Throughout 2020, we continued to dedicate our time and financial support to individuals and charities across BaNES. While the launch of the new Foundation Fund, at the start of 2020, saw our focus change to helping 0-12 year olds , we have remained committed to our charity’s founding values of supporting the most vulnerable members of our community.
The Foundation Fund
In 2020, the St John's Funding team partnered with the national charity, Feeding Britain, to award £30,000 as part of a joint funding programme. This money went towards supporting projects that provide nutritious food and positive activities to children during the summer holidays.
We were also delighted to have been asked to work with the local authority and BaNES 3SG to support and advise on the release of a further £65,000. These funds went to affordable food projects serving children and families in some of Bath and North East Somerset’s most deprived communities.
As part of our initiative to reduce the attainment gap in BaNES, the team also awarded £7,000 each to seven primary schools to help families access online learning. This funding provided tablets, dongles and staff support time. It means that children without technology at home won’t miss out on vital learning.
The Crisis Fund
Over 600 applications have been approved as part of The Crisis Fund. A total of £255,697 has been awarded to people in low-income households across BaNES. This money has been spent buying essential items that families desperately need.
As a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have also awarded £117,619 to assist projects supporting the people most impacted within our community.
Our Organisational Funding Programme continued this year, with £989,028 being awarded in support of charitable projects and organisations that are doing essential work for the community.
Our Community Outreach team started the year feeling really positive about the exciting Activities Programme they had put together. Attendance was at an all time high and lots of new people were attending but then, of course, lockdown happened.
But Covid was not going to defeat the Community Outreach team, who worked tirelessly to get the Programme online. They also helped the attendees to feel comfortable and confident using new technology such as Zoom
And what a success moving our classes online has been - they have been 'attended' by over 400 people, totalling over 4,600 minutes of activity.
Lockdown also saw the team launch the Activities Remotely newsletter to ensure our attendees were kept abreast of all the latest classes and how to book. The newsletter has now had 27 editions with over 14,288 reads.
Those of you familiar with TV programmes such as Broadchurch or Call the Midwife, will recognise the stars we received celebrity messages from: Joe Simms, (from Broadchurch) and Jack Ashton ( Call the Midwife) both sent the St John's staff, residents and Community Outreach users a video message to keep spirits up during lockdown!
We surveyed our attendees to find out if they were using 'Activities Remotely' and 92% said they were, with 86% of them telling us they found it really helpful Readers said it was “cheerful, informative and inclusive” and that they “enjoyed reading all the news, info and activities", while gaining a "feeling of being part of the community”.
Between lockdowns 1 and 2, the team were able to re-introduce face-to-face activities for five weeks or so - which brought a lot of pleasure to those who hadn't really had any human contact beyond a screen for some time.
St John's residents
During the lockdown period, we introduced a befriending service for our residents, where staff made daily phone calls to them. Our staff made over 1,500 calls to our Almshouse residents to chat and to check how they were coping with the lockdown.
The team also came up with the great idea of creating a resident shopping programme for those self-isolating. In total, our staff made 235 supermarket visits for high-risk residents over the course of the three-month lockdown.
“I live on my own and have no immediate family live in this area, I rely on the social activities provided by various local communities for support to improve my wellbeing and reduce my sense of isolation. While I am still maintaining my well-being by regular walks, the online activities also help.
“I enjoyed attending Tai Chi for Wellbeing with Betsan [the tutor] before lockdown and used the DVD to continue at home. Look forward to when classes can start again in person”
“Good to see Liz & other participants regularly, good motivation to exercise. Now class is back in The Bubble, it’s the next best thing to being there”
Independent Living Service
In July, the musical duo, Lucy and Rebecca from On Your Doorstep, played their violins for our residents. It was a fantastic opportunity for everyone to come outside and spend time with each other safely in the sunshine. The delightful duo also popped back to Chapel Court last week for some Christmas numbers.
We must say a big thank you to Lansdown Cricket Club who really supported our Combe Park residents during lockdown by cooking and delivering an array of hot meals to the lucky recipients.
As a result of the pandemic, far more of our residents have ventured online and discovered the joys of online shopping. Our ILAs have admitted they are now on a first name basis with at least a dozen parcel delivery drivers!
The staff and residents are so looking forward to Christmas this year. After a tough year, a well- deserved celebration is needed. The trees at Combe Park and Chapel Court have already been decorated and are helping to create some festive cheer for residents and staff alike.
Remarkably, our residential properties have maintained good levels of occupancy this year. During the pandemic, we took extra measures to maintain our works programme and have refurbished five vacant almshouse apartments, resulting in the housing of new residents.
The team also completed an entire overhaul of the city centre Fire Alarm system. This project was delivered with minimal disruption to our residents and leaves us with a fully modernised system.
This year has proven to be an incredibly challenging one for the Commercial Estates team. Covid has had a huge impact on the retail industry which has put pressure on the Estates and Finance teams, and greatly increased their workloads.
To try and limit any negative effect, the team is taking an extensive look at the property portfolio to repurpose and maximise the value of our properties.
Due to Covid-19, the team worked with our external partners to completely reschedule compliance and Health and Safety tasks which has enabled us to achieve 100% compliance across all sites.
4-5 Chapel Court
To welcome staff back after lockdown, the Estates management team had to design and implement Covid-19 secure measures across our buildings to ensure the continued safety of our residents and staff.
They also implemented a strict cleaning and disinfecting regime which has been testament to the collaboration of the Independent Living Service, Cleaning and Maintenance teams.
Our Chaplain, Reverend Jacky Wise, showed great resilience in the face of issues that Covid caused our chapels.
Jacky continued to lead several services, including at Easter and Harvest Festival. These took place in the Chapel Courtcourtyard, outside Rosenberg and also in the garden courtyard of Combe Park.
The Easter services were all well attended and provided some joy in what was a challenging time for everyone. At various times, the residents enjoyed little deliveries of chocolates, poems and prayers and everyone received flowers on Mother’s Day.
Along with most of St John’s staff, our Chaplain spent much time on both short telephone calls to ‘check in’ with residents and longer calls if more support was needed.
Jacky posted regularly on Facebook, holding virtual services on Sunday mornings and short motivational ‘Breath & Begin’ sessions which helped people to find focus and combat anxiety.
Jacky said that while it certainly was a challenging time, it did help to grow relationships. She said,
“with the separation from family and friends the phone calls became quite significant and it was really enriching to hear more about the amazing lives some of our residents shared with us. That’s been a real privilege and a small blessing that we wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. God does bring good out of bad!”