As we make our way into nearly two months of lockdown, we are confident there is light at the end of the tunnel - we are all making inroads and helping to flatten the curve.
I recognize the longer this continues, the harder it becomes but complacency is not an option – not now that we have come so far. Folk in Orkney have proven throughout the past two months, that their ability to abide by the orders is the key – continue as you have, and we will see a limited number of Covid-19 cases in the county.
As the two features here show – the cogs of the Council’s wheels are very much still turning- in fact, the work of our staff, fellow councillors, community councillors and volunteers continues apace – although much if it cannot be seen by you, the public, I can assure you it is happening in what is a fast-changing situation.
Our Customer Services Teams are the first point of call for many of you and they have been working hard to ensure you can still make contact via telephone, email and online – this has been made easier than ever before thanks to the establishment of the MyOrkney site from where you can conduct your business online.
All the information you need and how to access the site is included within the article.
The Community Resilience Groups are all up and running now thanks to a co-ordinated effort by the OIC and all our Community Councils – a vital additional tool for you all to access if you need further advice, support and help – again all the information is included here.
Thanks to you all for your continued efforts,
OIC Convener Councillor Harvey Johnston
“Business as usual” for many OIC staff
The Council’s doors may remain closed as part of the nation’s ongoing coronavirus lockdown, but it’s very much “business as usual” for many of our own frontline workers.
Here, we take a closer look at the “front face” of the Local Authority – those customer service teams in Kirkwall and Stromness who have adapted to a new way of working in these challenging times.
OIC Customer Services Manager Catherine Foubister explained that prior to lockdown seven full and part time staff covered the reception desk and contact centre within the Council Offices in Kirkwall and two at the Warehouse Buildings in Stromness - dealing with face-to-face, phone, email and online enquiries.
Since the Government’s lockdown measures were announced on March 23, solutions had to be found to ensure the many administrative duties could still be carried out, and public enquiries dealt with. Since then we have taken over 6000 calls.
In essence, the duties still remain – but everything now has to be done without any physical presence, bearing in mind not all Orkney residents have access to the internet or email.
Catherine said: “Our duties include: answering all the calls to the council switchboard on the 873535 number, dealing with all the council’s mail, administering the blue badge scheme, processing and reconciling council payments, logging customer enquiries – housing repairs, waste, roads, processing refunds for community learning courses and campsite/hostel bookings, verifying council forms, key control for council owned properties, and providing general advice and support to the public.
“Usually the front desk staff deal with any face to face enquires, processing and reconciliation of payments and processing of the council mail. The staff in our contact centre deal with the phone calls, electronic forms coming in through the customer service platform, emails and any administrative work.
“In addition, within Stromness, the staff also provided a counter service on behalf of Police Scotland, routing enquiries to the police and dealing with lost and found property. As well as library duties, the Stromness staff dealt with payments, council enquiries, room bookings and a lot of calls about the campsites and hostels in Orkney.”
Since lockdown, for the protection of both our staff and customers, we closed our reception desks to the public. The Stromness-based staff volunteered to assist at the Community Support Hub at the Pickaquoy Centre.
In Kirkwall, with the recommended distancing in place, we have four customer services advisers in at work every day on a rota basis answering all calls to the council, usually between 200 and 300 per day.
Catherine added: “Many of the council staff are now working from home so are not available to take calls and some teams are providing a restricted service. In addition to our normal duties, we have been really busy providing members of the public with alternative contact methods or taking messages and passing them on.
“Arrangements have been changing rapidly so we have had to be reactive to ensure that we are providing correct information to the public. The team have been tirelessly continuing to deal with all types of enquiries from customers including, reporting issues, processing payments and submitting requests on our new customer service platform.”
In March, the council launched the new online platform making it easier to get in touch, make online payments and to report and track issues and requests.
Called MyOrkney, the platform can be accessed from the Council website at www.orkney.gov.uk, where you will find a full list of the services currently available, which will be added to as more services become available.
With nearly a thousand online forms submitted, Catherine said there has been a very positive response from the public. Many people have also signed up for a MyOrkney account which allows them to track current requests and view previous ones.
“We have been promoting our online services and it has been a great help for us that the public have started to use our new online forms. We would encourage everyone who can, to sign up for an account so that they can easily contact our services in the future if needed. There are a number of helpful videos available to show you more at www.orkney.gov.uk/myorkney.”
The online forms - which can be used, for example, to contact the council, to make online payments or report issues - are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you can use it at a time that best suits you.
Catherine added: “Even if you don’t choose to use MyOrkney, our customer service team can report something on your behalf and can offer you email updates on any requests you log. You can also call and find out the status of a request as all details are held in your own central customer record.
“As we all know, these are challenging times, and with a reduced workforce we thank customers for their patience in advance as we work very hard to respond as soon as we can.”
During the lockdown, you can still contact us, as follows:
Call us on 01856 873535 (9am to 5pm Monday to Friday) or go online anytime at www.orkney.gov.uk
Our emergency numbers are available on our night service recorded message between 5pm and 9am on weekdays and at weekends, and are also available at www.orkney.gov.uk/ContactUs