Our work in Oldham
The Coordinated Community Support Programme local partnership group in Oldham includes a range of voluntary, community, faith sector food and furniture providers, as well as Local Authority staff responsible for administering the Local Welfare Provision (LWP) scheme. Our research project on crisis support in all four pilot areas was completed in April 2021. The project explored perceptions and experiences of crisis support among LA and VCS professionals, as well as service-users. Read the Oldham report in full here.
Year 2 of the pilot
The CCS Partnership in Oldham has grown and strengthened during the programme's second year as local partners seek to improve awareness of, access to, and coordination of support to people in finanical crisis. SAWN (Support and Action for Women's Network) and REEL CIC have both received CCS funding for part time administration roles to coordinate their respective Goodwork furniture bank and 'Clothing Rack', as well as promoting partnership work with other local agencies such the LWP at the Council.
The Oldham Community Advice Network was established by the CCS Programme in early Spring 2021. The network is a sub-group of the Poverty Action Group which is convened by Action Together. In the summer of 2021, network coordination was handed over to The Ancora Project (a partnerhship project consisting of KeyRing Living Support, Oldham Foodbank and Christians Against Poverty). The CCS programme team will continue to assist with developing the network and the roll-out of a new online referral system. The new system will be piloted by accredited advice agencies and community support organisations across the borough for 12 months.
The CCS team have worked closely with Oldham Council on a number of matters relating to support for people in financial crisis. This includes the introduction of recomended temporary changes to Local Welfare Provision facilitated by COVID Winter Grant funding. The LA and CCS team also delivered a joint webinar in early 2021 to promote the LWP changes to local VCS organisations and LA staff. Learning from the Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (LWAS) in Oldham and elsewhere has fed into CCS Programme policy work regarding the necessity for sustainable central government funding of LWAS nationally.
Year 1 of the pilot
Responding to Covid-19 obviously dictated CCS programme work in all pilot sites since March 2020. September 2020 marked the first year of the pilot in Oldham, and this felt like an appropriate time to bring local partners together to consider how the next phase of the programme should develop.
The main purpose of the Year 1 Partnership meeting was not to review the previous year but rather to look ahead. This short briefing note was shared with local partners beforehand and attendees were invited to sign the new Oldham Partnership Charter which sets out the aims local CCS programme partners are collectively working towards.
The CCS Programme has partnered with the Smallwood Trust to distribute small grants to financially vulnerable women in all four CCS pilot areas. In Oldham, funding from the Smallwood Trust has been awarded to SAWN, REEL CIC and Inspire Women- local community organisations either working exclusively to women or providing a range of support to families.
The CCS programme hosted regular video calls with local authority representatives and VCS organisations in each pilot area to establish how the programme could support local responses to the pandemic. Issues highlighted in Oldham included support for people with No Recourse to Public Funds, access to re-used furniture and white goods and the challenge of reaching digitally excluded households.
The CCS team worked with Action Together, the local voluntary and community sector (VCS) coordinator, to map how VCS crisis support services are were operating, and to disseminate information on how amended provision could be accessed. Action Together help local people access available assistance, in addition to providing support to strengthen VCS organisations across Oldham. Alongside the Local Authority and Oldham food bank, Action Together has led delivery of the emergency Covid response in district hubs across the borough.
The team worked with SAWN (Support and Action Women's Network) to provide emergency furniture packs, fuel top-ups and food to some of the most vulnerable, including those with No Recourse to Public Funds. SAWN run a reused furniture shop in Oldham and work to promote the welfare of Black/African women in Oldham and the surrounding area. SAWN opened a helpline during the first national lockdown and during Covid offered information and guidance by phone and online in several languages to help overcome language barriers in the local community. They work with partners to not only meet the emergency need but also provide longer term holistic support on issues relating to housing, immigration and mental health.
The CCS programme funded a 6-month emergency expenses pot for the Ancora project. Ancora provide holistic and ongoing support to people in extreme financial hardship across Oldham. The project is a partnership between KeyRing Living Support Networks, Oldham Foodbank and Christians Against Poverty dect advisors. CCS funding enabled Ancora to provide emergency fuel and phone top-ups, supermarket vouchers, safer travel costs and support with digital inclusion. The programme also funded information leaflets for Oldham food bank parcels on how to access advice and support from Ancora as the foodbank moved to a delivery only model during the pandemic.
REEL CIC developed a clothing bank in response to an identified need during the national lockdown. 2020 demonstrated the ongoing need for the project across Oldham, alongside the range of family support REEL provide to people throughout borough. The CCS programme provided interim funding for REEL's ‘Clothing Rack’ during the Autumn of 2020.
The CCS programme convened two new local working groups with LA and VCS partners in recent months- one focussing on improving access to re-used furniture and white goods, the other on coordinating school uniform donations across the borough.
A number of practice sharing calls for partners in all four pilot areas were held throughout 2020. Themes discussed in a 'Recovery' workshop included responding to a growing demand for welfare rights advice, practicalities association with the resumption of face to face services and increasing demand for mental health support services.