1. Mr Matt Wellard, the COVID-19 Grants Project Manager, introduced the report which provided an overview of grants accepted by KCC Public Health from central government over 2020/21 and 2021/22 to support efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in Kent and to support those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. It was said that upon receiving these grants the COVID-19 Finance Monitoring Group (CFMG) was set up. The CFMG had the responsibility to oversee the spending and to endorse it in line with the key decision that was taken to accept the funding.
2. Mr Terry Hall provided further information on the £6.3 million Test and Trace Support Grant. It was said that the service had the capacity to contact 500-600 individuals on a daily basis through the contract. This had been reasonable throughout the pandemic. However, the Omnicrom COVID-19 variant had required increased contacting. The Committee was reassured that this was returning to a manageable level. There was no indication that KCC Public Health would receive this grant again. Mr Hall responded to questions and comments from the committee, including the following:
A) The trace target set by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is for at least 80% of the contacts of an index case to be contacted. When combined with national tracing efforts, this had led to an 88% success rate in Kent.
B) Mr Hall would ask his team to pull together a report that contained comparable data for counties of similar size and demographics.
3. The mandated Community Mass Testing Programme was commenced in December 2020. Military aid assisted with the programme until February 2021. Over 1500 local people had been employed to operate and run the testing centres. The testing centres at Sessions House and Eurogate in Ashford were set to stay open until at least 31 March 2022. Asymptomatic testing was said to be beneficial to the population in terms of identifying COVID-19 positive asymptomatic individuals and enabling them to isolate and participate in test and trace. In response to questions from Members it was said that:
A) On the 1st of October 2021, at the request of the Home Office, the Asymptomatic Testing programme adapted to meet the need at Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC), Migrant and Afghan relocation and assistance policy (ARAP) Hotels. The overarching costs of the testing programme had not been impacted by supplying these hotels.
B) The test kits stored in warehouses would be usable beyond the 31st March 2022 subject to further funding. There was concern about the expiration dates of these tests. However, Members were assured that this was being looked into.
C) Terry Hall would provide an update to the Chair on the unused test kits by the end of February 2022.
4. The total funding for Practical Support for Self-Isolation received to date was £3.9m. It was required that this funding be spent by the 31st March 2022. KCC had distributed £1 million to all 12 of the districts to administer support. A COVID-19 grant scheme had also been set up to aid the voluntary sector.
The substantial COMF grant was for use to prevent or contain the spread of COVID-19 and/or to support those who had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. £6 million from this grant had been distributed to district councils. 220 bids within KCC had been supported through the grant.
The £5 million Clinically Extremely Vulnerable Grant was intended to provide support to individuals who were shielding or isolating due to COVID-19. Examples of the support provided through this grant included food provision and heating.
In response to questions from Members, Mr Wellard said that:
A) Contractual arrangements had been set out to ensure that funds were spent appropriately. Monthly and quarterly reports were required from recipients to evidence the impact of the funding. The contracts included clauses to reclaim funding where this had been spent outside of the remit of the grant.
B) The underspend of £3.6 million was mainly due to recruitment issues into the schemes. It was expected that some of the underspend would be used to carry out prevention work in the new financial year.
C) Mr Wellard would provide the Committee with further detail on the breakdown of spend outside of the meeting. The Section 151 officer reviewed this spend on a weekly basis.
5. RESOLVED to NOTE the information contained within this report and to ENDORSE the proposed future use of the remaining grant.