Scrutiny review helps support borough’s economic recovery

Cllr Jane Scullion

The findings of a detailed Scrutiny review to assess the economic impact of the COVID pandemic in Calderdale are being presented to the Council’s Cabinet later this month.

In summer 2020, members of Calderdale Council’s Place Scrutiny Board agreed to review the economic inequalities arising from the COVID-19 pandemic in Calderdale and explore the ways this has impacted people’s lives.

Through a series of focus groups, members initially heard from those identified as being disproportionately impacted the crisis. Additional sessions also took place with voluntary and community sector groups and public sector staff supporting communities as part of the pandemic response. The review was then extended, with over 350 Calderdale residents taking part in an online survey to share their own experiences.

The findings of the review have helped develop a comprehensive picture of how the pandemic has affected people in Calderdale differently. The Place Scrutiny Board has also made a series of recommendations, which members of the Cabinet are asked to note and discuss to help inform the Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan. These include:

  • The development of a strategy to address the digital divide – the review found that the reliance on digital technology during the pandemic has isolated those who have low levels of digital literacy, have difficulty accessing equipment or lack reliable internet connections.
  • The provision of further support for young people to address key gaps in knowledge, skill development and training – the review identified that young people in work or education may have missed opportunities due to the pandemic.
  • The prioritisation of services and activities that promote good mental health and the development of a plan to resource mental health initiatives in the longer-term – although the review focused on economic inequalities, there were also concerns about increasing levels of poor mental health and social isolation.
  • The provision of effective support and financial advice for those with disabilities and families of young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) – specific points were raised as part of the review that related to the financial impact of COVID-19 on those with disabilities and families of children with SEND.

The Scrutiny Board also recommends work to support residents struggling with the financial impacts of COVID-19, in partnership with the voluntary and community sector. Additional support to enhance volunteering opportunities to support this sector is also encouraged.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, Cllr Jane Scullion, said:

“I’d like to thank the members of the Place Scrutiny Board for their thorough review into the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic. The evidence captured as part of their research will help inform our plan to support the borough in its economic recovery.

“I’d also like to show my gratitude to the many residents who took part in the research focus groups or completed the online survey. Some people have shared some powerful personal stories, demonstrating the many ways in which the pandemic has impacted upon the lives of Calderdale residents.

“I look forward to discussing the findings of the review and the ways in which we can further our support for people in Calderdale.”

The Place Scrutiny Board review of economic inequalities arising from COVID-19 will be discussed at the meeting of Calderdale Council’s Cabinet on Monday 29 March starting at 6pm. The meeting will be live streamed on the Council’s YouTube channel.

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