Service changes due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

You can find out how local services in Suffolk have changed due to coronavirus (COVID-19), and how that might affect you.

Changes to Suffolk services

Last updated: 3 April 2020 (reviewed daily)

We're experiencing high demand for care services and advice, which is understandable given these uncertain times.

However, it’s important that we keep council lines free for vulnerable customers. Please only contact us regarding services where there is an urgent need to do so. Contact details are available on our Customer First contact page.

We're also making some changes to how care is being provided. This will allow us to provide the essential care that is needed in Suffolk. You can read more about these changes to care services.

Parking using an expired Blue Badge during COVID-19 crisis

You can continue using a Blue Badge with an expiry date of 1 January 2020 onwards without receiving a penalty charge notice.

This relaxation of enforcement has been agreed by government and local authority associations and should continue initially until 30 September 2020.

Please note that this applies to local authority parking and not private car parks such as supermarkets.

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister (on 23 March 2020) all ceremonies are postponed for the next three weeks. 

You'll be contacted by the register office dealing with your ceremony as soon as possible.

We are unable to advise whether ceremonies after this date will be postponed. We're awaiting further advice from the government.

Ceremonies booked before 30 June 2020

We're prioritising on over 900 ceremonies booked until 30 June 2020. We'll call you (in date order) if your ceremony is booked before 30 June 2020.

Ceremonies between 23 March and 30 June 2020 will be restricted to the couple, two witnesses and a maximum of two further guests (if sufficient space in the room) They will also be subject to staff availability.

For ceremonies on our own premises and to ensure that social distancing can be maintained no additional guests will be permitted in our buildings. We will contact all couples to discuss this change, working in date order, so please bear with us whilst we do this. We will continue to offer options for rescheduling at no charge and for full refunds where this is requested.

Group citizenship ceremonies will be cancelled with immediate effect.

Questions about ceremonies before 30 June 2020

Can I move my ceremony forward and arrange a further big celebration ceremony later in the year?

We will try to offer this, subject to staff availability. Please contact our office to check availability. As this option will involve our attendance at two ceremonies a further fee will be charged.

Can I postpone my ceremony and re-book for a specific date either at the same or different location?

There will be no charge to do this, if you choose a date or location where a higher fee would normally apply, this will be waivered. If you choose a location or date where a lower fee would apply the difference will be refunded.

Will I get a refund if I cancel my ceremony completely?

Yes. We will refund your ceremony fees including any pre-paid certificate fees. We will not be able to refund your Notice of Marriage/Civil partnership fee.

I would like to postpone my ceremony but at this moment I do not have another date or location in mind?

If you wish to postpone but are not able to give us a revised date or location for your ceremony, we will refund your fees paid. Your Notice of Marriage/Civil partnership fee cannot be refunded.

I have a big ceremony planned at an Approved Venue, but would like to arrange a small ‘register office’ ceremony in the near future?

In the absence of government legislation change, this scenario would require you to give a new ‘Notice’ for the register office location. There would need to be a 28 day gap between doing this and when your ceremony could be held. Please contact us to discuss this option.

Existing ceremonies booked after 30 June 2020

Please do not call us if your ceremony is after 30 June 2020. We are contacting people who've booked a ceremony before 30 June 2020.

Venue licencing

In light of COVID-19 we have made the following emergency provisions for venue licensing:

  • We will no longer accept new applications or enquiries for new venues looking to obtain a ceremony licence
  • For venues that have applied for a new ceremony licence we will offer the option of a full refund of your application fee as an alternative to us continuing to process your licence application. We can offer no guarantees that ceremony licences that are part processed will be granted in the short-medium term.
  • If you are the holder of an existing ceremony licence which is currently under determination or expires in the next 6 months this will be renewed automatically for a further 12 months free of charge.

The Suffolk Coroner’s Service is closely monitoring central government advice, and considering any impact COVID-19 might have on the Coroner’s court.

The Ministry of Justice may take the view that all courts should cease hearing cases. If this is the situation, then we will endeavour to contact those involved as soon as is operationally possible and look to reschedule for a future date. However this may not be for six to nine months.

At this time our focus as a service is to prioritise the new referrals to the Coroner. This is in order to enable funerals to be held at the earliest opportunity. We politely request your understanding and patience during this challenging time.

All Suffolk County Council offices are closed until further notice.

How to contact us

Visit our contact us page to find services including:

  • Customer Service (Suffolk Highways)
  • Customer First (Adult Social Care and Children's Social Care)
  • School Admissions
  • Suffolk Trading Standards

All courses are currently suspended.

Further information can be found at suffolkroadsafe.com.

Food banks across Suffolk are being given a share of £60,000 to keep their supplies well stocked during the Coronavirus pandemic.

This money has been donated by Suffolk County Council and will allow the food banks to restock directly with the supermarkets and wholesalers.

Who is getting the funding?

The funding will be added to the Suffolk Emergency response fund held by Suffolk Community Foundation. Suffolk Community Foundation are working with all partners in Suffolk to maximise the amount of funding made available by central government, Health and District and Borough Councils to support the COVID-19 community response.

How has that been decided?

The Collaborative Communities Board is working with the voluntary sector and the network of food banks across Suffolk and ensuring they have access to funds as needed for the direct provision of food and supplies for vulnerable people in Suffolk.

When are they getting it?

Small amounts of funding will be allocated as requested by food banks and other organisations involved in the individual relief of hardship.

Where is the funding coming from?

From Suffolk County Council’s leadership group. Read about the share of £60,000 being donated.

All library buildings are closed

Mobile and home library services are also suspended.

Visit suffolklibraries.co.uk/coronavirus for more information.

The Children and Young People’s Emotional Wellbeing Hub provides a helpline and referral service for those concerned about the mental health of a child or young person aged 0-25.

Due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and significant reduced staff, the Emotional Wellbeing Hub will deliver a duty service. The duty service will provide support, advice and onward referral to service users in East and West Suffolk who are at greatest risk.

If you or your child feel you are in urgent need of mental health support, please contact our helpline on 0345 600 2090. Please be aware that it may take longer for us to reach your call or referral.

We apologise for any inconvenience, and we hope that the Emotional Wellbeing Hub will be able to return to a full service provision of staff as soon as possible. We appreciate your understanding during this time.

If you live in Lowestoft and Waveney, you should contact the Point-1 Service for mental health support.

A helpline has been launched to help parents if their usual school is:

  • not open
  • unable to make alternate arrangements for pupils.

The helpline is for parents who are classed as a key worker or have a child that is classed as vulnerable. Suffolk County Council will liaise with schools to find them a place.

The helpline number is: 01473 263985.

Public transport is to operate on a reduced scale throughout Suffolk. New timetables are in place for most public transport services, including buses, trains and community transport until further notice.

The changes reflect less people are not using public transport by staying at home. There's also less staff available as more need to self isolate. Visit suffolkonboard.com for more information.

Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) are closed from Monday 23 March until further notice. 

Read more at suffolkrecycling.org.uk.

Death registrations

The Coronavirus Act (2020) permits us to complete a pre-registration of a death by phone and avoids relatives visiting a register office.

Find out more about how to register a death.

Birth registrations

Birth registrations have been deferred by the government for the duration of the pandemic period.

We have been advised that parents can now make a claim for child benefit or universal credit without registering the birth.

You can visit the following links for more information: 

Our offices

All register offices are closed to the public for the time being.

Our phone lines are open, but with a restricted service. This means you may experience a delay when you contact us.

Alternatively you may email us.

Find out how to phone or email register offices in Suffolk

School Crossing Patrols is suspended in the interest of their safety, and the safety of others.

We will consider a request from schools for assistance in getting children of key workers to school safely, if they deem necessary. For further visit suffolkroadsafe.com on follow on Twitter @suffolkroadsafe

In response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, changes have been made to the delivery of core sexual and reproductive health services in Suffolk.

Some services will be temporarily suspended as our staff work to support the wider Coronavirus (COVID-19) response.

Urgent information will be communicated through the Suffolk Sexual Health Network distribution list. To receive these updates, contact Matthew.Bury@suffolk.gov.uk or telephone 01473 260942.

iCaSH (integrated Contraception and Sexual Health)

iCaSH is asking all service users to stay at home and not visit the service if they display symptoms of the coronavirus. You should follow Government guidance on staying at home if you display symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

The three iCaSH sexual health hubs in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft remain open, but only for specific visits. They have changed the way they are operating:

  • suspension of sit and wait clinics
  • offering telephone consultations (with follow up face to face appointments where clinically appropriate) for the following service users:
    • those receiving/requiring PEP
      (a treatment for 28 days to prevent HIV infection after risky sex)
    • those who need emergency contraception
    • those who have symptoms of an STI
    • telephone consultations for people living with HIV aged over 70 (including agreeing arrangements for delivery of medication)
    • access to screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections
      • please use the Express Test home testing kit which can be ordered online, if you have no symptoms of an STI

People who are HIV positive

There is currently no evidence that people living with HIV are at any greater risk than the general public of either getting coronavirus or becoming unwell due to coronavirus. You do not need to attend the clinic for additional blood tests to check your CD4 count. Please follow the NHS guidance about how best to protect yourselves and others from coronavirus.

Please be reassured that maintaining a seamless supply of anti-retroviral medication to you will be prioritised even if you are unable to attend the clinic.

We will update this advice if Public Health guidance changes.

Terrence Higgins Trust service

The Suffolk THT office will be closed until further notice.

  • Chlamydia and gonorrhoea samples are still being tested and results will still be sent out as normal. Patients who have not received their results after two weeks of sending their sample are advised to email suffolkchlamydia@tht.org.uk for their results
  • Chlamydia testing kits should be ordered at www.youngandfree.org.uk
  • For professionals attempting to order c-card supplies, orders will not be processed until staff are permitted to work from the office again. When the office re-opens, a further communication will be circulated
  • All training sessions run by THT Suffolk for the next two months have been cancelled, this includes in house training. Delegates signed up to multi-agency training (Eventbrite or Suffolk CPD) will be emailed separately. The health promotion specialist for your area will be in touch soon if you have in house training organised.
  • All sessional shifts have been cancelled until further notice

Pharmacy provision of sexual and reproductive health services

In order to deal with increased demand for medical supplies, pharmacies may reduce their opening hours. Many will be open 10am to 12pm / 2pm to 4pm (or 6pm for the late opening 100 hour pharmacies).

Before visiting for sexual health services, patients are advised to call the pharmacy first. Find your nearest pharmacy on the NHS website.

Online HIV self-sampling service position

The online HIV self-sampling service will continue to be available to residents of Suffolk over the age of 16. SH:24 will remain committed to maintaining quick turn around times for the delivery and processing of testing kits, however external factors may make it difficult to achieve this 100% of the time. Testing kits can be accessed online.

The Ferns (sexual assault referral centre – SARC)

The Ferns are working to ensure they are able to continue to support both new and existing service users:

  • The 0300 123 5058 helpline will continue to be manned as normal
  • Assessment of clients will take place virtually, prior to attending any examination
  • Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVA) will continue to support individuals via telephone, email, Skype and Zoom.

The Archaeological Service’s offices are closed to visitors due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Read more about Suffolk Archaeological Service.

All branches of Suffolk Archives (Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Lowestoft) are closed until further notice.

We'll endeavour to maintain a telephone and email enquiry service during the closure period. This will be kept under review and may be subject to change. Wherever possible staff will continue to work daily at home.

During the closure, users can still browse the website and search the catalogue, as well as purchase and download digital images. Subject to staff being based in branch, it may also be possible to order copies online.

Visit www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/using-the-website for more information.

Suffolk Archive events

All Suffolk Archives events planned up until 30 June 2020 are cancelled or postponed. This includes the summer programme of talks and workshops at Bury Archives, which was scheduled to run until mid-July.

We will be contacting anyone who has an existing booking. Dates and details for all Suffolk Archives events will be kept under constant review.

The Hold, Ipswich

At present construction work is continuing at The Hold but this is subject to daily review. Preparations for the move are on going. Plans for the opening of the building are under discussion and more information will be provided when available.

We are sorry for any inconvenience caused by the above changes.

We have made these difficult decisions with the health and well-being of all archives users, staff and volunteers in mind. We will keep the situation under constant review and provide updates as soon as is appropriate and possible.

We're monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation so that we can keep our staff safe and continue to protect our communities. 

We'll continue to respond to emergency 999 calls.

We have stopped some work to minimise risks, including:

  • cancelling some home visits
  • cancelling some firefighter training
  • closing stations to community meetings and events

But we are adapting our operations to continue to protect the most vulnerable members of society. We continue to follow:

  • government guidelines
  • operational guidelines set out by the National Fire Chiefs Council
  • our own business continuity plan

You can read further updates relating to COVID-19 on the Suffolk Fire and Rescue pages.

Read the latest changes to Suffolk Health and Children's Centres and how they might affect you.

The fitting of Trucall devices into people's homes has been suspended and some businesses have already cancelled routine inspections. The work done by our Imports Team at the Port of Felixstowe is essential and has been prioritised.

Appropriate procedures and measures are in place to enable officers to safely carry out physical exams of consignments to prevent dangerous and unsafe items entering the UK market.