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Coronavirus – 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 – adults

Adult care forums

Children and education 

School closures

Reading Play

Reading Services Guide – children

Libraries

Parking

Housing

Homelessness

Rent 

Rent Guarantee Scheme

HMOs

Tenants

Landlords

Financial difficulties

Births, deaths and ceremonies

Crematorium and cemeteries

Coroner’s referrals

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

Overseas pension validations – Proof of Life Certificates

Adult social care

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

Strathey Close Day Centre is open with restrictions.

Whitley Wood Respite Service is running with limited capacity.

Maple Day Centre closed until further notice.

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

Reading Services Guide

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

Adult care forums

Some of the adult care forums have moved to online meetings and members have been contacted with information on how to join. If you would like to join a forum or if you need IT support to do so, please contact us at wellbeing.service@reading.gov.uk or on 07811 026070.

Children’s services

Key workers’ childcare

Brighter Futures for Children

Libraries

Central library is open for appointments.

Caversham library open from 15th October.

The Home service can be contacted at 0118 901 5118.

All other libraries remain temporarily closed – see the latest regarding the library service here.

Parking

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.

Housing

Housing Officers will be available to discuss any urgent housing or anti-social behaviour issues you may have. You can contact them on 0118 937 2161 or by emailing rents@reading.gov.uk.

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 an appointment booked with one of the Homeless Prevention Officers this will still go ahead on the phone. You will receive a call at the time of your booked appointment. Please ensure you have your phone charged, and if possible you are in a private area to receive the call and to discuss your housing needs. If this is not possible, please call 0118 937 2165 and leave a message with your name, number and enquiry and you will receive a call back before the end of the day. Alternatively, you can email the team at housing.advice@reading.gov.uk. If you have the direct dial number of the Officer you were due to see, call them on the number provided.
  • 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

Please continue to pay your rent as normal. You can pay us using the following methods:

  • Direct Debit – A direct Debit allows us to ask your bank to transfer payments direct to us from your account.
  • Rent Card Payment – You can use this to pay in any shop that has the paypoint logo.
  • Automated Telephone Payments – If you call 0118 937 2877, you will be able to pay using a credit or debit card.
  • Pay online
  • By cheque – Make your cheque payable to Reading Borough Council and write your 6 or 7 digit rent on the back of the cheque along with the first line of your address.
  • If you have any concerns about making payments or are unsure how to pay, please send an email to rents@reading.gov.uk and include your name, address and contact telephone number, and we will respond within 3 working days. Alternatively, you can call us on 0118 937 2784.

We are aware some of our customers are having difficulty in contacting our Rents teams by phone. We are working to try and resolve this and apologise for any inconvenience that this may cause.

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.

Houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

Advice and guidance for HMO landlords regarding the pandemic is available in the Landlord Focus newsletter.

Tenants

Coronavirus – advice for tenants

Landlords

The Landlord Focus newsletter contains advice and guidance for landlords on how to manage their properties during the coronavirus restriction. 

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.

Births, deaths and 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.  

We are now taking for Birth registrations appointments by date of birth order. If your baby was born up to and including the 6 September 2020 please contact us on 0118 9373533 . Please note The Register Office is located within the Civic Offices on Bridge Street, Reading RG1 2LU

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 the Covid19 Pandemic. We will update the website when we can offer the next group of appointments.

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.

As restrictions lift, we are re-scheduling customers who had existing bookings during the lockdown period. We are pleased to be able to increase the ceremony party size from 4 to a maximum of 12 people including the couple and two witnesses. Please note that anyone sitting together must be from the same household group or social bubble. Individuals from different households may not sit together. We will be open for new bookings as soon as we are able to. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.

Crematorium and cemeteries

The office will re-open on Tuesday 4 August, initially on restricted hours:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday – 9am to 1pm
  • Wednesday – 10am to 1pm

Please make an appointment if you need to attend the office. The maximum number of visitors in the office is 2, restricted to one individual per household. Contact the office by telephone on 0118 937 2200 or email to cem.crem@reading.gov.uk.

Attending a funeral

Government guidance allows a modest number of close friends and family of the deceased to attend the funeral. Consideration must be given to the two metres social distancing requirement.

As from 8 August, families and mourners attending funeral services in the chapels will be required to wear face masks. This will also be required for anyone visiting the cemetery and crematorium office.

Mourners who are self-isolating for 14 days due to someone in their household being unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), but are not symptomatic themselves may attend the funeral in person should they wish to do so. We have processes in place to minimise the risk of transmission. Please inform your funeral director prior to the service so arrangements can be made.

Mourners who are clinically vulnerable or in a shielded group will also be able to attend, with processes in place to minimise the risk of transmission. Please inform your funeral director prior to the service so arrangements can be made.

Any mourner who is showing coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms (a new continuous cough or high temperature) should not attend the funeral as they pose a risk to others. We can provide web casting of the funeral, to allow for remote participation.

Maximum attendees

We have followed government guidance to calculate the maximum number of attendees in the chapels of Reading Crematorium

  • South Chapel – 20
  • West Chapel – 10

We are going to trial using West Chapel as part of the South Chapel service, to allow 30 attendees. This option will be available from 3 August with restrictions. Only services booked in the South Chapel at 1.45pm, 2.30pm and 3.15pm will have this option. If families wish to use this option, please be aware that ten mourners will watch the service on a screen in the smaller chapel. Tributes can also be shown on the screen.

Webcasting

Webcasting and other media options are available for services.

Music and singing

You can have an organist.

Singing is not allowed at services due to it posing an additional risk of infection, even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings are used.

PA system

We are not using the PA system as we do not want to encourage additional mourners to attend.

Curtains

The curtains can remain open but families are not allowed to go up to the coffin.

Witness charge

The charging of a coffin can be viewed via a camera link and viewed in the chapel as part of the service. Due to the size of the crematory, no one will be allowed to attend directly.

Service sheets

We ask that service sheets be brought to the crematorium on the day of the funeral. Please send a copy via email to cem.crem@reading.gov.uk, so we can check the music requirements.

Open coffin

We allow an open coffin but ask that mourners do not go up to the coffin.

Carrying the coffin

Your funeral director will decide whether the coffin can be carried by family. Please bear in mind the government guidelines on social distancing and minimising the handling.

Attendees at a grave burial

A maximum of 30 can attend a grave burial.

Track and trace

Attendees will have to give track and trace information. The funeral director will ask the funeral organiser to complete a form of consent.

Collection of ashes

If you have requested to collect them from the crematorium, please phone the crematorium office on 0118 937 2200 to arrange an appointment for collection.

Hand washing or sanitising facilities

Hand washing facilities and hand sanitiser are available. The outside toilets are open.

Back filling of grave by family

From 10 August, we will re-introduce back filling of graves by family. This is on the following basis only:

  • a  maximum of 30 mourners at grave
  • the family to complete entire back fill
  • no more than four shovels at graveside
  • mourners to follow guidelines on social distancing
  • family to fill to bottom of the shoring, mourners to stand away from the grave to enable staff to remove shoring
  • no option for digger to be used to back fill the grave

Coroner’s referrals

The rules for referrals and issuing MCCDs have been changed in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. For advice and information please refer to your LMC guidelines, or click here to see the government’s guidance.

Covid-19 is an accepted cause of death and does not need to be referred to the Coroner unless another referral criteria is met.

Waste services

Waste collection crews are taking a number of precautions to help prevent the spread of Covid19, including the use of gloves and regular use of hand sanitiser. There are further steps everyone can take to help us and help protect our key workers. Please wash your hands before putting your bins out and clean your bin handles before bringing the bin back in.

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.

Waste collections will start from 6am each day rather than 7am until further notice.

Bulky waste collections have been resumed (29 April).

Bin deliveries have been stopped until further notice.

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

Bottle and clothing banks – due to increased demand we are increasing collections from the banks. If the banks are too full to use, please take your recycling home and try again when the banks have been emptied. 

Garden waste collections

The garden waste collection service has now resumed (27 April). 

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

We have been working hard on plans to reopen our leisure centres. We are pleased to announce that Reading Sport and Leisure (RSL) centres at Meadway Sports Centre, Palmer Park Sports Stadium and South Reading Leisure Centre,  reopened from Monday 3rd August.

It will be a phased reopening with the safety of the public and our staff as a top priority. We will be closely following the national guidance and governing body safety recommendations, including measures such as enhanced cleaning schedule at all centres and staff working in small ‘bubbles’ to reduce risk of transmission. You will also see safety guidance signage and where appropriate, queuing and one-way systems.

Centre opening times will be reduced and the number and variety of activities offered will be limited to allow for social distancing guidelines. You can view opening times here.

You will need to pre-book gym, exercise classes and swimming online or call the centre direct. Please only visit the centre if you have an advance booking.

Gym and swimming sessions will be a standard length of 45 mins, with 15 minutes cleaning/change over time between sessions.

RSL

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

Allotments remain open but we are reducing the allotment maintenance service – grass cutting, waste removal and general maintenance from 26 March. We will still carry out emergency repairs.

Museum, Town Hall and Berkshire Record Office

Reading Museum is open for booked visits

Berkshire Record Office is open for booked visits.

Reading Town Hall and The Pantry remain closed.

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. See further advice on food safety for community cooking and food banks. 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

Food hygiene advice for consumers: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-consumers-on-coronavirus-covid-19-and-food/guidance-for-consumers-on-coronavirus-covid-19-and-food

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.

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 temporarily suspended our service effective from Wednesday 25 March. At this current time our Offices are closed and staff are working from home. A number of staff have also been redeployed to front line services to ensure the Council can provide essential services to the most vulnerable at this time.

This means, during this time, we will not able to process new complaints and may not be able to process FOI or SAR enquiries and we may be 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 redeploying 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

Overseas pension validations – Proof of Life Certificates

Council officials are currently unable to sign Proof of Life Certificates for residents who need this for the continued payment of their overseas pensions. This service has been suspended while the Civic Offices are not open to the public, and the staff who usually certify this documentation are working from home. Please consult the embassy or consulate of the country paying your pension for further advice.