By Clive Morton, Vice-Chair, CWC
“Devastating” and “unprecedented” are terms that have been repeatedly used (some would say over-used) throughout the pandemic. The experience for so many has been dire and it’s easy to see this past 18 months in very negative terms.
However, there are positive outcomes and I’d like to share one of those experiences from Peterborough.
Along with other local authorities during 2020, Peterborough City Council (PCC) were struggling to engage effectively with communities and individuals, particularly those isolated at home. The Council needed to get ‘Covid messages across’ and were struggling.
We have a wide range of ethnic communities in Peterborough and, in parallel, strong membership of world religions. Peterborough has had a long history of Inter Faith links and a pattern of strong partnerships between the Council and volunteer organisations including those associated with the Faiths.
Jawaid Khan, Head of Community Resilience and Integration for PCC, approached Rev Canon Tim Alban Jones, Vice Dean at the Cathedral, with the idea of setting up an Inter Faith Support Group (IFSG) with the objective of addressing the Covid issues and working in partnership with PCC and volunteer organisations. Tim Alban Jones took up the challenge and very swiftly set up and coordinated membership of the IFSG establishing fortnightly Zoom meetings and those meetings have met right up to the current time.
The prime objective was to communicate to and between the faiths on the situation with the pandemic and to aid this Dr Tony Jewell, public health consultant to PCC, attended each meeting bringing powerful epidemiological data from the ‘big picture’ right down to ‘drilling down’ detail on Peterborough and its districts and ethnic communities. Apart from the data on the pandemic, opportunities were taken to introduce to the group experts on current community issues where help, action and partnership was needed.
This support group became a self-managing social action forum facing up to the presented and discovered issues and suggesting and implementing solutions that crossed boundaries, engaging each Faith and the related voluntary organisations.
There were many products of the deep relationships established. For example, work across the faiths to provide for the homeless and rough sleepers – Muslim based charities and restaurants, the Sikh Gurdwara, all providing meals for Light Project Peterborough, a Christian charity caring for the homeless and rough sleepers, who were then housed in hotels by government. Later, Mosques and churches became information hubs, testing centres and eventually vaccination centres.
The core topics were getting the Covid messages across; and implementing policies to tackle infection including spot lighting ‘hard to reach groups’ and those lagging behind in the vaccination programme. However these new connections also embraced an amazing range of shared issues such as:
- Chaplaincy and the work of CWC – including the helpline for those isolated work from home and the self-employed. Through the partnership with the Council CWC was able to develop the Workplace Wellbeing Hub website with links for mental health support. www.workplacewellbeing.org.uk Also, the City Centre Chaplaincy model, that has operated for some years, is now being extended through the partnership with PCC to other townships and communities in Peterborough
- Fostering – identifying needs and connections.
- APPG Faith and Society guidance on partnerships – research on local government experience. Support for food banks. Access to those isolated.
- Public Health and use of worship space – preventative measures during lockdown.
- Issues of domestic abuse and training for those interacting with such situations.
- Crafting for Well-being
- Organising the Census 2021.
- Links to Policing priorities, in particular for any outdoor events as restrictions eased.
- Funding opportunities for community groups and faith organisations
- An opportunity to be a trustee of ‘Headway’
- Investing in Mental Healthcare for Minority Ethnic Groups in Peterborough.
- Protection of places of worship against hate crime. Action against hate. SAFE. ‘We Stand Together’ – tackling hate crime on the transport network. Safety in Ramadan.
- Access to Social Prescribing
- ‘Stop Suicide’ training (CWC organised)
- Samaritans – access and volunteering
- “What may happen as we come out of lockdown” (CWC)
We have all been amazed at what has been achieved from the ‘mustard seed’ of the approach from Jawaid to Tim.
Now, the challenge to build further on this!
Clive Morton Vice-Chair CWC