Lancaster district singled out for 'strong leadership, creative practice and partnership working' in response to coronavirus pandemic

Lancaster City Council's Salt Ayre community support hub response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been praised in a new national report.

By Nick Lakin
Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 9:52 am
Updated Wednesday, 30th September 2020, 9:58 am

It has been singled out by The Carnegie UK Trust in a report on good practice within UK local authority responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the innovations identified was the development of community hubs.

The city council partnered with Morecambe Bay Foodbank and other organisations to set up a community hub at Salt Ayre Leisure Centre in late March.

Volunteers delivered food parcels across the district from the community hub at Salt Ayre.

In the first instance it focused on people in the community it considered extremely vulnerable, before widening the scope of the operation.

The Lancaster Guardian visited the community hub in April, and joined volunteers on the road delivering food parcels across the district.

You can see our report HERE.

Throughout the pandemic, the Trust - which "aims to improve wellbeing by influencing public policy and changing lives through innovative practice and partnerships" - has been undertaking a series of conversations with communities across the UK, exploring the changing relationship between local government, public services and communities.

The community hub at Salt Ayre Leisure Centre.

Launching the report Sarah Davidson, CEO at Carnegie UK Trust said: “In the immediate response to the pandemic, organisations were able to come together quickly in community hubs to make sure that vulnerable people were supported in a way that treated them with kindness and respect.

"While many councils responded in innovative ways to the pandemic, we think the partnership approach taken in Lancaster shows a particularly effective way of working and one that we would recommend to others.

“They demonstrated strong leadership, creative practice and partnership working. As we move forward into the next stage of the pandemic, and with Winter fast approaching, we are encouraging other councils across the country to apply this learning to the next phase."

Coun Erica Lewis, Cabinet Member and Leader, Lancaster City Council said: “Our approach to responding to COVID-19 and setting up the Community Hub has been all about working in partnership. We had started building our partnership work before COVID, but the pandemic has accelerated conversations and new ways of working. For us, it’s about people coming together and having conversations with a mutual aim and focus – to support our communities.”

Food donation drop off points were set up across the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

In its own report, The Carnegie UK Trust found:

The shared challenge and scale of the need galvanised local authorities, other public services and voluntary sector organisations to come together quickly, in some cases in a matter of days.

Community hubs were an important, instant emergency response that reached into communities, and built positive relationships between services and citizens.

Previously cited barriers to cooperation such as budgets and targets were dropped to ‘get the job done’.

The services were able to operate flexibly, based on what people needed, rather than being limited to one size fits all. They developed book drop offs, friendship calls and other things that supported people’s wellbeing.

Personalised support, based on individual needs and preferences was delivered by many of the hubs at a level previously considered unachievable.

Having different public services working out of the same hub made signposting far easier, so people identified as having more complex needs could be linked to more specialist services.

The Trust believes that these hubs could have a longer-term role in recovery from the pandemic - in joining the dots between people that require support, with a range of services to promote individual and community wellbeing.