Call for More Covid Community Champions
A call has gone out for more people to think about becoming Covid Community Champions to help keep safe those people most at risk from Coronavirus.
More than £500,000 has been secured by South Tyneside Council to fund the scheme. Working in partnership with the third sector and local voluntary sector umbrella organisation, Inspire South Tyneside, some money has already been given to charities and groups to carry out communications with at-risk groups such as the elderly, those from minority ethnic backgrounds and people with disabilities.
Vision and Hearing Support have appointed champions to work with people with hearing or visual impairments. Through the use of digital communications, they will be able to reach out to people who may otherwise find it difficult to know how to keep themselves safe.
Ellie Mahoney, one of the Covid Community Champions with Vision and Hearing Support, said: "I wanted to become a Covid Community Champion to ensure that those with sensory loss were getting the information and the support that they needed to stay safe and healthy in confusing times.
"This group of people can sometimes struggle to access up-to-date and accessible information and we wanted to make sure that this no longer happened. We are currently looking at creating accessible digital leaflets from the information provided through this scheme for our client base."
Fellow Covid Champion Rebecca Miller, added: "I wanted to help Deaf people who really struggle to access information in an accessible format as their first language is British Sign Language which, of course, is a visual language. As a BSL user myself I can relay accurate information to them in their native language.
"Being part of this community myself, I am passionate about ensuring that Deaf people and those who are hard of hearing have the same access to information as any other member of the public and are able to make informed and independent choices of their own."
The Covid Community Champions will tackle misinformation and provide up-to-date, accurate information to help people correctly follow government guidance as the world begins to open up.
Councillor Moira Smith, Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Co-operatives, said: "As we take our first tentative steps towards a more normal life, it is crucial that everyone knows how to stay safe and well.
"In line with one of our priorities to support our vulnerable communities, we must keep those groups who are most at risk from the virus at the centre of our thoughts. We cannot always rely on the usual forms of communication for some of these groups and that is why Covid Community Champions are so important in delivering information to key groups in an accessible way."
Inspire South Tyneside is looking to fund more Covid Community Champions, from both the voluntary sector and the wider community. It is looking to get key businesses such as hairdressers, beauticians and pub managers on board as they are ideally placed to get across accurate health information to those most susceptible to Covid-19.
Charlotte Harrison, Chief Executive of Inspire South Tyneside, said: "We know that throughout the Covid19 pandemic the people of South Tyneside have looked out for each other - whether by dropping off shopping, checking in on vulnerable neighbours or volunteering as vaccine marshals. What we now need to do is extend that spirit of South Tyneside.
"We know that having trusted sources of information and support is vital. The grants we have provided to organisations such as Vision and Hearing Support mean that groups can stretch their services to ensure all parts of our community are receiving timely, useful information about vaccines and living safely and well as we move out of lockdown."
Inspire is keen to hear from smaller community-based groups which are best placed to help people at a very local level. To help them access funding, Inspire is running a series of online 'funding surgeries' where they can find out how to access funding. To find out more, visit www.inspiresouthtyneside.co.uk/ or search Inspire South Tyneside on Facebook.