SSEN funding boosts Charlbury residents resilience through coronavirus pandemic

Fresh fruit and veg on display

A West Oxfordshire town has set up its own specific support group of over 200 local volunteers to help its younger community members and vulnerable residents throughout the coronavirus pandemic with help from Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ (SSEN) Resilient Communities Fund. 

In March, SSEN repurposed its Resilient Communities Fund (RCF) making £320,000 available to support local efforts to help those most vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic. A £3,000 award made to Charlbury Town Council through the RCF helped the town’s Thomas Gifford Trust establish Charlbury Covid-19 Community Support; bringing together over 200 volunteers to provide support and assistance to more than 110 of the town’s most vulnerable households. 

Based in the Charlbury Community Centre, the volunteer group set up a food and prescription collection service to ensure that residents who were shielding, self-isolating or vulnerable were fully supported through the initial lockdown. In addition to this, the group set up a pop-up food bank, a weekly food basket delivery service to families in need of extra assistance and virtual coffee mornings for elderly residents, with cakes and coffees delivered to their doorsteps. 

As restrictions have eased, Charlbury Covid-19 Community Support has adapted its local services to suit the area’s changing needs. In conjunction with St Mary’s Church Charlbury, support services moved to a new project called The Cornerstone, where a ‘Give and Take’ foodbank and produce exchange is now established. The Cornerstone also offers homework and learning support for Charlbury’s young people, as well as a local advisory services with guidance from the Citizens Advice Bureau. 

Richard Fairhurst, Chair of Charlbury Town Council, said: "In a rural town like Charlbury, lockdown posed a real risk to vulnerable and older members of the community, isolated from their usual support networks and with little access to services. This invaluable funding through SSEN meant our volunteers could ensure no-one was at extra risk from lockdown and that a friendly face was always on hand." 

Craig Rankin, SSEN’s Head of Region, said: “Charlbury Town Council has shown a remarkable resilience in providing assistance to their local community during lockdown and then looking to adapt that offering to residents as restrictions ease and demands change. 

“The ongoing assistance of Charlbury Covid-19 Community Support to residents of all ages is commendable and I’m proud that, through SSEN’s Resilient Communities Fund, we have been able to play a small part in helping them achieve this.” 

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.