Council’s COVID Confidence Scheme picks up best in UK award from APSE

The team behind Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s (MEABC’s) innovative COVID Confidence Scheme have been awarded the APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) Best Service Team accolade at the organisation’s awards ceremony in Birmingham.

During what was, and remains, an unprecedented public health crisis, businesses faced great uncertainty and anxiety, and the initiative was borne out of Council’s commitment to ensuring the safety of everyone within our community, while supporting the recovery of our local economy.

The COVID Confidence Scheme, understood to be the first of its kind undertaken by any Northern Ireland council during the pandemic, was launched in the weeks leading up to Christmas 2020 and to date, 457 COVID Confidence Mark awards have been issued by Council as recognition of the efforts local businesses have made to ensure all the appropriate safety measures have been taken to protect shoppers and staff alike.

By equipping the business community with the tools to trade safely, coupled with an effective public awareness campaign, the council team succeeded in increasing confidence among the shopping public during one of the most critical trading periods of the year.

Juliet Coulter, Catherine Hunter and Philip Thompson, all MEABC, with host Sameena Ali-Khan, and Alderman Tommy Nicholl MBE, APSE Northern Ireland Chair

Covid service requests and complaints fell by 31% in the period following the launch of the scheme and footfall recovery meant Council’s three biggest town centres performed better than the Northern Ireland average.

Congratulating the team on their achievement, Alderman Tommy Nicholl MBE, APSE Northern Ireland Chair, said: “In the approach to Christmas of 2020 the minds of the local business community and Council’s Elected Members were intensely focused on how “safe” residents and visitors perceived the borough to be.

“When Chief Executive, Anne Donaghy OBE, stepped up to bridge the gap and determine how best to deploy frontline resources, secure the high levels of compliance and trust needed to restore local confidence and regain lost footfall, she turned to the Environmental Health Service for the solution.

“The team rapidly produced a bespoke COVID Confidence Scheme business support pack, and commenced rolling out a huge one-to-one support effort. Although entirely voluntary, the scheme proved extremely popular. In total 711 visits to local businesses took place and 457 awards have been issued to date.

“I was delighted and honoured to see Council named the winners of the United Kingdom Environmental Health, Trading Standards and Regulatory Service Best Service Team award for their work in developing the scheme, a project led by Juliet Coulter, Principal EHO.

“Council has led the way in supporting our local businesses during the COVID pandemic and that has now been recognised on the national stage.”