Calderdale Council and its communities have been praised for their response to COVID-19 in a major national report about social connection during the crisis.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration has released a report looking at the impact of the pandemic on social isolation and how people are supporting each other across the country.
The cross-party group is made up of parliamentarians aiming to break down barriers to integration.
Its report shows that the COVID-19 outbreak has increased social isolation and feelings of loneliness. With more people communicating virtually, social distancing has also widened the gap between people who have digital access / skills and those who don’t.
However, the report also highlights the stronger community spirit that the pandemic has brought; the huge increase in volunteering; and the hard work of organisations to quickly and creatively support people.
It gives examples of innovative approaches that organisations are taking to support vulnerable residents and help people connect with each other during the COVID-19 outbreak. The aim is to help organisations learn from each other and seize opportunities for new ways of working in future.
Calderdale’s kindness, talent and enterprise shine throughout the report, with many examples of the borough’s response to COVID-19 highlighted as best practice:
- The brilliant joint working throughout Calderdale is ensuring that those most at risk are getting the support they need. The report gives the example of West Yorkshire Fire Service supporting the Council’s work by visiting vulnerable people.
- In early March, the Council developed a 10-point plan to drive the response to the crisis.
- In the early days of the outbreak, the Council created a virtual volunteer hub to get support to those who need it most. Over 900 volunteers have come forward so far. This gives an excellent basis for progressing the report’s recommendation to harness the legacy of the surge in volunteer numbers.
- The Council, working with a range of local organisations, has produced a printed leaflet and used volunteers to deliver them to every home in Calderdale, to give everyone the information they need to cope with the crisis. This supports the report’s recommendation to reduce digital exclusion, showing the importance of traditional ways of communicating to ensure nobody is left out.
- The Council led the way on the report’s recommendation to appoint a Cabinet-level political lead to oversee volunteering and responses to social isolation. Right from the outset of the pandemic, it expanded the role of Cllr Scott Patient, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Environment, to support the voluntary sector, building on the amazing community response to the floods.
Cllr Scott Patient said:
“We welcome the report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration. It shows just how important social connection is for everyone’s wellbeing. We know there are people struggling with social isolation and loneliness in Calderdale, and that the current situation is making things even harder for many.
“However, the report also talks about the amazing work that is being done to keep people safe and well, and I’m happy that Calderdale’s work has been recognised as national best practice.
“In my newly expanded role, I am proud to be working closely with Calderdale’s voluntary organisations. I am overwhelmed by the incredible response from our communities to look out for each other. It’s good to see that my new role has been highlighted in the report, as it shows the value of local leadership and collaboration on our work to tackle social isolation.”
Dipika Kaushal, Chief Executive Officer at Voluntary Action Calderdale, added:
“Our voluntary and community sector organisations and our communities across Calderdale have played a key role in supporting a range of local needs emerging from the COVID-19 crisis. The focus across this report echoes what our sector is seeing and reporting linked to the widening gap in inequalities and social isolation, whilst at the same time seeing some remarkable resilience and energy offering practical support and much needed social connection during these difficult times.
“As we move into a phase with both challenges and opportunities on the horizon, it will be particularly important that we focus on how we take the learning to re-energise social connectivity and integration using a variety of means to tackle inequalities and promote greater access to opportunities. This report sets out some key insights which will no doubt help local places to look at innovative and creative ways of bridging generational, economic and social divides.”
The report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration can be viewed here: Social connection in the COVID-19 crisis(external link).