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Newground Together help community during outbreak

As Lancashire and Yorkshire residents face continued uncertainty during the coronavirus crisis, colleagues from Together Housing Group’s charitable arm, Newground Together, have swung into action.

From delivering food, toiletries and medication to the most vulnerable who are self-isolating to matching the unemployed to critical roles in the supply chain, Newground Together are offering tailored support to fill any gaps and ensure nobody slips through the net.

Newground Together’s Community Programme’s Director Nic McGrath said: “We operate across a number of local authority areas, each of which vary in terms of how they’re mobilising their community response to support vulnerable people. There isn’t a one-size fits all solution and often people just don’t know what support is out there for them – so we are joining the dots, connecting people with services and lending our support to organisations struggling to keep up with the demand and changes to how they operate.”

As an example, Newground Together has been working with foodbanks across the Pennines who do such fantastic work helping feed those in need including The Gathering Place food bank in Halifax in partnership with Christians Together Calderdale, Soup4em in South Kirkby, Haslingden Community Link and Raft Foundation in Rossendale.

While one food bank has seen a decline in volunteers as they have gone into self-isolation, for another it is food supply that is the issue as restaurants that regularly donated food have closed. Others are simply struggling to cope with demand as people who would generally consider themselves secure are suddenly without a wage as businesses go into administration.

Nic said: “The impact of social distancing measures, increased demand and fluctuating stocks is having a devastating impact on food banksat a time when the need for this vital service is more important than ever. Not only are foodbanks struggling to keep up the demand they’re also wrestling with the logistical challenge of moving from their usual drop-in service to providing deliveries to support those isolating at home and to reduce the risk of the virus to staff, volunteers and customers through social contact.

“On top of that, many people don’t qualify for food banks because they aren’t in financial difficulty but they don’t know where to turn to for food as they are self-isolating, have no family or friends nearby to help out and may not have internet access to place an online delivery order.

“Whether we secure donations for essential supplies to food banks, deliver food parcels and prescriptions to residents ourselves, help residents place supermarket orders for doorstep delivery or signpost them to other services such as Age UK’s befriending service, we are trying to ensure that everybody who needs help gets it, whatever their circumstances.”

Newground Together has also widened its employment and training offer. While the team usually focus on breaking down barriers to help those in long-term unemployment, they are finding themselves increasingly helping people who have never been out of work before.

Nic said: “Some people are facing being out of work for the first time in their lives. They might have the skills and work experience that long-term unemployed people lack but it’s probably been years since they’ve had an interview and they’ve almost certainly never had an interview via Skype before.

“Being out of work for the first time in your career is daunting. Financial worries, fear of losing your home, lack of routine and loss of the sense of purpose that comes with work, can quickly knock your self-esteem and confidence, which in turn can be counterproductive to your job searching.

“We want to encourage people to stay positive and keep motivated. We will support people to take control and keep that sense of purpose, by looking at what skills they need for future employment, ensuring their CV is updated, giving guidance on applying for jobs and sharing techniques on how to give an outstanding interview, face to face or by skype.

“While many bars and restaurants have closed down and laid off staff, we are seeing a rise in retail jobs as supermarkets struggle to keep up with the demand of panic buyers. An increase in home deliveries also means the need for more warehouse staff and drivers. Although these jobs are short-term it could make all the difference for families putting food on the table during these difficult times.”

On top of helping with job searches, interview techniques and CV writing, Newground Together is working with training providers such fork-lift truck training partner FTW Training, who have taken the classroom element of their courses online.

In addition to helping those out of work, Newground Together is trying to keep the spirits up of those who are struggling to adapt to working from home by sharing activities and advice on its website and social media from a video on how to make your bike road worthy to tips on how to turn everyday objects into plants.

Nic said: “A change in routine and no face to face contact can lead to mental health problems and feelings of isolation. On top of this, parents are having to entertain and educate their children while the schools are closed.”

“Now more than ever we need to connect with our community whether that’s over the phone, on social media or via Skype or Face Time.”

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