Stories of hope: how our network is responding to Covid-19

Find out how our community partners have responded with resilience to Covid-19 from our Head of Network, Gabrielle Woodhams.

Last week, our Research Manager James blogged about our network insights work, and the initial themes we’ve identified amongst members of the Online Centres Network – who are often working on the frontline to support people who are both digitally and socially excluded through the coronavirus crisis.

I’d like to share my thanks to all in the network who have shared updates on their services, and their challenges. These are difficult times for all of us, but I’m bowled over every day by the great work being done in communities all over the country to support those who are vulnerable and excluded.

Despite the scary news stories and uncertainty around the weeks and months ahead, these stories have certainly cheered me and reminded me just how crucial digital can be in these times. From Cross Gates and District Good Neighbours Scheme in Leeds delivering virtual coffee mornings to elderly people in the area to give them a social connection, Destinations@Saltburn helping people to cope with job losses and claim Universal Credit, and Starting Point in Stockport who are doing fantastic work ensuring people in their community have the food and essentials they need, as well using video calling to combat loneliness and offer support – these stories really do give me hope.

We really want to be able to listen to the challenges that our network is facing. Although we know that there will be many that we won’t be able to solve, we want to hear the challenges you’re facing. Every piece of feedback we receive and every conversation we have is so important to us – please do keep sharing if you’re part of the network.

There are a couple of things we’ve been able to put in place over the last couple of weeks that I really hope will help organisations out there who are struggling – and in turn those who they are supporting:

  • We’ve launched a new Response and Resilience Fund that will support organisations in the Online Centres Network who are at risk of closure due to the current crisis. Grants of £3,000 – which are unrestricted – will, we hope, help centres to ensure they can open their physical doors again when the crisis is over.
  • We’ve removed any registration requirements for Learn My Way, meaning all courses can be accessed immediately. We know the registration can act as a barrier to people wanting to use the courses independently in their own home, so we hope these changes will open up the courses – which cover essentials like shopping and accessing health information online – will help.

We’re always keen to hear suggestions of the support you need – so do get in touch with any ideas, big or small. We know that times are uncertain for many of us right now – so if all we can do is to be a listening ear, then we’re happy to do this.

Thank you to all of you for the great work you’ve done over the last few weeks. The stories I’ve been reading about the great work of our community partners, alongside the conversations I’ve been having, have really given me hope – and I’m sure they will continue to do so.