Rotherham’s Bright Lights – Responding to the coronavirus

As a Community Catalyst I spend most of my time working with different parts of the community and so it is no surprise to me that the community in its broadest sense has responded so courageously to what is an unknown situation. In such difficult times it is crucial to recognise these amazing acts or ‘bright lights’ as it is this response that will see our society through.

Keeping our communities going is more important than ever…in these dark times, we all need to look for those little beacons of light as we strive to support each other as best we can.

Angela Catley (Community Catalysts – Director of Development)

Rotherham is filled with these bright lights and every Rotherham Council employee, NHS worker, supermarket staff, volunteer and countless others are all part of the Rotherham community and all deserve recognition for their tireless efforts.

Many have found new ways to collaborate such as the launch of the Rotherham Heroes Volunteer Programme which is a partnership between Rotherham Council, Voluntary Action Rotherham and the Rotherham Together Partnership to coordinate local heroes to ensure others in the community get the help they need.

We have all had to drastically change the way we work in the current climate. For our project in Rotherham (supporting a number of community enterprises who provide a great range of options for people with a learning disability) that has meant collating the crucial advice and information we are receiving from a range of sources to share with enterprise leaders. We have utilised our ‘Small Good Stuff’ website – www.smallgoodstuff.co.uk to provide up to date information and help-sheets on things such as communication technology options. We have also worked alongside our partners at Rotherham Council and the community enterprises to support them both in the crucial roles they are playing.

It has been an inspiration to see the response from the entrepreneurs in Rotherham who have yet again proved their impact and the key role they have in contributing to the wider community resilience. As I was sending information on business contingency planning, they were already actioning different ways of working with the wellbeing of their members being the driving factor. Contingency plans have included regular and often daily contact with their members, activity packs or online workshops, utilising new communication technology and supporting people and their families with things like shopping and providing crucial updates and information.

They have also supported each other and made suggestions to help on a wider scale by offering staff, resources, equipment and their buildings to support the wider response. Furthermore, they have done this while facing uncertainty on their own futures and under extreme pressures on the sustainability on their business.

The response has been across all enterprises and is too vast to capture it all here but some of the amazing responses have included:-

  • Speakup (www.speakup.org.uk) have been key contributors in sharing information across the community such as the promotion of hospital passports and are currently working on some easy read material that will be of great help to many people in Rotherham (please see further information here – www.speakup.org.uk/coronavirus). They have utilised modern technology with some people experiencing online meetings for the first time through their daily zoom meetings and WhatsApp group. They have gone on to do group singing and yoga, some of their members have created and run a quiz and all of this in addition to daily phone calls to all members to check how they are and if there is anything they need.
  • Parity Care (www.paritycare.co.uk) changed their usual offer of supporting people with a learning disability in the community to accompanying people individually in open spaces to ensure that those that needed to get out, could continue to do so. As the national advice changed, they have had to regularly adapt their plans and at each stage discussed it with their members and their supporters to ensure they develop the most suitable and individual plans for each person. They are actioning daily phone calls, online meetings, visits where necessary and have been crucial in the continued wellbeing of not only members but also many of their families. They were also one of the first enterprises to offer their base, advice and support to anyone that needs it in the wider community.
  • Artworks (www.artworks-sy.co.uk) are in constant contact with members and have been providing people with supplies where required. They also developed a comprehensive plan to give members art packs so that they could continue their projects in lockdown and in doing so ensure their members are occupied with the work that they love. This has also led to the launch of their new YouTube page. They have been sharing their art on social media as well as contributing to the rainbow campaign. Artworks have had to run their contingency plans in both Rotherham and Sheffield but have still managed to also provide support to a supported living accommodation in Rotherham as is their drive to help as much of the community as they can.
  • Dexx Life Skills Centre (www.lifeskillsrotherham.org) have been using phone and online communication options to keep in contact with their members and ensure they are ok. They have recently sourced refurbished laptops for members that don’t already have one so that they can access their virtual learning, qualifications and online classes. They also intend to role this out so that anyone in Rotherham can access their learning offers whilst in lockdown as they are determined to help prevent people being socially isolated. Several of their staff have also signed up to the NHS volunteer scheme and Dexx have offered their building and van to help anyone they can.
  • Social Eyes (www.socialeyesrotherham.co.uk) have developed an extensive plan to confirm they are checking how all of their members and their families are doing and have helped numerous people get the supplies they need. They have also provided members with activity packs, run online activity and exercise classes and taken part in the rainbow campaign. Finally, they have ensured their members are still able to enjoy their birthday as they have celebrated ‘3 Birthdays on The Doorstep’ which included several members making cards that they then shared on social media to wish their friend a happy birthday.

These incredible enterprises and entrepreneurs show just how many bright lights there are across Rotherham and how they all combine to make a resilient community. It is this community as a whole that is the only way to get through a global pandemic and it will be this same community and bright lights that rebuilds it again when the lockdown ends.

#brightlightsinadarkworld

In these difficult times, we’d love to hear your stories of how you are supporting people who are isolated in local communities. Please share your own stories on social media with the hashtag #brightlightsinadarkworld and tag Community Catalysts into your posts so we can spread some joy and hope.

by Harry Clarkson – Rotherham Community Catalyst