Charities helping Cumbrians overcome Coronavirus crisis

16th April 2020

 Following the launch of the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund last month, almost a quarter of a million pounds has already been awarded to support local community and voluntary organisations meeting the new needs and challenges created by the virus.

At a time when they have never been more needed, many charities and voluntary organisations are stepping up and responding in the crisis. More than 50 grants have been distributed and dozens more will be provided in the coming weeks.

Another £79,000 was distributed from the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund, set up by Cumbria Community Foundation this week, which is designed to help groups respond and sustain crucial activities as the pandemic continues.

The fund is helping organisations like Safety Net, which works with children, young people and families who have experience of rape, exploitation, sexual and domestic abuse. Thanks to £9,758 from the Fund, staff and volunteers can access an online training programme so they can continue to offer vital emotional support and therapy to clients digitally or over the phone.

Jo Birch, acting chief officer at Safety Net, said: “In these uncertain times we can reassure survivors that Safety Net is here to support them. The hidden epidemic of domestic and sexual abuse continues and grows during this COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will allow our vital work to continue and expand, ensuring a crucial lifeline for those who need support in Cumbria.”

In rural Cumbria, many households face long journeys to buy food and this is more difficult if families are self-isolating. Volunteers from Gisland Village Hall near Brampton are supporting the local response group, which formed to help those who are isolated during the pandemic. There are no shops in the village or bus route and many residents are older or work long hours on nearby farms.

£500 from the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund will help volunteers to provide food supplies in addition to local information via a twice-monthly newsletter. Janet Gordon, Chair, said: “The community of Gilsland is spread across the three parishes of Upper Denton, Waterhead and Thirlwall with the village hall at its heart. Some of the outlying properties are in very rural areas having no mobile phone signal and limited broadband, making communication a challenge. The funding we received will help support the community in many ways and the production of a newsletter is a vital asset especially for the elderly and vulnerable self-isolating in their own homes for up to three months.”

The number of people being forced to stay at home during the lockdown has raised fears that there will be more cases of domestic abuse, and that some victims will be either be too afraid to ask for help, or be uncertain if help is available at this time. West Cumbria Domestic Violence received £10,128 to offer a confidential telephone helpline with qualified therapist and trainers for those suffering from abuse. Project Manager, Victoria Pike, said: “While many victims and survivors of domestic abuse will rely on their family and friends, they also need a strong provision of formal services, from specialist refuges to counsellors.

“With the current lockdown measures that are in place, victims may not have accessible support from family, friends and other services they are used to; therefore, it is vital that there is a place for them to turn to. Early intervention or lack of early support can enable or prohibit an individual’s ability to break away from abuse. If the person does decide to talk, whether they have left an abusive relationship or just contemplating it, it is important to have someone to talk too, a friendly ear at the end of the phone to discuss the various options and help them make informed choices to keep themselves and their children as safe as possible. The grant is going to go a long way in  providing immediate support to victims of domestic abuse in West Cumbria.”

Love Barrow Families CIC works with families who suffer from physical and mental health issues, relationship difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse, anti-social behaviour, domestic violence, unemployment and homelessness, all of which can affect emotional and mental wellbeing and is exacerbated by the virus. The charity received £4,000 to enable staff and volunteers to work remotely and to cover costs associated with the food and prescription delivery service.

Farmers in many parts of the county were already struggling after the wettest February since records began and are now facing the challenges of Coronavirus. Many farms run tourism enterprises that have been immediately impacted by restrictions but are also experiencing difficulties in sourcing supplies, disruption to markets, falling milk prices and concerns about what might happen to their livestock and businesses if they themselves become ill.

The Farmer Network has received £9,500 from the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund to provide information, support and practical help to farmers who may be experiencing hardship and to develop a Farm Labour Emergency Support Scheme (FLESS). Adam Day, The Farmer Network’s Managing Director said: “Farmers are isolated, particularly during lambing, which is good for reducing the spread of COVID-19 but makes them more at risk of stress and remote from the support available in more urban areas. From the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, farmers have raised concerns as to what might happen should keyworkers or family members be unable to work because of illness. We want to help find workers, both volunteers and contractors, and match these with farmers who need emergency labour who are not able to find help through their usual friends and family networks.”

Chairman of the Farmer Network, Randal Raine, who farms at Outhwaite, said: “The Farm Labour Emergency Support Scheme will bring much needed reassurance to farmers like me, that in a worse- case scenario, the farm can remain operational and the welfare of animals maintained.”

For more information about the Fund and how to donate, click here.

For groups wanting to enquire about funding, click here.