Dozens of voluntary sector groups, clubs, organisations and venues are making the final preparations for their ‘grand reopening’ in line with the government’s next stage of the roadmap on Monday, 17 May.
Community Action Suffolk has witnessed one of its busiest ever weeks, with a spike in the number of charities, social enterprises, community interest companies and other not-for-profit organisations needing last-minute advice and support.
Working in partnership with Suffolk County Council and all Suffolk District and Borough Councils, Community Action Suffolk is delivering a targeted ‘Suffolk Community Restart’ project, through which it will help voluntary sector groups and organisations open their doors and welcome back hundreds of lunch clubs, dance groups, sports teams, meet-ups, museum visitors, neighbourhood initiatives and more.
Since launch, the Suffolk Community Restart scheme – in conjunction with a health and safety specialist – has also delivered on-demand training to dozens of organisation leads and community ambassadors across the county.
Copdock Village Hall is one entity which has reached out for support as part of the initiative – having been closed, like all other community facilities of its kind, since March 2020.
Since then, it has endured a loss of regular revenue, embedded a new team of trustees, been through a period of temporary reopening, and fully renovated the building in time for the ‘grand welcome’ it plans to extend to its community.
Ian Watson Chair of Copdock Village Hall says:
“The pandemic has had a huge impact on our service to the community, our staff and our income.
“Many of the trustees – including myself – were new to the role shortly before we closed, and were unprepared for such change. We were anxious and had no idea what to do.
“Fortunately, Community Action Suffolk stepped in and carefully guided us through it with seminars, workshops, question and answers sessions, training, regular updates, and grant advice. All this helped us keep up to date with government legislation and procedures as well as review our own standard practices, policies, and governance arrangements.”
He added: “In recent weeks we’ve been able to take advantage of the Community Restart scheme to ensure we’re fully ready and compliant, ahead of the May 17 full reopening of our services.
“Without this really targeted support, Copdock Village Hall would certainly not have been ready to welcome back the community and may have had to remain closed for a longer period.
“We’re incredibly excited to see people back using a facility which is so important to so many.”
Christine Abraham of Community Action Suffolk, said: “Copdock Village Hall is a perfect example of the kind of organisation being run in the heart of Suffolk by volunteers.
“These groups and organisations have required a lot of support and advice in order to be in a position to welcome back their communities, and we’re glad that the Suffolk Community Restart scheme has allowed us to provide that extra information, access to funding, and general hand-holding, so that everyone feels safe and excited about the next phase.”
A dedicated fund has been created for the ‘Suffolk Community Restart’ initiative, allowing organisers of clubs, groups, venues and schemes to not only access Covid Restart training and workshops, but also to apply for grants of between £250 and £2,500. Grant funding can be used to help get activities up and running in a Covid-safe way – for purchasing PPE, creating new signage, or introducing new cleaning regimes.
VCSE groups and organisations also have the opportunity to book and attend funding surgeries, 121 planning sessions and workshops.
Chrissie Geeson, Chair of the Collaborative Communities Board said: “We are so pleased to be able to provide the Community Restart funding for voluntary and community groups.
“Now, more than ever, is it so important to connect communities and to help reduce isolation for all ages.”
To find out more about the Suffolk Community Restart project details can be found on the Community Action Suffolk website – www.communityactionsuffolk.org.uk on the Community Restart page or email [email protected]