Community cohesion projects across St Helens Borough have been contributing to the council’s work to support asylum seekers and refugees living in the area during the coronavirus lockdown.
During lockdown St Helens Borough Council’s Resettlement Service has provided guidance to the borough-wide food hub, the central site responsible for getting food and aid packages to vulnerable and shielding residents, ensuring that those in the refugee and asylum seeker communities receive culturally appropriate food items.
The service has also been a constant source of information to these groups, helping them to stay in touch and up to date with the latest Government lockdown guidance.
Meanwhile, several community groups that work with refugees and asylum seekers, and which were the recipient of a grant funding scheme to improve community cohesion managed by the Resettlement Service in February this year have also been hard at work supporting their clients.
During lockdown, Focus Employment Hub Ltd, One World Parish Nurse and One World Football, have all been offering 24-7 telephone support to clients, with advice on how to alleviate stress and cope with the lockdown in practical ways.
The Neighbourhood Food Larder has been delivering free food hampers to vulnerable members of the community, and in partnership with Torus, has also provided a free food top-up service once a week.
Sadly, the popular community hub Café Laziz had to stop trading during lockdown, but are still hoping to reopen and expand with a second venue at Parr Children’s Centre. The café also serves as a training hub, helping clients to develop new skills and meet new people. Café Laziz has invested in a cashless till, and is subscribed to the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, providing meals at a 50 per cent discount.
Our Warm Welcome, has also been delivering food parcels to asylum seekers who were shielding and offering telephone support to vulnerable clients.
They are currently discussing the possibility of reopening their drop-in centre at a new location once the restrictions allow, while adhering to Covid-19 safety precautions, such as social distancing and hand washing facilities.
And the Bike Shed has been offering their bike repair service to the public throughout the lockdown, while with the recent easing of lockdown The Bike Shed has been delivering socially distanced bike riding sessions at Taylor Park. This has enabled clients to exercise regularly and socialise, greatly improving clients’ mental wellbeing and physical health.
Councillor Jeanie Bell, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “Voluntary groups such as these are the beating heart of our borough. They are perfectly positioned to create a more inclusive place for residents, and a warm welcome for those that come to live here.
“It’s great that so many have been able to continue their amazing work through lockdown, and demonstrates that the year-long funding scheme we delivered earlier this year has already been a fantastic success.”