Rapid community response bears fruit

Rapid community response bears fruit

girl looking depressed

Back in March, the Trustees of the Evelyn Trust agreed a fund a rapid response to the pandemic using a tripartite approach. Funds were made available for projects in three categories: COVID 19-related medical research; mental health support for NHS staff; and community health and wellbeing.

A call out across the Cambridgeshire voluntary sector produced a great response and eight community-based health and wellbeing projects were chosen for a £5,000 emergency grant.

“The projects targeted a variety of client groups, but common themes quickly emerged. These included a huge surge in demand locally for health and wellbeing services, plus an almost overnight fall in charity income - partly because lockdown made essential fundraising events impossible. An urgent need to rebuild service delivery models to make online delivery a reality was also universal, but often costly in terms of IT support. As we have tracked these projects over the last six months, we’ve seen clear evidence of the financial and psychological impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged individuals and families and the great work our charity partners have done to help, support and advise,” explains Bill Pike, Charity Director for the Evelyn Trust.

All the projects have made an immediate difference and produced tangible results. At the Cogwheel Trust, they used the grant to good effect for extra IT support. The charity also commissioned emergency training to allow their counsellors to move to an online counselling offer while meeting the stringent requirements of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy for safe, effective online counselling.

The Cambridge and District Citizen’s Advice Bureau has worked hard to move all appointments to online or by telephone and while this is challenging for volunteers who work face-to-face, it has meant that clients can be supported safely. It has also helped to increase productivity at a time of increased demand. In an average week the team have been meeting remotely with 400 people – up from 180 at this time last year. The charity forecasts a 37% increase in clients in 2020 compared to 2019.

The pandemic and lockdown has had a serious impact on the mental health of local young people. Young people’s charity Centre 33 has seen an increase of 20% in requests for support and the severity of problems reported is worsening. There is an increase in severe mental illness and suicide risk, plus young people report financial issues and troubling conflict at home. Using funding from the trust, Centre 33 has implemented a remote digital offer for 1:1s, workshops etc. The cost of the move to remote working has been high, with training expenses, some essential new equipment, plus increased telephone and software costs.

“We’ve been impressed by the way all our charity partners have mobilised their resources to deliver over and above during this exceptional crisis. And all this in the face of reduced income, in some cases a loss of volunteers or staff and unpredictable increases in demand. We’re proud that our emergency grants have been put to such good use across Cambridgeshire,” adds Bill. 

Subscribe to our mailing list

View previous newsletters