Spotlight on the community sector - 3 December 2020

3 December 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the community sector has arguably been in the spotlight more than ever before, delivering valuable services for people needing support across Cheshire West and Chester. 

Cheshire West and Chester Council is working closely with Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) to put together a fortnightly round up, helping showcase all the fantastic work going on across the sector. 

Healthbox CIC’s social prescribing link workers have made a big difference during the pandemic, using their local knowledge and contacts to support people in communities.

One person Healthbox CIC supported during the lockdown period had lost her sister, who had been in long-term care with her multiple physical and learning difficulties. As the client was unemployed, a funeral bill of more than £3,000 for her sister added to her already fragile mental health. 

Social prescribing link workers were able to find out that, as her sister had been in care all her life and the care provider was the power of attorney, it was responsible for the funeral costs. This took significant pressure off Healthbox’s client and helped improve her mental health.  Disability Positive, the new name for Cheshire Centre for Independent Living, has been helping deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) to its clients who employ a personal assistant (PA).

Volunteers at Disability Positive have travelled across Cheshire at short notice to get PPE to those who urgently needed it. This was particularly important when PPE was in short supply during the pandemic.

A PPE Hub for clients has now been set up and PPE will continue to be delivered. The charity is also looking at new ways to use volunteers and is in the early stages of setting up a telephone befriending service for clients having to isolate.

Disability Positive has adapted its Buzz and Good Company services, providing a youth group and adult social group for people to attend respectively. 

While these are long standing groups, they are now being delivered online and Disability Positive has worked with outside providers, tutors and volunteers to put on story telling sessions, dance sessions and keep fit sessions.

The charity has linked up with Father Christmas and anyone who sends a letter through Buzz will receive a video reply back, with Father Christmas popping into a Zoom session in December to say hello.

One person supported by Disability Positive said: "I love the sessions. They are fun to take part in and the tutor is really great at making sure everyone is involved without being over whelming. It's good to see my friends who I can't see in person and do something together." Cheshire Dance has created a virtual dance community during the pandemic, focusing on older adults in the community who are isolated and helping bring them together to keep active, keep social, keep healthy and keep dancing throughout COVID-19.

Older adults have always been a focus for Cheshire Dance, as well as people with learning disabilities and younger people, but services have been adjusted from face-to-face to online to not only continue working with this group in the community, but to try and reduce isolation.
Many people across Cheshire West and Chester, as well as Cheshire East, have accessed the services. One person said: “It's the one thing I just don’t want to miss”.  Cheshire West Communities Together has been providing invaluable support to many projects. 
  • Blacon Action team, Blacon Beacon and the community food effort in Blacon
  • Here and Now group for older people in Blacon
  • Live Laugh Lache, Lache Larder and the community supermarket in Lache 
  • Blacon Community Store
  • Ellesmere Port Foodbank
  • Snow Angels’ befriending service 
  • Older People’s Week in Lache 
Many of these projects have come about because of COVID-19 so the guidance from Cheshire West Communities Together has been a big help.  OPAL Services has adapted its usual projects during the pandemic to provide telephone befriending, a weekly newsletter, regular activity packs, garden and doorstep visits and GoOnLine support services. 

Before the pandemic, OPAL ran weekly clubs for its older members, regular cooking, craft and activity sessions and breaks and support for carers.  

Socially isolated people in rural communities who are aged over 60, or care for someone aged over 60, have received invaluable support from OPAL.  Dial West Cheshire’s aim during the pandemic has been “keeping people safe and well and being here for people in the community who need us”, following the theme of #DeliveringDialDifferently. 

Safe and well checks, which have now been adapted to check in and chat calls, have been made by phone to help address loneliness, isolation and mental wellbeing. 

From March to November, an advice line set up has carried out nearly 2,500 pieces of work following enquiries from around 1,000 people. 
As part of Dial’s work to combat poverty, it has helped its clients secure £1.3 million of financial gains (for example, welfare benefits).

Dial’s volunteer workforce, which includes people with learning disabilities and autism, has desperately missed contact with its friends and colleagues because of COVID-19 restrictions. Staff have supported volunteers and others to be more digitally included and they now enjoy the opportunity to take part in a programme of daily, small group activities through Zoom video calls.  Have you got a story to share about the brilliant work you’re doing in the community? Please email: enquiries@chesterva.org.uk. You can also post your stories on the Council’s Inspire Cheshire West website

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