Advantage Coast Programme provides swift response to COVID-19
The Advantage Coast Community Led Local Development [CLLD] Programme is continuing to provide swift support to their participants during the COVID-19 pandemic and UK lockdown, adapting their services to fit social distancing measures, shielding the most vulnerable from the disease and safeguarding local businesses and employment.
CLLD is a £6.9million investment into the area by the European Structural and Investment Funds and is managed by East Riding of Yorkshire Council in partnership with Scarborough Borough Council, supporting innovation, businesses, skills and employment to improve local growth and creating jobs.
The programme aims to support participants and businesses located within the lowest 20% of our most deprived communities, and to date it has funded 32 projects across the Advantage Coast CLLD area to provide business and employability support.
Many of the projects are now using emails, texts, video and phone calls to stay in frequent contact with participants on a one-to-one basis. And several projects continue to hold regular group activities, using online video conferencing tools.
The group activities continuing virtually include: Love Local’s business owners’ coffee meets; Activ Business’ exercise classes; The Hub’s drop-in sessions; Street Based Youth Engagement’s groups; and Back on Track’s coffee mornings. The project team members find this contact mutually beneficial, especially for those who live alone.
A number of projects are also using social media to stay in touch by posting videos and creating private support groups. These include the Lone Parent Mentor and Hub projects, and Build Up, which is delivered by Scarborough Construction Skills Village.
Another number of projects are providing activity packs for participants to help keep themselves occupied, supporting home education and promoting good mental and physical health. Parents into Work has offered home learning and activity packs, making and taking packs to participants and their children.
Healthy Lives has delivered children’s activity packs; SPARKS craft packs; Street Based Youth Engagement care packs for young people; and Back on Track packs including craft and recipe ideas.
Many others are also helping deliver medical supplies, food and care packages. SPARKS has been helping people renew prescriptions and several projects have been supporting people with job searches, CVs, application forms and Universal Credit forms.
It has been identified that participants’ lack of ICT skills and/or access to ICT tools is a key issue during the lockdown. As a result, Scarborough Jobmatch Delivery and Back on Track have loaned their most isolated and vulnerable participants tablets and laptops to help them stay in touch and improve their skills.
Several projects have said that the lockdown has helped them improve their ways of working, making them more responsive to participants, and they fully intend to maintain these new ways of working.
Councillor Jane Evison, portfolio holder for local economic growth and prosperity at East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “CLLD projects are offering much-needed support and guidance to our businesses in these challenging times. Delivery organisations are taking time to help their businesses and self-employed clients understand the new sources of financial and other support available, ensuring they successfully navigate the challenges of COVID-19 to emerge stronger than ever.
“The support offered through CLLD to our most vulnerable residents is proving to be of great benefit, helping them get through social isolation, still providing support and guidance to help them move closer to employment.”
Once the ‘new normal’ has been established, the projects are looking at the longer term impact COVID-19 has had on their participants, and how they can continue to offer support.
Looking to the future, Scarborough Construction Business Network and Passport to Employment have undertaken employer and participant surveys to help them meet the immediate needs of participants and the economy. The Over 50s project is also staying in touch with employers to make sure participants know what will happen to job offers they were holding prior to lockdown.
Many more projects are planning to offer more ICT training, to help with online trading, use of social media and the internet in general and they expect to see increased demand for mental health support. Along with this, projects are working out how to offer their services while complying with social distancing – for instance, offering short courses and working with smaller cohorts. They are also preparing for an influx of participants as a result of job losses and exam cancellations during the lockdown period.
Any groups or organisations that would like to be involved in the Advantage Coast Programme should contact the Advantage Coast Programme coordinator Rob Warner on 07368 268 654.