A community response to Covid-19
Dr Duncan Holtom
The first national lockdown started on March 23rd 2020. People were required to stay at home except for very limited purposes; schools and non-essential businesses and services were closed, and those who were most vulnerable were advised to “shield” and stay at home at all times. Although communities had experienced crises before, for example linked to flooding, the scale and nature of the crisis was felt by many to be unprecedented in recent memory.
The Building Communities Trust and the Llechi, Glo a Chefn Gwlad partnership commissioned this research to explore the impact community based organisations had upon support to communities during the first lockdown. The research also looked at how county wide bodies in Wales (notably local authorities and county voluntary councils (CVCs)) planned and delivered support to those communities and the extent to which this was done with community- based organisations.
The research focused on seven Welsh counties (Bridgend, Cardiff, Gwynedd, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Pembrokeshire and Wrexham) and included interviews with staff and volunteers from community organisations and groups, CVCs and local authorities.
The importance of place based assets
The research illustrated how the nature of the crisis, with restrictions on movement, accentuated the importance of those assets (strengths or resources), tied to or rooted in communities, including:
- institutional (or organisational) assets, such as community organisations, which provided a focus and structure for organising responses to the crisis, and local businesses, which provided access to goods and services (including donations);
- the human capital of the people in the community, including people with energy, passion, leadership and/or organisational skills;
- the social capital of the people in the community, including the strength of social networks (such as links between people, local businesses, community organisations and the local authority); levels of trust in the community; and the values and culture of the community (such as traditions of mutual aid/support and a sense of community spirit); and
- the natural capital in/near the place (such as access to countryside and coast).
Community organisations and action
Community based organisations played a key role in role in identifying, linking and mobilising these assets and community led responses were often swifter, more inclusive, more human centred and more holistic than the responses of national and local government. Community based organisations and mutual aid groups identified and supported vulnerable people not known to services and were often able to integrate support. For example, a delivery of food could be combined with a friendly chat on the doorstep, providing opportunities to tackle isolation and loneliness and identify other unmet needs.
However, the scale of need, meant that a multi-layered response was crucial. Community led responses mobilised local assets, but also depended upon national and county action and support, including swift and relatively straightforward access to emergency funding, and support to co-ordinate the large numbers of people who offered to volunteer. Moreover, community led action complemented, but could not replace, action by national and local government, such as the furlough and shielding schemes, food parcels and free schools meals provision.
Community level action could also be fragile. Some organisations struggled to respond because, for example, they relied upon elderly trustees or volunteers who were forced to step back, and while the crisis energised many people, the physical and emotional demands upon staff and volunteers were considerable, and threatened the long-term sustainability of the response. The flexibility and speed of the sector’s response, while a key strength, also created risk around, for example, personal safety and safeguarding.
The speed of the crisis meant that the strength of pre-existing relationships and structures that could be built upon or repurposed (and which differed across counties and sectors) was a key determinant of how effectively different layers and organisations could work together. At its best, the CVC and local authority worked closely together to plan how they could support community level activities and the partnership working helped strengthen relationships. At its worst community responses, CVCs and local authorities worked in parallel lines with little communication.
Notwithstanding the huge economic, social and human costs of the crisis, it has created opportunities; for example, it has helped highlight the value and potential contribution of community organisations; the “permission to ask for and give help” that COVID-19 provided gives some insights into how wellbeing can be supported within communities; it has given people across the community and public sectors opportunities to step up and develop leadership skills and experience; and has encouraged community action, which provides a basis for strengthening both future crisis responses and also long term community development.
However, while there is much justifiable pride in the response and no area or community where there was no support was identified, there was also no clear picture of who had been missed and it is difficult to judge the adequacy of the response; for example, while the response in terms of ensuring access to basic needs, such as food, was impressive, there are concerns that not enough was done to address the impacts of the crisis upon people’s mental health.
A copy of the full report is available by clicking here: A Community Response to Covid-19
Men’s Mental Health
We have also been involved with supporting young men’s mental health, which we do in partnership with . This group, based in Treorchy, is growing from strength to strength. The group meets every Thursday, 6-8pm in in Treorchy.
Spectacle Theatre was established in 1979 and has developed into an international award-winning company. They specialise in participatory arts to engage with people of every demographic, from young children to elderly people in care homes. The work they do is extremely diverse and is a credit to the talent of the staff and volunteers.
A men’s mental health group was thought up by the young people already involved with Spectacle. We, as an organisation, were brought in to help diversify the staff present at the meetings. Suicide is the biggest killer among males under the age of 40 and we believe that locally people are much more aware of men’s mental health, so it’s important we get the community and young men on board.
Currently there are young men attending the group from Treorchy and the surrounding areas. If the staff present believe those attending may benefit from other services, they can help those attending locate these services.
The young men who are currently involved are very proactive in their approach and are great at coming up with fresh concepts to keep the ideas rolling. Come along and join us – we’re all there to help each other.
Play It Again Sport Blog
On Sunday March 1st 2020, Play It Again Sport attended the community day at St Anne’s Church Hall, Ynyshir. This day was about celebrating the acquisition of the church hall for a year – to be used by the community, for the community. We were in great company to celebrate St David’s Day with Julie Edwards, the local councillor, Pendyrus Male Choir, Welsh Water, RCT Rocks, the Deputy Mayor Cllr Susan Morgans and Cllr Jack Harries also present.
Our original intention had been to provide games for those that were attending – particularly for any children, and to find out what type of activities we could possibly provide in the church hall in the future.
However, the size of the church hall, along with the numbers of people that attended (202!) meant that this could not happen; there were just too many people in the hall for us to deliver any sports.
We saw this as a great opportunity to engage with those that were attending and find out what the people of Ynyshir would like to see the church hall used for. We spoke directly with people from all demographics, from those still at school to those long since retired and everyone in between!
There were over a hundred suggestions, and many of them can be supported by Play It Again Sport.
We look forward to working with St Anne’s Community Group to help them establish a community centre with something for everyone.
Code Club blog
Ethan Jones joined People & Work as our Digital Champion in January 2020. His role over the next year will be to help develop and introduce new and exciting coding opportunities to the Rhondda and Cynon Valleys as part of the Time to Shine Leadership program, funded and supported by The Rank Foundation and the National Lottery Community Fund. This is a 1-year role over a 3-year project called Llechi Glo a Chefn Gwlad (Slate, Coal and Countryside). The aim of this project is to help develop and support members of the community who could be future leaders. Individuals would be given support from the Time to Shine leaders to help members of the community develop any ideas they may have.
With a lack of code clubs and other IT-based clubs available in the local community and schools, the digital champion has the opportunity to support some existing ones and creating new ones that will help show young people the different digital opportunities that are available to them in the South Wales Valleys and beyond. The digital economy in Wales is growing stronger each day and giving young people the opportunity to learn new skills is essential when pursuing a potential job role in the tech industry.
Currently there are two community code clubs that are active in the Rhondda, Canolfan Pentre on Wednesdays 4pm-5pm, and one in The Old Library in Treherbert from 4:30pm – 5:30pm (part of Welcome to our Woods). As well as community centres being used, we also hold sessions in schools, such as Aberdare Church Primary for children to take part in. Over the next few months we hope to make use of other community centres and communicate with local schools to increase the numbers of code clubs available.
Not only are we offering code club opportunities but we’ve also organised a digital festival that took place at the Llwynypia campus of Coleg y Cymoedd. Many local schools from the Rhondda attended to meet different businesses and universities from the tech industry. There were over 320 attendees at the event that had the opportunity to meet universities (Cardiff University and University of South Wales) and businesses, such as Webfibre and Hawthorne HCR. We are hoping to organise other events like this in the near future in Cynon and Rhondda.
For more Information regarding code clubs contact:
Porthcawl Parkrun & Bridgend County Borough Running League
In January we were contacted on behalf of Bridgend County Borough Running League – many of their members had commented that they had an excess of running kit, and they wanted to donate it to a good cause.
BCBRL were hosting their annual awards ceremony on Saturday 25th January 2020 and asked us along to take their donations. As many of the runners were running at Porthcawl Parkrun prior to their awards ceremony, we decided to open up our donation bins to everyone who was at parkrun.
The weather was freezing! But it didn’t stop many runners bringing along lots of their old kit that still had plenty of life left in it. As always, we explained prior to the event that we are happy to take ALL SPORTS RELATED DONATIONS! Subsequently, we had our first set of skis donated!
In total we received approximately 1200 units of clothing and equipment donated to us.
We received nearly 400 race t-shirts, which we’re hoping to recycle into alternative items to raise awareness of the importance of sustainability at running events. This was echoed by the BCBRL in their awards ceremony – no t-shirts were given as prizes, instead winners were given wooden trophies, biodegradable and with a smaller carbon footprint.
Due to the success of this donation we are now going to be at Pontypridd Parkrun on February 22nd February and at Bryn Bach Parkrun on March 28th 2020.
These items are then put for sale in Too Good To Waste in Ynyshir (near Porth) at affordable prices, so everyone can afford to buy the kit they need to take part in sport. The money raised from these sales then supports local sporting projects, such as walking rugby.
For more information on Play It Again Sport, please contact Natasha Burnell:
Natasha.Burnell@peopleandwork.org.uk or 07375 894007
Cardiff Half Marathon 2019 took place on Sunday October 6th. Prior to the event we were contacted by Run 4 Wales and asked to support them.
During the Cardiff half marathon contestants can throw their clothes into a donation bin. These are then donated to a charity. This year we were the charity of choice. The volume of clothes that is donated is dependent on the weather. For example, if it is very cold, contestants tend to keep their over layers on to keep them warm or if it is too hot then contests may only wear what they intend to run in.
Participants are made aware that any clothing they remove is donated to a local charity.
We filled a van with the clothes, which were then sorted by local volunteers from Treorchy library. This was done by filtering items to see what was suitable for resale and what needed to be recycled. This was an interesting task as people had mistaken the donation bins for actual rubbish bins so we had everything from bacon rolls to banana peels amongst sweatshirts and hoodies!
The clothes that were suitable to be sold were then sent to Parc Prison (which has a partnership deal with our partners, Too Good To Waste) where the prisoners washed the clothes – this is part of the prison’s scheme where prisoners can earn money for the work they do, and is part of their rehabilitation process. The prison was perfect for this as they have the capacity to process the volume of clothing we had.
When the clothes were returned to us, the volunteers then helped hang and price the clothing. This was a tremendous help – we would have struggled to do it on our own. This volunteering event was covered by BBC Wales and you can find the link here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/cymrufyw/50368765 (Welsh website); https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000b7wc (Radio Cymru in Welsh – listen at 45:30).
These items were then put out for sale in Too Good to Waste. The money raised from this pays for sporting activities to be delivered in the Rhondda.
We would be more than happy to support events like these in the future and if you would like us to be at your event please find our contact details below.
Contact: James.Watts-Rees@peopleandwork.org.uk 07392 072115
Over the last couple of months People and Work charity has been involved with many projects, one of these was a walking rugby tournament where teams from across the UK turned up to play on a Friday evening.
The Upper Rhondda Colliers Walking Rugby team was created in partnership with People & Work, Martyn Broughton of Active Nutrition and Welcome To Our Woods, a third sector organisation operating in the upper Rhondda Valley tackling issues such as health, wellbeing, mental health, skills and jobs, helping people within the community gain valuable life and employment skills.
The kit that we played in was sponsored by local companies, The Lion Hotel and Selsig Travel, for which we are extremely grateful. Without these sponsors we would not be able to have had our brand new kit for this tournament and all future tournaments: it really helps to build a team identity and unite us.
The walking rugby tournament was hosted in Treorchy School by the Upper Rhondda Colliers and was supported by volunteers and the Welsh Rugby Union. The night was a great success with teams attending from Cambrian, Kingswood, Taff’s Well and many others.
The aim of walking rugby is to engage people in a fun physical way which also positively impacts on mental health. As it is open to all ages and all abilities we believe this sport is for everyone.
After every walking rugby training session we all go for some food or a coffee, which we as a community feel is really important to unwind with friends around us. This is used to extend the bond from the rugby pitch into friendship
One of the players stated that “walking rugby has introduced me back into rugby which I hadn’t played since school, I also enjoy the banter and good exercise during the week”.
We meet every week at The Play Yard in Ynyswen between 11 am and 12 pm and would love to see new faces, male or female, and any age.
In the coming months we are looking to set up numerous clubs and activities such as a chess club, and Polish language club, which will be run by young people. If you have any ideas or would like to take part, please get in touch with us.
Contact: James.Watts-Rees@peopleandwork.org.uk 07392 072115