The local response to support those in most need has been nothing short of remarkable. The scale of volunteering demonstrated the social strength within communities. The local government response to the challenge of shielding the most vulnerable in an everchanging environment is incredible. And the response of those public health professionals on the front line truly inspiring.
We’ve helped the vulnerable and celebrated our colleagues in equal measure during this incredible humanitarian response to the crisis.
Love Through the Letterbox
When the lockdown and social distancing measures necessary to combat Covid-19 were introduced, they had a significant impact on many people’s lives. Restrictions made seeing loved ones extremely difficult.
Whilst many innovative ways emerged to help us stay connected to family and friends. Older generations – who may not have had access to the technology or experience of using these tools – were missing out, as well as being amongst the hardest hit by lockdown restrictions.
This situation led the Westco’s creative team to create a campaign that could help. Without a client, they created the Love Through The Letterbox; a campaign to encourage younger people to write letters to elderly or disabled relatives and neighbours.
The campaign also presented a wonderful opportunity to create a resurgence in the lost art of letter writing as an activity for children, as well as showing loved ones they cared.
To keep it open and accessible, as well as letters, we also encourage poems, drawings, cards – all which can be looked back on as personal momentums of this significant time.
The initiative was promoted on social media with eye-catching posts celebrating the beauty of letter writing, encouraging children to put pen to paper and show someone that they are thinking of them. They carried the hashtag #LoveThroughTheLetterbox and we asked people to document their participation using the hashtag.
The campaign was shared a reposted by many organisations such as The Salvation Army, Age UK and several councils, including Richmond.
Richmond upon Thames Council worked with local schools and community groups and invited children to send a letter to an older person at a care home to let them know that they are thinking of them.
Letters were delivered to the Council, where they were kept for 72 hours in an airtight bag and distributed to all the care homes across the borough. Children were asked to write their first name, year group and school on the letters, so the recipients could write back via the school should they wish.
Richmond received more than 450 letters and drawings, from children aged as young as five years old up to 16 years old.
Overall we recorded over 900 retweets and shares of the campaign in a little over a month and it was picked up by social good news channels and even featured in The Happy News.
letters and drawings recieved from children between ages five and 16.
retweets and shares of the campaign on social media in little over a month.
by social good news channels and even featured in The Happy News.
In response to COVID-19 Westminster City Council set up a volunteering hub, Westminster Connects, to coordinate the volunteer response to the pandemic. Within weeks it attracted more than 3,000 volunteers, primarily Westminster residents, seeking opportunities to assist in the community.
Responsibilities in this initial phase have focused on providing emergency assistance to shielding and vulnerable residents – doing shopping, delivering medicines, connecting them with the council’s statutory services where required and assisting with social connection during a period which has been isolating for many including check-in calls to provide a friendly voice over the phone.
Communications played a pivotal role in driving volunteer numbers, promoting the service to those who most needed it and to demonstrate to all residents that the council were the organisation behind Westminster Connects.
requests to volunteer, set up from scratch, by Westminster Connects
Food deliveries administered
shielded residents supported with over 40,000 acts of support
Clap for key workers
As part of the weekly Clap for Key workers, we created an animated gif of all our councillors (cross party) clapping. We used this graphic across all our social media platforms.
The GIF had a combined total of 36,014 impressions and 1,656 engagements on Twitter alone. It was also retweeted by NHS London.
Richmond Gives Back
During the pandemic hundreds of local groups and voluntary sector organisations worked hard to support some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents. The Council wanted to help recruit volunteers for the groups, recognise their efforts, demonstrate their hard work and help promote any local fundraising efforts being carried out.
We launched #RichmondGivesBack – working with the many groups to create short videos highlighting: What they had been doing during the pandemic. What had been the immediate challenges? What are the challenges moving forward? How people can engage / access their services. How can people donate or support the group?
The videos were then promoted on our social media platforms, on the Council website and in the weekly e-newsletter to residents. See the videos here.
people came forward to volunteer
raised in a couple of days to buy items for rough sleepers who were given emergency accommodation
people watched the videos on YouTube alone
Community Conversation - Richmond
As part of our programme of recovery work, we wanted to provide residents with an opportunity to have their say on the things that should be focused on as we come out of lockdown. As part of the borough’s Community Conversation programme, this activity would have normally taken place via a series of ward based public meetings. However, due to social distancing measures, we viewed this would not be appropriate or accessible to the many people still shielding. Therefore, we decided to trial a virtual programme.
Nine ward-based meetings were launched and held on Zoom. Each meeting would be hosted by the Leader of the Council, with a panel of ward councillors. Key stakeholders would also be invited to attend if relevant to known key issues in the local area e.g. Police. The back-office function and coordination of the events were delivered by the Communications Team.
The events were largely promoted by paid for social media advertising, promoting via local stakeholders and the Council’s e-newsletter.
Each event opened with a short video presentation showing the Council’s and borough’ response to the pandemic so far (utilising videos from the #RichmondGivesBack programme.
Following the meetings, videos of the events were published for those not able to attend, actions for ward councillors will be published and revisited at the subsequent follow up meetings planned for September.
Despite being held largely in the summer holidays, 1,206 people registered to attend the events – and registrations showed a younger demographic engaging, and many new people taking part in the Community Conversation programme. As a result, the virtual programme will be continued in the future.
Doing My Bit
Alongside national and regional messaging around Test and Trace, the Communications Department launched an integrated, localised public health communications and engagement campaign that complements existing messaging and makes it “hyper-localised” and relevant to specific Havering audiences.
By engaging Havering residents – including hard-to-reach and vulnerable communities – the #DoingMyBit campaign is delivered in three distinct campaign phases, launched via an online event with moderators who explained what will happen in a local outbreak, led by the Council’s Director of Public Health. Ensuring that residents are given the information that they can share along with a call to action to actually share it – over the garden fence, to an elderly relative on the phone, in the queue at the post office etc. as part of “Doing their bit”.
During lockdown we were aware of the potential mental health issues that impact children and young people as a result of not being at school, seeing friends or family. We wanted to provide practical advice and information in a fun and engaging way.
At the same time, during lockdown we were aware of the increase of household waste and recycling. We also wanted to deliver a craft project with children to encourage them to think differently about waste and consider reusing items that would normally be thrown away.
We worked with local resident Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut in 1991. By working through schools and local community groups, we invited children and young people to submit video questions for Helen about what it was like being in space. Helen then answered their questions also in video. The video was then edited together and published, sent back out to schools with phase two of the project.
Phase two was a recycling project. Following the launch of the video, children were then invited to create a rocket out of recycled materials. Helen judged the submissions and winners were selected to win a signed globe. The winners were public.