We would like say a big thank you to the many community volunteers and organisations which worked alongside our staff supporting the most vulnerable in our borough during the past year - now that official shielding has been lifted for more than 8,000 Royal Borough residents.
This marks the end of an innovative Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead community partnership protecting our clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) residents from COVID-19. At its height, the borough’s CEV residents – some six per cent of the population – were offered help to ensure they had food, medication, support, and a friendly voice to talk to during the different phases of the pandemic.
This support, which covered 374 days, was delivered by more than 150 council staff via a dedicated COVID-19 response call centre backed up by more than 1,000 volunteers, 150 community information champions and 70 community groups – all keen to ‘go that extra mile.’ This new way of working by becoming facilitators, coaches, and catalysts for localised support, enabled us and our community partners to work as one giving our residents exactly the support they needed.
Councillor Stuart Carroll, lead member for adult social care, children’s services, health and mental-health, says: “The communities of the Royal Borough have been the true success story of the pandemic. This new way of community partnership has not only allowed the needs of our vulnerable to be adequately supported during the pandemic, but has also strengthened the Royal Borough’s resilience and connectivity in a way that traditional ‘command and control’ responses were unable to.
“By working together in this way, we now have better communication between public sector partners, which in turn has triggered changes in our other services. We’re stronger and more effective working as one. This fantastic new way of working will continue once the pandemic is over.”
At the start of the first lockdown, in March last year, our usual team supporting the borough’s clinically vulnerable needed to relocate to home working but our existing infrastructure wasn’t set up to do this.
In just ten days we set up a new flexible, and easy-to-use contact centre, run by both our social care team and redeployed library staff, giving support – both phone calls and/or organising face-to-face contact - to our shielded residents.
This new call centre supported community-based initiatives, with local community hubs of public sector partners (including GPs and social prescribers), faith groups, charities, businesses, politicians, and local neighbours, all working in unison to support local need. We also gave these local hubs practical and financial help to get up and running, and the power to make decisions themselves as they were better suited to know exactly what their communities need. The initial surge of public goodwill saw some 800 volunteers formally register, with hundreds more known to local community groups.
Our band of community information champions were, and still are, another valuable and crucial thread to this new grassroots approach. They consist of community organisations and individuals who act as informal ambassadors spreading public health COVID-19 messages and data to those groups and residents we cannot reach.