Let’s kick off with a known fact: alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much. It’s hardly rocket science really, is it? We might call it people power, for instance.
John Hughes, Director of Partnerships and Communities for national social care charity, Community Integrated Care knows only too well the power of partnership, most especially during the pandemic.
One of many of the charity’s nationwide services, Community Integrated Care & Portsmouth FC have been nominated for a Great British Care Award. And it’s pretty easy to see why.
Pre pandemic, the charitable arm of the football club, Pompey in the Community delivered innovative, community-based sports sessions for many of the people supported by Community Integrated Care, including those with physical and learning disabilities.
And what better partner than a football team that is historically often at the heart of a community? John is passionate about this:
“We helped Portsmouth FC to set up a learning disability football team where our supported people can wear the shirt and play for the team they love. We created match day experiences, meeting their heroes, going behind the scenes, walking out onto the pitch in front of tens of thousands being cheered! When you think of how unfairly marginalised people with support needs are, our partnership gives them an opportunity to be at the heart of the community.”
And then all too suddenly it was gone – just like that. Everyone – the charities and the organisations and the footballers – could have scuttled off to ride it out, existing on the minimum. But the best partnerships are often dynamic and creative in their collaboration…
Recognising the challenges Community Integrated Care were under providing services across the whole of Hampshire, the Portsmouth team not only stepped in to help coordinate and deliver thousands of items of PPE, but also to store it all at the stadium. Some of the professional footballers joined in which, as we can all imagine, was a huge lift in spirits for whoever was answering the door that day!
The team also delivered thousands of treat boxes to staff colleagues and without that support, there wouldn’t have been the opportunity to show gratitude and thanks. Meanwhile, John secured a donation of 5000 apples and pears from the trade body in order to provide a little something fresh and healthy to take home when shopping time was negligible and social care staff were not afforded the same privileges as NHS workers at the supermarkets.
“Through our partnership, a lot of the fruit was also spread out to local food banks, schools and struggling community groups and the reaction to that was massive. We received a letter from the Lord Mayor thanking us for what we brought to the whole community. And this is really important to a big charity like us – to see beyond just the people we support. We have a privileged position in the community.”
And as with so many, technology has proven to be a game changer: through the lens of Portsmouth FC, they have created a series of online activities including their community chef running weekly cookery classes which now reaches all the way up to services in Scotland.
“The pandemic makes you realise that even though it’s been an exceptionally tough year there have been some real positives. We now feel we can scale up some of our programmes in a way we never thought possible. In fact, we’re about to launch a public facing website where anyone can access the sessions for free.”
So, when we eventually blow the whistle on Covid-19 and everyone’s back out on the big pitch of life, remember this:
“The strength of the team is each individual member; the strength of each member is the team.”