A MULTI-MILLION pound support package to help local residents and businesses through the coming months has been revealed by Barnsley Council.

Key parts of the scheme include £15.5m to safeguard care for vulnerable adults, children, the homeless and those at the highest risk of severe illness, a dedicated emergency contact centre for those impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and a joint scheme to attract more volunteers to drop off vital supplies to house-bound residents.

The cash comes after the local authority announced three-month council tax ‘holidays’ for those struggling to foot their bill, support for Berneslai Homes tenants with their rent and grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses.

This support is driven by the council’s emergency response, which includes local and regional planning by its leadership team with the focus on trying to keep as many services running for as long as possible.

This is in addition to the government’s own relief fund and is there to help the most vulnerable people and businesses in the borough, according to council leader Sir Steve Houghton.

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“I don’t think anyone would have ever imagined the current situation that we’re in. I know it’s an anxious, challenging time for us all,” he said.

“It’s a big ask to follow the government’s guidance on staying at home, but we must all do this as it will give our borough the best chance of limiting the impact of coronavirus and help to save lives.

“It’s not going to be an easy task, and I don’t underestimate the impact this will have on individuals, their families, friends, businesses and our organisation.

“As a council we’re doing all we can to deliver our services and help our communities. The package of support we’ve put in place will help to support and protect people and businesses through this difficult time.”

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis labelled the crisis as the most serious public health matter of a lifetime, but urged residents to stick together through the ‘unprecedented’ period and praised people for their community spirit.

“I want to express my profound and heartfelt gratitude to everyone on the front line of the most serious public health crisis any of us have faced,” he added.

“Coronavirus has placed enormous strain on all our lives and the NHS is at the sharp end of protecting the most vulnerable and keeping our communities safe - simply put, none of this could happen without the workers who are keeping our NHS going.

“This crisis has undoubtedly brought out the best in people. Those who are stepping up to the plate to make sure their elderly neighbour gets the food and medicine they need, clinical and support staff, the trades unions who are standing up for members’ rights.

“All deserve our profound and heartfelt gratitude.

“I am receiving regular briefings and I’m in contact with our directors of public health, the NHS, South Yorkshire Police and government ministers to make sure that Barnsley gets the resources we need to deal with the virus.

“Coronavirus will also have a profound impact on our economy as workers self-isolate. People who do the right thing and follow the government guidelines must not face a financial penalty for doing so.

“This will be an extraordinarily difficult time for our people, our communities and our public services. I have every confidence that our brilliant, hard-working NHS staff will rise to the challenge, but we all need to do what we can to support them.”