Working together to support communities

Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA) has played a leading role alongside Cheshire West and Chester Council in the coordinated community response to coronavirus (COVID-19).

CWVA has nearly 700 members across west Cheshire, offering valuable support around good practice, volunteering, funding and forming partnerships with local businesses.

The Council and CWVA have been looking at additional ways they can work in partnership over the last couple of months to improve on the already well-established relationship.

And the current COVID-19 crisis has only highlighted how important it is that they work closely together to support communities.

Since an online form was launched by CWVA and the Council for residents in west Cheshire to volunteer in their communities to tackle COVID-19, more than 1,800 people have pledged their support.

With help from the Council and its resources, CWVA has managed to signpost around 800 people to charities and community initiatives in their area and many other residents have been given the advice and support needed to become good neighbours in their own communities.

By the Council, CWVA and the rest of the voluntary and community sector working in partnership, it has made sure vulnerable residents across west Cheshire have been able to access the resources they need during these challenging times.

How the partnership has made a real difference

  • A bespoke system has been developed to capture the support each person needs as they contact a virtual Community Hub, which is available to high-risk, vulnerable or isolated residents. By working closely with the Council, the existing contact centre has been used, with the new system in place to make sure people are signposted where they need support. This new service was set up in the space of just two weeks, with social care, medicine and befriending key parts of the process.
  • A volunteer database has been set up to capture the offers of support as part of a coordinated community response, with CWVA signposting volunteers to charities and community groups in the voluntary and community sector. There are aims to build on this community offer and spirit after COVID-19 to help reenergise volunteering across west Cheshire, particularly around areas of interest shown on the database. CWVA is supporting with communication to both volunteers and community initiatives to make sure both audiences are kept informed about the latest advice and guidance.
  • Various channels of support have been set up for food distribution. The Live Well Cheshire West website, a partnership between the Council and NHS, has been expanded and promoted to include valuable information for communities, such as online food deliveries, accessing services and much more.
  • The befriending offer across west Cheshire has been expanded and involves Council staff, trustees of charities and community groups, leading people in the voluntary and community sector, business people and volunteers in the community.
  • CWVA is involved in several different meetings with the Council to make sure the voluntary and community sector is represented to help form a bigger picture of services and offers from all sectors.
  • CWVA helped broker the Westminster Foundation’s donation to the Council’s Community Response Fund, which is now worth £500,000 and supports community initiatives across west Cheshire responding to COVID-19. CWVA is also supporting decisions made on applications for the Community Response Fund.

CWVA has supported all these projects while continuing to provide the same level of support for its members as it normally would.

Clare Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive of Cheshire West Voluntary Action, said: “It’s been a very challenging time for CWVA and our sector, but the growing partnership with the Council has been a significant help.

“COVID-19 has probably brought CWVA and the Council closer together than ever before and I think it’s shown the real strengths that different sectors bring.

“With the capacity and ability to repurpose staff as part of the coordinated community response, the Council has made a big difference in how we’ve been able to cope with the current situation.

“This type of collaborative working is something we all strive for and I’m sure our relationship will continue to improve during and after COVID-19.”

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, added: “CWVA and the rest of the voluntary and community sector provide an incredibly valuable service for our communities all year round.

“The work they’re continuing to do during these times has been an integral part of the coordinated community response in west Cheshire.

“The knowledge and experience that people and organisations in the voluntary and community sector have has really helped to find out what need there is in our communities.

“We’ve recently launched our online platform Inspire Cheshire West, which is a great way for community groups and charities to highlight the work they’re doing in our communities.

“We all recognise the different qualities and expertise various sectors offer and that’s why it’s so important we all work closely with one another.

“We’ve been working closely with CWVA to build on our partnership and I’m sure it will continue to grow for many years to come.”

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