WESTON-SUPER-MARE: ACTION GROUP

ROC Conversation on Monday 3rd February 2020 when 160 guests came together to discuss their community. In addition, over 1500 people from the local community watched us live on Facebook and Twitter! We are grateful to Churches Together Weston and District who funded the conversation and worked with ROC HQ to set it up. Weston and Worle has a population of 80,000 people

First Action Group was held on Monday 2nd March 2020 where around 20 of the 50 who expressed an interest in being involved met. We discussed the key themes that came out of the conversation and set up sub-groups around these: Community, Youth, Crime, Housing and homelessness and a communication/coordination group. The initial actions agreed were around scoping what was already happening and identifying the gaps – we greatly benefited by having police, YMCA and Council colleagues in attendance as well as churches and charities. 

Covid-19 and Corona Kindness  –in first instance we wanted to harness and support the goodwill that was being offered by so many people but to ensure safety for the most vulnerable and created “corona kindness” cards that could be used to help facilitate street and neighbour networks. 

7500 were printed by one of the churches and these were distributed across the town (with our local Neighbourhood Watch group delivering over 2500 in some of the most needy homes) as well as people printing them off and using them in their own streets. This helped set up WhatsApp groups or other communication across neighbours – in our street of 32 houses we have established close contact with around half the neighbours and this has been built upon by the weekly clap for key workers and our VE celebrations. We have heard stories of how in one street they have a WhatsApp group with 85 people on it and are helping one another. 

ROC Church Hubs of Volunteers  we approached the churches and faith groups across Weston and Worle to see how they could help during the corona crisis, as a result we established 5 hubs with over 120 DBS checked volunteers (well they are all DBS now!). We have benefitted hugely from working with Helping People – Weston and Worle Covid-19 network who have provided the electronic system (google sheets) to marry volunteers to “help requests” safely across the area. Together we have provided help to over 800 people and many of these are recurring request (such as shopping) so we estimate that the volunteers have undertaken almost 2000 interventions.  The ROC church hubs are also outposts for Foodbank and help provide a service to reduce the foot fall to Foodbanks main centre and supplement their volunteer pool. 

A great benefit of the crisis has been it has provided an opportunity for and willingness for different agencies and organisations to recognise the people of goodwill and the momentum from the ground up. The local 

Authority and Town Council have actively helped support and empower ROC and the other groups. Like other areas the local authority has set up North Somerset Together (a partnership to address the challenges of Corona) and we have weekly zoom meetings to discuss the processes and learning across the whole of the county to ensure that we continue to meet people’s needs and do it in a safe and measured way. Local GPs and social workers refer into the ROC hubs and are very thankful for the acts of kindness such as shopping, prescription collection and regular telephone calls as it is reducing the pressure on them so they can concentrate on their key role. 

Communication and Organisational form and bank account to allow ROC to function during Corona and going forward it had been decided to set it up as Unincorporated Community Group to allow us to open a bank account as we have had pledges for money to assist with the work. In addition, we have been part of some bids prepared by Weston Town Council for Quartet and other funders – still awaiting the outcome of this. 

We have set up a Facebook page which has been a powerful way of linking with people in the Town and have produced 3 Newsletters over this period which has been sent to almost 90 people who were at the conversation or have expressed an interest in being involved since then. 

Zoom Action Group Meeting  was held Monday 11th May 2020 and we had 16 people dial in – and we are now starting to discuss how we can continue to provide support in this new phase we are entering as a country as some restrictions are lifted and hopefully many are able to return to work in a safe and measured way.

We discussed how the emotional, physical and financial impacts of Lockdown are only starting to come to light and how it would be good to build upon the momentum that volunteers from ROC Hubs, Helping People and all the other groups have built up. We are going to have another meeting next week for new sub-groups to create action plans around these emerging areas – we believe they reflect the themes from the conversation but are framed slightly differently and will help address the new priorities that lockdown and corona have created.

Learning from last 8 weeks – Dave and I became Action Group co-ordinators without really knowing what we were doing – but we were confident that God had called us for such a time as this. The Corona crisis has accelerated our work exponentially and provided an amazing opportunity for ROC to be part of the planning and conversations as we all grapple with this “new norm”. We have seen such unity across the Church Hubs as they have taken church outside the walls and are making the invisible God visible. Working with other people of good will from across the volunteer groups and statutory bodies has been humbling and these relationships that have been forged during the storm that will provide a valuable foundation as we continue to work together. 

Penny and Dave Hynds

Action Group Co-ordinators