Awards Spotlight - Walsall Community Network
Introducing Walsall Community Network
Community Associations play a vital role in supporting people across Walsall. The programmes and services found at each Community Association are varied and often bespoke to respond to the local need. These centres and their dedicated staff are pillars of their local communities and provide invaluable support. Community Associations have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to the needs of the community through food parcels, befriending and deliveries (and much more), reaching out to the most vulnerable and creating positive impact.
What are some of the successes for your organisation or your local community over the recent months, what are you feeling positive about or inspired by and what valuable learning have you taken from the experience? Walsall Community Network has moved its partnership forward in the last 12 months with everyone working together as a true partnership.
It was decided within a few days of the COVID pandemic to continue the good work that the Making Connections model had been doing. The core principals were there, but it would need to be expanded on to reach the most needy and vulnerable throughout the pandemic. There were four main hubs who delivered food parcels, but it did not stop there, the other nine community organisations got involved setting up their own delivery services and offering help and support by way of befriending calls, health and wellbeing packs, book delivery services, etc. The list is endless of the services that the Walsall Community Network offered, and are still offering.
What challenges has your sector, or the community that you work with, been facing over the last six months or so? People have been on their own and have needed more help and support than they have ever needed before. They have felt lonelier and more isolated, sometimes going days without seeing anyone. Through lockdown there were no support services running within the centres so to go and take the services out was the next best thing.
How are you feeling about the next six months? What opportunities/challenges to you foresee, what do you need to be able to move forward and flourish after the last few months?
I foresee a big problem with mental health and wellbeing as even the strongest of people have been affected by the emotional stress of the COVID-19 outbreak, all age ranges have been affected and I think it will take a long time to get back to some sort of normality.
I think there will be a huge rise in unemployment which will really hit people hard, everyone will be in very uncertain times with a lack of money. This will have a huge social impact on people’s lives. We run a foodbank at Brownhills and already there is an increase in people in need. This will get worse as time goes on and will have a knock-on effect with relationships. People will be living in more poverty than they have ever known.
What is your proudest moment from the work you have done in your community?
I would like to celebrate the work that has been achieved by the Walsall Community Network over the last twelve months. The working relationships with councillors and council, who have worked very closely with us as a network, has helped this partnership to get stronger and stronger. The Network members have shared lots of best practice and supported each other throughout the pandemic.
We were fortunate enough to be awarded a lottery bid for the Walsall Community Network to continue and expand on the good work that has been going on through the lockdown period. A grant of £100k was awarded by the COVID-19 support fund. This has allowed us to continue to take food parcels to those most in need, make those befriending calls, which are so important in letting people know there is someone who will listen, someone they can just have a chat with, or someone who can refer them to other services if needed. Our book delivery service has allowed people to continue reading throughout lockdown, children’s activity packs are being pushed through letter boxes, security packs are being delivered letting people know how to keep safe through the darker nights (and who to call should they need help) and our prescription collection and delivery service is continuing. All good community services that we enormously proud to deliver.
Walsall Community Network have a WhatsApp group where we share good news stories, ask for advice, or just say hi, there is always someone who will answer so we are helping to support each other as well as our residents and loved ones.
Is there anything that you would like to add about how your organisations have worked within and across communities during the COVID-19 pandemic? Walsall Community Network has community organisations across the four localities in Walsall, we are making sure that the needs of our local residents are met, just because one area has a need it does not mean that all areas have the same need. This is when the partnership comes together, we are diverse in our approach and that is what makes it work.
This is true partnership working, something I think that is very special to Walsall.