Latest weekly update from Council Leader
Posted on 23 Jul 2020
The Covid-19 lockdown has been extremely challenging, but it has highlighted how powerful and resilient our communities are.
Over the past few months I have used this column to highlight the incredible efforts of Council staff, community groups and volunteers in responding to the crisis. Almost overnight, they mobilised and focused on supporting our most vulnerable residents. How they have worked together, in the face of adversity, has been inspiring.
The Council is in summer recess and usually I would be undertaking several visits to community groups throughout North Ayrshire. But this summer I am doing it differently, holding virtual meetings with the frontline teams in our community hubs and some of the many community organisations who are doing tremendous work at this time.
These meetings are giving myself, senior officers and the Provost, the opportunity to personally thank the teams for their efforts and listen to the many incredible stories they have from the last few months.
So far, I’ve had virtual meetings with staff and volunteers at the Fullarton Hub and PRYDE and in terms of our own community hubs I met the Three Towns and Kilwinning teams with other meetings planned for throughout the recess.
To listen to their experiences is truly humbling. I was struck by the stories of young members of staff, such as Laurissa at the Kilwinning Hub who, at a young age, is going above and beyond to support many of my own constituents, listening to some very difficult stories from residents but also building a rapport with some of the ‘regulars’, with whom she is enjoying the banter. Most importantly, the gratitude that residents are showing towards Laurissa and the team is making all the difference to the teams’ own spirits, to know that they are making a difference to people’s lives is keeping everyone going.
These have been challenging times for experienced community learning and development staff but then you meet Lauren who joined the Council midway through the lockdown and has been thrown into the Three Towns Hub, has integrated into a wonderful team and is making a difference on a daily basis.
And then there’s Craig, who left his university course at the end of last year having concluded that it wasn’t the career that he wanted to pursue. From day one, Craig came forward and offered his time to support the Three Towns Hub and it speaks volumes for the work of that team that Craig has since applied, and been successful in gaining a place on the Council’s next group of Modern Apprenticeships, starting next month with the Connected Communities team.
But perhaps the most inspiring story so far has been of one volunteer literally saving a woman’s life. They went to deliver a food pack but got no response at the door. The woman was shielding and a neighbour, who had a key for the house, knew that she hadn’t left. Their instinct was that something was wrong and upon entering the house they found the woman in a diabetic coma. Without their intervention, and the initial connection between the hub and the resident, the woman could well have passed away.
These are just some of the stories I have been told so far, there has been many more that I simply don’t have the space in the column to retell, but I am looking forward to speaking to more of the hubs and community groups over the coming weeks.
What’s already clear is that we need to use the energy and efforts of our staff and the volunteers to create a better normal after Covid because no one I have spoken to wants a return to the old normal. They have seen the difference that working together, across council departments and in partnership with community organisations, has made during lockdown and they don’t want to lose that. And I am determined we won’t.
These meetings are providing important learning for senior council officers and I, as we look towards the future. Whilst we are dealing with the immediate challenges we all face, and problem-solving as we go, the meetings are giving us the opportunity to discuss the future and in particular to talk to community groups about Community Wealth Building. I am confident that from these initial discussions we can achieve something big, utilising the valuable resources we already have in every one of these community activists by empowering them to be part of a new economy of social enterprises, co-operatives and other generative forms of business ownership.
These inspiring people show us that the future is ours to design, and together we can start to build it.