Stronger Communities and Community Response to COVID19 Update




1.0          Purpose of Report


1.1       To provide Members with an update on the Stronger Communities Programme and the support provided to and by local communities in response to the COVID19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, and an overview of progress made in the Scarborough & Whitby Constituency area. 


2.0       Background


2.1       In March 2020, the Stronger Communities Team were tasked with developing and mobilising community support infrastructure in response to the COVID19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.  With a national lockdown imminent and those classified as clinically extremely vulnerable being advised to shield, it was imperative that a ‘safety net’ of community based support and assistance was in place for people who did not have friends, family or neighbours to call upon.


2.2       Working with 23 key trusted voluntary sector partners across the County and drawing upon the existing, sound working relationships in place, the community support infrastructure was mobilised in four days.  The 23 Community Support Organisations (CSOs) were requested to act as the single point of contact within a locality, and in conjunction with local networks, commenced coordination of a variety of volunteer led support services.  This included the collection and delivery of shopping and prescriptions, caring for pets, offering regular social contact by telephone, and acting as a local agent for the COVID-19 Self-Isolation Grant.  The CSO also provided support to local networks and action groups (for example Mutual Aid Groups) that had come together to assist in their communities, providing information, advice and guidance to ensure that all activity was delivered as safely as possible for both the volunteer and the beneficiary.  


2.3       In addition to this, North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) extended opening hours to include weekends and public holidays to ensure that support was in place 7 days per week between 8.00am and 5.30pm.  This has been primarily delivered by the Customer Service Centre and Stronger Communities, in conjunction with Team North Yorkshire Volunteers and NHS Responder Volunteers where appropriate.   


2.4       Alongside intensive support from their local Delivery Manager, funding has also been provided to all CSOs, using national covid outbreak management grants, which has enabled them to continue to operate and has ensured that support has been available to residents throughout the pandemic.  Although the generic support offer is universally available across the County, the model of delivery varies dependent on local need and community assets available.  A number of CSOs have evolved their delivery model; either reconfiguring their services, or developing new ways of working in order to continue to provide support within the varying levels of restrictions we have seen over the last two years.


2.5       Despite the ever-changing landscape, community support infrastructure through the CSO network has remained in place since March 2020. Following the national lifting of restrictions on 24 February regarding self-isolation requirements discussions are in place with the CSOs regarding either winding down or scaling back their pandemic response activities. This may see some CSOs winding down their pandemic services in a managed way however a majority are interested in building on the successful model and developing it further as an effective place based ‘hub’ that contributes to health and well-being services and pressures. Provision is in place to continue to work with the network of CSOs over this coming months to support them through this transition.



3.0       Community Support Organisation Performance (2021/22)


3.1       Since the mobilisation of the community support model in March 2020, the following activity has been recorded via the 23 CSOs across North Yorkshire to date, primarily facilitated by approximately 203,272 volunteer hours:

·           23,301 prescriptions delivered;

·           36,288 shopping deliveries made;

·           61,319 befriending calls and 33,990 phone check ins made;

·           17,311 transport requests fulfilled; and

·           48,923 meals delivered and 11,281 food parcels distributed.


3.2       As part of the community support offer, CSOs administer the Covid19 North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund (NYLAF) grant; this was set up as a way of addressing emergency food and utility support needs for individuals and households isolating or shielding across North Yorkshire during the Covid-19 pandemic.


3.3       This financial year, the scheme has received 391 applications, and has approved             375 of these (96%), totalling £42,615 of expenditure.


3.4       In addition to this, Stronger Communities have distributed £119,599 in Covid19 Community Grants (to date in 2021/22).  This investment has allowed communities and charities to respond to the needs of their communities during periods of heightened restrictions; examples of which have included support services to help people to self-isolate, have access to food and supplies, and stay connected to people through technology.  Grants have also been used to support groups to re-open some services and activities where they were able to confidently operate in a covid-safe and compliant way, helping people to regain confidence and independence, and to re-engage in their communities.


4.0         Covid19 Related Work


4.1         Sustainable Food Support

            In 2020/21, the County Council was awarded £532,000 via the Defra Local Authority Emergency Assistance Grant for Food and Essential supplies to support those facing financial hardship because of the pandemic.  48 grants (investment of £277,000) were made available over two funding rounds, to further support and expand the direct provision of food for people experiencing financial hardship.  Additional capacity was also put in to Citizens Advice Mid North Yorkshire’s Money and Benefits Advice Service and North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund (NYLAF).


4.2       In summer 2021, additional funding was secured to deliver the Food for the Future programme, which aims to embed local sustainable food support options, which also support beneficiaries to build their levels of confidence and independence.  An additional 19 awards were made to voluntary and community sector partners across the County through this programme.   


4.3         In order to better understand the food insecurity landscape in the region, Stronger Communities are currently scoping a joint piece of insight work with City of York Council. Initial discussions on this with Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) and Hartlepower (a Hartlepool based organisation currently developing and delivering a similar piece of research) have taken place and further work will commence shortly.


4.4       Holiday Activities and Food Programme

Stronger Communities continue to lead on the delivery of this programme, which was launched with the branding of FEAST (Food, Entertainment, Arts & Sport Together) in partnership with Children and Young People’s Service (CYPS) and the voluntary and community sector.  Coordination of the programme has been undertaken by North Yorkshire Together who in conjunction with a network of locally placed clubs and community organisations, deliver a range of enriching activities over holiday periods.  This is alongside a host of online resources being made available for families to enjoy.  Over the festive break, 2221 children benefitted from activities delivered through the Programme.   


4.5       In December, the Department of Education confirmed funding for the continuation of the Holiday Activity and Food Programme (FEAST) until March 2025 and plans are underway with Children and Young People’s Early Help team to deliver the programme over the next three years.


4.6       Household Support Fund

            The Household Support Fund administered by The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) aims to assist households who may need support with food, energy and essential living costs whilst the economy recovers from the pandemic.  NYCC was allocated £3.54 million to provide support over the winter period (from October 2021 to March 2022), which is structured in to four main areas of provision in North Yorkshire:

·           E-Voucher Direct Award – a total investment of £2.68million to make a £275 shopping voucher available to all households in receipt of means tested Council Tax Relief (CTR) with a child under 19.

·           Food Bank Winter Support Fund – an investment of £145,000 to 14 organisations across the County to increase the capacity of food supply to those in need.

·           Warm and Well – an additional £220,000 for Warm and Well to provide energy top up vouchers / direct supplier payments to those in need.

·           North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund (NYLAF) – increasing the NYLAF budget by £250,000 in order to uplift the number of applications to a maximum of four until the end of March 2022.

            Interim monitoring undertaken in January 2022 showed that 12,083 households have       benefitted from the various support strands of the Household Support Fund so far.


4.7       Digital Inclusion

                Work on Reboot North Yorkshire continues to progress with a particular focus on enlisting the support of our local communities and voluntary sector groups as Community Partners to allow a network of community Reboot projects to grow and        develop across the county.  Working with internal colleagues and external partners, 415 devices have been gifted to socially isolated individuals to date, with an             additional 200 devices distributed to school children.  Reboot North Yorkshire continues to work closely with Citizens Online (CO) and their Digital Champion Coordinator for North Yorkshire.  The partnership with CO continues         to grow and has been extended for another 12 months until Feb 2023.


5.0         Wider Stronger Communities Programme Work



5.1         Children and Young People

            The Stronger Communities programme, in conjunction with Children and Young    People Service (CYPS), continue to lead and coordinate the school readiness pilot ‘Grow and Learn’ in Ryedale and Scarborough, with 50 small scale grants awarded to date this year. 

            The team also continues to work with the Early Help team from CYPS to develop and deliver a project that seeks to grow community capacity by working alongside and with our communities to stimulate, support and develop activities that enable children, young people and their families to be happy, healthy and achieving.  In autumn 2021, Stronger Communities supported the launch of CYPS’ Get Going Grant, seeking expressions of interest from community-based groups to deliver activities for young people, or families with young children.


5.2       Health and Wellbeing

Stronger Communities continues to strengthen its relationships with NHS partners            and has administered a range of NHS mental health grants for the last two years,   including grass roots suicide prevention, a self-harm co-design project and           postvention support.  The Suicide Prevention Grants Programmes for the Humber,      Coast and Vale Integrated Health Care System, and Harrogate and Craven were        launched by the team last year; 43 grants were awarded in early 2022, 32 of which        are in North Yorkshire.  The programme is also supporting the transformation of Community Mental Health programme in partnership with North Yorkshire and Vale of York CCGs. Stronger Communities also continues to develop strong working relationships with            social care colleagues, with sustained involvement in the Health and Adult Services    (HAS) Transformation Programme.


5.3       Capacity Building

                In parallel to COVID-19 community response work, the Stronger Communities      Programme has continued to strengthen local community assets and infrastructure;             this has included continuing to encourage relationships and collaborations between        voluntary and community sector organisations as well as stabilising, and / or building            capacity within them if required.  Since March 2020, the Programme has provided    specialist support to assist 14 VCSEs with work areas such as restructuring their      organisations, re-modelling their services and providing additional capacity for      fundraising; all of which have been crucial in trying to ensure their future sustainability, in one of the most challenging times for the sector in recent years


6.0         Planning for 2022/23


6.1       Independent Evaluation

            The Stronger Communities Programme is subject to a 5-year independent evaluation, conducted by Skyblue Research. Evaluation of the CSOs has now been encompassed within this, alongside continuing to develop our ten-year strategy, People, Place and Power.  Discussions on a strand of this Strategy, building on existing infrastructure and the creation of ‘Community Anchor Organisations’ in localities has been accelerated by the needs presented by Covid19 and the mobilisation of the CSOs; the fourth phase of evaluation with CSO volunteers commenced in late 2021, with some dedicated volunteer focus groups anticipated to take place in summer 2022.


7.0         Local Area Information


7.1         The Scarborough and Whitby Constituency area is covered by three Community   Support Organisations (CSOs); Age UK Scarborough & District and SWR Mind covering the southern area of the district,  Coast and Vale Community Action (CaVCA)  covering Whitby, and Revival North Yorkshire covering Esk Valley and villages such as Sleights and Staithes. There are currently 120 active volunteers supporting the CSOs in the area.


7.2         Working with local networks, partners and community response groups, CSOs have continued to provide a core offer of community support, including shopping and prescription delivery and befriending.  A number of their existing services have been expanded, or new services have been developed, in order to respond to the needs that have emerged within their localities.  The CSOs have also worked with partners to explore needs in their communities, for example Scarborough South CSO have been involved in winter pressure discussions, working alongside NYCC and health colleagues.


7.3         The CSOs continue to work with Stronger Communities to develop and deliver transition activity in order to help build people’s confidence and independence, and to support them to re-engage in their communities, particularly if they have been subject to periods of self-isolation over the last 12 months.  Examples of this in the Scarborough and Whitby area include:

·           Development of an activity programme comprising outdoor activities and indoor crafts, wellbeing and social activities in Scarborough South.

·           CaVCA has undertaken some wider work in the area with families, using their links with Grow and Learn (Section 5.2) and Hungry Little Minds, to help isolated new parents link into social activity and create a peer group support.

·           Revival North Yorkshire have delivered a variety of activities including arts and crafts, and hosted the North York Moors online group walks, and Zoom exercise classes in order to support older residents within the community.


7.4         £39,331 has been awarded in Covid19 Community Grants across the Scarborough district area to date this year, to support communities as they continue to respond to and recover from the pandemic, whilst adapting their activities accordingly.


7.5         Particular challenges as we emerge from the pandemic, including financial hardship and mental health support, will be key areas of focus for the CSOs moving forward.  However, there are new emerging and exciting opportunities for greater levels of collaboration and cross sector working for the CSOs, for example through the SeeCHANGE project, which aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people living in Scarborough.    


8.0       Recommendations


8.1       It is recommended that Members note the content of this report.



Marie-Ann Jackson

Head of Stronger Communities

North Yorkshire County Council

8 March 2022