Covid Control Plan: Wellbeing Support
Covid Control Plan: Wellbeing Support
Throughout the pandemic we have closely monitored and responded to welfare needs of residents, workplaces and services. We recognise everyone can benefit from tailored support in following the agile guidance, irrespective of their personal and professional circumstances but we have also needed to respond to some pressing need for vulnerable residents.
This has enabled us to benefit from the wide-ranging sources of support across the city which has shown resilience, innovation, and generosity, and critical mobilised collaboration between professionals, communities and sectors.
We know that everyone has been impacted upon in some way by lockdown, shielding and/or self-isolation measures and this has meant changes to how we all have accessed resources and provided support. Much of the demand for new or additional welfare we have observed has been associated with the wider social inequalities that have been exposed by COVID-19. In particular, we have observed welfare pressures on single-parent families, people who live alone, older people, residents with mental health needs and people who have little or no social network, including the unemployed.
We have taken a broad approach to support self-isolation and city-wide preparedness to mitigate or minimise associated both social and health inequalities. Our Welfare and Wellbeing model and infrastructure is supporting delivery though a council-wide and multidisciplinary approach, including colleagues from Public Health, our newly created Welfare and Wellbeing Team, Early Help, Adult Social Care, Communities and Resilience and Planning.
The principles of our approach are:
- Ensure social care and community colleagues have timely updates on the public health perspective of COVID-19 to support safe delivery, consistent messages and promote preparedness for changes to restrictions and guidance.
- Ensure clinical and social vulnerabilities are considered within all our approaches of COVID control, recognising the important balance of welfare and health protection in the context of new and persistent inequalities.
- Exchange information and intelligence between colleagues to understand welfare barriers, risks and opportunities during the pandemic.
- Ensure all residents are supported to safely follow the public health guidance relating to COVID-19 through ensuring welfare and wellbeing needs can be addressed through proactive, tailored support that is accessible by all.
- Support residents and communities to build resilience through a proportionate, assets-based approach that reflects lived experience.
- Create opportunities for operational solutions to be delivered across teams and directorates to address community needs not current service delivery.
- Generate data and intelligence to monitor and respond to welfare needs across our community through services, VCS and community engagement.
- Inform our recovery planning and approach through building cumulative understanding of communities’ experience, service improvements address during the pandemic and emerging practice as a public health body.
To support the broad range of welfare and wellbeing needs of our population during this time, Newcastle local authority developed a funding scheme to help vulnerable people who were identified by the multidisciplinary Welfare and Wellbeing Group as being adversely affected by COVID-19.
We have invested in a broad range of initiatives to support families who experience domestic violence, drug and alcohol service users and children with disabilities as well as many other communities and residents with arts and culture; food poverty action; outdoor access; and digital inclusion interventions.
Following successful implementation, we aim to broaden this fund to the wider partners recognising that many issues such as social isolation and community wellbeing are better addressed through VSC providers serving specific populations.
Citylife Line Welfare and Wellbeing Team (WWT) is a core component of COVID Control for Newcastle as the service underpins our self-isolation support to ensure residents receive timely aid and protection from across our voluntary and community sector and statutory services.
WWT provide a clear front door into our welfare service, with officers training with health protection advice, connections to our voluntary and community services and pathways to statutory services to promote sustainable support. Although primarily for residents in self-isolation and those identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV), every resident will be supported based on individual circumstances.
In line with the CEV framework and new self-isolation framework, the WWT provide a service designed to help build resilience in those seeking support, by encouraging them to use their existing networks and then to explore the underlying cause of the need. The WWT provide information and guidance in the first instance and then they can either signpost or refer into the most appropriate services. Our referral partners include internal services such as Early Help, the council finance teams, and external partners such as Your Homes Newcastle (social housing provider).
Agile delivery enables us to work together with organisations that have a wider range of skills and knowledge, particularly the role and contribution of the Voluntary and Community Sector partners. For a small but significant cohort we also provide urgent support with food and essential supplies.
WWT service demand is monitored weekly to identify trends in the nature of residents’ need and provide early indicators in the changing numbers / groups affected by isolation. Through close monitoring and case study reviews, we identified that most service users contact us at the point of crisis. In line with our approach to reduce dependency and promote proactive anticipation of needs during a period of isolation we have developed Welfare Checklists, based on the barriers to isolation we know our residents have been challenged by, supporting them with solutions or support to address needs prior to crisis.
Within Newcastle, we have over 20,700 residents who have been identified on the Shielded Patient List which included an addition of over 9,942 following the new QCovid algorithm. The majority of these residents have not required welfare support associated with poverty, but many have benefitted from a range of wellbeing support, For example, building confidence in the less stringent measures required in wave 1 to promote safe exercise, provide specific advice for employers or employees on financial support available and enable access to vaccinations where travel barriers were identified, through close working with our Clinical Commissioning Group colleagues.
A dedicated programme of work is in place to ensure local support for the CEV Framework to be implemented and statutory returns. This includes an engagement strategy to offer reassurance and timely advice, including postal letters with guidance and local contacts to each CEV resident from the DPH. Further to our online resources, WWT act as central mechanism for engagement and support to CEV where they can clarify guidance, signpost of VCS support and, where necessary, directly deliver support to anyone in immediate need.
As community transmission changes, and shielding / CEV guidance is subject to ongoing changes, our approach will continue to support our CEV residents.
Food insecurity is specific and significant issue that has been amplified during the pandemic, either around access whilst being asked to self-isolate or the financial affect of the pandemic. While the demand for direct delivery of food parcels from the council has reduced significantly over the past year, there are still a number of residents in need and individuals who have been identified as CEV who have been advised not to leave home for shopping. This reflects the persistent issues associated with chronic poverty and social isolation experienced by our most socially vulnerable residents, many of whom are also at the greatest risk of COVID through their employment, transport, housing and access to social support.
VCS organisations have established programmes of support mainly involving organising food parcels, but also providing hot meals, shopping and befriending services to those in need. Coordinated by Public Health with WWT funding was provided from the Council for VCS organisations supporting the food insecurity response from the DEFRA emergency grant for food and essential supplies, Council funds and through donations from the public (Citylife Line appeal) and local businesses (e.g. Reuben Brothers/Newcastle Racecourse). This includes a network of organisations who meet on a regular basis and provide feedback and monitoring and receive regular public health updates and support with guidance and risk assessments as required.
We are currently identifying appropriate funding from the range of COVID-19 grants being received and have coordinated the COVID-19 Winter Grant and the Holiday Activity Fund to support access to free school meals and support for families.
A number of our residents do not have any support networks or infrastructure around them to secure food deliveries to their homes and as a result, have required support from the Council when isolating or in crisis. Furthering our approach to build resilience, we have developed a partnership with our local market to source fresh food and coordinate the packaging of tailored and healthier food parcels which subsequently supports our local market traders. As a result, there is a range of suppliers, products, and prices available through this option which supports our local food system, discourages dependency on the council as a food provider and ensures that as those with the means are encouraged to pay for the service themselves.
As part of growing response to address the scale of food poverty observed through COVID-19, we have given a six-month commission to a local social enterprise to develop a range of recipes and online tutorials to support people accessing the free/low cost food parcels provided from VCS organisations, including food banks. The aim of this approach will help support people to utilise the food in the parcels with simple, healthy recipes and aims to help improve people’s cooking skills and confidence to prepare their own meals as part of an exit plan from our response meeting more immediate needs, building food and nutrition capacity and improving confidence in managing resources.
COVID–19 has caused a myriad of challenges for people. Everyone has been affected as services were halted, paused or slowed down. The pandemic also exposed and heightened the disparities between disadvantaged people across all ages – from health, housing, education, employment and social care.
Partnerships quickly had to adapt to new ways of working and put in place emergency responses to service needs. There were many things we changed that we don’t want to lose. There are also many things that have been exacerbated as a result of COVID-19 that without urgent action will cast a long shadow for children, young people, adults, families and communities. This must be acted upon alongside economic recovery.
By working collaboratively with residents and partners, we will develop a shared plan to ensure we are positioned to handle the uncertainties ahead, building on prevention at all levels.
Did you know?
Case study: Providing meals during school holidays
In response to the government’s decision not to extend free school meal support during the October 2020 half-term school holiday, businesses and other organisations across Newcastle reached out with others of support for struggling families. Restaurants, cafes, sports clubs and a host of voluntary and community sector organisations throughout the city immediately offered to provide free meals.
Alongside this, we pledged to make food available to any child who normally receives free school meals if they were still in need of support. A ‘Toon Army’ of volunteers, residents who stepped up to help their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, and other organisations, including the Newcastle United Foundation and other voluntary and community sector groups, delivered lunches across the city all week as a result.
Other acts of kindness and generosity also flooded in. In one instance, Denton Taxis provided nine drivers free of charge when the team preparing lunches ran out of volunteers to deliver packages on one of the days.
Through this city-wide approach, more than 4,000 packed lunches were delivered.