Home Community and neighbourhoods Knowsley Better Together has been instrument to the Borough’s COVID response (and recovery)
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Knowsley Better Together has been instrument to the Borough’s COVID response (and recovery)

by Alison Cornmell

It’s been two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the first lockdown announced on 23 March 2020.

Over the last two years, our Knowsley Better Together approach has been instrumental as partners and communities responded to the challenges COVID-19 brought. This was particularly so during key peaks throughout the pandemic, with Knowsley having the highest recorded rates in the country not once, but twice.

The impact this had on our communities cannot be under-estimated. As well as coping with illness and bereavement, many residents have also lost their job, been furloughed, had increased caring responsibilities, managed disruption to children’s education with many managing home schooling during periods of lockdown, spiralling financial pressures – all of which has had a severe impact on health and wellbeing, particularly mental health.

Throughout the pandemic, Knowsley Better Together partners have demonstrated leadership agility and resilience to the rapidly changing situation as new variants were discovered, there were more restrictions to navigate and our residents and businesses needing our support more than ever.

All of this has placed increased demands for the services and support provided by the Knowsley Better Together partners. By working together, partners:-

  • Established the £2.5m Knowsley Better Together Hardship Fund to support vulnerable residents with essentials such as food and heating.
  • Provision of activities for children who access free school meals during school holidays. Over 19,000 children were fed and entertained during the summer holidays alone and the programme also extended to cover other school holidays. Livv Housing also provided 1,250 summer play packs to families facing financial hardship.
  • Livv Housing supported 1,203 customers to make new Universal Credit claims due to the impact of the pandemic.
  • The Council established the £8.3m Knowsley Better Together Recovery Fund to enable services to respond to the changing needs of communities and manage increases in demand.
  • One Knowsley secured funding to develop a Knowsley volunteering platform to match volunteers to opportunities.
  • Partners provided food parcels to vulnerable residents who were shielding.
  • Extensive support to schools was provided, including the provision of laptops for primary school children to continue to their learning at home during lockdown and mental health support.
  • Creation of the Knowsley Community Support and Volunteer Hub, staffed by multi-agencies which provided advice, guidance, support and conducted welfare calls to those facing social isolation. Prescription medicines were also collected and delivered for residents who needed to shield or had to self-isolate.
  • Developed an Outbreak Management Plan, worked together to share the latest Government advice and guidance, provision of testing facilities across the Borough and the Council and Knowsley CCG teamed up with other agencies such as Healthwatch Knowsley to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination programme across the Borough ensuring the vaccine was accessible to all residents.

The Knowsley Better Together way of working will continue to support the Borough’s recovery from the pandemic. This will include supporting communities to live with COVID, the on-going development plans across the Borough (town centre regeneration, acceleration of house building plans), continued delivery of a year-long programme of events celebrating Knowsley’s heritage as the Borough hosts the Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture, development of the volunteer platform to ensure volunteers are matched with appropriate opportunities, upskilling community and voluntary sector groups to provide training in a range of issues from safeguarding to carers awareness and the provision of activities during school holidays.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council and Chair of the Knowsley Better Together Board, said “Knowsley Better Together really came into its own during the pandemic. No one agency could fully support residents and by working together, we were able to offer holistic support to our residents and businesses at a time when they needed us more than ever.

“We all have a shared aim of ensuring our communities got the right support at the right time and this has also further strengthened our established relationships with our partners and communities.

“We will continue to build on this now as we move into recovery and hopefully into getting back to some kind of normality.

“I am delighted to announce that at today’s meeting, partners have unanimously agreed to work together to support our residents as the impact of inflation, the Government’s rise in National Insurance and rapidly increasing energy cost hits our households. We will work together to develop a full range of support that will protect the most at risk in our communities.”