We started our new Collaborative Action Groups project a few weeks ago, which has been made possible thanks to the funding from MK Community Foundation and their Covid-19 MK Emergency Response Fund.

The project follows our own Covid-19 emergency response programme, which we have been working on since the start of the pandemic, which includes supporting our local VCSE groups with funding, governance and other needs to help them adapt to the new reality of working, and coordinating a bank of volunteers to support them deliver their services during these challenging times. Creating a network of Collaborative Actions Groups across the city is the approach we wanted to take following our
conversations with the local groups over the past few months as well as the findings from our Covid-19 survey, in which many of the groups have told us about the urgent need to create better ways of accessing and sharing information about the local needs and the issues being experienced by the most vulnerable people in our community.

So far we have run meetings in the following areas of MK: North West, North East, South West, South East, Central and Rural (see full list of the areas covered at the bottom of the blog)

And they have included organisations such as: Parish councils, Fareshare, British Red Cross, MK College, Local RA’s, MK Council Liaisons, Carers MK, Faith Groups – to name but a few.

Some of the key issues highlighted (so far) have been:

  • Challenges of communication
  • Domestic Violence
  • Need for a tailored approach
  • Volunteers (eg. sustainability, the need for DBS)
  • Inability to reach groups of people (eg. elderly, young people, disabled)
  • Mental health (eg. anxieties growing as people come out of lockdown)
  • Future concerns (eg. proactive responses, planning, furlough scheme repercussions)

The Bigger Picture

A seemingly universal concern across all groups has been recognised as the need to identify and access those ‘hard to reach’ groups of people. Some of the challenges/ barriers these groups have faced as the lockdown has isolated them even further than usual, include – but are not limited to:

● No access to technology
● Cannot access the internet
● Mobility
● Social distancing measures that do not allow reasonable adjustments for those with disabilities or
impairments (eg. deaf, blind)
● Do not understand what is happening around them due to additional and complex needs
● Financial difficulties

We have recognised that there is little guidance on how to reach these individuals and that this is an imminent and pressing concern that is ever increasing, despite the easing of lockdown measures. There has been a call to suggest that these groups of people need more support than ever in order to ensure repercussions from the lockdown do not impact these individuals beyond support (eg. Mental Health concerns, physical health deterioration).

Another MK Wide challenge identified and something to consider planning for sooner rather than later amongst these groups and beyond, is the schemes of support that may come to an end. Our universal voice from these groups is that we need more guidance on this issue in order to ensure that support is given and needs are met, as there is a predicted spike in a negative impact on mental health and redundancies, as an example.

We are working within these groups to hopefully feedback our intelligence and information sharing up to MK Council and this will meet our aims to make sure voices are heard at a local level.

What’s next?

Our team has now facilitated two meetings for the majority of the groups and we are gaining intelligence into ground-level issues, as well as the challenges families and residents are facing in their communities, both during and what may arise as lockdown eases. We are seeing gaps emerge in the form of residents not receiving any contact, or those individuals that are likely to be unaware of the support available to them. We have recognised that groups and organisations want to support where possible and adopt a sense of being proactive, but are stuck in a state of reactivity due to the rapidly changing situation and guidelines.

We hope to host our next meetings within the coming weeks, with aims to identify more key issues and learn what is constantly happening in our local communities. We also wish to achieve some action points from these meetings, through the encouragement of joint-working and information sharing. These are new groups and hopefully a new way of working across MK, so we hope that these groups will continue to collaborate within and with one another, and come up with innovative ideas that can come into fruition as soon as possible to help those in need.

Interested in becoming part of the Collaborative Action Groups?

One of the key aspects of these groups is the amount of intelligence and insights we get from our participants. We love the diversification of the groups, organisation representatives and individuals that are already involved, but we always end our meetings with the same message: Spread the Word! Invite those interested! The More the Merrier!

We want as much expertise as we can in order to gather intelligence and help support our Milton Keynes communities from those that know them best – you!

We would appreciate input from all and anyone, but we have recognised that we are underrepresented within the following areas:

● BAME communities
● Young people / those that work with or lead groups involve young people
● People with disabilities / those who work with people with disabilities
● Groups / residents that live in the surrounding rural areas of MK (see list below).

Find out more about the project and how to get involved on our project page here.

North West Parishes – Wolverton and Greenley’s, Stony Stratford, Fairfields, Galley Hill, Caverton, Abbey Hill, New Bradwell, Bradwell

North East Parishes – Newport Pagnell, Sherrington, Lathbury, Great Linford, Stantonbury

South West Parishes – Loughton, Shenley Church End, Shenley Brook End, West Bletchley, Bletchley and Fenny Stratford

South East Parishes – Walton, Kents Hill, Monkston and Brinklow, Woburn Sands, Aspley Guise, Aspley Heath, Wavendon, Little Brickhill Bow Brickhill.

Central Parishes – Simpson and Ashland, Woughton, Old Woughton, Central Milton Keynes, Campbell Park

Rural Parishes – Castlethorpe, Hanslope, Haversham, Gayhurst, Stoke Goldington, Ravenstone, Weston Underwood, Olney, Tryingham and Filgrave, Warrington, Chichley, Moulsoe, North Crawley, Astwood and Hardmead, Emberton, Clifton Reynes and Newton Blossomville, Cold Brayfield, Lavendon