Aldershot charity delivers over 9,500 meals and care packages during lockdown with help from SSEN funding

A Hampshire based charity has used a £3,000 award from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) Resilient Communities Fund to help it cater for isolated and vulnerable members of the community throughout lockdown and during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It follows SSEN repurposing its Resilient Communities Fund (RCF) in March, making £320,000 available to support local efforts to help those most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Based in Aldershot, The Vine Centre was established in 1987 to address the physical and mental health needs of its clients; transforming the lives of the vulnerable and most socially isolated members of the local community. As the magnitude of the pandemic became clear, The Vine Centre turned to SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund to help them adapt their support to the changing needs of Hampshire and Surrey’s more vulnerable residents. 

With the award from the Resilient Communities Fund, the charity and its supporters delivered over 9,590 care packages and meals during lockdown, and carried out over 3,500 support calls to residents who were vulnerable, isolating or shielding; in addition to providing free lunches to six local doctor’s surgeries to help NHS staff through challenging times. 

As restrictions eased and the needs of communities and their residents changed, The Vine Centre again looked to repurpose its offering for those in need of additional assistance, as the centre’s CEO, Lesley Herniman explains: “As lockdown started to relax, our support workers saw an increasing need for referrals for mental health and addiction, as well as a rise in those experiencing homelessness. To help accommodate that, we have now added a triage system, where all referrals and new beneficiaries are assessed and then referred on to the correct area of support we can offer. 

“Our reach has extended so much further than usual, and we’re now looking ahead – Government guidelines permitting – to reopening our centre for small, socially distanced groups later this month. In addition to this and in response to the currently climate, the centre is now offering employment advice and IT courses. 

“We continue to provide one of our local GP surgeries with a free buffet each week and would like to thank Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks for the funding that has helped us to help so many others.” 

SSEN’s Head of Region, Ian Drummond said: “We are delighted to have been able to play a small part in helping The Vine Centre achieve so much in assisting vulnerable members of the community across Hampshire and Surrey. 

“In repurposing the Resilient Communities Fund to support the communities we serve, our aim was to enable them to respond quickly and efficiently in tackling the local issues they had identified as a result of coronavirus. The work of The Vine Centre has shown how this forward-thinking organisation has supported so many people throughout lockdown - and beyond - by assessing the needs of those who depend on them and adapting their own offering accordingly.” 

Earlier this year, successful applicants from community, parish, town and borough councils were awarded up to £3,000 each for projects that supported vulnerable community members, enabled volunteers to support community coronavirus initiatives, provide PPE to vulnerable and frontline workers, run community befriending schemes and improve community communication. 

Since its launch in 2015, SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund has now provided over £2.7 million to 538 local community projects to build resilience and protect those most vulnerable.  The criteria for this year’s fund was changed following consultation with SSEN stakeholder groups, who strongly supported opening the fund early and targeting coronavirus response.