Swansea Council’s Local Area Coordination (LAC) scheme has been adapted and extended to cover every area of the city in order to give extra help to the vulnerable or isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.
LACs are on the front line of communities in Swansea assisting to facilitate neighbour to neighbour support ensuring people can access food and prescriptions and where possible have a friendly voice checking people are coping during the lockdown.
The LAC scheme had been expanded to cover many areas of the city by the Swansea Labour-led Council in recent years but a further 22 council staff from other departments have temporarily moved to join the team in its revised role bringing its numbers up to 38.
Labour Cllr Mark Child, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Care, Health and Ageing Well, said: “The Local Area Coordinators do a really valuable job under normal circumstances but they have been an absolute godsend in the current coronavirus crisis.
“They have been using their skills and knowledge of their communities to help individual volunteers and organisations come together to make sure that where people need help they are receiving it.
“I’m very pleased that in such a short space of time we have been able to extend this network to every community in Swansea. It is just another example of our excellent staff at Swansea Council stepping up when our city needs them the most.”
Fiona Hughes was already familiar to many in the Brynmill and Uplands area of the city where she has been the Local Area Coordinator for more than three years.
She said: “Although the last month has been a challenge it has really brought the community together.
“We have in place a network of street champions and every street is covered.
“More than 140 people here have stepped up – including more than 30 students at the university who have not been able to go home because they have relatives or family who are self-isolating.
“Our street champions are supporting their neighbours in many ways including collecting and delivering prescriptions, picking up basic necessities such as bread and milk for those unable to do so for themselves and assisting neighbours to put their waste and recycling out on collection days.
“They have been phoning some of the elderly and or vulnerable residents to chat and make sure they are coping, and have also been liaising with family members who are unable, due to distance, to visit or assist relatives who are self-isolating.
“It’s really captured what community spirit is about and already around us. Neighbours who did not really know each other are now helping each other and some streets even have their own What’s App groups.
“Out of everything negative there’s always a positive, and one of the nicest things in recent weeks is neighbours getting to know each other and support each other again. The kindness of the human heart is out there in abundance.”
Each community is working slightly differently but the Local Area Coordinators are also helping people to access food banks where needed and providing residents with information on food delivery services.
Swansea was the first council in Wales to employ LACs who are part of a UK network.
Since 2015 they have been embedded in communities with a wide-ranging preventative brief that includes helping people and communities to become more confident and resilient, to avoid crises by finding practical local solutions, and spotting opportunities to work with local people to grow more friendly, welcoming and active neighbourhoods.
They help people to contribute to community life and share the skills and knowledge they have to offer as well as looking out for people who might be lonely and isolated and help them to connect with others and get back into community life.
To find out more about the LACs in Swansea visit: https://www.swansea.gov.uk/localareacoordination