In our local places, community organisations are vital for connecting local knowledge and networks with the aspirations of our citizens. We know people in Kirklees have pride in the places where they live and work. People want to actively contribute to their community. We’ve been working hard to proactively support local organisations in places across Kirklees. In the heat of the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve seen the power of community.
We’ve been engaging citizens in local conversations about their aspirations for their place and have learnt from citizens in our local places how much human connections matter and how everyone can play a part.

Kirklees Council has been empowering, resourcing, and collaborating with communities to tackle some of our most important issues. We’re working on things that affect all our communities, like responding to social isolation and loneliness through our Community Plus model. We’re giving more people a stake in their local places and creating connections in neighbourhoods through our Growing Great Places civic crowdfunding programme and via local It’s Up to You funds.

We’ve supported community-based collaboration by commissioning the Thriving Kirklees partnership, a consortium of four third sector organisations and the NHS working with children, young people, and families, drawing on individual and community assets to achieve the best outcome. This collaboration is an investment in the community organisations involved, not just a spending decision: not only are service outcomes improved by community spirit, but these groups generate additional social value in our communities.

And we’re proud of so much more of the things we’ve done together in Kirklees. We’ve been engaging citizens in local conversations about their aspirations for their place and have learnt from citizens in our local places how much human connections matter and how everyone can play a part. We’ve seen community organisations thrive after asset transfers and people helped into work through Community Learning Works and Adult Community Learning, showing how communities have been at the heart of our collective effort in Kirklees to build a more inclusive economy.

We’ve already begun to learn from other members of the Keep It Local Network on how we can unlock the power of community. Looking to the future, this will be even more important to build the community-powered public services and economic recovery we need for our communities, as ‘We Were Built for This’ sets out.

At Kirklees Council, we recognise the importance of a strong voluntary and community sector and working together to tackle our shared challenges, and over the last few months, we’ve seen the power of community.

But the pandemic is putting pressure on communities like never before. More people than ever are accessing food banks, some have lost jobs or income, or are worried about this happening in the future. With social distancing and shielding becoming a new part of life, loneliness and isolation are already affecting many more people. But this crisis has also brought the power of community into sharper focus.

We’re proud to be working alongside the dedicated citizens and organisations who are part of our coordinated Community Response in Kirklees. The community spirit in our local places is clear.

Over 1,400 people registered with Kirklees Council to support others, with everything from collecting food and prescriptions to telephone befriending and help with using digital technology to connect with others.

130 local mutual aid groups quickly formed and have been working hard to look after their neighbours. This incredible mutual aid network has been a vital part of the response across Kirklees from the start.

Eight larger VCS Anchor Organisations, four Community Response Hubs staffed by Kirklees Council, and our local ward councillors have worked alongside this amazing network of volunteers in our local places. Our voluntary sector anchors have played an essential role in connecting the council with local groups and growing trust.

We have depended on our communities – and on our community organisations in particular – for the effective, flexible response we’ve needed to support people. By working together in our local places, we’ve seen community spirit turn into community power. Community organisations have developed their own creative local responses to local challenges, and we have been here to offer support.

Groups and organisations have told us that listening is what has really made the difference. Honest, regular communication between all partners has been key to the speed and flexibility of our response. We’ve all kept in touch through video calls (twice-weekly to begin with), listening deeply to each other’s experiences, and changing how we do things together. We have been confident enough to recognise when communities know best and are best placed to deliver. We will keep on listening and finding new ways to work together.

The Council has created the ‘We Are With You’ blog to support everyone who is part of our community response in Kirklees, making sure we provided clear information and advice based on what groups and volunteers told us they needed to know. We also created a Facebook group and an email network to share updates.

We developed some bespoke tools including data dashboards and an online asset mapping tool to make sure that we can share vital information with everyone who needs it to support others. By focussing on what citizens and organisations need to help each other and talking openly with each other, we have broken down barriers.

Strong councillors are at the centre of local networks and help coordinate services and activities at as local a level as possible. We’ve strengthened our commitment to local democracy and putting councillors at the heart of what we do by more than doubling councillors’ ward project budgets from £20,000 to £50,000. This has helped councillors support the most vulnerable citizens directly at a neighbourhood level, including through food banks, meal deliveries, and hardship relief. Councillors are also working with local mutual aid groups and funding community activities that are beneficial for people’s health and wellbeing during lockdown.

In Kirklees, we’ve come a long way in the last few months, but we’re building on years of work that started with our citizens. The power of community has been unlocked. This power of community in our local places is the strong foundation on which we will build a more inclusive Kirklees.