The vaccination programme continues to see hundreds of thousands of people getting their first jab each day.
Even with the recent bad weather, it is good to see people determined to get their jab; my thanks go to the huge efforts of so many people all doing their bit to make this programme happen - the NHS, our GPs, our gritter drivers, the public sector and volunteers from the community pulling out all the stops.
This COVID vaccination programme is a huge undertaking and I am so heartened by the positive response from residents, I have had a number of people wanting to pass on their gratitude to the people delivering the service. (Where I live in Balsall Common, comments have been made to me about how well organised and efficient the local vaccination centre is, with the local Lions around to make sure people are directed and looked after.)
I hope everyone will take up the offer of a jab when they receive it and help make us all safer. Remember, even if you’ve had a jab you must carry on following the lockdown guidelines and continue to observe hands, face and space.
Our Director of Public Health discusses our new critical worker testing initiative, Solihull infection rates and the vaccination programme in her recent message, which you can read here.
Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD). I was privileged to take part in an event on Tuesday night arranged by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, and also in our own Solihull event on Wednesday. It was very thought provoking to hear the first person testimony of one of the few remaining holocaust survivors, Eve Kugler. The theme of this year’s HMD was ‘Be the light in the darkness’ - the ways individuals and communities have resisted that darkness, to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide. It is about remembering a dark time of human history, to make sure we recognise genocide when it occurs and abhor it.
As I heard it said today, the greatest human challenge is to ensure we honour what we have in common, whilst respect what is different.
In listening to the moving testimony and young voices calling for remembrance, it was humbling to hear these words and recognise the ability of the human spirit to triumph over severe adversity.
As the lockdown continues it has been even more important to make sure we support our communities through this difficult time. I was pleased to hear we have passed on funds to a number of our voluntary and community partners as part of COVID funding schemes, such as the Winter Grant Scheme.
These schemes allow our voluntary and community sector (VCS) to support people with food provision and essential supplies. It demonstrates the essential role that our VCS organisations play in Solihull, who can reach out to residents quickly and provide them with the support they need.
It was also good to hear from the Council’s Director of Resources about our response, and the future plans, to provide support for people sleeping rough and those at risk of homelessness. In the first lockdown the government asked us to find self-contained accommodation for all rough sleepers, which became known as ‘Everyone In’.
Since the beginning of the first lockdown and up to the end of December just gone, we have accommodated 203 individuals who have been rough sleeping or at risk of homelessness. Around 25% of these people came in directly from the streets and the remainder have reported that they would be sleeping rough without suitable accommodation. We will continue this work to prevent and relieve homelessness.
A particular focus in the coming weeks and months will be to continue taking whatever steps we can towards the economic recovery of the borough, ensuring we support businesses to survive the lockdown and thrive once restrictions are relaxed, whenever that is. This is a theme I shall return to but there is a lot of support in place now, so if you are a business please have a look at Solihull for Success or our business grants pages.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council