Covid 19 pandemic and small Charities

Responding to our Customers’ and Residents’ urgent needs.

The Roy Humphreys Charity is a one-stop centre-cafe in one of the most deprived areas of Warrington, Populars and Hulme, (Longford). The Centre was established in 1996 and is mainly run by volunteers who offer a range of activities that reduce isolation, improve well-being, it offers affordable food, advice, and an Employment group that is run by Torus, a credit union, bingo, luncheon groups, community events and days out. Since the centre has been opened it has offered a place where people can socialise, gain money advice, access health workers, housing, the police, and their ward councillors’. The centre has made a difference in Longford with high levels of unemployment, drug misuse, fear of crime, elderly isolation, socially excluded people, families, and low levels of academic achievement and access to transport.

Charities were already being severely impacted before the Pandemic, as funding has become more difficult to obtain due cuts and high demand. In March we started hearing reports of a contagious virus, Covid-19, (Corona Virus), and it was reported that it affected older people, the news reports caused a large amount of anxiety within the community. We followed the guidance and the older volunteer/ trustees went into shielded isolation. We are not a big charity and 80% of us were in isolation, and the priority was to make sure everybody was safe. We also faced the prospect of losing our valued cafe worker, who has a family to support, we wanted to avoid this at all cost.

I wanted to help as I was, and I am still really concerned about the community being put into isolation. Some people have no family, no support, and are unable to cook for themselves, mental health, and physical health problems. The virus does not discriminate and it’s affecting all aspects of the community. People are losing jobs and incomes; they’re struggling to pay for food. Longford is a deprived area and there are people who were already accessing foodbanks and were on low incomes and have poor health inequalities prior to the pandemic. The centre is sometimes the only place people can socialise, eat affordable food and access support. The demand for Charities to support people during the crisis both during and afterward are going to present unprecedented challenges. Mental Health, poverty, health issues are going to increase significantly. I am also concerned that some people may not want to come out of isolation and re-engage in support due to the fear of catching the virus.

I had many late nights thinking of ideas and ways to help and try to open to become a responsive support hub. The community and Volunteers do so much for the centre and local area, it’s time to support them all in such difficult times. Warrington has been fantastic and responsive in supporting people, Warrington Council, and other services, and the local papers, councillors’ and the community have all come together to help and support people in the Borough. I thought it would be beneficial if some of our customers and residents who were isolated and aged over 55 years old could have hot meals delivered to them for free; to ensure they have a hot meal and are not worrying about paying money out. It also gives an opportunity to check on their well-being and to check if they need further support from trusted services.

I sat writing funding bids to support the project looking at what the Government was going to offer however this was late to be announced and not straight forward to access as it was given to big National Charities to distribute some had to close applications due to demand and others still require complex funding bids writing which take some time. I luckily and gratefully managed to secure some funding towards our cafe worker wages and get some funding towards making meals. This enabled us to come up with a plan that let us open as a support hub.

We are currently open two days a week. Thursdays and Fridays and offer takeaway 9 am-12 pm with strict social distancing rules to continue to offer affordable food to the whole community, we cook and deliver meals for the over 55-year-olds who are isolated and vulnerable. We have now been open as a support hub for three weeks, and in that time, we have delivered around 300 meals and received lovely feedback. People can also ring if they need support or signposting to other services. 01925 413 631. This article is to raise awareness of what challenges charities across Warrington are currently facing and are preparing for. Please continue to support your local charities who are doing their very best to support the most vulnerable people in Warrington. Thank you to Warrington Voluntary Action and Cheshire Connect for their ongoing advice and guidance.

Amanda Gillespie:

The Roy Humphreys Centre

86 Sandy Lane, Longford, Warrington WA29AU

01925 414 631, Facebook: @theroyhumphreyscentre

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