Can you tell us what the Community Champions do?
Individuals who sign up to the programme take part in a three hour-long training workshop run by the borough. This is designed to help them feel comfortable with the facts and science related to COVID-19, as well as knowing how to recognise an opportunity to pass this information onto a friend, family member or neighbour.
Champions are then given weekly communication sheets, providing them with the latest information on the pandemic and the measures in place in Royal Greenwich to keep residents safe and well. Our Champions are also invited to a weekly webinar, where we ask them to give us feedback about any concerns or ideas they might have following their conversations with their fellow residents. For us, this is just as important and valuable as the information that we are giving them.
How does your Neighbourhood Champions scheme differ to the Community Champions programme?
The Neighbourhood Champions scheme is an extension of our Community Champions work. This sees small teams of volunteers being given further training, before being supported to carry out more targeted outreach work in some of the more disadvantaged areas of the borough. We know that the pandemic has hit the most disadvantaged people in our communities the hardest, and we wanted to ensure they receive any support they might need.
Our Neighbourhood Champions have been recognised as key workers, which we feel is very fitting given the contribution they make. All of our Neighbourhood Champions are attached to a local coordinator, who helps the Champions to identify any trends, concerns or gaps in support that the borough needs to be acting on.
In total, we have over 350 residents in Royal Greenwich taking part in either the Community Champions or the Neighbourhood Champions programmes.
Why are these models important?
We value the feedback we get from the Champions, just as much as we value the opportunity to get a public health message out to residents through their everyday conversations. The pandemic has been and continues to be hard for everyone and it’s vital we know how residents are feeling, what they’re concerned about and where they need help.
We’re seeing increased demand for everything from support services around mental health, to food parcels for people who have lost their job or who are out of work. Our Champions help us to map this need and to advertise ways the borough can help, such as through our Community Hub.
Why do you want young people to be Community Champions?
For a number of years, we’ve delivered the RSPH Level 2 Award for Young Health Champions and we know the value of supporting young people to take on a peer mentoring role. Young people relate to each other much more easily than they do to someone in a position of authority. We can say the same words, but we find that young people are more likely to listen to advice when it comes from someone in their shoes.
We also know that young people can, on occasion, have a tendency to think they are invincible and aren’t affected by certain health issues! Young people have made and continue to make huge sacrifices during the pandemic and we want to make sure they understand why they are being asked to do so.
What do you see the COVID-19 Young Health Champions doing as part of their role?
We’re really looking forward to delivering the COVID-19 Young Health Champions qualification. The qualification is very much in line with the training we deliver to our Community Champions and we know that young people and schools will really value the opportunity to earn an accredited, nationally-recognised qualification. We think this will make it much easier to get young people to join the schemes.
Another key role we hope to see COVID-19 Young Health Champions playing is providing us with an opportunity to reach their parents. In many parts of our borough, we have residents for whom English is not their first language and this can make it more difficult for them to access the health information and services we provide. We hope their children and grandchildren can be that crucial bridge to make sure we can communicate with them and keep everyone safe and well.
To find out more about the Royal Greenwich Community Champions, visit https://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/communitychampions