TSL Kirklees has been integral in helping Kirklees Council set-up and co-ordinate its Covid19 Community Response. TSL Kirklees is a charity and membership organisation that represents charities, community groups and social enterprises in Kirklees and offers free networking, training and support.
Chief Officer, Val Johnson said, ‘We were in an ideal position to help with this urgent response as we already work in partnership with Kirklees Council to help them support and grow the voluntary and community sector, and we know and work with a large proportion of the local groups and organisations that deliver many of the key services in our communities.
‘The Council was suddenly having to try and deal with thousands of people who wanted to volunteer and help out, and lots of new mutual aid groups who wanted to support local people with things like shopping and picking up medicines and prescriptions.
‘We were able to make use of our existing infrastructure to sign-post volunteers to where they were most needed and offer support and guidance to the new groups who were out there helping.’
TSL Kirklees had already engaged eight ‘Community Anchors’ across Kirklees for a different project to work alongside health colleagues and their communities. These groups were ideally placed to make links between the Council and the mutual aid groups and ensure that calls from the Council’s helpline were being dealt with by the most appropriate people.
TSL’s Community Learning Manager, Bridget Hughes has been managing this part of the response and working with both the community anchors and the mutual aid groups on a daily and weekly basis since the beginning of lockdown. She said, ‘This has been a big job. There are 126 mutual aid groups that we know about and they’re all working in slightly different ways. We’ve been able to help by offering guidance and training with things like safeguarding, risk assessments, and infection control. Early on when volunteers were being challenged about being out and about and doing lots of shopping, we were able to provide letters of authorisation and temporary ID badges. We’ve been able to understand their issues and challenges and broker solutions with the Council on their behalf.’
The community anchors are all established and experienced local charities and social enterprises. They are covering different areas of Kirklees offering additional mentoring and practical help to their local mutual aid groups. The eight organisations are Yorkshire Children’s Centre, Denby Dale Centre, More in Common, Paddock Trust, Huddersfield Mission, Holmfirth Tech, Local Services to You, and Colne Valley Care Co-operative.
Bridget said, ‘Many of these groups don’t have a constitution or a bank account because they’re brand new and mainly made up of ordinary people doing extraordinary things for their neighbours. Our Community Anchors therefore have been able to apply for funding and hold the money on their behalf. They’ve struggled with things like phone lines and taking payments, and again the anchors have been able to help.’
Councillor Rob Walker, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care at Kirklees Council said “It’s humbling to see how people have pulled together during these unprecedented times. TSL Kirklees and Kirklees Council continue to provide a coordinated approach to the delivery of much need essential items like food and medicine to those that are self-isolating or more vulnerable. It’s not only about the tangible items, but staff and volunteers are also helping support the well-being of residents and checking in on them regularly. I am so very proud of our communities and these actions can only make them stronger when the pandemic is over.”
TSL Kirklees has a team of 16 staff, who mostly on specific projects, and they too have been working hard as part of the response.
TSL’s Chair, Hilary Thompson said, ‘Our staff have done fantastic work at very short notice. Our Migration Team have managed to create virtual versions of their services for refugees and asylum seekers and have helped create Covid19 information videos in different languages. Our core team have been helping organisations find the funding and support they need and have been collecting intelligence and advocating on behalf of local charities. Our volunteering team have been finding new and innovative ways for people to volunteer from home, such as writing letters to people in care homes and hospitals. Our community learning team have been supporting initiatives to provide free courses and activities for people who are isolating at home. And they’ve even had time to partner with one of our members to set up a phone wellbeing support service for all the wonderful Covid19 community volunteers.
‘We’ve been blown away by the levels of response and community spirit in Kirklees. And we’d like to thank everyone who has stepped up and played a part, no matter how small. This demonstrates everything that’s great about our very diverse sector and shows just what can be achieved when everyone pulls together.
‘What we need everyone to focus on now is what happens during the next phase and the longer-term future. What sort of support will people need once the urgent practical things have been resolved? How do we make the most of people’s enthusiasm and desire to help? And how do we support the small local groups, community centres, clubs and charities that we’ll need more than ever to help us get back on track after lockdown?’