We’ve been incredibly impressed with the way so many Co-ops and Community businesses have managed through the Covid-19 situation and lockdown. The commitment to serving their communities and the resilience and ingenuity they have shown has been amazing!
We’ve spoken to a number of our clients about how they have managed – here we share the story of The Rame Peninsula Trust after speaking to Simon Ryan in December 2020, before England went back into lockdown in January.
What was your immediate challenge?
Our immediate challenge was to work out what we, as the Trust, could and should do. We do so many different things, it was all about prioritising.
What did you do?
We started planning for lockdown on the 10th March – we saw it coming, and as a group said, ‘let’s sit down and get our heads around this’. We called a public meeting as we were still allowed to do that and got set up – 118 volunteers came forward in 3 weeks
Our Trust is a fully community-owned operation with 660 members at that time, including lots of older people in complicated situations, so our first action was to immediately stop all project work and pivot to community support.
We rejigged the community hub to do more. We set up shopping and deliveries for lots of people isolating. The food bank greatly expanded as did crisis loans, and grants, and 1-2-1 support around benefits/housing/welfare in general. We did all that without any concern for the fact that we weren’t generating income – the work was too crucial – and it paid off. We received financial support really quickly from Cornwall community Foundation, Cornwall Council and our local Parish Councils. The Nationwide Building Society opened up a large grant they had awarded us, allowing it to be used for the Covid work.
Where we were able to continue our normal work, we did, for example with contractors on our building projects. We spent over £1000 in our community centre putting up screens, new equipment, and making it as secure as possible. We basically got involved wherever we were needed. One example would be that within a couple of weeks of lockdown starting, our local pharmacy had a massive, massive problem – they had two staff off sick, including their delivery driver. They rang us one morning at 10.20am and by 12.30am we had 12 volunteers waiting outside, and then by 2.30pm all the delivery backlog had been cleared. We were able to remove a huge amount of stress for them. We carried on doing this for three weeks until they were able to recruit a new driver. We’re really proud that we’ve reached the point where we’re the ‘go to’ organisation, we’re connected and known – its’s an amazing place to have got to.
What support did you access, including from CCF?
Two Parish Councils gave us 2k each, and the Cornwall Community Foundation gave us substantial grants. One was to expand the foodbank and another was to support older people – that support came in hard and early, it was amazingly responsive.
The National Lottery funding took longer, but eventually came in with a large grant, and through that grant, our work has been supported up until to the end of February 2021.
Co-operative and Community Finance were brilliant. We didn’t even have to make the call. Within a couple of days, Ian Rothwell called us, asked how we were doing and offered up a capital holiday. It wasn’t just that this was on offer, it was that they actually made the offer, they made the first move. And yes, we took that up. They were so helpful and supportive.
What are you doing now?
We’re achieving some longstanding aims. Since 2014 the Trust has wanted to support local people in need – there are lots of wealthy people where we are based but also substantial rural deprivation and disadvantage. There are lots of unscrupulous money lenders and drugs on some housing estates, and it’s always been hard to get involved with people there. But we’ve been doing door to door leaflets twice a month, asking people what they need and we’re already helping 82 households (that’s 1 in 20 in the local area), with 3-5 new cases coming to us each week. Because of that, we’ve started to see the families with longer term need coming forward – they trust us now, so they are coming forward, which is great.
What are your plans moving forward?
With the need for the local support so clearly in mind, over the last two months, the Board has decided to commit the Trust to running a permanent local support service with paid workers, as an extra major addition to our work on housing, workspace and community activity. We’ve always wanted to do this but were waiting until we had the income. Covid forced our hand and we can’t go back now. So, we’ve committed to £35k a year to provide advice around housing, welfare, benefits, debt, legal, domestic abuse and mental health. We have a huge range of external organisations coming in and working from our centre, and a satellite operation we’re setting up in the next village.
The Trust has been working for some years with a second community benefit society, the Old Ship Inn Cawsand, and within 4/6 weeks we’re going to be running duplicates of our community support from The Old Ship as a satellite operation in that village.