Agenda item

Breckland Community Funding Applications (Standing item) (Agenda item 10)

Councillor Mark Robinson, Executive Member for Community, Leisure & Culture.


To consider any applications put forward, and to receive an update on the community grants that have been provided during Covid-19.



Councillor Mark Robinson, the Executive Member for Community, Leisure and Culture provided Members with an update on the work that had been undertaken within his Portfolio in respect of the Covid-19 outbreak.


At the end of March 2020 following lockdown the Council had worked as part of a countywide partnership to establish the Community Hub.


The Hub sought to ensure that vulnerable residents in Breckland had access to essential supplies such as food and medicine and was operational within a week.


Over 50 Breckland staff had been redeployed from roles across the Council to ensure those that needed help were supported with welfare calls·


The Hub worked in close partnership with community groups and local businesses that had begun to mobilise in response to the growing pandemic. As part of the Council’s existing programme to support vulnerable residents, some partners re-purposed to ensure that they could continue to offer support, for example:


·        The Daisy Programme, funded by the Council, to support victims of Domestic Abuse quickly moved to offer online counselling as well as continuing its therapeutic singing groups which were held using Zoom.


·        ‘Tripstart’ adapted by delivering essential prescriptions from Pharmacies to residents· Many other local businesses also donated food for onward distribution and Norwich City FC provided approximately 200 food parcels· A decision had already been taken to allocate £10,000 to Foodbanks to help support this aim.


This he felt had been one of the greatest collective efforts the District had ever seen.


Every Breckland resident had been sent a letter explaining how to access support if they needed it, over 500 prescriptions had been picked up and medication delivered, approximately 400 food packages had been delivered and 3000 calls had been made to vulnerable Breckland residents·


These figures were just those that had gone through via the Community Hub, many more residents had been helped directly by Foodbanks and Community Groups.


Breckland Council had sought to support the community where possible including, awarding a £5,000 grant to Norfolk Accident Rescue Service (NARS), to help continue its vital work in supporting the emergency services and saving lives in the community.  This Dereham-based charity was now celebrating its 50th year serving the community and was currently experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for its services provided by a group of highly trained volunteer advanced clinicians. This was a crucial time for them to receive this grant as all of the traditional fundraising channels had been cut off almost instantaneously due to the pandemic.


It was now time to start planning for the future to establish how this authority could continue to support its vulnerable residents.  A decision had been taken by the Cabinet, prior to this pandemic, to prioritise a vulnerability programme. This programme covered four main themes: county lines, social isolation and loneliness, domestic abuse and mental health.


A number of these significant issues had been exacerbated by the current pandemic making the programme more important than ever and those who had already been in contact were being closely monitored.


Another way in which the Council had reacted to the current situation was to provide short term financial support to help those in a position of hardship due to the pandemic via the development of a Local Hardship Scheme.


This scheme had been allocated £50,000 and supported emergency food provision and essential white goods or emergency repairs for those households who had been financially constrained as a result of the pandemic.


To date, 20 cases had been identified by Officers through the Community Support Hub as needing assistance, all of which had been approved - 16 had been for emergency food provision and 4 had been for essential household items.


The Council was reviewing how it could build on the partnership arrangements with other organisations to have a better understanding of vulnerability and working collaboratively with Adult Social Services for example to address such matters.


Prior to the pandemic the Council provided funding to 66 community groups to celebrate the 75 VE Day anniversary although the current situation prohibited many proceeding with their planned celebrations. However, at this stage, it was still intended for the community groups to retain this funding, which could still be used for the anniversary of VJ Day on 15th August 2020.


On 27th February 2020, Full Council approved the Cabinet recommendation to allocate £250,000 per annum from the Inclusive Growth Reserve to the Market Town Initiative. This would be allocated equally, with £50,000 funding being ring-fenced each year for each of the five towns and decisions on spend would be carried out in consultation with a forum of local district councillors twice a year.


Finally, Councillor Robinson offered his thanks to the community groups for their support, the businesses that had adapted and to the Council staff who had responded magnificently to help with the Covid-19 outbreak.