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Local authority Covid-19 innovations highlighted on ‘Your Council Day’

The innovative work carried out by local authorities across the country during the Covid-19 crisis was highlighted on Your Council Day, Wednesday, July 1.

Coordinated by LGMA, the initiative showcased local authority heroes who have made a difference in supporting their communities during lockdown.

Local authorities also provided a ‘behind the scenes’ look at a typical day in the council and highlight the hundreds of services councils and their dedicated employees provide.

A report by the Local Government Management Agency published to coincide with the day reveals the local authority sector devised 216 separate innovations to meet challenges presented by Covid-19.

In 38% of these cases, structures did not previously exist and were specifically set up to deliver Covid-19 services on a short-term basis.

“The current crisis has highlighted the true nature of public service in communities across the country,” said Michael Walsh, Chair of the County and City Management Association (CCMA) and Waterford City and County Council Chief Executive.

“Faced with the challenge of social distancing, and with many of their own staff working from home, local authorities brought novel solutions to the complex problems posed by the new realities of lockdown.”

All local authorities established Community Response Forums and helplines to co-ordinate a multi-agency response to deliver support to those who needed help while Covid-19 restrictions were in force.

Councils moved to support those faced with isolation, activating befriending services with regular phone calls, starting local radio shows and organising book and even musical instrument deliveries to combat loneliness.

We have seen live-streamed storytelling, virtual Zoom book clubs and online choirs supporting community spirits through dark days.

Individual heroes have come to the fore, including Jason Keogh, a firefighter from Wicklow who produced a clip to connect face mask loops behind the head, and used his 3D printer to make more than 4,000 of them for free to health care workers. The piece Jason makes sits at the back of the neck and the loops of the mask go over it, relieving the pressure on the skin.

Jason’s story has been replicated across the country in countless selfless acts aimed at supporting the spirit and wellbeing of the public.

Dublin City Council’s Area Community Development Officer, Madeleine Ebbs came up with a unique radio show – Cocoontunes – that proved to be a lifeline for older people self-isolating.

“I lost direct communication with all my groups and I could sense the panic they were feeling,” she said.

She reached out to Near FM presenter Michael Sullivan who agreed to co-produce and co-present the show which turned into a big hit for the north east Dublin station.

Lockdown restrictions saw many cultural projects grind to a halt, but the Donegal council-led Ceol le Chéile choir still managed to keep their voices heard through the medium of Zoom, and rehearsed and performed the Bob Marley classic Three Little Birds.

Dublin City Council community officer Brian Mongey organised socially distanced line dancing and music sessions for senior citizens cocooning in the north inner city.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council staff wanted to do their bit for locals during the pandemic and created a team of 18 volunteer dog walkers for elderly people cocooning at home.