Today marks one year since community hub Burnley Together was launched, providing vital support to more than 17,000 contacts as an emergency response to the COVID pandemic.
Burnley Together was created by several partners in the area, including Calico Homes, as a temporary community hub to assist those in need during the height of lockdown. The service was set up within 72 hours and began supporting the public from Monday 23 March.
With some vulnerable people shielding and unable to leave their homes, and others dealing with financial changes and health concerns, residents found themselves facing new levels of worry and uncertainly.
As part of The Calico Group, we already had direct access to many resources, including support for homelessness and those experiencing domestic abuse. By utilising this expertise alongside the housing service, this has provided an invaluable contribution to the hub.
The general support offered ranges from food parcels and prescription collections to housing and debt advice, mental health support and anything inbetween. Volunteers and staff members, including many from our Homes and Ring Stones teams who gave up their own free time to help, worked tirelessly around the clock to assist the community during the first few months of the COVID crisis.
We became the lead delivery partner on the phone service, re-purposing staff to man the essential telephone support line, taking inbound calls and directly reaching out frequently to those who are shielding within the local community. This helps to ensure that vulnerable people still have the continuous support they need.
Our community centre on Valley Street in South West Burnley was quickly utilised as a centre for food donations to be organised, processed and packed, alongside the office space at Valley Street being used for Burnley Together volunteers and staff to work in an accessible, COVID-secure environment.
As the year progressed, we soon discovered that the need was much greater than first anticipated, helping more than 2,500 Burnley households with food parcels in April 2020 alone – those numbers then continued to rise on a daily basis.
In the past year, our service has had a tangible positive impact and continues making a real difference to people’s lives. This includes through the summer holiday scheme, providing 250 families with activity packs, including equipment and ‘Activity Challenge’ cards for families to take part in and fill out, and providing 19,551 meals in the form of family food parcels during the 6-week holiday period.
Alongside a successful Christmas gift appeal, which resulted in 8,000 gifts and £7,000 being donated by various businesses, individuals and charities, Burnley Together has offered support to young carers, helped to tackle loneliness and liaised directly with every person on the local shielding list, amongst many other daily requests.
Through Burnley Together, we have been able to further engage and forge positive relationships with their existing customers, many who may not have otherwise approached them directly, simply assuming that their query wasn’t something a housing association could offer support with.
As 2021 has progressed, Burnley Together has evolved and developed into what is seen as an essential service for the long-term recovery of the town. Last month, our hub received 656 requests for support through its telephone service, alongside 220 through social media and the Burnley Together website.
One customer said: “I can’t thank you enough – some days I didn’t eat for 3-4 days at a time because I had no money left for food. If it wasn’t for the service, I would not have survived. Thank you so much. I have referred a number of friends who I knew were needing support. You are brilliant, I can’t say enough about how you helped me.”
Mark Beach, Managing Director at Calico Homes, says: “As part of The Calico Group, one of our core values is around going one step further for our customers. This includes offering support that extends beyond housing when required. Sadly, we also know that the requests for support are not slowing down and we’ll be here for the people of Burnley as long as they need us.”
Alicia Foley, Community Investment Manager at Calico Homes, says: “I’ve been directly involved with Burnley Together from the very beginning. We don’t have a prescribed list of support on offer as the service is customer-led and person centered. In short, we say to people, ‘if you don’t know what to do, we can help’. When we don’t have the immediate answers, we go and find them. Seeing first-hand how hard our volunteers and staff are working to provide support for their community is a privilege.