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Communities; it’s all about staying connected



Community Development Coordinator Jade Innes describes how our Community Connect service in North Somerset has helped to leverage over £5,000 of COVID-19 funding for a local foodbank. Jade also looks at the vital role ‘community assets’ like foodbanks play in addressing inequality and boosting health and wellbeing.

Last month Western Power released funding for community groups and local authorities who are supporting their community through the COVID-19 pandemic. Their application process was straightforward; only a few questions and the eligibility criteria were ideal. The only issue was the deadline, five days…

Along with my fellow community development coordinators, we spent a day calling and emailing community groups, parishes and other local authorities, advocating to them the application and giving support.

This is an important part of being a community development coordinator; bringing awareness to community groups of opportunities like this, to encourage them to be sustainable into the future.

As community development coordinators we were able to liaise with a few groups that are connected to their community and had capacity to apply for this money.

One such organisation was Weston-Super-Mare Foodbank. Their Chair, Clive Bodley, was already looking for additional funding so the foodbank could support more local families and individuals who have been furloughed, lost their jobs or seen their income fall in other ways because of COVID-19.

Clive said: “During 2019 we provided emergency food to support 6,500 people. Whilst we hope the increase over recent weeks is a blip rather than a permanent state, we are gearing up for a significantly higher total in 2020.”

The foodbank has seen a leap in demand in recent weeks: “Figures of foodbank usage are very close to 1,500 for March and April, which is more than double the amount of people we helped last year over the same period.”

Clive put in an application for food purchases and boxing materials, folding trolleys, volunteer drivers, and to cover the costs of additional printing – totalling £5,500. Clive was successful in being awarded the total amount. What a success!

Weston Foodbank is part of the Trussell Trust whose aim is to reduce hunger and end poverty. The Trussell Trust says that between April and September 2019 the four top reasons for referrals into foodbanks were low income, delays betting benefits, changes to benefits and debt. Having access to foodbanks also helps reduce the stigma people can feel in asking for support. To find out more about Trussell Trust and some case stories please visit their website.

North Somerset, the area Community Connect serves, has a variety of needs; it has a relatively high self-employment rate of 13%, compared with the UK average of 10.9%. North Somerset also has huge inequality, with 21 geographical areas ranking within the 10% most deprived areas in England. This means basic needs like housing and social connections are not always present at the right standard (Nomisweb and BNSSG). This places more pressure on existing services when a pandemic hits our communities. Inequality is a significant determinant of health and quality of life, and addressing this is a fundamental part of what we do at Community Connect.

Our Community Connect service is aimed at people aged over 50. But the importance of being connected to our community doesn’t start at 50; community connections are vital from cradle to grave, and especially in times of poor health. As the think tank, The King’s Fund states: “social support is particularly important in increasing resilience and promoting recovery from illness.”

The King’s Fund describes a community as a group of people joined together by a common interest or experience. Community can be defined by geographic location, race, age or health need. They suggest that a way to build and increase connections and reliance is to support social networks, create community champions, utilise community-based assets and integrate with stakeholders. That’s exactly what our Community Connect service is about.

Community organisations like Weston Foodbank are the ‘community assets’ the King’s Fund talks about. Right now, demand for the services of assets like Weston Foodbank is exceptionally high, so it’s more important than ever we make sure they are part of the picture and the solution when it comes to improving health inequality within North Somerset.

Today, with this boost in funding, Weston Foodbank is looking to a future where they can have a permanent warehouse, creating stability and a place of sanctuary for their community.

Find out more about Community Connect here.

Follow Community Connect on Twitter and on Facebook

Photo courtesy of Trussell Trust

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