18 March 2020 For immediate release Highland Council focuses on delivering statutory services The Highland Council is planning for greatly increased staff absence levels over the coming days and weeks. National modelling estimates that councils will see absences of at least 50% over the months ahead. We are no longer operating under business as usual, in order to focus on priority and statutory services. Today (18 March 2020) a number of Highland Council staff who are at a higher risk from coronavirus (COVID-19), have been advised to follow self-isolation measures, in line with current government advice. This group of people include those who are pregnant or have a specific underlying health condition. Anyone with any of the coronavirus symptoms is also advised to stay at home for 7 days and their other family members for 14 days. In addition to this group, many Council staff are also parents and staff will have additional child care responsibilities, due to the national decision to close all schools and nurseries from the end of this week. All these factors will significantly impact on the Council’s and our partners’ capacity to carry out our core functions and we ask that everyone is patient and understands that we have urgent priorities in resilience. The Council will continue to focus on our statutory duties under the Civil Contingencies Act. To enable this, the Council is suspending responses to enquiries or complaints about our current service provision and will instead be focusing our efforts to prioritise our statutory services, caring for the vulnerable, cooperating with our Resilience Partners and supporting economic recovery. We are aware that many people are keen to do what they can to support communities, within the constraints of the complex and unprecedented situation we are in. We are awaiting further national community resilience guidance and will ensure this is promoted to communities so that people are clear where to get help and how they can help themselves. In the meantime, Highland Council, along with partners and the voluntary sector, are engaging with community councils and other groups to assist the coordination of support to vulnerable people within Highland communities.