How Blackpool Pride of Place partnership helped the community’s response to COVID-19
In many places across the UK, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has created the conditions for more agile decision-making and greater cross-sector collaboration than under normal circumstances. Business in the Community’s (BITC) Pride of Place initiative in Blackpool has spent the past three years forging partnerships within the community. In recent weeks, the value of these has been further demonstrated. The speed at which support has been leveraged within and into the town has enabled residents, that may otherwise have gone without, to receive food, tech, and other household essentials during a time of crisis.
Existing community support
Since 2013, Blackpool Food Partnership has provided a vital support service, sourcing and delivering food to 70 other organisations, as well as providing food parcels direct to individuals and families. During the course of the lockdown, their scope has evolved to provide doorstep drop food parcels to residents who are shielded or self-isolating, as well as a hot food service seven days a week for about 100 homeless people in the town, who are accommodated in B&Bs with limited or no access to cooking facilities.
Supermarket surplus usually forms a significant portion of the food partnership’s supplies. However, in the week before lockdown, panic buying had drastically reduced the amount of leftover stock and, with less than a full week’s stock, the service was at serious risk at a time of increased need and demand.
Joining up the dots
A donation was secured by the central BITC Place Team from the Garfield Weston Foundation, to aid emergency food provision in our five pilot locations. However, even with the funds to cover one week’s worth of supplies, sourcing enough food was still a barrier for the partnership. Stocks of priority items were low and quantity restrictions had been introduced across supermarkets.
To overcome this, the first connection was made with wholesale suppliers in the area. The closure of hotels and leisure facilities had left wholesale suppliers with excess stock and a decrease in business, so BITC’s local Pride of Place Team joined the dots to get the Food Bank restocked, while simultaneously supporting a local business to continue trading.
Alongside this immediate support to help keep the Food Partnership running, further assistance has been provided through the Blackpool Pride of Place network (consisting of the council, voluntary organisations, and businesses), as well as BITC’s National Business Response Network (NBRN). These strong partnerships in the town mean that challenges are understood and overcome with greater speed and efficiency. In return, these connections have made the town more resilient to the negative and unforeseen effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Support has included:
- Warburtons delivering 100 units of bread a week.
- Costa providing cakes and pastries and large quantities of paper cups, which are being used to deliver hot drinks to the homeless in B&B accommodation.
- Beaverbrooks donating £1,000 to support food provision.
- Victrex donating hi-vis vests for volunteers to wear while making the doorstep drops. It is purchasing a significant quantity of toiletries, which are also supplied to residents by Blackpool Food Partnership.
- Owners of The Hive Café, a key partner in the Claremont project, dedicating their business premises and time to cooking each day for more than 100 homeless people.
Effective, on-the-ground relationships enabled the response to the pandemic to move quickly in other areas of the community. When Bp offered a large quantity of laptops to BITC’s National Business Response Network (NBRN), children in need of technology to support their education were quickly identified through BITC’s ground-up community project in Claremont. Our Business Connector Susan Brown, seconded from the DWP found out the number of laptops needed from the head teacher of the local primary school within one day, so families without technology at home for each child had access to virtual learning.
The rapid implementation of solutions during COVID-19 in Blackpool has shown just how vital trust and relationships built locally between the public, private and voluntary sector are. These partnerships are crucial both in responding in the face of adverse events, as well as in driving change under ‘normal’ circumstances. Looking to the future, cross-sector partnerships involving businesses should be instigated and utilised as communities plan and innovate to aid long-term recovery.
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