Today marks one year since Burnley Together was established. In that time, we have dealt with over 17,000 contacts, providing vital support for people since the service began on 23 March 2020.
When COVID lockdown measures were first introduced in the UK last year, several key organisations in the town, including Burnley Borough Council, Calico Homes, Lancashire County Council, CVS, Burnley FC in the Community and Burnley Leisure, worked in partnership to set up the vital service, which offers a variety of different support to those who need it.
Initially, Burnley Together was created as a temporary service to assist local people during the height of the pandemic. With some vulnerable people shielding and unable to leave their homes, and others dealing with financial changes and health concerns, many Burnley residents found themselves facing new levels of worry and uncertainty.
We also set up a telephone support line, where people could request support for a range of things, from food parcels and prescription collections to debt advice and mental health support, and everything in-between. Volunteers and staff members worked tirelessly around the clock to help the community during the first few months of the COVID crisis.
Calico Homes, working with partners, continues to manage the telephone support line and directly reaches out frequently to those who are shielding within the local community, ensuring that vulnerable people still have the continuous vital support they need.
As the year progressed, we soon discovered that the need was much greater than first anticipated, helping more than 1,400 Burnley households with food parcels in April 2020 alone. As more businesses, faith groups and individuals offered their resources, our service offer expanded.
Charter House, a Resource Centre and Sensory Room in Burnley, offered Burnley Together the use of their kitchen and had served more than 2,500 meals to those in the community by the first week of June 2020 – those numbers then continued to rise on a daily basis.
Burnley Together and Burnley Leisure worked hard throughout Summer 2020 to encourage families and individuals to stay healthy and active via the Burnley Active Scheme. This provided 250 families with activity packs, including equipment and ‘Activity Challenge’ cards for families to take part in and fill out. They also provided 19,551 meals in the form of family food parcels during the 6-week holiday period.
In November 2020, the Burnley Together partners worked alongside Job Centre Plus to launch a hub to help young people whose job and training prospects had been affected by the pandemic. By coordinating with local organisations, this helps ensure young people aged 16 – 24 years old still have access to training or job opportunities, taking a personalised, coaching approach for each person, with a real focus on supporting younger people’s physical and mental health.
During December 2020, our ‘Burnley Together Christmas Appeal’ was strengthened through partnership working, resulting in 8,000 gifts being donated by various businesses, individuals, and charities. Alongside this, more than £7,000 was raised in cash donations to help towards the cost of gifts.
This helped to ensure that no-one went without at Christmas, with toys, toiletries, new clothing, chocolates, and more being gifted to those who needed a little extra support through the festive period. Alongside the gift appeal, our team worked with Birchalls Foodservice and Burnley Leisure to provide 500 pre-cooked Christmas dinners for the elderly and vulnerable in the area, which were delivered on Christmas Eve.
As 2021 has progressed, it’s become clear that the demand for this level of support is still very much needed and we will continue to offer diverse and vital support for the foreseeable future. Last month, our hub received 656 requests for support through its telephone service, alongside 220 through social media and the Burnley Together website.
One customer said, “I got the support and help I needed. You saved my life actually. That food parcel meant the world to me and son. I was amazed and so grateful for it. I can’t thank you all enough. You do a top job with people who are struggling. Came to the rescue. Honestly brilliant and you super stars, all of you.”
Burnley Council leader Councillor Mark Townsend said: “Burnley Together has achieved a massive amount in the last 12 months and it has had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of local residents to help them through the Covid crisis. It’s been a wonderful example of people and organisations working together to provide life-saving support for some of the most vulnerable people in our borough. As we start to come out of the pandemic, Burnley Together will continue to play a vital role in our recovery work as we put right all the damage Covid has caused to our communities.”
Alicia Foley, Community Investment Manager at Calico Homes, says: “It has been a privilege to be a part of the BT Team from the very early days. I have worked alongside an amazing group of volunteers and staff to provide support for our communities and have seen first-hand how much hard work has gone into ensuring people get the help they need during difficult times. We realise what a touch year we have all gone through and that the need for support is still very prominent. We will continue to be a place where local people can find support and kindness as we go forward.”