Covid Control Plan: Communications
Covid Control Plan: Communications
Clear, accurate and timely communications is a key element of the plan; providing accurate information to residents, businesses and settings across the city and having the ability to respond to any localised outbreaks quickly and efficiently.
Some of the key barriers in communicating this plan are a low awareness of testing, tracing and isolation, varied understanding of symptoms and reluctance to self-isolate if instructed. In order for our COVID Control Plan to be successful we must work collectively to overcome these barriers and enact positive behavioural change, increase understanding and ensure all stakeholders, including residents, play their part in preventing further outbreaks.
Our communication strategy to support this will focus on three communications streams – Prevent – Explain – Respond.
We work closely with colleagues from other local authorities in the North East to ensure consistent messaging across the region and share good practice and support. This has included regular shared communications assets and public statements on behalf of the elected Leaders across seven local authorities, North of Tyne Combined Authority and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Police.
We also share details of our communications activity and campaigns with colleagues across the country through government-sponsored networks. A lot of the work we have carried out has been recognised as best practice, for example, the Community Champions initiative as set out below.
We know that COVID-19 transmission, morbidity and mortality rates are socially patterned, disproportionately affecting specific occupations, ethnicities and, increasingly, people living in poverty. Evidence shows that working though trusted community stakeholders and other local actors can help to identify and overcome barriers which prevent people from following public health guidance.
On 22 October 2020, the Minister for Equalities announced that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) would provide up to £25 million in funding to support those communities who have been shown to suffer disproportionately from COVID-19, through a new scheme called ‘Community Champions’. The Community Champions provide targeted help to those areas and communities facing the greatest challenges. Recognising that local authorities, their partners and local people are best placed to decide the right approach for their communities, it is intended to be designed locally, to respond to the needs of a specific place.
Newcastle City Council received £311,318.50 in January 2021 from MHCLG following a success bid to expand our existing BAME Community Health Champions programme. Our approach is to develop and broader this model to the wider community, targeting those groups shown to be most at risk of serious illness and harms from COVID-19 and specific population groups who are less likely to follow public health guidance.
We know that it is more important than ever to ensure that Newcastle residents stay up to date with the latest guidance and advice, which aims to keep us and our city safe. Our Community Champions co-produce and inform our local Public Health messages on COVID-19 in a range of different languages through regular and focused dialogue with our residents and communities as the public health priorities unfold during the pandemic
The Community Champion network is made up of a wide range of volunteers from across the city and helps residents to stay up to date on the latest guidance so they can protect themselves and others against the virus through regular meetings with our public health department, voluntary and community sector and communications leads. The role currently includes:
- Share accurate messages from our Public Heath team within your networks in a timely manner
- Gather feedback from the community and reactions to key Public Health messages
- Attend, and contribute to, fortnightly online Champions meetings with Public Health and other council representatives via Microsoft Teams
- Use agreed social media and WhatsApp to share information quickly and effectively
- Be a positive role model and Public Health advocate
Our Community Champions programme will continues to develop as response priorities emerge to ensure our residents are represented and our response sensitive to the varied needs during our control and recovery response.
Did you know?
Case study: Behaviour change campaign and working across council boundaries
The seven North East local authorities worked together to create a major campaign based on behavioural insight. BeatCovidNE is a campaign to campaign to thank the general public for their continuing efforts in the fight against COVID-19. Alongside he councils, this campaign has been endorsed and amplified by the Local Resilience Forum and other key stakeholders. There is evidence this approach has had a real impact upon residents.