COVID-19 Community Champions
Sadly, we know from personal experience that disabled people and those with long-term health conditions have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 60% of the 128,000 who have so far died, have been disabled people. Here at WDP we have sadly lost 8 members of the team and 17 members of our extended families. It is estimated that over 400,000 people now have Long-COVID which has since been identified as a chronic disability.
COVID-19 effects on disabled people.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are not limited to those who have contacted COVID-19 but also have affected the day to day lives of many disabled people. For example, prolonged shielding and reduced social mobility due to three national lockdowns and other COVID-19 social restrictions have led to some disabled/elderly people not venturing out of their homes for all or most of the past year. Over 80% of disabled/elderly people reported avoiding certain venues due to lack of accessible toilets and seating if they did want to venture out. Employers report hesitancy of some disabled staff returning to work.
Deconditioning and well-being
Deconditioning is a recognised syndrome of physical, psychological and functional decline that occurs because of prolonged physical inactivity, which can effect confidence in performing normal daily activities. Over 43% of disabled/elderly people are unable to walk as far as they could before the pandemic. Additionally, over 65% of disabled/elderly adults reported concerns were affecting their wellbeing, feeling worried about the future and nearly 90% of disabled/elderly people said they live in fear of COVID-19, and low confidence and confusion about the vaccine. These concerns are widespread across many other vulnerable minority groups.
Warrington COVID-19 Community Champions
In response, the Government launched a COVID-19 Community Champions Project which aims to enlist the support of local authorities and local community organisations to work together on engaging with those most disproportionately affected. Warrington Borough Council successfully bid for £318,000 to put measures in place to support groups most at risk from coronavirus. WDP (focusing on disabled people), alongside Warrington Voluntary Action (focusing Black, Asian and Minority Ethic Communities), and other community partners have been commissioned to deliver the project and funding will be used to expand work to support those most at risk from coronavirus and encourage vaccine take up in Warrington.
The issues the champions aim to target and have been evident are listed but are not limited to the points below. Community Issues due to COVID-19:
- Fear and anxiety
- Media reported blanket DNA CPR orders on hospital admission for patients with Leraning Disabilities/Dementia/disabilities
- Reduced availability of healthcare services e.g. GPs, District Nurses
- Deteriorating physical and emotional health (due to isolation)
- Poor mental wellbeing
- Physical deconditioning
- Reduced access to/confidence in public transport
- Medical shielding
- Social distancing, mixing
- COVID-19 Vaccine Issues
- Accessibility of vaccine centre’s, Blue Badge car parking and accessible toilets
- Unsure about long waiting and lack of suitable seating
- Lack of accessible information
- Neurodiverse accessibility of appointments
- People who have a Learning Disability need reasonable adjustments
- Doubts re: clinical safety due to fast turnaround
- Fertility/conception concerns
- Lack of availability for child vaccines
- Ingredient concerns (e.g. vegan/vegetarian/religious beliefs)
- Vaccine interaction concerns for those with long-term health conditions/post treatments e.g. autoimmune & neuro conditions, post/pre cancer care
What are 'COVID-19 Community Champions'?
A mix of paid staff and volunteers who work directly with local communities to communicate the latest accurate health information to residents. They will be a trusted voice in their local community, working to encourage take up of the COVID-19 vaccine, as more people become eligible to receive their jab. They will also feedback any issues or questions from residents to help make sure the right support is being offered, at the right time.
How will they engage with communities?
Community Champions will use a range of methods and materials to communicate timely and accurate information. They will receive relevant training and regular updates so they are able to support communities.
The champions will engage with members of their community through 'COVID-19 Chats'. These will be short, formal conversations with local people to find out how they are feeling at that moment in time about coronavirus, vaccinations and testing. This will help us to understand what is needed in terms of updated information, advice and guidance. People engaged with will have the opportunity to take up further support on a wide range of health and wellbeing initiatives including:
- COVID-19 myth-busting
- building back confidence and independence
- understanding the effects of COVID on disabled people
- lifestyle, health and wellbeing workshops
- Information can also be provided in a wide range of accessible formats, including:
- other languages
- large print
- easy read
- video with sign language
- You can also request that the Community Champions join you at local meetings and events.
Warrington Disability Partnership (WDP)
We have a team of 11 Community Champions - Ebony, Derek, Dave, Leigh, Ellen, Tom, Laura, Kate, Nick, Esstta and Lyndsey - all of whom have lived experience of disabilities and/or long-term health conditions, ranging from physical, invisible, learning, neurodiverse and sensory disabilities. The team can provide information, advice and guidance to communities that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in an appropriate and accessible way. They are available to provide support and answers to any questions or concerns you may have regarding the vaccination programme, testing and the government's roadmap.
Several members of the team have had COVID-19, several others have experienced shielding during the pandemic, and all members of the team have received both doses of the vaccine, and can speak about their experiences. As a team, they are aware that many people’s confidence and independence has been reduced and impacted due to the pandemic, so they are able to provide advice and support to help you build back confidence and independence, offering bespoke information, advice and guidance to enable everyone to find a comfortable path back to normality.
As the project develops the champions will be using feedback and comments received directly from communities to inform their outreach and resources to ensure they are relevant to your needs.
Dave Thompson MBE DL, Chief Executive of Warrington Disability Partnership, said: “Our Champions will provide advice and guidance around how people can keep themselves and others safe as restrictions ease and life starts to return to normal. We will also work to do as much myth-busting as possible by providing factual information to ensure people know the facts about the vaccine and how it will benefit their health. “The Champions will form a vital link with people who may have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and the feedback they provide will be used to develop ways of supporting those in greatest need.”
Warrington Voluntary Action (WVA)
WVA has appointed two Community Champions – Atefeh and Shaylah – who are available to support people in Warrington. Their focus is on supporting people from Black, Asian, minority ethnic groups and the Eastern European Community. They have started to work closely with the Polish Centre of Education and Culture who have designated Iwona and Sylwia as their Community Champions to support local Polish communities. They are also working closely with Warrington Ethnic Communities Association and Citizens Advice to extend their reach to the most at-risk communities.
WVA's champions will also play a key role in ensuring support is inclusive for people whose first language isn’t English. They will work to engage with members, networks and beneficiaries through existing channels, support local testing and vaccination sites, provide additional telephone and online engagement, and share relevant messages through social media. During the coming months, Atefeh, Shaylah and WVA’s army of volunteer Champions will be out in the community sharing COVID-19 vaccine advice and information to boost local vaccination take-up and to providing any necessary guidance and support.
Atefeh said: “I’m here to support people during this challenging period, encouraging uptake of the COVID vaccine, spreading facts and myth-busting to reduce vaccine hesitancy within different communities. “As a non-English Community Champion, I understand the issues that arise for people from different ethnicities and cultures, and those whose first language isn’t English. They may have more questions that need to be answered and someone on hand to discuss the importance of vaccination, reassure them about the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, and help them to picture the post-pandemic world that we’re all working towards. “I recently had my first dose of the COVID vaccine and would like to share my experience with others. I booked an appointment at Warrington Hospital’s vaccination hub using their online booking system – it was easy to use and only took me a couple of minutes to enter my details and receive my booking ticket, which clearly showed the date and time of my appointment. “I was looking forward to having the jab as it would be the first step in being protected against COVID. On 25 May, I headed to the hospital for my appointment at the outpatient ward, which was set up as the vaccination site. There were people ahead of me waiting for their jabs but the queue moved quickly and the system was well organised – everyone was keeping to social distancing and wearing face coverings. “When it was my turn, the member of staff introduced themselves in a friendly manner, provided me with information about the vaccine, and were able to answer all of my questions. I felt no pain when having the injection and will make sure I attend my appointment for my second dose.”
Get in touch
Have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? Our teams will provide advice and support to help you build back confidence and independence, offering bespoke information, advice and guidance to enable everyone to find a comfortable path back to normality.
For disabled people or people with long-term health conditions
or call them on 01925 240 064.
For Black, Asian,
minority ethnic groups and the Eastern European Community:
or call 01925 246 880