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STAFFORDSHIRE: Voluntary sector support

STAFFORDSHIRE: Voluntary sector support

Photo by Staffordshire LDR Kerry Ashdown

Voluntary groups supporting Cannock Chase residents are to be given a helping hand to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Many community organisations stepped up to help vulnerable and self-isolating people during the past two years, but now some groups and service users are facing other challenges.

Some volunteers who had provided support to their community while furloughed from their jobs may have returned to work, while others may be unable to resume face to face meetings in the venues they previously used if they have remained closed or are continuing to restrict gatherings.

A report to Cannock Chase Council’s cabinet said: “Some volunteers who ran long standing activities were themselves isolating due to their age and health conditions and, while some of these organisations continued to function ‘virtually’, restarting their traditional face to face activities has been challenging.

“Some people who had previously attended events and regular activities organised by volunteers had also been isolating due to their age and health conditions and need to be supported to give them confidence to return to face to face participation.”

Support Staffordshire, which assists charities, community groups and voluntary organisations, already provides services in Cannock Chase as part of its contract with Staffordshire County Council.

And Cannock Chase Council is set to fund an additional five hours’ service a week for 16 months to enable Support Staffordshire to work in the district with local organisations recovering from the pandemic.

Cabinet members approved a £11,150 grant for Support Staffordshire at their meeting on Thursday (November 11). The money will come from Government funding given to local authorities to respond to the pandemic.

The cabinet report said: “The additional funding recommended will allow Support Staffordshire to continue to provide an enhanced support service, but with greater emphasis placed on advising on whether the district might benefit from the establishment of ‘anchor’ arrangements.

“Some other districts and boroughs in the county have established ‘anchor organisation’ arrangements which help to co-ordinate voluntary sector activity. This proved especially valuable during period of lockdown and shielding.

“Other districts and boroughs, including Cannock Chase, do not have such anchor organisations. This resulted in signposting having to be undertaken by officers of the district council based on local knowledge. While this was done during to meet demands of the pandemic, by re-allocating officers to this activity it is not a sustainable model as, under normal circumstances, there is very limited capacity for this work.

“The strength of existing networks is variable across the district. There is a good infrastructure operating across Rugeley and Brereton, including Good Neighbour schemes. There are also close working relationships in Chadsmoor, Heath Hayes and Wimblebury and other local communities.

“The south of the district, around Cannock town centre and the east, and around Hednesford, have a much more limited infrastructure. If anchor arrangements could be established to cover the district, this would help to signpost people to the support available and give, particularly smaller voluntary sector organisations, an infrastructure to work within.”

Words: Kerry Ashdown, Local Democracy Reporter


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