Press Release: BPRCVS Going Above & Beyond During Coronavirus

Helping people to help people

Published 4th May 2020

Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale Council for Voluntary Service (BPRCVS) has stepped up to go above and beyond in response to the Coronavirus crisis. The charity responded immediately to the crisis, jumping into action from day one, working collaboratively and closely with partners in each of the district hubs.

Christine Blythe, Chief Officer said, “We recognised there would be a significant need for help and support in our communities and I am proud to say we reacted from day one, supporting partners in each district. Staff and volunteers really pulled together to put in place processes to help as many people as we could, as quickly as we could.”

Well before the lockdown introduced by the UK Government came into effect, BPRCVS reached out to our huge network of VCF contacts to find out how community groups and voluntary organisations were being affected by the pandemic.  Many were struggling before the crisis due to funding cuts, but now more so than ever before. Staff and volunteers spoke with hundreds of groups and organisations to build a comprehensive list of those still operational and those which, sadly, were having to postpone or cancel their planned activities, events, projects and services. The VCF sector has been hit hard by this crisis with many not having the resources or capability to continue delivering their fantastic, valued services which support hundreds of vulnerable people across Pennine Lancashire.

BPRCVS helped some of the groups and organisations to repurpose their funding where possible and redeploy their expertise. Groups are still operating, albeit in a different manner with social distancing preventing face-to-face meetings and group support sessions. Staff and volunteers helped facilitate the setting up of telephone and other remote communication services to ensure that communities continued to have access to much-needed support.  BPRCVS supported many VCF organisations to continue providing valuable support. This is made possible by our funders.

Suspecting that food would be a critical issue for many, especially considering the impact of  panic-buying affecting supermarkets throughout March, BPRCVS compiled lists of both new and existing food banks and food share programmes throughout Pennine Lancashire that were operating during this challenging time. Going a step further, in partnership with the borough councils of the three districts, BPRCVS purchased food products and essential items to be offered to people in need for a suggested donation of only £15.  People have commented that the bags were worth more than the £15 donated, an anonymous client said, “This is great, thank you so much. I didn’t know where I was going to get some food from. You are angels.”  

BPRCVS already has a successful food share programme at Gannow Community Centre which offers free food bags for the most vulnerable people in the community, even before this current crisis. The food share is currently supporting over 300 individuals. With generous donations and collaborations with local residents, supermarkets and other food share and distribution services, BPRCVS has been able to continually offer food and essential items to people in need throughout Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale, supplementing those being delivered by partners in each district.

BPRCVS was quick to provide information on our the website on many aspects of the Coronavirus to ensure that people in our communities were kept up to date on what was happening and what was available to them. Our Social Prescribing team, who normally help to reduce social isolation, kept in contact with existing clients to ensure they were not suffering further as a result of self-isolation. From the outset BPRCVS, supported by funders, extended this service to anyone self-isolating as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak. The CVS Centre, Yorkshire Street, Burnley remained open for as long as possible along with our satellite offices in Nelson and Bacup, and Gannow Community Centre.  Due to Government guidelines these offices and centres had to close to the public, but staff are working extremely hard in each of these locations to ensure services still operate as fully as possible.

BPRCVS has an extensive knowledge and resources around volunteering and as such, is a vital part of the coordinated response efforts in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale. Receiving an average of around 100 referrals daily from the Burnley Together Hub, Pendle Community Support Hub and Rossendale Connected Hub, the charity has really had to hit the ground running. In the beginning the need was overwhelming. The charity rose to the challenge by redeploying staff into roles aimed at facilitating a speedy response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Since receiving the first referral on 24th March 2020, there have been over 1000 referrals from the community hubs across the three areas. Many independent referrals have come in via The CVS Centre’s main office telephone line, general email and staff emails.  

Many people have asked for help with shopping, prescription collections (including several veterinary prescriptions), befriending, and mental health support. Sadly there has been a substantial increase in requests for befriending and mental health support during the imposed lockdown. There have also been a number of referrals for dog walking because residents can’t leave their homes.  There has even been the occasional request to fix spectacles, hearing aids, and mobile phones so families could stay connected. Assistance with gardening, support to replace durable goods such as washing machines and beds, and a request for newspapers for pet bedding have all been sorted out for residents by the team at BPRCVS. There has been no job too big or small. Whatever the request, the charity has responded.

Burnley Together said, “Since we commenced operation BPRCVS has supported 371 individuals to do their shopping. This is a valuable service for the individual, but also takes pressure off the foodbanks.”

For additional support BPRCVS mobilised a volunteer response team which launched 23rd March 2020 to provide befriending, mental health support, food, shopping collections, prescription deliveries and other vital services. BPRCVS has received over 800 volunteer enquiries since the crisis began and signed up 250 volunteers to help out so far. So many kind-hearted local residents have enquired that the charity is supporting groups and organisations in Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale that require volunteers to continue, expand, or even to get started providing services and support. If your group needs more volunteers to help with your response contact BPRCVS for information and help. All volunteers undertake a mini induction before deployment which includes safeguarding and data protection training.

Pendle Community Support Hub said, “Burnley, Pendle, Rossendale CVS is delivering most of Pendle’s community response on behalf of Pendle’s Hub. Through their existing volunteer programme, they are able to recruit, assess and induct volunteers to provide: short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation; and collection of shopping, medication or other essential supplies and delivering these supplies to their home. To date, 253 inbound calls requesting support have been directed to BPRCVS, generating 205 self-referrals. BPRCVS has received 101 volunteer enquiries, all of whom have received registration packs. 50 volunteers have registered and 48 are now active volunteers with BPRCVS, helping people in the community.”

Much of what has been achieved (and there is still a long way to go) is down to the hard work and dedication of volunteers. Their response has been nothing short of sensational and they deserve every bit of credit. The feedback from people who have been helped has proved just how valuable these volunteers are. So many clients have expressed their sincerest gratitude and often comment on how they are life-savers and how they would be utterly stuck without their support.

Miss N from Burnley said, “I don’t know how I would have coped without you. Thank you so much.  You have worked magic to make sure we had a washer when ours broke down. I can’t thank you enough.”

For the organisation’s staff it has been a hugely stressful period and often highly emotive, but all are committed to ensuring residents are healthy, supported and get what they need, when they need it. Staff have dealt with severe disruptions to their normal working day, but responded phenomenally and have risen to the challenge. With many working remotely from home it has been a strange situation to get used to, but one where every single member of staff has accepted it and got on with the job in hand.

Susan Biggs, Chair of BPRCVS said, “I am hugely proud of our BPRCVS Team. Every one of the team has risen to the challenge and exceeded all expectations, going above and beyond in all cases!”

Lukman Patel, Chief Operating Officer, Management Team, Burnley Borough Council said, "You probably don’t need me to say this, but all your team and army of volunteers have been fantastic helping the borough through this pandemic. The ‘can do’ attitude is a credit to both your organisation and an asset to this borough. I know there’s a long way to go, but I felt the importance of thanking you and your dedicated team during these difficult times. Undoubtedly, we shall experience challenges in the coming weeks, but we shall get through them together. “

In continued efforts to support VCF sector groups and organisations, BPRCVS continue to publish a huge variety of content and resources on the charity’s website supporting ongoing delivery of important services on a new page entitled ‘Coronavirus News’ which contains advice, funding, and support resources. Similarly, the charity’s Facebook and Twitter pages are regularly updated with useful content and resources. There is even a wide range of content associated with self-isolation, both for those we are supporting and those who do not require support, but find themselves in the challenging circumstances of having to stay at home. From activities to do at home, online learning and skills portals, to keeping fit and healthy at home, working from home advice, and much more besides. Visit www.bprcvs.co.uk or follow on social media using @BPRCVS.

BPRCVS has gone above and beyond what the charity normally does. Along with the rest of the country and, indeed, the world, BPRCVS has no practice or experience of dealing with a situation such as the Coronavirus crisis, but just got on with it to ensure vulnerable people in need were supported effectively and efficiently and will continue to do so because it’s what they do.

Adam Allen, Director of Communities, Rossendale Borough Council, said, “Working together and building partnerships has been a huge positive to come out of this stressful time. A big thank you to the BPRCVS Team for being a vital link in the chain, which continues to support residents in Rossendale.”

Community centres and offices have been forced to close due to UK Government guidelines, room hire which is a significant form of income generation for BPRCVS has ceased. The charity (like many others) is losing money and having to utilise reserves, but will keep going for as long as there is a need in the communities of Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale.

BPRCVS is already starting to consider the long-term impact of this unprecedented crisis and how to respond in the future. It is likely there will be many people affected long after the immediate situation has calmed and it is the role of BPRCVS to help to address this so the organisation and support needed for many others in the VCF sector can respond quickly and effectively.

Councillor Maggie Lishman, Vice-Chair of BPRCVS advises, “If you need any help or support during the Coronavirus crisis contact your local hub or contact BPRCVS directly on 01282 433740 – it’s what we do”.