct dial number which should have been provided to you
  • If you would like to provide any supporting information, or you are requested to provide documents during this time we will accept a photo or scanned copy of the document, which can be emailed to us at housing.advice@reading.gov.uk - please be advised that this will need to clear and legible
  • Any correspondence that we are required to send to you will be sent via email
  • If you call our main Housing Advice number, 0118 9372165 you will only have the facility to leave a message, however the answerphone will  be regularly checked throughout the day and you will receive a call back the same day if your message is left before 4pm.

Rent 

We are aware that some of our customers are having difficulty in contacting the rents teams by phone. We are working to resolve this. You can contact the team via email at rents@reading.gov.uk quoting your name, address, contact number and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.

Housing repairs

Due to resourcing issues we can only take calls from 10am to 3pm.

Repairs to council housing will continue as usual. As the situation develops we may need to select which repairs can be carried out, depending on the availability of staff and materials. The council will risk assess each situation and prioritise work for vulnerable tenants, and also taking into account any health and safety considerations.

Rent Guarantee Scheme

The Rent Guarantee Scheme is offering many of our usual services, although some may be delivered in a different way to normal. Please be aware that we will be asking screening questions before arranging face to face appointments.

  • RGS viewings and signups will no longer be taking place, unless there are exceptional circumstances. However, we will continue to support existing RGS landlords at this time. Please email the team on rgs@reading.gov.uk if you have any queries.
  • Scheduled Money Advice appointments and visits to your property will be carried out by telephone. These calls will come through as a blocked number so please be sure to answer your phone.

Please call us on 0118 937 2233, if you have any questions. You will only have the facility to leave a message, but the answerphone will be regularly checked throughout the day and you will receive a call back the same day if your message is left before 4pm, Monday to Friday. Alternatively, you can email us at rgs@reading.gov.uk

Parking

We are now allowing a 10-minute grace period in resident permit zones (where no permits are displayed) to allow time for people supporting friends, family and vulnerable people with essential food and supplies delivery. 

We are increasing the time limit on temporary permits from eight weeks to 16 weeks to help in exceptional circumstances.

We are experiencing pressure on our telephone lines for permits, please make any queries about parking permit applications by email: residents.parking@reading.gov.uk.

We are making free parking available at Queen's Road Car Park for Royal Berkshire Hospital staff for the duration of the Covid-19 response. The car park works on automatic number plate recognition technology. Royal Berkshire Hospital will supply a list of registration numbers so that the hospital workers can park for free. There are no lifts in action at Queen's Road Car Park.

Parking permits for healthcare professionals

Due to an increase in the number of residents at home, we have agreed that healthcare professional permits will be issued free of charge for the next four months (applications received between 20/03/2020 and 20/07/2020). The permits will be valid for four months and need to be applied for in the usual way.

Planning

The planning service is still operating. However, staff are now entirely home-based, and this has had some implications for the way that the service is running. 

Contacting the Planning Service

General enquiries should be made through the council's contact centre as normal. In order to ensure that you receive a response, please provide an email address.

Case officers will be available to contact by email, and this is the preferred method of contact. General email addresses for other parts of the service such as Planning Policy and Natural Environment will continue to be used. Planning enforcement enquiries should be made through the website.

Site visits

Planning, enforcement or natural environment officers will not be able to undertake site visits until further notice. Applicants should please provide comprehensive photographs of the outside and inside of a property and/or relevant views out.  Some applications will not be able to be considered at this time, and the Council is currently considering how this should be approached.

Submitting applications

The preferred method of submission is via the Planning Portal. Applications submitted by hard copy will experience delay in processing.

Consultation responses

Whilst we are operating in this manner, for any consultations on planning applications that have not yet commenced, only consultation responses sent electronically, either by email or submitted online, will be accepted.

Site notices

The planning section will not be able to print and send site notices at the current time.

Meetings

Officers of the planning service will not be conducting face-to-face meetings until further notice. Officers are contactable over email or by phone. Pre-application enquiries for a scoping meeting will need to be delayed in most cases.

Building control

As a result of the Government's announcement of measures to minimise the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, it has been necessary to review our current inspection arrangements for works under construction.

You will have received your site inspection service plan which indicates the inspection stages that you should notify us of during construction. As per legislative requirement, please ensure that you notify us at commencement and when all other inspection stages have been reached. However, we must inform you that we are currently unable to undertake any site inspections until further notice due to the Corona virus. If you have any queries regarding site inspections or any other issues, please contact Building Control Team by emailing us at buildingcontrol@reading.gov.uk

Ward surgeries

In accordance with the latest government advice, which includes social distancing measures, the decision has been taken to suspend regular councillor ward surgeries until further notice. 

Your ward councillors remain contactable and you can still reach them by phone or by email. Councillor contact information.

 

Museum, Town Hall and Berkshire Record Office

All these buildings are closed to visitors. 

Berkshire Record Office will still respond to written enquiries.

Food safety advice

If you are planning to provide support to vulnerable people by cooking for them, please remember the 4 Cs on cooking, chilling, cleaning and cross-contamination - further advice. Be aware of any allergens in your food and pass this information on to others.

Please contact the Food and Safety Team for advice by emailing consumer.protection@reading.gov.uk

Corporate and councillor complaints, Freedom of Information requests, and Subject Access requests

We have been assessing the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on our ability to continue to deliver our services in respect of Complaints, FOI requests and Subject Access Requests, while at the same time protecting our colleagues. 

We have been reviewing the developments and Government announcements on a daily basis and have closely followed the advice issue by Public Health England

We are temporarily suspending our service effective from Wednesday 25 March.

This means, during this time, we are not able to take new complaints or enquiries and we are unable to continue to work on your existing case at this time. This is because the council is a front line response service and considerable effort is being made to keep essential services running by redeploy staff from other areas. It is inevitable that there may be disruption to our usual services as we are prioritising maintaining social care services, reaching the vulnerable with support and supporting businesses. In that context, we have to make difficult decisions and it will take longer to respond to your enquiry or complaint.

Reading Magistrates Court

The Deputy Senior Presiding Judge (SPJ) has directed the Magistrates Courts to take rapid action to adjourn certain non-urgent or non-essential cases given the current exceptional circumstances. 

The categories of case identified by the Deputy SPJ are:

  • Failing to send child to school prosecutions
  • Court hearings that originated from SJP and were then referred to court for a hearing - this is all hearings including trials and disqualifications (We will continue to deal with business under the Single Justice process where possible - it is merely those cases that have been referred to court that will be adjourned)
  • All Council Tax enforcement
  • All Civil Maintenance enforcement
  • Planned fine enforcement work

All defendants will be sent written notification that their case has been adjourned to 30 June 2020 for a non-effective hearing.   The court will in the meantime allocate a revised effective hearing date to all parties.

For further information on how the courts and tribunals are planning and preparing for COVID 19 see the latest guidance:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-courts-and-tribunals-planning-and-preparation

Adult care forums

Adult care forums are cancelled pending further notice

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