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Rochdale community champions secure government funding

17 February 2021

Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates

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Food parcels being prepared.

Rochdale Borough Council has successfully bid for half a million pounds of government funding to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) myths and boost uptake of the vaccine.

The funding, which has been match funded by the council to raise it to £1 million, will be used to support an information campaign which will be delivered through local volunteers, known as community champions.

Particular focus will be placed on targeting harder to reach groups, such as older people, disabled people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who, according to the latest evidence, are more likely to suffer long-term impacts from COVID-19. It aims to build trust, communicate accurate health information and ultimately help to save lives.

As part of the initiative the champions will tap into their local networks to provide advice about the virus and vaccines. They will be trained to identify barriers to accessing accurate information and to provide tailored support, such as phone calls for people who are digitally excluded, helplines, and linking to GP surgeries.

This work will also include helping the community access support through, where appropriate, grants and benefits or local food banks and signpost them to specific health care, GPs or hospital settings, depending on their individual needs.

The programme will involve hundreds of volunteers and front line workers from community organisations across the borough. It builds on a great tradition of voluntary and community work in the borough. Across the borough there are an estimated 1,180 voluntary organisations carrying out 1.6 million interventions. There is an 'army' of 34,300 volunteers who contribute 79,800 volunteer hours each week, the value of which is £139 million.

Councillor Daalat Ali, deputy leader and portfolio holder for healthy lives at Rochdale Borough Council, said: "We recognised a need for community champions many years ago. It started with helping people to read and extended to other ways to help people in the community, for example help with health, finances and work. We realised that if you're struggling with something the best person to show you how to do it is someone like you.

"Our community champions have helped over 50,000 people in the last 10 years, making a huge difference to our residents. I'm sure their dedication and commitment will once again prove vital as we continue to tackle COVID-19, one of the biggest challenges our borough has ever faced."

Andy Butterworth, a long standing community champion, said: "I became a community champion when the first test centres opened and I'm now volunteering at the vaccination sites. I really enjoy talking to people and helping them. I help people by chatting with them and doing my best to answer their questions about COVID-19. I know how important it is to have the vaccine and to get tested. I help them to get over any fears because of myths they might have heard. It's very busy volunteering though the pandemic but I know that all us volunteers are helping to try and keep everyone safe and to save lives."

Director of public health and wellbeing at Rochdale Borough Council, Andrea Fallon, said: "This is an opportunity to better connect with people that have been harder to reach. Whether it is the booking process or in the vaccination centres, our community champions can have conversations with people to check if they're OK, identify any issues, provide some initial help and connect them with further help if they need it. You can expect to see intensive programmes and activities over the next 12 months using this money, and using ways to ensure that these programmes and activities are sustained for the future.

"So far we have we have engaged and trained community champions who are now active in the system, supporting people through 'good help' conversations in vaccine centres, test centres and throughout the community. Our history of cooperation is very much thriving in the 21st century."