First of all, I hope everyone is staying positive and keeping well.
The past few weeks have brought a new challenge for everyone, since the Coronavirus pandemic hit, but for us at Blackpool FC Community Trust it has brought two significant issues for me to consider.
The first being are we financially secure enough, as a charity, to endure this period? Which is difficult to answer when we don’t know how long this will last. The past couple of weeks I have spent a great amount of time developing financial projections, identifying areas of loss and our expected expenditure. We also have to work out whether the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is appropriate for us, as we need our staff to continue to support our community. It’s a little bit like trying to steer through mud.
What I can say is the vast majority of our funding partners have been fantastic and told us to use the funding however we need to in order to continue to support our community.
Our issue arises in the projects that rely on people paying to take part, like our holiday sports camps, tiny tangerines and walking football plus projects we had planned to start in the upcoming months, like our summer traineeship courses and FitFans weight management programmes.
We will however find a solution, we have a strong governance and reserve funds in place to help us through this very difficult period if it becomes necessary.
The second point I have had to consider and the most important, is how can we adjust our regular delivery so we can still support our regular participants? My team have been absolutely amazing in doing this.
Every staff member has continued to work from home developing a host of ways to stay in contact with our participants and partner organisations.
Hopefully you follow us across our social media platforms and visit our website (which we all now have more time to do) and have seen some of the really unique ways that we have started to use technology to keep in touch.
Our education and employability teams have developed virtual classrooms to continue to educate our students and maintain some regularity for them. This means our BTEC Sports College Students, Degree Students and Traineeship participants continue to “turn up for class” each day and complete their normal work just from home.
Some don’t have laptops, so we have sent them home with ours and some don’t have Wi-fi in their homes so we are sending paper based assignments for them to complete and calling them to talk through the subjects, whilst we investigate if we can get them online in their houses.
Our school delivery teams have continued to support educational establishments that are open for key workers and are short staffed, by going in and being an extra body to deliver some PE and other fun activities. Our secondary schools team have been putting challenges and ideas together to support teenagers’ resilience and mental wellbeing.
The rest of the team have been hard at work collating schemes of work, creating and undertaking challenges and thinking of games for schools and families to follow in isolation.
We have competitions coming up over the next few weeks including our #Blackpoolrhyme competition, already running now until the end of April, for everyone to tell us what they love about Blackpool in the form of a poem. For competition details and to find out how to enter visit our website or check out our social media.
We have also set up a call centre for participants to engage with us, if they need a chat, some help or information about other organisations they may need to talk to.
We are also in regular contact with our more socially isolated participants, to see if they need any help or support. It’s really important we consider everybody’s mental health during this period and this is one way we can help with this.
The Trust has also received a host of calls for additional help that are a little outside of our norm. One being the call from Blackpool Council to set up a community hub. We will host one of twelve hubs that will distribute food parcels to the most vulnerable residents that are isolated for twelve weeks. Our team will coordinate the Bloomfield Ward and deliver the parcels to people’s doorsteps. So if you see our buses driving past, that’s what the team are up to or if you get a knock on the door in that area, it may be us with your food parcel.
During this period, I’m going to use this column as a way to keep people updated on the things the Trust are doing, to make people aware of the very unique and special team we have who continue to strive to make a difference and to give the people of Blackpool something to be proud of during these testing times.
We’re much more than a group of coaches, with a bag of balls and cones, and hopefully the work we are going can highlight some of that.
Stay safe everyone!