Coronavirus - your questions answered

Here are the answers to your questions about how coronavirus is affecting our services across the county.

Will it affect registration of births, marriages and deaths?

Please check our service updates page for the latest information.

I’ve got a wedding with your registrar, will it be cancelled? How will I get money back?

Please check our service updates page for the latest information.

What support is available for businesses?

The government has announced a variety of measures and financial support for businesses affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak:

  • A business grant fund of £10,000 for all business currently receiving small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance.
  • A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England.
  • A statutory sick pay relief package for small businesses.
  • The HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.
  • New IR35 tax reforms due to come into effect in April will be pushed back by one year.
  • Salary support of 80% for salaries of £2500 per month.

For more information on Government schemes, visit the support for businesses page on GOV.UK.

What about KCC business loan schemes?

Kent businesses that have taken advantage of the KCC loans scheme will be given a 12-month interest-free repayment holiday from 28 March. If you are in receipt of one of our business loans, we will be in contact with you directly by letter over the next few days with more information.

My business provides services to KCC but we're in financial distress, what should I do?

If you are experiencing difficulties continuing to provide services to us due to the financial distress caused by the outbreak, send your contact details to one of the following email addresses and we will be in touch to discuss the help that may be available as soon as possible.
If you supply:

Where can I get advice and support for my business?

If you’re a Kent-based business looking for advice and support and don’t know where to get help, our partner Locate in Kent could help. Visit the Locate in Kent website or email enquiries@locateinkent.com.

Are providers staying open for the children of key workers?

Parents can request childcare even if only one parent is a key worker. However, there is strong guidance from government that where possible children are to stay at home so if the other primary carer is not a key worker and is able to, they should be encouraged to stay at home. Childminders can offer support to key workers if they are not self-isolating and have capacity to do so.

Who is defined as a key worker?

People working in health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, local and national government, food and other necessary goods, public safety and national security, transport, utilities, communication and financial services. The full list is available on the Department for Education website.

Who is a vulnerable child?

Vulnerable children include children who are supported by social care, those with safeguarding and welfare needs, including child in need plans, on child protection plans, looked after children, young carers, disabled children and those with Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).

I am a childcare worker and therefore a key worker, will I be able to take my children to work with me?

You would need to check with your provision whether this is possible to meet the needs and age range of your children.

Will a nursery be open if it is on a school site?

A nursery on a school site can open and provide places for key worker children.

If a setting is remaining open for key workers, must they stay open during the Easter holidays and the two April bank holidays as is being suggested by the government?

Where possible, the government will be encouraging childcare providers to stay open for key worker children and vulnerable children throughout the Easter holidays.

I am not a key worker but my child’s setting is saying it will stay open for parents like me?

No. Guidance is clear that social distancing must be a priority to protect the elderly and vulnerable, therefore parents of non-key workers must care for their children at home.

Will I still pay my nursery fees?

This depends on the contract you have signed with your provider.

What happens if my child has to attend a setting that is not their usual provider, for example if my child has already been funded at another setting for a Free Early Education place?

If your child is only accessing a Free Early Education place, funding should already be in place with the new provider. Any hours that you access outside of your Free Early Education place will have to be paid for. If you normally access 15 or 30 hours a week over 38 weeks of the year, you may be offered a place at a setting that is open all year round and ‘stretches’ the funding across more than 38 weeks. If this is the case, you will only receive 12 or 24 hours free and may have to pay for the additional hours. Please speak to your provider for clarification and/or if you have any questions.

Full guidance on transitions from one provider to another, including continuity of care, will be available for providers.

If my usual setting is closed, how will I know what other settings are available?

You can contact the Kent Children and Families Information Service (CFIS) on 03000 41 23 23 or search childcare listings for providers who will be open.

Am I able to increase the hours I access with my provider in order to work longer hours or to cover childcare normally provided by family members?

This may be possible but please speak directly to your provider.

If I have to move my child to another setting, will I still be able to access the Special Educational Needs Inclusion Fund (SENIF), Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP) and Disability Access Fund (DAF)?

Yes, the provider will continue to access this funding on your behalf, through the usual processes.

If my child was due to start nursery after Easter and I am a key worker, what happens if my nursery is closed?

You will need to contact Kent Children and Families Information Service (CFIS) on 03000 41 23 23 or search for childcare to find out which providers are open in order to secure a place.

My child normally attends a before and after school club, will these still run?

We are currently waiting for information on this. Additionally, it is possible that childminders may be able and willing to provide this kind of ‘wrap around’ childcare.

My parents usually provide childcare for my children but they are now in the vulnerable group so I am looking for a childcare provider, but cannot afford the fees.

If your child is two and you are on a low income, you may be entitled to free childcare for 2 year olds. If your child is 3 or 4, you will be entitled to 15 hours of free early education and childcare and (if you are working) may also be entitled to an additional 15 hours, up to 30 hours in total. Our free childcare page gives further details. For younger children you can visit childcarechoices.gov.uk to find out what help is available for childcare costs.

When will school be closed for my child?

The decision to close schools for most children has been made centrally by the government, which announced all schools will close for most children until further notice from the end of Friday 20 March.

Schools will, however, remain open for those children of key workers and the most vulnerable.

The government has said key workers included NHS staff, the police and delivery drivers whilst children who are vulnerable include children with education, health and care plans.

What will happen with my child’s GCSEs/ A levels/other exams?

We are waiting for further guidance from the government and the examination boards.

My child is ill, should they be off?

Yes. If your child is not well for any reason then as normal, they should not attend school.  If they are ill with COVID-19 symptoms, then they should not attend school, and all members of the household should self-isolate for 14 days as per the government guidance.

Will I get fined if my child is off school?

If your child is unwell, or is required to self-isolate for reasons that are in accordance with government guidance, then no, you would not be fined.

If schools close for my child and I am unable to work because I have to look after them, will I get compensation?

If the government orders a national school closure, then the responsibility for this sort of issue would lie with the government.

Who will sort out work for my child to do if the school is closed to them?

It will be for your child’s school to arrange appropriate work for your child during any closedown situation.  This might be sent to your home or arranged remotely over the internet depending on what arrangements the school has made. We have written to all schools asking them to make arrangements to provide some learning activity in the event that the government instructs that all schools should close for most children.

Will self-isolation affect attendance records at school?

If a child has COVID-19 symptoms, or is required to self-isolate for reasons that are in accordance with government guidance, then the attendance register is coded in such a way that your child would not have any non-attendance recorded against them.  If there are no appropriate reasons for non-attendance, then the child could be recorded as an unauthorised absence, but this would be unlikely in the face of the current guidance from government about self-isolation.

What will happen to the Kent Test for entry into Kent grammar schools in September 2021?

Applications for the Kent Test do not open until the beginning of June 2020. Parents will be informed closer to the time if any adjustments need to be made.

Will I still find out what primary/infant/junior school my child will be offered for next year on 16 April 2020?

Yes. Schools have already completed all the necessary tasks to ensure we can make primary school offers available on 16 April.

My child’s name is on the waiting list for a school for September 2020, will you still inform me if a place becomes available?

Yes. We are working with schools to ensure that offers can be made from waiting lists on 22 April for secondary schools and 10 June 2020 for primary, infant and junior schools.

I have lodged an appeal for a school for September 2020, will it still take place?

We are currently awaiting further advice from the Department for Education. In the meantime, we would encourage anyone who still wishes to appeal to do so in the way described in their offer letter.

Is Easter holiday provision available for vulnerable children and critical workers’ children?

The Government has asked schools and early years settings to open, if at all possible, over the Easter holiday period for pupils who are eligible to attend school at this time (children who cannot be safely cared for at home, children of critical workers and vulnerable pupils).

Schools in the county are either planning to be open over the Easter period, or have made arrangements with another local school to cater for their eligible pupils during this time. We are immensely grateful to the school staff for their commitment in ensuring this provision is available to families at this time. Your child’s school should have informed you of the arrangements they have in place, including whether provision will be available on Good Friday and Easter Monday. If you have not heard from your child’s school please contact them directly. In the event that your child’s school is not open, or does not open as expected, and you need help in identifying alternative arrangements please email emergencyschoolplaces@kent.gov.uk or call 03000 41 21 21.

A significant number of early years settings will be open over the Easter holidays, but we are aware that a high number are currently unable to open. We have seen an increase in the number of childminders who are able to continue working. Your child’s early years setting or childminder will be able to tell you what their plans are for Easter. If your current provision is not able to meet your childcare needs over the holiday period and you need help, please email kentcfis@theeducationpeople.org or call 03000 41 23 23. Our Early Years and Childcare Service will work with you and providers to find you a suitable alternative.

Can my child still receive free school meals?

Please check our service updates page for the latest information.

Are libraries closing?

Libraries closed at the end of the day on Friday 20 March to minimise social contact for staff and customers. We will be keeping this under review.

Will I get fined if I can’t return my library book?

We will ensure all loan periods are extended for all customers until the end of June. If you need further extensions after June, please let us know via email libraries@kent.gov.uk, social media or call us on 03000 41 31 31. Some of these changes may take time to implement so please bear with us while we work through them.

Are public footpaths still open?

Although Kent Country Parks are still open for visitors arriving or foot or by horse, there remains some confusion about parks operated by some other local authorities, together with the proposal by the Welsh government to introduce powers to close a limited number of paths.

The position regarding public paths in England is as follows:

  • The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.
  • However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.
  • There are currently no proposals to close public rights of way in England and current legislation does not permit it.
  • Use of the extensive public rights of way network generally represents a low risk of the type of overcrowding which has led to the closure of other open spaces and, provided users follow guidance about keeping a safe distance from others, it is unlikely to present a problem at this time. However please do keep to the marked paths.
  • It is recognised that some paths are busier than others, are narrow and enclosed or pass close to property where people live or work, but there are some measures that landowners may take to keep themselves safe. Clearly marked paths lessen the chance of users wandering off it, you may see roped off routes to keep you to the path or direction to follow a route around the perimeter of a property away from buildings or people and/or polite notices asking users to consider using another route if residents are self-isolating.
  • Given the rate at which the situation is changing this advice may well change and it will be updated as things develop.
  • It is possible that some users may not act reasonably, in this case the best course of action is simply to keep away from them.

What can I do if a public right of way crosses my land?

The guidance is the same as the above. With the additional position regarding public paths in England is as follows:

  • Where there is a genuine case of a pubic right of way running close to a property (including its garden) containing a person vulnerable and/or self-isolating you may wish to provide a signed alternative route on land in the same ownership. The public right of way must however remain open.
  • There’s no evidence of human-animal transference of coronavirus.

Are school transport services running?

For the time being, we have asked all operators to provide services until we understand which schools are fully closed and which children still need to travel. Some services may have to change where operators are struggling for drivers. Please check with your operator for details.

If my child continues to attend school because I am a key worker or they are vulnerable, will transport be provided?

We are working with schools and transport providers to identify children that will continue to require help in getting to school. If your child has already been assessed as eligible for free school transport, this will continue to be provided. It may not be possible to provide the same vehicle or driver that your child is used to travelling with and there may be some changes to public bus networks that impact your child’s usual travel arrangements. It is also possible that there may be some unavoidable short term interruptions in transport while these changes are organised. We will work to keep these disruptions to a minimum.

If your child is not currently eligible for free school transport, you will need to apply and transport will be provided if they meet our transport criteria (PDF, 517.0 KB).

If I am currently provided with transport and do not use it and then want it again, what can I do?

If you are entitled to free transport to school then this will not be changed because you are not travelling. We will not run transport once we have identified that it is no longer needed so you will need to let us know if you are intending to return to school.

Will transport be provided if children are required to attend school during the Easter school holiday period?

Key workers should make sure that their children are able to get to school if they continue to attend through the Easter holidays, as they would with any other child care arrangement during this time. However, we recognise that in these difficult times this may not always be possible, so please contact the Transport Eligibility team, email homeschooltransport@kent.gov.uk if you are unable to organise your own transport.

If you need help transporting a vulnerable child to school over the Easter holidays, please contact their social worker to discuss their requirements further. If your child has an EHCP and does not have a designated social worker, please contact your child's school.

Will you refund my Kent Travel Saver pass as the schools are now closed?

We are now actively reviewing the level of any refund and how the payment can be made. Once this is determined, we will be in touch with card holders. We are trying to ensure that no final instalment is taken for those paying by Direct Debit.

Can I visit my elderly relative in a care home?

Currently we are advising anyone thinking of visiting a relative or loved one in a care home or accompanying them to a day care centre to follow Public Health England and national government guidelines, particularly those people who fall into the at risk categories.

Privately owned and run care homes

Care home visiting arrangements are decided at the discretion of each care home manager so please contact the care home if it is privately owned and run.

Will care homes be closing following quarantine for over 70s?

We have no plans to close any of our care homes at the moment and we are in daily contact with the marketplace to ensure they are able to keep facilities open. We have established a direct email helpline to deal with urgent queries.

How are you ensuring that your care homes and care providers have the necessary equipment and supplies to deal safely with vulnerable people?

We are working with Public Health England to ensure our staff and providers have the right equipment to ensure continuity of service in a safe way for both our staff and service users.  We have been assured that supplies of this equipment will remain available.

Will adult disability centres and day care centres close?

We currently have no plans to close any of our centres, but we are looking at the impact of the current social distancing advice and may change the activities being run within the centres.  We will keep the situation under review.

What about meals on wheels – will they still be delivered?

Yes – there are no plans to stop meals on wheels deliveries.

How will KCC support voluntary and community groups who are caring for vulnerable residents?

We will make sure people and groups who are in receipt of grants and funds will continue to receive the money.  We are looking to ensure we have good communications between our services and the voluntary and community groups at a local level to provide any support that is required.

If care home workers and social workers are off sick, who will step into their roles and manage their workloads?

We have well tried and test business continuity plans which are being implemented and which take account of the most important front line services.  We will maximise the use of measures such as telephone assessments and stop non urgent work to divert staff to our front-line services.

I care for my disabled son.  What happens to him if I catch COVID-19?

We would need to look at all such situations on a case by case basis.  If there is no alternative care that can be delivered temporarily by friends or family and the carer is too unwell to provide care, we will be able to offer a range of respite care or temporary care at home. We can provide daily “safe and well” checks if the carer is able to continue the care which will enable us to monitor the situation alongside the carer.

Have we identified the most vulnerable people in our care and/or in the community?

Yes, we have. We know there are many vulnerable people across Kent who require extra care and support in the current situation. We will work with care providers, voluntary sector agencies, care navigators and other partners, including Community Wardens, to ensure a coordinated response to sharing information and providing support to vulnerable people.

Will we prioritise these people in terms of ongoing service provision or if we need to provide new help to them?

Our focus will remain of providing good practice across our service. This involves carrying out robust risk assessments to ensure that our services are directed to those most at risk, whether they are self funding clients or not.

If providers have to pay for additional staff (in the event mutual aid isn’t possible) and their cash flow is impacted, what are the plans to help them, if any?

We have submitted an initial bid for additional funding from central government to support our response to COVID 19. This includes potentially paying providers additional money to support their cash flow and additional expenses to keep them sustainable.

What arrangements are being put in place if care providers have to pay their staff SSP from day one to ease any impact on their cash?

We have submitted an initial bid for additional funding from central government to support our response to COVID 19. This includes potentially paying providers additional money to support their cash flow and additional expenses to keep them sustainable.

What will happen if staff shortages affect KCC processing direct payments for people’s care?

We are looking at all options to enable social care providers to maintain levels of service delivery. This includes how we manage direct payments and we are taking steps to ensure these are paid in a timely manner, working closely with our providers.

Will my bins still be collected?

Whilst this is a matter for your local district or borough council which run the collection services, we provide the final disposal of waste. At this early stage there is no effect on our operations.

Contact your local borough or district council to find out when they will collect your rubbish and recycling.

If KCC staff shortages result in tips and transfer stations being closed, what provision do you have in place to dispose of rubbish?

If contractors experience staff shortages they will consider employing temporary staff and whether individual sites are still safe to be operated. In emergency situations, the movement and disposal of kerbside collected waste is the priority, contractors may divert personnel to transfer to waste transfer station as appropriate.

Why aren’t you testing everyone?

We are not responsible for testing. Visit the Public Health England website for more information.

How many confirmed cases of coronavirus are there in Kent?

The latest information about confirmed cases of coronavirus in Kent is also published on our Media Hub.

Have you told staff to work from home?

We have reviewed the actions and activities we need to take over the coming days and weeks to minimise social contact and where possible, facilitate home working. We have made the decision to close all KCC buildings to the public unless you have an appointment as part of business-critical activity. Staff that are able to work from home have been advised to do so.

Are you cancelling KCC meetings?

Yes, we have reluctantly decided to suspend all council committee meetings until further notice. We are advised that the government is proposing legislation that will allow us to conduct meetings virtually and without the need for members to be physically present. Once we have sight of the legislation, we will be working hard to design governance and technical solutions to allow us to get up and running with these meetings as soon as possible.

Are you cancelling any events?

Some events have been cancelled in line with social distancing guidance. Events planned for later in the year remain in place, though this remains under review pending further government advice.

Are you closing County Hall?

County Hall and all other Kent County Council buildings, is closed to the public unless you have an appointment as part of business-critical activity. Only essential staff (critical or key workers) who cannot work from home will be able to access KCC buildings.

Are gateways closing?

For Gateway closures, please check the service updates page for more information.

Have you applied for any additional funding to support your response to Covid-19 (like Brexit)?

Yes, we are working with government to look at the additional costs that will be incurred in maintaining our services to Kent residents at this unprecedented time.

What is the response time for freedom of information requests?

We are facing unprecedented challenges during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Whilst we take our statutory duties very seriously we ask for your understanding that we are unlikely to be able to respond to your freedom of information request within the statutory timescale as we prioritise our resources in dealing with the pandemic.

Thank you for your cooperation. We will provide a response at the earliest opportunity.

Visit the Information Commissioner's website for their position regarding the coronavirus pandemic.

How long will it take you to respond to my complaint/comments?

It may take us longer to respond to your complaints and comments during this period, but where possible we will keep you informed. We would like to reassure you that we remain committed to delivering the best service we can. Thank you for your patience.

Where possible please submit your enquiry or complaint online, by email or by telephone. Please also consider supplying us with an email address or telephone number, so that we can avoid further delays in responding to you.

In line with government guidance, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is not currently accepting new complaints. They will accept complaints again when the situation improves and government guidance changes. You can find the most up-to-date information by visiting the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman website or by listening to the recorded message on 0300 061 0614.

Community wardens

What will community wardens be doing during this time?

Community Wardens will be continuing to work in the community and in particular, in identifying and supporting older vulnerable people to live safely and independently in their own homes (this includes support for those vulnerable people who are self-isolated). They will be looking at ways to help community-based initiatives which utilise volunteers in supporting vulnerable people during this time. And Community Wardens will of course, continue signpost issues and concerns to the appropriate authorities and provide advice accordingly.

Self isolation

Can you help with my energy supply while I'm self isolating?

Ofgem have provided advice and answers to questions you may have on managing your energy supply during the outbreak. Please visit the Ofgem website for more information.