SWAMP will survey all residents in the Glasgow Pollok area to identify the needs of people in the community going forward.
An anchor organisation in the greater Pollok community, SWAMP grew from a couple of people meeting in a community centre 25 years ago to an essential part of community life for local people. The organisation provides meaningful activities based around music and the arts, employability support, is SQA accredited and has run numerous projects and programmes over the years. Becoming formalised as time went on, the organisation is now a community development trust with charitable status and registered limited company with new premises in the area that were set to become a vibrant hub as COVID-19 hit.
Forced to shut down, Andy Peline, Project Manager met with Councillor David McDonald to discuss how they could work together to better support the community through the COVID period which resulted in the establishment of G53Together. G53Together is a partnership of third sector and community groups working together with public and private sector organisations to support their local community throughout the crisis. The network includes a steering group composing of the four local housing associations and the four elected members within the community. In addition to this they also have representation from the Health and Social Care Partnership, the South Chief Inspector of Police Scotland based in Pollok, three doctors from the local health centre, Community Links Practitioners, and Community Planning Officers from thriving places.
The steering group has supported the establishment of G53Together and the development and funding of five subgroups that have numerous community groups involved and are actively responding to local need including; Children and Young People, Isolation & Mental Health, Poverty, Communications and Economic Recovery.
These groups have provided the basic essentials for those most in need. A local G53Together helpline was set up providing help from providing food and fuel to sourcing school uniforms and prescription delivery services. Innovation was key to the response and rickshaws were obtained to help older people on the often long journey to the shops and back.
An emergency response map of the local area was produced detailing all organisations in the local area still offering support with details on how to access that support. Entertainment in the form of arts and music were rolled out for care homes through socially distanced sessions and are ongoing. Key to SWAMP and G53Together’s response was its financial support for those smaller community organisations struggling to provide much needed services. Securing £47,000 funding, SWAMP distributed this money and were key to keeping other organisations functioning.
Under G53Together they secured a further £160,000 in funding from the Scottish Government’s Supporting Communities Fund with the help of DTAS Scotland and set up the G53Together steering group to manage the funding.
SWAMP have also canvassed 14,500 households in the greater Pollok area to find out what people really need and are now responding to the needs of the local community. Andy said the G53Together helpline is key to supporting this work: “This will allow us to gather really important information on the level of support needed and develop a more effective strategy for moving forward.”
One important element of partnership working by SWAMP and the G53Together network is its engagement with the ALLIANCE’s Link Worker programme, helping people access support and services in the local community. On his work with SWAMP, Community Links Practitioner Gerard Mitchell said: “I’ve developed a very close working relationship with SWAMP over the years. Connecting primary care services and linking patients to local organisations such as SWAMP is integral to a healthy and happy community. As an anchor organisation, Andy has been able to keep me well informed on local support available, and also with news on progress with their new community building – which is a significant positive development for the local community going forward.
“During COVID, both myself, Andy at SWAMP and other local organisations have kept in regular communication regarding the main challenges facing local people, and the response from these organisations in providing for the community during this challenging time has been invaluable.”
On learning from the crisis period of COVID-19, Andy states that going forward he would like to see people in the local community trained up and able to respond to any future crisis situations. As public sector services were pulled in the recent period, the local community sprang into action but Andy thinks current practice can be built upon to enable better responses in the future.
Councillor McDonald added, key to the future is keeping the people in the community at the heart of positive change: “The vision of G53Together moving forward would be a scenario where a lot of the services delivered in communities are genuinely with the community at the forefront, we want to engage the people that don’t normally engage.”
In terms of ambition for the local community, G53Together is committed to system-wide development. With visions for local food production and employment in this for young people, a local currency and sustainable energy generation for the organisation’s premises, Andy wants to see resources developed that will feed back into the community’s economy. Sustainability is key but achieving that will be challenging, though not impossible.
A main challenge is breaking down the silos in which many local organisations work and bringing people and services together to create a coherent network serving the local community. Removing the red tape associated with the public sector is also key, something Andy thinks will be rethought as a result of the economic shifts brought about by the pandemic. In addition, the economic impacts on the local economy with projected mass unemployment will be a barrier to moving forward.
G53Together and the organisations involved including SWAMP are central to the wellbeing of their local community. The organisation’s ambition for the future continues to set it up as a crucial service in the area supporting people of all ages in a variety of manners. With Andy’s vision of sustainable practices, the organisation can only go from strength to strength as we emerge from the crisis period of COVID-19.