SKDC looks to build on Coronavirus community spirit

South Kesteven District Council is working to harness and sustain the goodwill and community support shown in abundance by volunteer groups throughout the COVID-19 crisis

The council wants to maintain the relationships built with communities through its Community Hub by creating long-lasting networks and shaping funding streams to provide ongoing support, as well as evolving its Befriending Service.

Around 55 groups are now registered with the SK Community Hub, established at the start of the crisis and representing at least 1,500 volunteers collectively. Around 300 vulnerable residents receive a weekly telephone call via the council's Befriending Service staff.

Cllr Annie Mason, SKDC Cabinet member for Communities, said: "We have been absolutely staggered by the outpouring of goodwill and sheer neighbourliness that we have seen during this crisis.

"It surpassed anything that I could have imagined, and we want to make it part of our council DNA. It cannot be seen as a one-off event where all that good work dissipates once the crisis is over and we want to find a way to nurture what those amazing people have stepped up to do.

"This dreadful virus will re-shape our future society and its legacy will, I hope, be stronger community bonds. If you have been involved in any sort of community voluntary work, don't stop, keep volunteering, perhaps in different ways.

"Supporting those who give their time voluntarily is something that I feel passionately about and our challenge as a council now is to keep that going in a supportive fashion.

"There has never been a better time to do that and strengthen the incredible relationships between ourselves and the community."

There are opportunities to continue volunteering right across the district, but, as a first step, SKDC is looking at how to carry forward its Befriending Service.

At its height, the service saw council staff and Councillors making weekly calls to nearly 300 of the district's most vulnerable people, providing what some have described as a lifeline. Some SKDC staff were redeployed to support the service during lockdown as part of the council's commitment to support residents through the Coronavirus pandemic.

Now SKDC is asking volunteers if they can help to carry on the friendly-voice Befriending Service as redeployed council staff go back to their pre-lockdown roles. The volunteers will work closely with established community organisations Evergreen Care Trust and BHive. Training will be provided to all who want to show their support.

National Volunteers' Week saw South Kesteven District Council officially thank more than 50 groups for their community work, with dozens of local heroes also nominated for their individual efforts.

All were sent signed certificates of appreciation by the council as part of the annual event. SKDC's social media campaign to celebrate the work of volunteers included Facebook posts seen by more than 30,000 people with lots of support for work of unsung heroes across the district.

Anyone interested in discussing volunteering opportunities can contact the SKDC Community Hub on 01476 406177 and 01476 406358 or email SKCommunityHub@southkesteven.gov.uk