Local groups to provide a verbal update on COVID-19 response activity and to discuss any future recovery plans
Councillor Renshell invited representatives of local partners to update the Board on their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board heard the following representations:
Zoe Macintosh – Citizens Advice Bureau AV
Zoe informed attendees that since 23 March, Citizens Advice Aylesbury Vale had been running a telephone advice service with the help of Councillor Funding, and utilising paid staff and volunteers in order to reach people in need of help whilst physical meetings had not been possible. During this period, there had been a marked increase in the number of clients seeking benefits, housing and employment related advice, particularly due to redundancy. Zoe explained that Citizens Advice was expecting to see a large increase in the number of clients with debt problems as a result and was already preparing for an increased capacity to process this expected upsurge in debt cases.
Joanna Anderson – St. Lawrence Church Food Bank
Joanna gave an overview of the work of the St Lawrence Church Food Bank to support 56 households at the peak of the lockdown, many of whom were self-referrals or referred for help through agencies. Owing to Council funding, the food bank was able to buy fresh products themselves in addition to public donations. The food bank continued to support 19 households but expected that this number would increase when the Government’s furlough subsidy scheme ended. In anticipation of this future increase, the food bank had been allocated a room at the Town Council offices from August to continue operations.
Joanna also explained to the meeting that the food bank was working with the outreach team at the health centre to get as clear an understanding of the potential future risks as possible, owing to interrelated issues such as benefits, housing and unemployment issues increasing the reliance on food banks for some in the community.
Victor Wright also briefly discussed the work of the Soulbury Helpers to repurpose a local restaurant in Woburn Sands into a community shop with the aid of Council Funding. This had been able to provide ready meals to vulnerable people in the local community in the absence of a dedicated village shop. This project had since evolved into a bi-weekly coffee morning, which raised money for charity and preserves community cohesion.
Margot Jackson - YC2
Margot informed the Board that she and her colleagues had been supporting 54 families in the local area, each with a young carer aged between 7 and 15 years old. She drew attendee’s attention to the great physical, financial and mental challenge it had been for many young carers during the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdown, some of whom were also dealing with their own complex needs or caring for family with complex needs.
YC2 had introduced a contact programme pairing volunteers with young carers to keep in touch with each week, and offering some respite from their extraordinary responsibilities with monthly games and activities packages whilst lockdown restrictions were in place. Margot also praised the work of local partnerships which have made their work possible, including the St Lawrence Church Food Bank, Buckingham Athletic FC, and the BP Garage who had each provided food to support particularly vulnerable families during lockdown. Finally, it was stressed to the Board the importance of mental health to the work of YC2, and the valuable support of Child Social Services to their work where this had been required.
Margot hoped that suitable, safe places could be sourced to meet young carers face to face as lockdown restrictions eased. This work would be undertaken collaboratively with Corrinna Martin - Family Services Community Coordinator.
Veronica Corben – Winslow Big Society
Veronica outlined the work of the Winslow Big Society to manage a team of volunteers to continue to provide a range of valuable services to residents of the Winslow and Villages area during the lockdown. During this time, the team of volunteers had grown by 40, to 150 total volunteers providing critical help to vulnerable residents. This had included 6500 medicine deliveries, 140 new people being supported on the telephone befriending service and 50 extra households paired with shopping buddies.
Veronica highlighted the constructive partnership with TESCO, which had enabled volunteer shoppers to purchase food on behalf of residents in need. The Winslow Big Society’s efforts had been bolstered by Council funding of £500, most of which had been used to support the partnership with the North Bucks Hospital Car Scheme, taking residents to their hospital appointments whilst public transport provision had been scaled back. It was stressed that any local resident in need of help in this way should get in touch.
A post-COVID-19 town meeting had been organised to reflect on future service provision, and efforts would be made to help vulnerable residents begin to transition back towards a more independent way of life as restrictions eased.
Following the updates, the Board thanked the representatives for their time, and noted their hard work in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.