Coronavirus - your questions answered

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

Please check our service updates page for the latest information about registrations and ceremonies.

What support is available for businesses?

Please go to our support for businesses section to find out the support available.

For more information on government schemes, visit the businesses support pages on GOV.UK.

What about KCC business loan schemes?

Kent businesses who have taken advantage of the KCC loans scheme and are eligible have been granted a 12 month interest-free repayment holiday from 28 March. If you are in receipt of one of these KCC business loans, you will have received details directly of this offer.

What nursery fees do I need to pay if my child does not attend?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) established a COVID-19 Taskforce to identify, monitor and respond to competition and consumer problems arising from coronavirus (COVID-19) and the measures taken to contain it. In July 2020 guidance was issued to early years and childcare providers on the issue of COVID-19 restrictions and consumer law advice.

The government expects providers to comply with the law and take a reasonable and proportionate approach to parents’ and carers’ fees and to communicate any arrangements clearly with families. You will therefore need to discuss arrangements with your setting.

If my usual setting is closed, how do I access childcare?

You can search childcare listings for providers who are open and contact them directly.

If you are unable to find childcare you can contact the Kent Children and Families Information Service (KCFIS) on 03000 41 23 23 or kentcfis@theeducationpeople.org.

I am usually entitled to the 30 hours funding but my working hours were cut to below 16; can I still access this funding?

The government has made some temporary changes to the 30 hours free entitlement and tax-free childcare offers so that all eligible parents and carers, including critical workers, are not disadvantaged during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Specifically, parents and carers who will not meet the minimum income threshold (16 hours per week at National Minimum/Living Wage) due to lower earnings as a direct result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will be treated as meeting that test during the outbreak. This will apply only to parents and carers who need to apply for, or reconfirm, their 30 hours and Tax-Free Childcare place during the outbreak.

The government has set a new upper threshold of £150,000. The change will only be effective for the tax year starting with 6 April 2020 and ending with 5 April 2021. The regulations will come into force on 31 July 2020.

Can my child attend more than one setting?

Government guidance currently states that where possible children should only attend one setting.

For you and your family this may not be possible, for example if wrap around care is needed for you to work. In these circumstances you will need to have an open dialogue with both providers about why your child needs to attend more than one setting and explore what protective measures are in place to keep everyone safe. This includes you, your family and the children and staff at each setting.

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

The government said these can now open with protective measures in place. You can search childcare listings for providers who are open and contact them directly regarding availability.

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 will 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.

Why aren’t you testing everyone?

We are not responsible for testing.

To find out how to get a test or for more information about the NHS Test and Trace app, visit our Got symptoms? Get tested page.

How many confirmed cases of coronavirus are there in Kent?

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

How can I look after my mental health during time?

There is a lot of support available if you need information and advice.

Visit our Looking after your mental health and wellbeing page.

What is the Kent Together helpline?

In every district and borough throughout Kent there has been an incredible and heartening response to the coronavirus pandemic, and we have a huge army of remarkable, public-spirited volunteers who are ready and willing to help each other through these challenging times.

We need to make sure that these vital resources are directed to where they are most needed. The Kent Together helpline will link to community hubs across the county and ensure that we are effectively working hand in hand with the amazing teams out in the heart of communities in every part of Kent.

Requests for help made through the Kent Together helpline will be automatically directed to the relevant district or borough council.

The government's shielding guidance came to an end on 31 July, bringing changes to daily life for the many people in Kent told to stay indoors to protect themselves from the virus.

Find out more about the changes and what to if you are worried about how they may affect you.

Who runs the helpline?

We are coordinating the Kent Together helpline which will feed the information through district and borough council teams to ensure people get the support they need, when they need it. People’s needs will be assessed and staff will liaise with community hubs in the districts to prioritise those who need urgent help. The 12 district and borough councils are:

  • Ashford Borough Council
  • Canterbury City Council
  • Dartford Borough Council
  • Dover District Council
  • Folkestone and Hythe District Council
  • Gravesham Borough Council
  • Maidstone Borough Council
  • Sevenoaks District Council
  • Swale District Council
  • Thanet District Council
  • Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council
  • Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Does it include Medway?

Medway residents should visit the Medway Council food and shopping support webpage for further information on how to request support. If Medway residents request support using the Kent Together helpline, we will pass these onto our colleagues in Medway Council.

What sort of support is available?

The Kent Together helpline has been set up to help residents in Kent with:

  • making sure you have enough food and other general supplies to cover a few days
  • walking your dog
  • picking up a prescription
  • putting out the bins
  • taking in a parcel
  • phoning, Skyping or Facetiming you to see a friendly face
  • checking if any planned appointments have been cancelled before you travel
  • making sure you have some simple recipes to hand
  • preparing meals for the freezer.

Please note: not all types of help are available in all areas.

The helpline should not be used to request social care services. If you think you have any care and support needs, you can contact us to ask for a free assessment.

If you are concerned about someone’s safety, please report a concern.

Who can get help?

Support coordinated through the Kent Together helpline is only available to people who live in the Kent County Council administrative area. This excludes Medway and the bordering London boroughs. You can check whether Kent County Council is your local authority using GOV.UK's find your local council tool.

What will happen when I submit a form?

When you complete an online form, the information you provide is sent to your district or borough council. We use the postcode and address information you provide to determine which district or borough council to send your request onto. They will then get in touch by phone or email to find out more or to arrange support with you.

How long will I be waiting for help?

Your local community hub will do everything they can to get you the help that you need as quickly as possible. However they will have to prioritise calls for assistance depending on how urgent they are. If you do not hear from them or receive the help and support that you need then you can call the Kent Together helpline.

Do I have to let people into my home?

No, you should definitely not let anyone into your home, no matter who they say they are or where they say they are from. Sadly there have been cases in Kent of heartless criminals pretending to be offering help to the vulnerable and self-isolating, so it’s vital that you do not let anybody into your house. Volunteer groups and community hubs will knock on your door and leave your supplies or medication on your doorstep, at all times maintaining a safe distance in line with public health advice.

Find out more about the latest public protection advice.

How do I pay people who bring me food/medicine?

The main priority of community hubs is to get you the support and supplies that you need as quickly as possible. At the moment, to keep people safe and protect them from the virus, it is not advised that you pay anyone with cash if at all possible. It is best to ask your local community hub how they are arranging payment for supplies.

Will my personal information be safe?

Yes. We will use the information you provide to process a request for support. We will share the information you provide with district and borough councils in Kent and other agencies and organisations involved in providing or administering community support. We aim to protect people’s privacy and confidentiality and will only share personal information where necessary to provide support or comply with the law. For more information read our Kent Together privacy notice.

Why do you ask for my date of birth?

Help is not restricted to people in certain age groups, but we ask for your date of birth to help match requests against:

  • existing customers
  • those identified by central government as being “shielded”.

I’m okay, but I’m worried about someone else – what should I do?

You can complete the form on behalf of someone else, such as a relative or neighbour, but it’s best to let them know that you have requested support on their behalf. The request will be directed to the district or borough council covering the address of the person in need of support, not the person who has requested it.

How can I volunteer to help?

Support for voluntary groups and individuals is being offered by district and borough councils across Kent communities. To find out you can get involved, contact your local district or borough council.

What is #KentTogether?

#KentTogether is a hashtag used on social media as part of a digital campaign launched in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It aims to share and showcase the incredible community spirit and acknowledge the amazing contribution of different people communities and organisations as the county responds to the situation. Created by Kent Fire and Rescue Service, the campaign has been adopted by all our Kent Resilience Forum partners (Kent County Council, all district and borough councils, Kent Police and Health services).

A number of our libraries are now open for socially distanced browsing and our Select and Collect service.

For more information go to our libraries page.

Are public rights of way (footpaths and bridleways and byways) still open?

The position regarding public paths in England is:

  • The public rights of way network in England is open and available.
  • The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to follow government advice.
  • The public rights of way network is a great place to take exercise, there is a low risk of overcrowding and provided users follow guidance about keeping a safe distance from others, it is unlikely to present a problem at this time.
  • Please respect the people and animals that live there and keep to the marked paths
  • Remember your actions can affect peoples’ lives and livelihoods
  • You may see signs requesting you follow a small diversion around the perimeter of a property away from buildings and residents and/or polite notices asking users to consider using another route if residents are self-isolating. Please, as a matter of courtesy, follow these alternative routes.

When in the countryside, follow the Countryside Code. You can do this by:

  • leaving no trace of your visit and taking all of your litter home
  • not using barbecues as they risk causing wildfires
  • keeping dogs under effective control and on a lead when you are around farm animals
  • leaving gates as you find them and following instructions on signs
  • keeping to footpaths and following signs where they suggest alternative routes.

Watch a Countryside Code explainer video on Twitter or for further guidance watch the exploring Kent's public rights of way video on the Kent Downs website.

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

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

  • The public rights of way network in England is open. Public Rights of Way must not be closed to the public. There has been no change in the law and we have no new powers to close them.
  • 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 mark paths to lessen the chance of users wandering off it.
    • You may wish to consider tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
    • Where there is a genuine case of a public right of way running close to a property (including its garden) containing a person who is 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. View suggested wording for signs (PDF, 121.7 KB)

Will I get any money back for my Kent Travel Saver pass?

We have now released information about how parents will be compensated for the months that their child has not been able to use their pass as a result of the partial closure of schools. For more information visit our pages about:

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.

Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are now open, you will need to book a slot before visiting. For more information go to our rubbish and recycling pages.

For kerbside collection information you must contact your local borough or district council.

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 and subject access 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 and/or subject access 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.

Can we report breaches of self isolation to you?

If you wish to report a self isolation breach of either an individual, group or a business you can contact Kent Police. You can report any breaches on the Kent Police website.

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.