Liz Philpot is the Growth Programmes Manager for East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Coastal Lead for York North Yorkshire LEP. In this post, she discusses the challenges faced in delivering social regeneration projects in some of the most deprived areas in England and how these projects have successfully adapted in the face of Covid-19.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit the Yorkshire Coast every year, for fantastic coastlines, sea breeze, and traditional seaside fun of fish and chips, candy floss, donkey rides, and amusement arcades. But there is another side to the seaside.
Well reported challenges of seasonal unemployment, low wages, low skill casual labour and limited job opportunities result in several neighbourhoods in the Yorkshire seaside towns of Scarborough and Bridlington being in the 5% most disadvantaged in England.
The Yorkshire Coast Community Led Local Development programme is supporting around £6.5million of European Structural Investment Funds into projects that are working with residents and businesses in these disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
The Community-Led Local Development approach combines both the European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund, to enable innovative local projects to help people furthest away from the workplace to develop their skills and move closer to employment. At the same time support is available for businesses to create new job opportunities in the local area.
The programme has been running for over 2 years of a 5 year period, and to date has funded 32 projects. Some real success has already been achieved.
But that was before the pandemic. Following the Government announcement to “Stay at Home” the daily motivation for many of the project beneficiaries disappeared overnight.
How could a social inclusion programme continue to be delivered?
Just as many of us who were already employed had to pick up IT kit and work from home, so too did many of our projects. Although already using technology to some degree, they have utilised new ways of communicating with their participants – emails, texts, video and phone calls – to stay in frequent contact on a one-to-one basis. And several projects continue to hold regular group activities, using online video conferencing tools.
Activities continuing virtually include:
- Love Local’s business owners’ coffee meets;
- Activ Business’ exercise classes;
- Street Based Youth Engagement’s groups; and
- Back on Track’s coffee mornings.
The project team members find this contact mutually beneficial, especially for those who live alone.
A number of projects are also using social media to stay in touch by posting videos and creating private support groups. The “Parents into Work” project has offered home learning and activity packs, making and taking packs to participants and their children, which has helped to keep parents and their children occupied, supporting home education and promoting better mental and physical health.
The “Street Based Youth Engagement” project has issued care packs for young people; and “Back on Track” have offered packs including craft and recipe ideas.
Many other projects have arranged for their staff and participants to help to deliver medical supplies, food and care packages. The SPARKS project has been helping people renew prescriptions and several projects have been supporting people with job searches, CVs, application forms and Universal Credit forms.
It has been identified that participants’ lack of ICT skills and/or access to ICT tools is a key issue during the lockdown, and some projects have loaned equipment to help their most isolated and vulnerable participants to stay in touch and improve their ICT skills.
Several projects have said that the lockdown has helped them improve their ways of working, making them more responsive to participants, and they fully intend to maintain these new ways of working.
The support for the most vulnerable residents has proved to be of great benefit, helping them get through social isolation, still providing support and guidance to help them stay on track to move closer to employment. Projects have helped their supported businesses and self-employed clients to understand the new sources of financial and other support available, ensuring they successfully navigate the challenges of COVID-19.
The Yorkshire Coast CLLD programme and its funded projects, supported by European Structural Investment Funds, were already offering much-needed support and guidance to our residents and businesses on the Yorkshire Coast, this has continued and become even more important in these challenging times.
More information about the Yorkshire Coast Community Led Local Development can be found by visiting : https://www.advantagecoast.org.uk/