C Alex Brenner no use without credit Locality Wellspring Bristol 1 DC3424 dx

The Community Champions scheme provided £23.75m to 60 local authorities and the Voluntary and Community Sector, utilising grassroots advocates to improve the reach of official public health messaging for those places and groups most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Since the programme began, 14,189 Community Champions have been recruited, including 4,386 Junior Champions. Activities have included Vaccine Busses deployed to priority neighbourhoods and language translation services - both through bi- (and multi!) lingual Champions direct, and through posters, leaflets and media outputs in 15 languages, including Akan, Mirpuri and Yiddish.

There have been some amazing good news stories from across the 60 LAs.

Hyndburn Borough Council planted an oak tree for every 500 vaccines given in the area as a positive lasting reminder of the pandemic recovery.

The Wakefield Community Choir recorded a beautiful song called ‘On the Road to Normal’:

A team of academics have worked alongside our team, carrying out spotlight evaluative work in three areas. Their reports have shown:

Relational Impacts

  • Increased trust and cohesion between local authorities and community organisations;
  • Greater coordination of voluntary sector activities;
  • Better understanding of communities (including those who were previously ‘invisible’ and barriers and enablers to access);
  • Agile provision of support that is aligned with the changing needs of the community.

This can be seen as initiating the process of levelling up by empowering communities to support the delivery of local strategic activities. The scheme has laid the foundations of cross-sector working with community organisations, formal services and volunteers which all stakeholders recognise is important to build on - working together across ethnicity, class, social and organisational boundaries, to challenge assumptions and take steps towards true partnership working.

Vaccination Impacts

Academics have reported increased vaccination uptake across all three areas, and reported that this outcome can be ‘attributed directly to the MHCLG funded Community Champions programme and is concretely visible in coordinated activities such as setting up vaccination hubs, circulation of translated materials in multiple languages online and face-to-face, and ‘foot-patrol’ visits to neighbourhoods.’

Academics have distilled the most effective characteristics of the Champions programmes they’ve seen into ten principles as follows:

  • micro-knowledge;
  • dialogue;
  • vaccine and health information to be embedded in broader forms of support;
  • face-to-face interaction;
  • micro-messaging;
  • invisible barriers insights;
  • social animators;
  • autonomy for Champions;
  • coordination between Champions projects;
  • paid Champions coordinators.

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