SSEN funding and assistance helps keep ‘Communities Prepared’ across Dorset and Wiltshire

Image above shows (L-R): Paul Robertson, Senior Project Officer Communities Prepared, Paul Whiteside, PCSO Wiltshire Police, Imogen Smith, Senior Project Officer Communities Prepared

Funding and assistance from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is enabling priority communities in Dorset and Wiltshire to overcome common barriers to community resilience. 

Through SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund (RCF), over £30,000 has been awarded to Groundwork South to deliver Communities Prepared to communities within a two-year period, working with community volunteer groups to build their resilience to floods and other severe weather emergencies; a priority in the context of climate emergency. In-person training, a first-of-its-kind online resilience hub and an advice line are all features of the support package on offer to communities, with resources designed to be adaptable across multiple emergencies, including snow, fire and utilities failure.

Groundwork South is a not-for-profit organisation supporting communities and working with a range of partners to create social, economic and environmental improvements by enabling both communities and individuals across the south of England to make positive changes to their lives and neighbourhoods. Communities Prepared is one of its flagship projects, providing people around the country with the knowledge and tools to effectively prepare for, respond to and recover from, severe weather emergencies, while strengthening working relationships with the emergency services and other key local stakeholders. 

Across Dorset and Wiltshire, the programme has identified fifteen communities with a combined population of over 81,000, who will be invited to take part in locally held workshops; there they will be introduced to the project, given an outline of the training on offer and the opportunity to network and share experiences. Presentations from key agencies and discussions on community resilience to floods and severe weather emergencies, volunteering opportunities and the support on offer from Communities Prepared will be part of the workshops, with coordinators and members of existing local flood warden, community emergency volunteer groups, community representatives from the surrounding parishes and emergency professionals in attendance. 

Based on interest from coordinators, Communities Prepared will then run training sessions for individual groups, tailored to their needs and priorities. These will offer a choice of modules, covering a range of issues including flooding, snow, fire and utility failure, delivered with support from the Environment Agency and local Cat 1 and 2 responders.  The programme will also support groups in developing and testing their community emergency plans, and offer guidance on other issues such as fundraising, communications, risk assessments and insurance as required; this will be complemented by an online community resilience hub, offering free resources and advice. 

The first workshop has already been delivered in Marlborough Town Hall, where SSEN’s Customer and Community Advisor, Helen Vass spoke to the attendees about SSEN’s ongoing work with local parish councils and community groups.  

She said: “We were delighted to take part in this first workshop of many that aims to improve the resilience of local communities. SSEN has well established links with local organisations and parish councils, so to be able to bring those relationships and knowledge to other groups and locals residents helps us all to build stronger communities.” 

Imogen Smith, a Senior Project Officer for Communities Prepared, helped organise the Marlborough workshop. She said: “It was great to see so many community representatives and partners at our first SSEN funded event and such enthusiasm for community resilience. We look forward to rolling out our training and support to community volunteer groups across Wiltshire and Dorset over the next two years and thank SSEN for making this possible.”  

In its latest round of annual grants – distributed in autumn 2019 - SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund (RCF) has awarded over £185,000 to the successful applicants across its south network area. 

This most recent round of funding is the first where support has been extended to projects which achieve one of the following criteria:    

  • Vulnerability – to protect the welfare of vulnerable community members through enhancing their resilience and improving community participation and effectiveness.
  • Resilience for Emergency Events – to enhance community facilities, services and communication specifically to support the local response in the event of a significant emergency event.

In addition to the Resilient Communities Fund, SSEN has been working closely with local communities in the south east of England, helping them create resilience plans for emergencies, such as adverse weather and possible power disruption during winter storms. SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund will re-open for applications in the spring of 2020. Guidelines and applications forms are available on SSEN’s website: www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/England/ with a full report on the fund available here - https://www.ssen.co.uk/RCF/.

Set up in 2014 as a two-year pilot scheme, SSEN has pledged to extend the fund to 2023 using a proportion of the income it receives from the industry regulator Ofgem in relation to its stakeholder engagement performance.