Community resilience is the public's ability to harness local resources and expertise to help themselves and the communities to prepare, respond and recover from adversity and communal challenges.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has highlighted the importance of community resilience throughout the response stages. Examples from the Falkirk area can be found below.
Building community resilience is based upon individuals and groups taking responsibility to prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies.
The Scottish Government has developed the following guidance on community resilience:
In connection with developing resilient communities, The Forth Valley Community Risk Register highlights the risks which have the greatest likelihood of causing disruption in the local area. Understanding the risks in your area helps communities to prepare constructively.
The National Standards for Community Engagement are good-practice principles designed to improve and guide the process of community engagement.
Everyone can prepare, the following links can ensure you are prepared at home and whilst travelling:
We (Falkirk Council) are eager to work with communities to enhance their resilience. The links below provide further information on the work we're doing:
If you are thinking about forming a community resilience group or have an established group already, you may be able to apply for funding to assist your group with costs. The following links may signpost you to appropriate funding.
Building resilience with Falkirk's Royal Voluntary Service (RVS)
When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) immediately started to develop plans and build capacity to support people who were at risk of not being able to provide themselves with essentials and those at risk of isolation.
In the first three weeks of lockdown RVS had just under 100 people register an interest to volunteer although by then we were already being inundated with requests for support and had partnered up with Falkirk Safebase to ensure that we could accommodate everyone in need.
During lockdown, Falkirk RVS recruited 60 people, who supported over 700 clients in the Falkirk area with food and medication deliveries as well as regular companionship phone calls and latterly 'garden gate visits'.
Martin Kenny, Falkirk RVS's Coordinator explains to amazing work of Falkirk's RVS volunteers:
"The work of Falkirk's RVS volunteers has been critical to ensuring that vulnerable people received the support that they needed during the COVID-19 lockdown. Without the volunteers efforts we would not have been able to help as many people as we have".
Each client's needs varied widely from one off assistance in an 'emergency' to those requiring at least weekly food and medication deliveries and/or emotional support several times a week.
Falkirk RVS volunteers have worked tirelessly to ensure that our clients were safe, secure and equipped with everything they needed to get through the lockdown period. They helped with housing issues, maintenance problems, household administration and signposted their clients to other sources of support as appropriate, and they worked with people who not only had physical disabilities but also poor mental health, addiction issues and other social problems such as homelessness and abuse.
Falkirk RVS currently have 150 clients still registered for support either because the lockdown has resulted in a fear of returning to 'normal life' or because their support needs have changed during the lockdown period, and they are now no longer able to provide for themselves as before but have no other consistent support in place as yet.
Most of Falkirk RVS volunteers have now returned to their jobs as the lockdown is over but many are still supporting these clients alongside their normal commitments and around a third have registered to volunteer with the RVS long term.
Building community resilience within the Denny Area
Denny and District Community Network had been meeting regularly in Denny since mid-2019. At the end of last year, the Network had organized a series of conversation workshops to pull together a local community action plan. Critically, the conversations enabled relationships to be built and individuals and organizations had shown a general willingness to work together.
With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commitment and motivation from individuals and organizations existed within the Denny and District area to address the challenges that COVID-19 presented.
Some community groups within the Denny and district area were part of a community food consortium. This enabled 2 community food aid providers to offer emergency food access points throughout the COVID-19 lockdown period. The 2 community food aid providers intend to establish food pantries in the very near future, together with 2 community growing areas.
Denny Community Support Group (DCSG) acted as a local access point for the Support for People Helpline. Listed below are ways in which vulnerable people were supported during the COVID-19 pandemic:
DCSG assisted a local resident with additional support needs to get a new bus pass. The local resident had been missing appointments and did not know how to replace his card. The resident is now volunteering in the community food initiative
A local family had been shielding. The family had got their mother (a Denny resident) a new smart TV. but she could not set it up and had missed her programmes for three weeks. DCSG on being contacted had it set up the very next day.
Two council tenants (one with alcohol dependency) could not be contacted by health visitors as the key pad entry systems were not working and the Council were not able to respond. A local volunteer tradesman sorted both at no cost.
Women's Aid needed clothes at short notice for a nine-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl that had left the family home at very short notice. Good quality clothing and footwear was delivered to Women's aid within two hours of contact DCSP.
A person who had moved into a local flat wished to set up a small growing area but did not have a garden. DCSP gave her space to establish a potted plant area. She is now a willing to volunteer with DCSP.
Funding had been secured by local people to refurbish both the community flat and Denny YMCA Hall. By entering discussions with local small businesses meant the tradespeople saw the sense in forming a collective to submit successful competitive tenders and gain contracts amounting to £68,000. This meant employment for 14 local people at a very difficult time.
Individuals and organizations in the Denny and district area are now in a position to work with other community planning partners to address health inequalities and poverty which have always been there, but has been more noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Listed below are some initiatives that are about to start or have already started:
- 26 outdoor/environmental sessions for children and families
- Suicide Prevention group meetings
- Mutual Aid Group meetings /Recovery café being established
- Al Masaar, a Muslim group, who have close connections with ethnic communities in Denny will be based in the area and offer coaching and leisure courses to young people.
- Health Issues in the Community sessions.
- A music group
- A growing area
- Cooking classes
Building resilience with Community Groups - Coo Park Food Pantry
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Coo Park Food Pantry was already an established community run project. Run by a small team of volunteers, the project offers local people in Langlees & Bainsford the chance to buy fresh, affordable, healthy food for the price of a small weekly membership.
Over the last 5 months, the pantry's underlying ethos of 'a hand up rather than a hand out' became a metaphor for the way the wider community dealt with impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allana, who continued to volunteer with the pantry throughout lockdown, explains:
"We always had our pantry on a Tuesday for our members but when lockdown happened, we had to do something else. We were getting referrals from schools and social work plus we knew lots of older people who were shielding, needed extra help and folk who were struggling because they'd been furloughed or lost their jobs. Even the £2 for the pantry was too much for some people".
Because Allana and the team know their community, they were able to provide a response that worked, not just for people in Langlees but in Bainsford and beyond:
"We don't publicise the pantry, it's the community sharing what they know about who can help them. Passing on information is what makes it work. Not everyone has the internet or Facebook, it's better that the folk in the community talk to each other.
And folk talk! We had people from all over Falkirk but we wouldn't turn anyone away. We'd help someone out and get in touch with Support for People to find out if there was another pantry or community food provider closer to where they lived and could meet their needs".
It is clear that working together is something that Allana feels was vital to how her community handled lockdown:
"Everyone working together made this happen. We were able to add in the wee extras that make a difference to our parcels because we'd already fundraised in the community before this. It was community money going back to the community, plus folk were handing in donations of tins, teabags, coffee, biscuits as well.
Every week we worked with the CLD team and they were fantastic. 100% had our backs to make this work… if I wasn't sure about something or needed help, I could always ask".
Although getting much needed food and other essential household items out into the homes of local people is a priority for the Coo Park Food Pantry, Allana recognizes the difference this makes to individual's and to the community itself:
"It's brought our community together. When people came to collect their bags of shopping, they were maybe 2 metres apart but they would yap away to each other. Young folk and older folks talking about what's happening in their lives, parents catching up with each other like they would have done outside the school gates.
People who hadn't seen each other in years, even though they only stay a few streets away, were 'meeting up' with each other in the queue.
People just want to know that someone is there for them. The comfort of knowing that someone cares helps with the panic and the fear… not just sitting on your own worrying and watching the news.
This has been a wake-up call. No-one really knows what will happen next, but people know that the support is there".
Building resilience with Community Groups - Camelon Community Hub
As the prospect of lockdown grew closer, Ian and his community business partner, Gary could be forgiven for thinking that their dream of renovating a former social club in Camelon and turning into a thriving hub of activities for their local community, was over. Thankfully both men were determined that a pandemic was not going to stand in their way; Ian, describes how they saw this as an opportunity:
"People were scared. We had a facility, ideas and people to help; we had to do whatever was necessary to identify what was needed and do it!
With schools closed, we knew that some families would miss out on meals and kids would need some structure to their day, so we started a breakfast club with social distancing. It was 'no questions asked' if you wanted breakfast you could have it. But people weren't coming out so we started 'grab and go' where you could pick something up or we would deliver.
We also started to work with the Council to deliver lunchtime grab n go bags to families along with the emergency food we'd started to receive from the Emergency Community Food Project. But families weren't the only people who were struggling.
Older people needed help to; we delivered their newspapers, brought them meals like soup and bread and replaced shop bought ready meals with 'home cooked' food that were made by local businesses with the food that we'd sourced or bought with funding."
Camelon Community Hub was happening, albeit not quite as Ian and Gary had imagined but it was working. Ian explains:
"We responded to what we saw and heard. Talking to people helped us to understand what needed to be done and how. We understood how people were living –it was like pulling back the curtain.
We also know that it's more than food. We noticed that people were taking the time to have a clear out and with no collections, clothes, toys and other household goods were piling up outside of people's homes or being dumped. So we now have a donation hub to take in the stuff that people no longer want or need".
Obviously this is a huge task and not something that can be achieved by two people alone. Ian shares what makes this possible:
"Anyone can get involved and they need to be valued and included in the community, people making masks, helping deliver loads, looking out for each other.
The support from local businesses is amazing; either donating food or providing staff and kitchens to store and prepare food safely. We need to remember how important our local businesses are and support them, the way they supported the community".
For Ian and the team, having a sense of community is important. Ian explains what this looks like for him:
"If every day, everyone checks on their neighbours, 3 doors up and 3 doors down and thinks positively-Have I seen them today? Are the curtains open? Is there anything I could do to help? We can look after the whole of Camelon. It's that simple".
Building resilience with Young People and Families - Go Youth Trust
As with many organizations the restrictions that came with the COVID-19 lockdown resulted in all of the Go Youth Trust programmes and activities to be cancelled. This gave Go Youth Trust the opportunity to pivot as an organization and focus on what the current needs of our young people and families were, who was delivering what already in the community and what resources were available. This resulted in Go Youth Trust establishing a range of programmes detailed below.
Go Youth Trust established an activity pack programme called "Boredom Bags"and started to deliver these packs to young people in communities across Falkirk which included emotional literacy activities, stress relief toys, games and craft materials.
As these were delivered Go Youth Trust staff and volunteers got the opportunity to check in with parents and families and see how they were coping. As a result of these conversations 26 families were further supported with weekly phone calls or visits from Go Youth Trust volunteers.
Where a family was identified as struggling financially Go Youth Trust provided "Parent SOS"vouchers which gave the family £25 of ASDA vouchers per child in the family. £3,300 of Parent SOS vouchers were distributed in Falkirk alone. Over 500 young people were supported through Boredom Bags over lockdown.
Go Youth Trust also delivered 5-7 drop ins a week utilizing Zoom and social media. These drop-ins lasted for 1-1.5 hours and were led by our Youth Work Team. The drop-ins gave young people the chance to play games and also chat about how they were feeling about lockdown and the restrictions. Many conversations focussed on the uncertainty and anxieties that they were feeling. Go Youth Trust also ran various competitions throughout the summer such as art and writing competitions where young people would express themselves through creative arts.
Boys were difficult to engage through Zoom so we established a GYT Minecraft server where boys could meet and chat while creating together.
During the summer break Go Youth Trust established our Catalyst Sessions which was a summer programme where young people could learn new skills such as 3D Design, Dance, Art, Video Production, Cooking and STEM challenges.
Go Youth Trust also were supporting young people daily via social media chat and our website. Over 100 young people engaged with Go Youth Trust Catalyst programme over lockdown.
During the first few months of lockdown, Go Youth Trust engaged with Falkirk CVS and the COVID-19 Response Forum. This gave Go Youth Trust a clear indication of the type of support being offered to communities.
Go Youth Trust were in constant conversation with partner schools and were able to respond where appropriate to families in crisis. Go Youth Trust also engaged with Youth Scotland and Youthlink to get a better understanding of what other youth organizations were offering and what the restrictions meant regarding what was appropriate to deliver (eg outdoor youth work/detached).
Schools were instrumental to Go Youth Trust in supporting families in need and the majority of Go Youth Trust referrals continued to come from Primary Schools, Secondary Schools and other statutory services. Many schools had families who they were particularly concerned for during the summer break and asked Go Youth Trust to continue checking in weekly over the break.
Financially lockdown had a major negative impact on Go Youth Trust funding as we were no longer able to deliver our Prince's Trust programme. Fortunately we were able to tap into a good deal of COVID-19 focussed funding sources such as:
- Scottish Government Wellbeing Fund
- Scottish Government 3rd Sector Resilience Fund
- Cash for Kids
- Tesco Bags of Help
- Youth Scotland Action Fund x 2
- Larbert Round Table
- TNL Community Fund
- Falkirk Council
Go Youth Trust staff and volunteers were told by families who were isolated in their homes that they had made a huge impact in the mental health and well-being of many parents and young people. Also, many families that Go Youth Trust worked with were well provided for through foodbank referrals/larders/school meals we were told that the boredom bags helped to lift the young people's spirits and the ASDA vouchers were particularly useful for this missing items that foodbanks were not providing (cleaning chemicals, toilet rolls essential for infection control).
Dave Bremner, Go Youth Trust explains:
"The services offered by Go Youth Trust to young people and families during the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have had a transformational impact on their health and well-being. Without the type of support offer by Go Youth Trust the young people and their families may well be experiencing the negative outcome of COVID-19".
Go Youth Trust were able to rally a wide range of community support during lockdown. This is evidenced by the number of families Go Youth Trust were able to support through our volunteers. The financial support raised through communities to support families. The response to requests for help, such as collecting 6 fridge freezers to help establish food larders throughout Falkirk.