Like many communities/neighbourhoods across the NORTH local community/charitable organisations within the Greater Shantallow Area set up The Ballyarnett DEA Community Support Team on Monday 16th March 2020 to provide a co-ordinated, central, community response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  

The team comprised of a range of key community / charitable organisations (GSAP, Outer North NRP / Ballyarnett DEA Local Growth Partnership, Shantallow Community Residents Association,  Leafair Community Association, Rainbow Child & Family Centre, On Street Community Youth, Good Morning North West, Greater Shantallow Community Arts, Community Restorative Justice, Liberty Consortium, Culmore Community Partnership, Resource Centre Derry, Shantallow Youth Intervention Group, Shantallow Youth Club, Shantallow Women’s Group, Team works C.I.C., Leafair Men’s Shed, St Joseph’s Community Playgroup and Galliagh Women’s Group) within the Outer North / Ballyarnett DEA / Greater Shantallow area who redeployed all their existing staff/volunteers, premises and resources to help address the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis in the area. – the relationships built up over many years meant we could mobilise very quickly.

From mid-March 2020 we were all committed to safeguarding the wellbeing of our local community and our most vulnerable individuals/families and worked with all relevant agencies including DC&SDC, DfC, DoH, NIHE, DE/Youth Service, Housing Associations, local businesses, local politicians/councillors, local care homes, local pre-school, primary and secondary schools in the area etc  to minimise as much as possible the spread and effects of the COVID-19 infection – intervening as early as possible to ensure that our most vulnerable residents are equipped to deal with the situation.

The Team collectively delivered several key elements, including-

A Community Helpline for residents living within Galliagh, Shantallow, Skeoge, Pennyburn, Carnhill, Culmore and Madam’s Bank area – this helpline went live on 19th March 2020 and was open from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (March to June) and Tues/Thurs & Friday in July managed by GSAP staff and volunteers. We triaged all individuals/families in need- so you could identify and cater for specific dietary needs/size of family/household circumstances, specific health needs. In addition, we were able to signpost/refer individual/family to other C/V support services available e.g. family support hub, pharmacy collections, preschool/young people/youth/family/elderly activity packs, Good Morning NW daily contact service etc.  Also, individuals/families were made aware of what was available locally and could continuously connect to local support/build relationship with C/V sector staff on ongoing basis.

With all you donations/support we were able to provide 3741 family (8062 people) 7 day food parcels and personal/household hygience products during the period 16th March to 31st July 2020.  Fuel vouchers and baby supplies where also provided when necessary.

GSAP received individual, C/V group and local business donations of £7858.41, project partners On The Streets, Leafair Community Association, Shantallow Community Residents Association & Glenabbey Community Association were able to contribute £17K through small grants they received and DC&SDC provided GSAP with grants of £27,000. DfC provided 3000 food boxes to the Ballyarnett DEA with a value of £84,975 and GSAP secured twice weekly supplies from Churches Voluntary Trust, Fare Share NI/Apex (580Kg per week) and weekly donations from our local Euro spar at Skeoge. Two local community transport services (Leafair Community Association & Team Works C.I.C.) and a range of individual volunteers / car deliveries assisted us with deliveries during peak times. 

In addition, we collectively sourced and delivered 5000+ mental health, wellbeing, self-care and physical activity Packs to preschool, school aged, youth, families, elderly and care homes across the Ballyarnett DEA by all NR staff in the area

A Meals Service, delivering precooked meals daily to our most vulnerable individuals living across the Outer North NRA was lead by RCD and SCRA NR staff and Greater Shantallow Community Arts. Collection and delivery of prescriptions was undertaken by the CRJ NR staff. Twice weekly SCRA and local youth workers delivered the EA free school meal packs across the Ballyarnett DEA.

Many groups set up online platforms for our young people to continue engaging with each other and get support from our youth workers, whilst at home.

There was an upscaling of the Good Morning North West with daily morning phone calls to vulnerable adults led by Leafair Community Association NR staff and RCD continued their local welfare rights service (by telephone). Also the local ETHOS family support hub continued to support families and co-ordinated and delivered the Save the Children Emergency Response fund of £72k allocated to the Ballyarnett DEA to provide 200+ families each with learning resources, food vouchers and household items up to the value of £340. As of July 2020 92 families had benefited.

Through GSAP NR funded Families Connect programme we provided the delivery of 1000 Save the Children UK family activity packs to 5 local community playgroups/nursery schools and 3 primary schools in the Ballyarnett DEA and secured 1700 Back to School packs to 17 local primary schools across the DC&SDC area for distribution. In addition, they took the lead in the Ballyarnett DEA Digital Inclusion Initiative -school/families had flagged up issues around access to internet / broadband and associated equipment (laptops, iPad etc…) to stay connected with friend/family/school and in particular the difficulty some pupils had accessing google classroom etc… therefore we sought donations of reconditioned/new iPad/laptops which we have been distributing to local schools across the DC&SDC area. 

WE provided the free delivery of weekly local newspaper to households receiving food supplies each week, distributed 40 Grow Kits secured from by GSAP from Groundwork NI and delivered by SCRA and SCRA to elderly who were shielding in the area and we saw the distribution of Happy Birthday packs by SCRA to all young people celebrating their birthday during Covid 19.

Neighbourhood Fun activity events e.g. Easter Bunny tour of the area led by Rainbow Child & Family centre and Peppa Pig tour of three new housing estates at Skeoge led by GSAP with support from CRJ and Off The Streets Youth Initiative

There was the daily delivery of lunch to all staff and volunteers across the Ballyarnett DEA provided by SCRA, the resourcing and distribution of PPE lead by GSAP & SCRA & CRJ to local C/V groups and the delivery of Face screens to front-line workers at our local Greenhaw & Culmore Manor Care Homes through donations from Liberty Consortium and the Nerve Centre.

A Covid 19 Community Billboard campaign –lead by SCRA in partnership with CRJ & LCA 20 community billboards displayed across the Outer North NRA/Ballyarnett DEA to communicate important information consistent with Government Health Advice / PHA Guidance - aimed at helping vulnerable & self-isolated residents / families. We had the recruitment, co-ordination, support, management and celebration of a small number of volunteers at local level who supported the daily Ballyarnett DEA Community Support Team-

An online Donation Appeal was set up locally lead by GSAP in partnership with LCA, CRJ and SCRA for donations – specifically food supplies, baby products, hygiene products etc…. – a central storage and distribution base has been established at Unit M20 Northside Village Centre (Glengalliagh Road, BT48 8NN).  A Covid 19 Community Leaflet Drop took place lead by CRJ, SCRA & LCA to households & poster campaign was undertaken in local venues across the area

Throughout we networked with local suppliers / businesses / partners e.g. Northside Village Centre, Supervalu, Village Butchers, Bits & Pieces, etc to support the appeal by providing in kind supplies, stocking and sourcing in-demand products and essential goods.

We encouraged a daily social media presence (Website, Facebook, twitter) to communicate important information consistent with Government Health Advice / PHA Guidance - aimed at helping vulnerable & self-isolated residents / families-all NR staff. Finally, we worked with statutory agencies / Government Departments/other funders to reprofile/access resources and input crucial information into the collective response / learning-all NR staff such as weekly DC&SDC/WHSCT Forum, weekly WHSCT Family Support Forum, fortnightly DfC Emergency Reference Group, monthly DENI/DOJ Tackling Paramilitarism Programme, Save the Children UK Emergency Response Programme etc