With the continued lockdown, we wanted to update you on how we have adapted and what OCF and its partners have learnt in the last 12 weeks. From awarding over £500k in grants, to housing the homeless, to working and (lunching!) virtually and Zoom becoming a verb (and not just a great song!) Read on to catch up on our journey since March.
Supporting community groups with funding
With a generous kick start donation from the Indigo Trust and further funding through the National Emergencies Trust and some generous local donors, OCF launched a Community Resilience Fund in response to Coronavirus. The fund opened for applications from 1st April. Up to June 17th we have awarded £508,396 in grants. Applications to this fund are currently paused to take time to ensure we can support the local voluntary and community sector throughout the crisis and beyond. Our initial aims with the fund to respond better and recover stronger remain.
Continuing our plans for helping those experiencing homelessness and the vulnerably housed
As a result of our match-funding campaign for Oxford Homeless Movement, over £150,000 was raised at the start of the year. As planned, around a third of the money was shared between 10 homeless charities in Oxford, a similar amount has been set aside to develop the outside space at the Floyds Row assessment centre and shelter, and the rest was used to set up a new impact fund. Two grants, totalling over £54,000, have been awarded from this fund to local charities ACT and Aspire.
The ACT and Aspire projects build on the fact that during Covid-19 all rough sleepers have been offered a place inside to keep them safe. Spaces were also offered to those who were sleeping in communal areas in the city’s homeless shelters. As a result, Oxford’s rough sleeping community are being temporarily housed in hotels and other temporary accommodation. Aspire and ACT’s projects help to address what happens next; about longer-term solutions where support and accommodation are provided together; where they provide a home and where each person can ultimately become part of the community.
Learning about supporting families online
Growing Minds, our project to improve school readiness, moved quickly online, due to the circumstances imposed by Coronavirus. Partners continue to deliver the best help for families who need it, perhaps even more keenly now, as the home-learning environment is the only one children are being exposed to. Families are receiving Imagination Library book deliveries as usual, one-to-one telephone support, plus parenting forums, resources, and activities online to promote wellbeing and learning. This virtual support is being offered with the full collaboration of new and existing neighbourhood groups to those who need them most.
It has been a learning opportunity for all involved. OCF’s funding continues, to allow the Growing Minds partners to keep working on the project, whilst establishing how to deliver virtually safely and effectively. In fact, part of the planned evaluation, with our research partners at Oxford University, will now include what works in online delivery, both in terms of the types of interventions and who they are being offered to. There is already anecdotal evidence that the project is reaching some families who would not normally get involved in an initial face-to-face setting.
Keeping a virtual community together
Age Friendly Banbury is a partnership of older people, community leaders, local charities, businesses, and local councils aiming to make Banbury an age-friendly town. Although during this challenging time of shielding and social distancing many of the ‘normal’ activities enjoyed by our older population have been curtailed, the Age Friendly Banbury partners have still been working together to support the older generation with information, advice and support, plus ways to keep active and healthy in body and mind.
The partnership is keen to innovate and work more collaboratively to ensure they can support the community for the longer-term. How do you connect communities during this time of isolation? Part of the work of Age Friendly Banbury is now about getting older people comfortable online. Visit Banbury CIC was the driving force and host of the Banbury Big Virtual Lunch on 6th June which was a fun way to encourage older people to connect virtually.
Zoom webinars have become our new meeting place
OCF held our first Zoom webinar on 1st April as a new way to share information about the launch of our Community Resilience Fund and answer immediate questions from local community and voluntary groups. We have covered a lot of topics including furloughing, charity commission guidance, online security, and other sources of funding. All of our webinars have been recorded and you can find the videos on our You Tube page as well as FAQs on our website.
We are now meeting fortnightly, spending some time to see and hear from local groups and how they have been set up or changed their approach because of Coronavirus. We are delighted that Amanda Ponsonby, the High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, is hosting these webinars for us to share the lessons from lockdown – an uplifting and inspiring way to spend an hour. These virtual events highlight how our donors’ support has been invaluable to local organisations. At our last webinar, some of the Age Friendly Banbury partners shared their thoughts and ideas around the use of technology. The next few webinars will take a tour around the county and we will also include an education focus before the summer.