As I write, the events in Afghanistan are still unfolding and my heartfelt thoughts go out to all those affected by the dreadful situation there. As a local authority we have been doing all we can to support those in need. We are working closely with organisations across the borough to help provide immediate support to those who are being repatriated from Afghanistan before they move to other parts of the UK. The dedication and commitment of those involved in the relief effort, including essential services, airport staff and volunteers, as well as our own amazing staff, was something to behold when I have visited the airport this week.
I know that many local people will want to do their bit to help and there is information on our website about how you can do this by way of donations.
With regards to COVID, the great news is that all 16- and 17-year olds can now get their vaccine. They are being offered their first dose in time for the start of the school year in September, which is very welcome news. Most new cases are currently still showing in the under 24s so if you fall into this age group or have friends or family members who do, please take the opportunity to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Vaccinations will be available from one of more than 800 GP-led local vaccination sites and NHS England has launched a new online walk-in site finder for the nearest available centre. Further sites will come online over the coming days and weeks and you can always find the latest local vaccination information here.
Our health colleagues have told us that the virus can be especially dangerous for pregnant women, with a higher risk of complications and hospitalisation. I would encourage anyone who is pregnant to get vaccinated urgently and talk to your midwife or doctor if you still have any questions.
In other news, there are just a few days left for people to take part in our Housing Assistance Policy consultation which closes on Monday 30 August. If introduced, the new policy could give the Council more flexibility in the use of funding, known as Disabled Facilities Grants, to pay for housing adaptations to enable children and adults with care and support needs to stay in their own homes and live independently for longer. These adaptations include improvements such as wider doorways for wheelchairs, step-free access, bathroom and bedroom adaptations, as well as minor changes such as lighting. Please do share your views if you have an interest in this important area of work.
On a similar note, we are considering changing the operating system of the M&S car park from pay on exit to a pay and display system and we’d like your views. The proposed benefits include free parking for blue badge holders, adding the option to pay for parking via card/e-payments and the ability to remotely extend parking time. We’d like to hear what people think about this by completing the following short survey which closes on 12 September.
As the school holidays draw to an end, I’d like to highlight the success of our Holiday Activity and Food programme (HAF), supporting Solihull families in receipt of benefits-related free school meals. The programme has provided children and young people aged 4 – 16 with access to a wide range of exciting and innovative activities, with nutritious and healthy food also provided for every child. Feedback so far from parents and children alike has been incredibly positive and I’d like to thank the 26 providers who have really made a difference to both the health and wellbeing of so many of our children. If your children have attended a HAF programme activity during the summer, please provide your comments by completing a short survey here.
I’m sure that many of you will be getting out and about to enjoy the bank holiday weekend. While it’s pleasing to see community events happening again, please do remember that the virus is still very much within our communities, so I would urge you all to act responsibly – remember hands, face, space, fresh air and continue to take twice weekly COVID tests – stay safe and keep doing the right thing for Solihull.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council