Community hub Burnley Together remains a 'vital lifeline' for vulnerable people one year into the pandemic

When Burnley Together was formed one year ago to the day...it was to be a temporary service for vulnerable people struggling at the height of the pandemic.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 12:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 12:14 pm

Twelve months on, the community hub remains as indispensable as ever having served as a lifeline for thousands of families across the borough.

And 'lifeline' is no exaggeration.

As one parent put it: “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 Together volunteers delivering Christmas food parcels

Burnley Together comprises a number of prominent organisations – Burnley Borough Council, Calico Homes, Lancashire County Council, CVS, Burnley FC in the Community and Burnley Leisure – who joined forces as lockdown measures began to sweep the nation.

With the vulnerable shielding, unable to leave their homes, and others dealing with sudden financial changes and health concerns, many Burnley residents found themselves facing new levels of worry and uncertainty.

The hub 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 weeks of the Covid crisis.

As the year progressed, they discovered that the need was much greater than first anticipated, helping more than 1,400 Burnley households with food parcels in April 2020 alone. And as more businesses, faith groups and individuals offered their resources, the service offered through Burnley Together expanded.

Calico Homes, working with partners, continues to manage the telephone support line and directly reaches out frequently to those who are shielding within the community, ensuring that vulnerable people still have the continuous vital support they need.

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 by the first week of June 2020 – numbers then continued to rise on a daily basis.

Burnley Together and Burnley Leisure worked tirelessly throughout the summer to encourage families and individuals to stay healthy 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 gave out 19,551 meals in the form of family food parcels during the six-week holiday period.

In November, the Burnley Together partners worked alongside Job Centre Plus to launch a hub for young people whose job and training prospects had been affected by the pandemic.

This ensures 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, the Burnley Together Christmas Appeal was also 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.

Toys, toiletries, new clothing and chocolates were just some of the items gifted to those who needed a little extra support during the festive period.

Alongside the gift appeal, the team worked with Birchalls Food Services and Burnley Leisure to provide 500 pre-cooked Christmas dinners for the elderly and vulnerable in the area, which were delivered on Christmas Eve.

Demand shows no sign of abating, and Burnley Together has said it will continue to offer diverse and vital support for the foreseeable future.

Last month, the hub received 656 requests for support over the phone, as well as 220 through social media and the Burnley Together website.

Alicia Foley, community investment manager at Calico Homes, said: “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.”

Burnley Council leader Mark Townsend added: "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."