Berkshire Community Foundation – Coronavirus Fund

I am writing to keep you up to date on the community support which Berkshire Community Foundation is aiming to provide in the coming weeks and possibly months.

Our team is continuing to work very hard – albeit remotely – and have already established a Vital for Berkshire – Coronavirus Fund which has so far generated over £50,000. We are working tirelessly to grow the fund and we would like to have the opportunity to work with you to ensure that funding and support is given where it is needed most in your area. We would be really grateful if you could raise awareness through your channels so that local residents can donate to benefit the vulnerable and isolated in our communities.

Our grants panel is meeting (virtually) weekly during the current crisis to deal with the most urgent need, including supporting those suffering severe hardship, poverty, children and young people who are caring for a parent, families in a domestic abuse situation, the homeless, those already isolated and the hard to reach groups and many more.

We are also the local distributors of funds raised through the national effort launched by the Duke of Cambridge for the National Emergencies Trust. We have already received £50,000, which is additional to the funds mentioned above, to provide support for local charities and groups providing support to vulnerable people impacted by the Coronavirus crisis.

For the details on how to donate and on how to apply for funds, the criteria and who is eligible for these grants can be found on our website at

We have an experienced team and established processes ready to assess grant
applications from these charities and groups. Many of these groups are likely to have an existing relationship with BCF but some may be newly established to help support people through the challenging times ahead. It is this latter group where we may seek your help as you are often the people closest to what is happening on the ground.

We therefore hope that you would be happy if we contact you, to support/endorse an application from a bona-fide group in your area so that we can process applications as quickly as possible and get the funds to those who need it most.

We will only contact you when we receive such an application in your area. We are also conscious that in the early days at least, applications may outstrip funds available and so your support in this process would be really appreciated.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about us and what we are doing then please contact our CEO Gerry Lejeune OBE, Chief Executive at or visit our website.

If your contact details are not correct then our apologies but please do let us know by emailing

I am also copying this letter to the Leaders and Chief Executives of our Unitary
Authorities so that they are fully up to speed on what we are all doing.

Thank you again for your help and support.

Yours sincerely

Chris Dodson OBE DL
Chair of Trustees

An update on West Berkshire Schools and arrangements for the Easter holidays

03 April 2020

During the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, schools and early years providers closed their doors on Friday 20 March as educational establishments. Some tremendous work has taken place to ensure vulnerable children and those of key workers are cared for during this uncertain time.

Headteachers and leaders have recognised that they have a crucial role to play. As the local authority, West Berkshire Council is co-ordinating this work with schools and early years providers.

Where possible, early years settings, including childminders, are open and caring for children. Excellent collaboration is taking place between these settings and vulnerable families to ensure children are sensibly placed so that parents who need to travel to their place of work can do so more easily.  The Early Years team and Family Information Service (FIS) are helping parents and carers source alternative childcare if their current provision has to close.

Schools are open and caring for children, where possible. In many cases schools are collaborating together to share resources and to enable staff rotas that ensure teachers spend meaningful time away from school. Where needed, School Hubs have been created to ensure that as many children are cared for as possible. Hub centres are currently located at Thatcham Park School, Westwood Farm Schools, Basildon Primary School and Robert Sandilands Primary School. Some schools are accommodating children from independent schools and other neighbouring authorities. Headteachers and leaders have embraced this new, challenging role.

Schools will be open for the Easter holidays. The existing hub arrangements will continue during this period.

If parents need further assistance and more information about Easter holiday arrangements, please use the following contact details:


Early Years: or

Launch of Emotional Health Academy Helpline

West Berkshire Council has set up a dedicated telephone helpline for young people experiencing issues and concerns relating to COVID-19.

The Helpline, which is linked to its Emotional Health Academy (EHA), will offer the district’s young people self-help support, advice and guidance from trained EHA workers. It will come into operation on 6 April, providing an opportunity for children and young people (aged 11 to 18) to express their concerns and talk about issues directly affecting them during the current coronavirus crisis.  EHA workers will use active listening skills to support young people in dealing with difficult feelings around COVID-19 and provide signposting and self-help support for their general wellbeing.

This local helpline is a short-term service and will be available only during the coronavirus pandemic, to provide ‘in the moment’ support to children and young people.  It will provide access to trained EHA workers who can offer advice and self-help tools and provide support to manage ‘low level’ problems. It is not a crisis line and does not replace other services such as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).  

From Monday 6 April, the EHA helpline will be open between 9:00am and 5:00pm, Monday to Friday, and young people aged 11 to 18 can use it to access advice and support by calling: 01635 503587.

Commenting on the service, Councillor Dominic Boeck, Executive Member for Children, Education and Young People at West Berkshire Council said:

“We know that many children and young people are feeling anxious and upset at this time of national crisis, and are struggling to adjust to changes in their everyday lives.  That is why we are setting up this helpline in addition to other services provided locally and nationally to support the mental health and well-being of children and young people.

“The EHA helpline will offer a listening ear and a range of self-help and signposting resources to support young people in West Berkshire to cope with lifestyle changes relating to COVID-19 both now and in the difficult times ahead.”

Covid-19 News Release from The Royal Berkshire Hospital

The next stages in a major Covid-19 action plan aimed at ensuring local patients, staff and communities are guaranteed first class health care and support have been outlined by hospital leaders today.

The far reaching plan builds on work already in place at the Royal Berkshire Hospital Foundation Trust and is aimed at reassuring people that everything possible is being done to make sure they are kept safe and well during the current Covid-19 outbreak.

There are four main strands to the plan:

·         To reduce the number of people – patients, visitors and staff – on hospital sites

·         To increase and enhance the RBH’s capacity to treat patients

·         To reduce demand so the focus is on the patients most in need of help

·         To look after hard working staff and make sure they have the equipment and facilities they need

Measures have already been put in place to tackle these critically important areas.

  • Many more people are being offered virtual outpatient clinic appointments to receive healthcare over the phone or via a laptop.
  • Visitors have been restricted to one per patient per day.  
  • The hospital layout has been revised to establish separate zones to deal with the differing needs of patients and keep everyone safe
  • Intensive care capacity has increased from 14 to 34 beds
  • Elective surgery has been suspended to free up time for key staff to be retrained in other more urgent areas of work

Now the next phase of the action plan is being implemented and this will mean more changes to the way the hospital works and the way patients and visitors will be asked to operate.

In a bid to further reduce the number of people coming on to the hospital site, some services may be deferred, and other services may be moved to alternative private hospital settings. Children under the age of 12 will no longer be able to go to the RBH as visitors.

To increase capacity to deal with Covid 19 patients, there are plans to increase intensive care beds to 56 and health managers are in talks with the independent sector to move urgent surgery to private hospitals.

Demand in A&E has seen a fall recently but more needs to be done to ease the pressure on staff and an ‘Ask A&E’ online helpline service is being explored.

The welfare of staff is paramount in the action plan and senior management teams are looking at what more can be offered to ease the unprecedented demands facing all those working in the hospital – the clinicians and vital back up and support teams like cleaners, porters and admin employees.

Trust Chief Executive Steve McManus, said: “Whilst we’re all in very new territory with this virus we have a huge amount of tried and tested experience of planning for and dealing with major outbreaks like this. There are national and regional systems in place to support us and this, coupled with the work we’re doing at the Trust, is all aimed at keeping everyone safe and making sure we can sustain this level of care for the period of this outbreak.

“We all know now that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and it’s crucial we plan and operate in a careful, measured way over the next few weeks and months so our resources, both staff, equipment and facilities, are able to continue providing exceptional standards of care.

“We have amazing staff with many, many years of expertise, experience and knowledge behind them and I want people to know they are in safe hands.

“This incredible wealth of healthcare expertise is being enhanced by the really outstanding support from our local communities and partners and we can’t thank them enough for all their on-going support,” he said.

“We recognise we’re asking a lot of people, often at very difficult times in their lives when they are unwell or wanting to be with people who are ill. Our staff too are facing all sorts of difficult day-to-day issues and this is why the support and understanding we offer to each other is so important.

“With this in mind, I really do hope people will appreciate why we’ve had to take some of the decisions we have taken, for example around visiting family and loved ones in hospital. I know this will be extremely hard for some people but we can’t say it enough –  If we are to successfully deal with this virus, stop its spread, treat those affected and free up the hospital’s resources to do so, then we have to take these sort of serious steps now. 

“So my message to them is please think again just how much they really do need to make that visit. Can they keep in touch with their loved one over the phone for now? By choosing not to come into the building they are doing a huge amount to help our staff,” he added.

Covid-19 Phishing Emails

A number of #COVID19 related phishing emails have been reported to Action Fraud. These emails attempt to trick you into opening malicious attachments which could lead to fraudsters stealing your personal information, logins, passwords, or banking details.

Protect yourself
1) Watch out for scam messages
Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and calls that ask for your personal or financial details.

2) Shopping online:
If you’re making a purchase from a company or person you don’t know and trust, carry out some research first, and ask a friend or family member for advice before completing the purchase. If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, use a credit card if you have one, as most major credit card providers insure online purchases.

For more information on how to shop online safely, please visit:

3) Protect your devices from the latest threats:
Always install the latest software and app updates to protect your devices from the latest threats.

For information on how to update your devices, please visit:
For the latest health information and advice about COVID-19 please visit the NHS website.
Message Sent By
Mike Douglas (VISAV, Administrator, National)

Car parking free at West Berkshire Council-operated car parks

Car parks operated by West Berkshire Council will be free until further notice to help make life easier for key workers at this difficult time.

With immediate effect please note that the parking charges have been suspended at all off-street car parks across West Berkshire until further notice. Charges have also been suspended at our on-street parking bays. This initiative will help support key workers needing to use their cars during this intense period of disruption due to the Covid19 outbreak.

Signs are being erected to this effect at the entrances to those car parks that will remain open, however we will be unable to provide similar notification at the on-street parking bays due to the number and spread of locations involved.  

Where appropriate our officers have provided information on timings and emergency contact details for enquiries on equipment within the car parks. The Kennet Centre car park will only be open between 7am and 7pm, however this will be restricted to the ground floor only and will be unattended, with the lifts also being out of use. Northbrook Street car park has been closed until further notice and the car parks within the Wharf area have had their barriers lifted for unrestricted access.       

Season tickets holders will have their expiry period extended by two months, which will hopefully be suitable for most users given the current circumstances. If this is not suitable for some ticket holders, advice regarding refunds will be made available on our website in due course.

Regardless of the measures we have introduced for our car parking restrictions throughout our district we do ask that all road users still help to ensure the roads are kept clear for all traffic, including emergency services and that the double yellow lines and disabled parking bays are respected.  

Councillor Richard Somner, Executive Member for Transport, said: “We recognise the important roles key workers have in our communities. It’s only right that we ensure they don’t have to contend with anything which might be seen as an obstacle to them carrying out their duties at this very difficult time.” 

Message from your district councillors

We are living through extraordinary times, and it is times like this that bring out the best in people and our communities as we all pull together and support each other.  As a Ward Members we want to express our sincere thanks to all the amazing volunteers who are helping those who are vulnerable, most in need and isolated.  Although our parishes are proving to be very self-sufficient, West Berkshire Council is launching a Community Support Hub, which will also offer additional support if needed and there will be a single point of contact for all Parish Councils.   Please continue to adhere to government guidance and keep safe.

Hilary Cole & Garth Simpson

Road Closure – Marlston Road, Hermitage

Marlston Road in the Parish of Hermitage will be closed on 23rd March 2020 from the hours of 09:30 to 15:30 between its junction with Slanting Hill and Unnamed Road from Burnbush Lane to Brocks Lane. The closure is to enable Volker Highways to carry out repairs to the carriageway.

The alternative route for all vehicles affected by the Order is via Burntbush Lane, Briff Lane, Little Lane, Broad Lane, Burdens Heath, Broad Lane, The Ridge, Hermitage Road Slanting Hill and vice versa.

A plan of the closure can be found at: (click on link)

Residential access will be maintained throughout and the diversion will be signed on site.

Please Note: Whilst Blue light access will be maintained, approach with caution as plant may have to be moved

All enquiries should be directed to: West Berkshire Highways Maintenance Team on 01635 519080