Empowering our communities to tackle coronavirus challenges

Avich and Kilchrenan Community Council - boot open showing shopping and prescriptions being delivered to local residents thanks to SSEN's Resilient Communities Fund.

Over the past few months, communities across the country have rallied together to protect those most vulnerable from one of the most significant challenges modern society has faced.

Though lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease, the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a significant impact on individuals, businesses and communities, and many people continue to feel physically, mentally and financially vulnerable.   

At SSEN, we know people are relying on us to keep the power flowing to the 3.8m homes and businesses we serve and the care homes and hospitals that are so critical in our country’s response to the pandemic. However, as we strive to be an ever more responsible and proactive network operator, we knew there was a wider role that we could play, by supporting and empowering communities in their own response to the crisis.

Since its launch in 2015, our Resilient Communities Fund has provided over £2.7 million to 538 local community projects, building resilience and protecting those most vulnerable from severe weather events and emergencies.  

As the impact of the pandemic became clear in March, we asked our key stakeholders, independent fund panel members and Stakeholder Advisory Panel to share with us their views about what mattered most to them. The output of these sessions was an overwhelming support for our proposal to repurpose the fund and open it early to specifically support projects that help and protect the vulnerable during this time of need. 

I’m delighted that as a result of this approach, we’ve been able to help over 200 communities, from remote and rural islands in the Western Isles to the city of Portsmouth in Hampshire, making over £320,000 available to help community, parish, town and borough councils or their nominated organisations with grants of up to £3,000.  

The way in which we have allocated funds this year has ensured that support packages are tailored to the local need. This means we have been able to support those most vulnerable by enabling volunteers to deliver food, medicine and even innovative community befriending schemes tackling social isolation, with other successful projects providing personal protective equipment to the vulnerable and improving community communication.  

In Malmesbury, grant-funding will help support a 70-strong volunteer team ensuring essential food supplies and prescription medicine is delivered to those isolating and shielding, and in Winchester, funds are providing vital support to around 100 adults with learning disabilities who live semi-independent lives in the community.  

In Hampshire and Surrey, awards will assist The Vine Centre to help those who feel isolated and have no support network, supporting around 1,500 vulnerable individuals and families across Rushmoor, Ash and Tongham. 

In Aberdeen, grants are being used to purchase iPads, arts and crafts and PPE, supporting two care homes in Bucksburn and Peterculter whose residents have become isolated and lonely without any contact from visitors.  

On the Isle of Barra, Castlebay Community Council is using their grant to support various community organisations offering additional services with a focus on rural isolation, and Dundee City Centre and Harbour Community Council is using their award to support the ‘Dundee Thegither’ project, providing food and medicine to 300-350 people a week, alongside a vital befriending service for people struggling with isolation. 

These are just a few examples of the support we’ve been able to provide to over 200 communities through this year’s fund; reaching cities, towns and villages far and wide, helping local efforts to get through this crisis. 

As the focus turns to reversing the economic impact of coronavirus, SSEN will have a significant part to play in that process, investing in our networks and technology to power a clean and resilient recovery.  It’s vital, however, that this recovery also meets local needs and we will continue to engage and support our communities, building resilience at a local level to help keep our customers and communities safe.  

About the author

Head shot of Colin Nicol

Colin Nicol Managing Director for Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

Colin is Managing Director for Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and is responsible for the company’s two electricity distribution networks across central southern England and northern Scotland and the transmission network in the north of Scotland. He also sits on SSE group’s Executive Committee. Colin started his career in the steel industry 38 years ago, before moving into chemicals and pharmaceuticals, working for ICI and Hoffman La Roche. With a mechanical engineering background, he has held numerous Operational, Project, Business Management and Change roles, both in the UK and abroad (including time spent in China, Japan and Germany). He has been with SSE for five years, initially reporting to the then Chief Operating Officer to support improvements in the area of major project capital investment. Before taking up his current role he was Lead Director for Wholesale Development, responsible for major project development and delivery in the wholesale part of SSE’s business. In his spare time Colin enjoys keeping fit by playing golf, tennis and walking.

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