The Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund, created to help people in need during the pandemic, has distributed more than £2m in just eight months.
The Fund was set up in March by Cumbria Community Foundation to respond to the challenges faced by many people and families across the county.
Since then, more than 330 applications have been received with 185 organisations and community groups sharing £2,129,583.
Grants have been awarded to support community organisations providing vital services like foodbanks, delivery of food and care packages to vulnerable people, telephone and online services offering friendship and support to help reduce isolation, emotional, mental health and domestic violence support and financial hardship, support to access benefits and debt advice to name but a few.
The Community Foundation team have worked hard to assess an overwhelming level of applications ensuring vital support reaches those most in need as quickly as possible. Figures reveal that the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund received almost the same number of applications as the charity received in the whole of the previous year. Initially, applications were reviewed weekly but for the past six months they have been considered fortnightly.
Last week, more than half a million pounds was awarded to 29 organisations.
West Cumbria Domestic Violence Support received £14,824 to continue offer counselling support to victims of domestic violence. Victoria Pike (top photo), Project Manager, 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. Early intervention or lack of early support can enable or prohibit a person's ability to break away from abuse. If they do decide to talk, whether they have left an abusive relationship or just contemplating it, it is important to have someone to talk to, to discuss the various options and help them make informed choices.
"The grant will enable us to increase counselling hours and employ new counsellors for the next six months, allowing us to support more people throughout COVID-19 and reduce our waiting list. Thanks again for your continued support and allowing us to change the lives of victims in West Cumbria suffering from domestic and sexual abuse."
Carers Support Cumbria, a consortium that brings together the four carers organisations across the county, received £34,184 to roll out a Carer-Connect, a digital platform allowing carers to interact and access support, advice, and information online.
Chief Operating Officer of Carer-Connect, Debi Marsden (below), explains why the timing of receipt of this fund is so vital: “The grant will enable Carers-Connect to further its reach into the whole of Cumbria rather than just the South Lakes area. This platform will really support carers to connect with one another regardless of their geographical location.
“COVID-19 has really highlighted the issue of acute social isolation and the importance of support and conversations for all unpaid Carers. This is why Carer-Connect is needed right now. Carer-Connect is predominantly a social space with professional services and support built in. This safe and moderated forum is for Carers of all ages, with groups for Young Carers, Adult and Parent Carers living throughout Cumbria”
Staff and volunteers at Mind in Furness can now work remotely, offering a better service to people suffering with their mental health, after it received £9,694 to upgrade the IT equipment.
Karen Dobson, Chief Officer, said: “The grant from the COVID-19 Response Fund will help us meet our changing IT needs. Our server was dying of old age and impacting on staff working from home. A new server will increase our capacity to support those with mental health issues.”
The Community Chef Project, based in St Herbert’s Church in Carlisle, received £3,300 to feed the homeless and the community over the winter months. Reverend Alun Jones said: "The grant will enable us to provide a hot meal every morning and evening for the homeless of Carlisle. The Community Chef Project is led by chef, Michael Cullen, and a small team of volunteers.”
Andy Beeforth, Chief Executive of Cumbria Community Foundation, said: “The emotional, physical and financial impacts of the pandemic have been incredibly severe, and many lives have been turned upside down. Sadly, there are even more people in Cumbria experiencing extreme hardship, isolation, loneliness, and anxiety.
"The generosity of our supporters is humbling. Sadly, this year has contained much grief and anxiety for people. However, we’re encouraged by the way people and groups have responded to help. Groups have come together to urgently deliver essential and critical services to those most in need. Small interventions can literally prevent a family becoming homeless and we are grateful to every group and individual that has helped.
“It’s clear that the tough times are far from over and our thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by this global health crisis.”
The Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund has received hundreds of donations from local people and businesses, the National Emergencies Trust, and the NHS.
There is now limited funding available in the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund, which will be targeted at supporting those most vulnerable. Community groups requiring financial support should apply no later than 8th December 2020.