Caerphilly’s Cabinet Members have today (Thursday 30th July) endorsed an approach that aims to build on the success of the council’s ‘buddy scheme’, initially set up to ensure no-one was left at home unsupported during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This new approach will seek to ensure ongoing voluntary befriending support is in place for some of Caerphilly county borough’s most vulnerable residents as ‘shielding’ from COVID-19 come to an end, while working to also further strengthen links with communities across the area.
The council’s community response ‘buddy scheme’ was set up in March to provide essential support to those who had to self-isolate or shield as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The council wrote to over 76,000 homes, inviting residents who met a series of criteria to get in touch if they required support. At the same time the council asked its staff to consider whether they may wish to volunteer to support a local vulnerable person with essential tasks such as shopping, prescription pick up and keeping in touch with regular phone calls. At its peak, the buddy scheme supported over 1,560 people who otherwise would have had no other support, made possible thanks to over 590 members of council staff who willingly stepped forward to support the initiative, the majority of those in a purely voluntary capacity.
The scheme was intended to complement the excellent efforts from members of the community and local mutual aid groups, and offered a good level of security that no-one should be left at home unsupported during their period of self isolation/shielding.
As the period of shielding comes to an end from 16th August, the council was keen to explore an approach that would see this community spirit and strong links with the community continue to go from strength to strength, while supported those who have previously needed to shield/self isolate to become confident in becoming independent once more. The report endorsed by Cabinet Members will see the appointment of a jointly-funded Volunteer Coordinator with GAVO and an additional Community Engagement Officer to the council’s Community Regeneration team. These posts will be responsible for working with volunteers and wider communities going forward and empowering communities to continue to support each other.
Cabinet Members also agreed to support a precursor to a ‘corporate volunteering scheme’ to enable staff who have built up friendships with the vulnerable people they have supported over a number of months, to continue – helping to promote independence and resilience, while also helping prevent isolation and loneliness. This element of the scheme will aim to build on the goodwill shown by staff volunteers by supporting them to continue this through a limited amount of paid time off to carry out these roles.
Cllr Philippa Marsden, Leader of Caerphilly County Borough Council said, “The community response ‘buddy scheme’ really has been instrumental in ensuring that support was in place for anyone who needed it during their period of shielding or self isolation; complementing the commendable work that has been taking place on a more local level through mutual aid groups.
“The success of the buddy scheme has allowed us to build on our understanding of the needs of our communities, and we’ve been able to build an initiative around those needs. It has also opened up a new way of how we work with our communities. While shielding comes to an end on 16th August, it affords us an opportunity to build a positive legacy from what has been a truly awful situation. It was my pleasure to visit a family recently who have been receiving support through the scheme and the staff volunteer who has been supporting them. What is clear is that staff involved in the initiative have felt a real sense of purpose and of being part of ‘Team Caerphilly’ and the feedback we’ve gained from the vulnerable people who have received support has also been overwhelmingly positive.
“The next phase of this will look to build confidence and independence and prevent isolation and loneliness among this group, empower communities to continue to look after each other and ensure we also play our part by enabling our staff with the tools to continue making their valuable contributions”.
The council has also helped facilitate the Welsh Government food parcel scheme and has supported a number of local community pharmacies with additional delivery driver capacity as part of its community response to COVID-19. The Community Regeneration team has also played a key role in supporting local foodbanks with resourcing, deliveries and securing additional food donations.
The full Cabinet report on the ‘Buddy Scheme’ can be found at www.caerphilly.gov.uk