Groups of all kinds have been helping people across South Tyneside
And both groups and council chiefs say the “partnership approach” they have taken – with the help of Government funding – is helping people to recover from the pandemic.
South Tyneside Council secured £500,000 of Government money to help the third sector engage with groups most at risk from the virus.
The main aim of the fund was to recruit covid champions to relay accurate and timely information about the virus.
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The i newsletter cut through the noise
Charlotte Harrison, CEO of Inspire South Tyneside
In addition, voluntary groups were able to secure funds to support Covid recovery and mental health.
Some of the grants ranged between £5,000 and £15,000 while smaller amounts of between £100 and £1,000 were also available.
Community groups were able to apply for funds to deliver activities that help communities in Covid recovery, including access to information and activities to reduce social isolation and improve mental health.
Councillor Moira Smith, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Cooperatives, said it would be some time before the borough shakes off the difficulties brought on by the pandemic.
BLISS-Ability's Carolyn Robinson and Angela Dunn.
“Although the country is once again opening up, it is important to remember that we are not yet done with Covid,” she said.
“Sadly, the pandemic has left its mark with many people having lost loved ones while others cope with the ongoing emotional or financial misery the virus has left in its wake.
“Inevitably some in our communities are at greater risk as we all navigate safely back to a more normal way of life.
"That is why these grants are so important in enabling our wonderful third sector to reach out and help those who may need additional support.”
Age Concern Tyneside South (ACTS) Chief Officr Grahame Cassidy.
The funds have been distributed by Inspire South Tyneside, the umbrella organisation for the third sector in the borough.
Charlotte Harrison, Chief Executive of Inspire, said: “The one silver lining throughout the pandemic has been the fantastic way in which the community has come together.
“These grants have enabled us to support some wonderful local charities who are ideally positioned to provide the guidance and support so needed by their clients.”
One charity which has already benefitted from a micro-grant is local charity BLISS-Ability
Age Concern Tyneside South (ACTS) befriender Julie Mason.
The oganisation aims to break down barriers to information, engagement, learning, training, and employment for people with disabilities.
It offers a full information service and advocacy service (including Care Act Advocacy), tailored training courses, social prescribing, health and wellbeing courses and activities, IT and digital media training and drop-ins, and volunteer and peer mentor training and opportunities.
It also delivers courses and other services in community venues around the borough, and does home visits.
BLISS secured £976 for a part-time project co-ordinator to run a new service to bring socially isolated people together once a month.
This will be aimed at people suffering from low mood, anxiety or mild depression. In addition to socialising they will have access to short sessions on self-care and digital health with the support of an IT tutor or a volunteer digital champion.
Sharon Bell, Chief Executive of BLISS-Ability said: “We know people with low mood, mild depression, or who are socially isolated or have long term conditions, have been adversely affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
"To help them regain their confidence, it is important that they can meet in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable and can support each other through difficult periods in their life.
“Knowing who they can ‘turn to’ in their community enhances the quality of people’s lives, impacting positively on their health and well-being, particularly at difficult times such as the pandemic which has only exacerbated people’s feelings of loneliness and anxiety.”
Your Voice Counts is another charity which has secured a slice of the funding
The £12,000 grant will enable four Covid Community Champions with learning disabilities to raise awareness about the government’s roadmap and increase understanding about safe participation in community activities.
The champions will provide clear and easy-to-read information and organise workshops to help people understand what the guidance means for them.
Dave Woolley CEO at Your Voice Counts said: “We will provide practical support planning to identify community services and activities that our clients may want to use and help them to travel and participate safely so they can access them.
“We will use a range of approaches, including working with partner organisations, to engage new and harder to reach people with learning disabilities across South Tyneside.
“It is only by listening and empowering people with different needs and abilities that we can bring about positive change and this funding will go some way towards helping us achieve this.”
Another charity which has secured funding is South Tyneside’s Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB)
Funding of almost £15,000 was secured by the CAB to help people from ethnic minorities learn more about the Covid vaccine and help them navigate the government’s roadmap in a safe way.
Ian Thompson, Chief Executive of CAB South Tyneside, said Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities in the borough were among the hardest hit by the pandemic for a number of reasons.
“Sadly, we know that our BAME residents are more disadvantaged and excluded socially and financially which puts them at higher risk of being adversely affected by Covid-19,” he said.
“For this reason, it is vital that we continue to work with these residents to ensure they know the facts about the vaccine and know how to keep themselves and their communities safe.”
He added: “Our BAME advice project has been running for more than 20 years and is a trusted resource, often working with second and third generations. All barriers to access and inclusion such as language, trust and culture have long since been overcome which makes us the perfect choice to engage with hard-to-reach communities.”
As a result of the funding, the three multi-lingual staff who work on the BAME Advice project will see their roles expanded to enable them to respond to the social, financial and psychological effects of Covid-19.
Older people in the Borough are also now receiving tailored advice and support to help themselves stay safe thanks to the funding.
It goes without saying that older people have been among the worst affected by the pandemic
Older generations are susceptible to the coronavirus, and those over 80 were among those asked to shield completely as covid took hold in the United Kingdom.
Not only were they unable to get out for essentials, the pandemic also severed social connections for many for months on end.
But thanks to the efforts of charities, volunteers and council teams, older people in the borough have been getting help – including receiving tailored advice and support to help themselves stay safe thanks to the funding.
Age Concern South Tyneside (ACTS) was awarded more than £14,000 to support communities and individuals to navigate the Government’s roadmap in a Covid-secure way.
The charity is using the funding to train its staff so that they can accurately advise older people on the vaccination programme and integrate their support needs into tailored provision.
The money has also paid for training for befrienders and volunteers so that older people can be advised how they can begin to connect with others safely.
The charity also hopes to start running community events where people can socialise safely now the worst of the pandemic seems to be over.
Grahame Cassidy, chief officer at ACTS, explained how it would help
“The pandemic has left many older people feeling socially isolated and understandably anxious,” he said.
“By running Covid-secure community events we will help people build up their confidence to allow them to re-engage with others in their community.”