Community Foundation awards first grants from COVID-19 Response Fund

2nd April 2020

Communities responding to the threat of COVID-19 across the county have received a financial boost from the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund this week.

The first £82,000 in grants from the Fund, established by Cumbria Community Foundation, focus on extending and expanding the capacity of charitable organisations that are providing support to those most vulnerable, specifically the elderly and those who have self-isolated.

Cumbria has already seen widespread community and voluntary sector support for the response to COVID-19, with the creation of many self-help groups, alongside a commitment from existing community emergency planning groups, and formal voluntary sector organisations who are working with the County Council and partners including District Councils and NHS.

The money awarded will support vulnerable and older people in their homes, providing food and medicines, provide equipment to support groups remotely working, such as Citizens Advice and carers organisations, offer online youth services for disadvantaged young people, and create a dedicated phone line to provide counselling to people who might be worried, isolated or anxious about the pandemic and need someone to talk to.

Birchall Trust received £2,168 to put its staff and volunteers through an online training programme so they can continue to offer counselling and therapy to survivors of rape and sexual abuse in South Cumbria and North Lancashire.

Chief Executive Officer, Karen Greenhow, said: “The training will ensure that all our counsellors and support staff are operating safely. They will learn and consider new ways of providing counselling over the phone and online and how they need to adapt their practice accordingly. The training will enable our staff to continue to provide the best quality service that we can, providing a vital lifeline to our clients during these challenging times.”

In most rural communities across Cumbria, the population is older than the national average, putting a higher percentage of the community at risk of COVID-19. This is the case across the Northern Fells region. The Northern Fells Group received £2,729 to expand its Lend a Hand service in response to the huge number of people self-isolating. The charity has delivered leaflets, recruited an additional 70 volunteers to pick up shopping and prescriptions, provide dog walking and help with its telephone befriending scheme.

The Lend a Hand service is already funded by Cumbria Community Foundation and provides practical support to residents such as the handy man service, social and domestic care and a medical loan scheme.

Northern Fells Group Fundraising Co-ordinator, Libby Graham said: “The response has been overwhelming and we are inundated with requests for help – particularly from the most vulnerable older residents in our catchment area. We work in a 200 square mile area with many of our users living in isolated households. Distances travelled to deliver help can be many miles.” Our catchment area incorporates seven parishes – Ireby & Uldale, Boltons, Westward & Rosley, Sebergham & Welton, Caldbeck, Castle Sowerby and Mungrisdale.”

Age UK West Cumbria received £10,000 to support its COVID-19 Community Helpdesk and Support service. A response team will support queries and requests for help via a dedicated helpline number staffed 8.30am to 4pm weekdays. The team will also provide a befriending service for those feeling lonely and isolated. The support service will offer a daily phone call for those who have little contact with anyone else. In addition to this, it will deliver food parcels if people are unable to leave their homes because of isolation and poor mobility. Many older people do not have the facility to book shopping deliveries and some are not be able to access food banks either.

Age UK West Cumbria Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Jane Mindar, said: “We want to make older people in West Cumbria feel supported as the COVID-19 crisis is very frightening, especially for those who are isolated and lonely. We want to connect people with services in their local area alongside offering telephone befriending to help people feel less isolated and stop this daunting time effecting their mental health.”

Residents in Appleby will receive help from the Appleby Emergency Response Group after it received £9,030. Volunteers are offering support to those who are self-isolating and do not have a network of family, friends or neighbours to help them. That support may change as the situation develops, but currently includes helping with organising shopping deliveries, collecting prescriptions, and supporting the local convenience store, ensuring deliveries are on the shelves as soon as possible.

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Appleby Emergency Response Group Co-ordinator, Caroline Dodgeon, said: “The funding will allow us to provide a robust and sustainable response to the people of Appleby. It will allow us the flexibility to change and adapt plans as the situation changes. We are dealing with a large increase in the number of people who wish to volunteer. We have set up a network of Street Wardens and cards offering help have been distributed to all properties in the town.”

Carer Support South Lakes is an independent, local charity and network partner of Carers Trust. It provides a range of services to support and enhance the lives of unpaid carers of all ages throughout South Lakeland. Carers are frequently isolated due to the demands of their caring role and this is only intensified by the social distancing that is now being imposed on the whole of the UK population as a result of the coronavirus.

The grant for £3,000 will help with IT equipment, to enable the charity to upgrade its current IT systems. This includes installing appropriate software for all its staff, trustees and volunteers and upgrading its existing server to enable it to have full remote access. The extra equipment will also enable the charity to provide appropriate support online and provide more counselling support to its carers and members of staff. Over the next 12 weeks, the charity will offer counselling over the phone to its clients through a network of volunteer counsellors, as well as to members of staff who are supporting carers in challenging situations.

Cumbria Community Foundation launched the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund with £100,000 of its own funds. Since then, almost £700,000 has been raised by local businesses, charitable trusts and individuals.

Chief Executive, Andy Beeforth, said: “Local closures, cancellations and limited social contact are profoundly impacting our way of life. Charitable organisations are leading the community response, working to continue, adapt, and even expand their services to help residents through this tumultuous time. They are on the front line, providing advice and guidance, food, and critical care for our most vulnerable neighbours.

“These initial grants will support the urgent and immediate needs of those most vulnerable and adversely affected by this unprecedented crisis.”

The Community Foundation expects to award further grants on a weekly basis to respond to emerging needs.

The Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund is working alongside the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal which is raising money nationally to financially support groups across the county. For more information about the Fund and how to donate click here.

For groups wanting to enquire about funding, they should click here or contact the grants team on