I’ve talked a lot over the past weeks of all the great work the Community Trust has been doing in response to the current situation, but what has gone unnoticed is the support we have received from the Football Club to support our community.
Between our clubs owner, club staff, trust staff and first team players, we have called vulnerable and self-isolating supporters, project participants and residents in need of a boost and to check on their welfare, as well as young children missing out on birthday parties. We have made in excess of 600 calls in this period.
We have also utilised our first team players to put out key government and health messaging to reach key demographics through football.
The players have also developed fitness activity videos, encouraging people to keep active indoors, which have worked perfectly alongside the Trust videos for local schools and families, making sure we keep all engaged, motivated and challenged.
As part of our Community Food and Wellbeing Hub the club have made significant donations to the food packs we send out each week.
They have donated all the drinks, crisps and chocolate that had been purchased for use in the concourse on match days for the rest of this season. It’s added some treats to the packs provided by Blackpool Council’s Corona Kindness Programme.
They also donated 500 Easter eggs which had been purchased for sale in the club shop but were added to our packs and the food bank currently being coordinated at Blackpool Tower by Merlin.
We were also able to give 50 BFC branded Footballs to Blackpool Council’s Youth Services. The request was made to me to help with certain young lads who were playing football in the park. The hope was that giving them a football each would keep them in their homes and gardens and safe.
Players have also been engaging with young supporters by challenging them to games of FIFA 20 and the Trust has been working alongside the Premier League for something similar for our Kicks participants, for safeguarding reasons we are not allowed to give further details, but it's just another way we have been interacting with the young people in our community.
Whilst there are also other things we and the club have been doing to support the community, I wanted to highlight how closely we are now working and how great it is to work with the Football Club, as one, in this new era.
My attention now turns to trying to work out where our charity sits within the new 50 page roadmap to recovery document the government has released and how or if we can start to bring some of our services back in person.
We are working with local schools to understand how they will return some of their pupils back and have offered our services to all our partner primary and secondary schools.
Ironically we launched two brand new, mental health projects this year; the first, Unstoppable, uses Dan Friedman’s book (of the same name) to look at key issues for year 6's and how to cope with the transition from primary to secondary school, with relationships at home and issues in their community. This becomes even more important in the current time, so we are developing two ways to restart our delivery of this project.
If schools are comfortable with us visiting, using appropriate physical distancing, staying aware and using PPE, we will deliver in the classes.
If not, we are developing a new digital offer that could see us deliver the session virtually from the stadium and link into the classrooms smart boards.
The other programme is PL Inspires, which works with Year 10 pupils, to support them with preparations for their GCSE exams, making them aware of the local Headstart Revoelution Framework for mental health and providing them with activities to help them with revision and many other topics. Again we are talking to schools about which of the two ways they would like us to deliver to the years groups that are returning to school first.
We have also offered our services to support the schools with their PE delivery and development of teachers delivery of the subject.
With regards to our own education programmes, most of our BTEC Sports College students have continued to work throughout the pandemic from home and will complete their academic year in June, so they will get the summer off and won’t have the need to return to physical classes until September. Our Traineeship team will begin preparation for a new summer cohort, to hopefully start in July, but our NCS team have to wait until 2021 to deliver their full programme that includes residential trips. We are working closely with NCS partners to develop a safer, local offer for the Autumn programme we usually deliver.
The area that is causing us the most concern is our Community Programmes, most are based on bringing groups together to socialise and engage in physical activity. I doubt it will be any time in the near future that we can bring our Walking Footballers, Disability players and Kicks participants back to play games of football, so we are looking at how we can adapt our provision to still have some engagement as soon as possible.
We’ll keep you all posted as soon as we have worked all this out, but rest assured, we are working tirelessly to bring back our support, whilst making sure we keep our participants and staff safe.