Friday, May 20 2022

The relationships forged during the pandemic have stood the test of time and shown their worth during this new crisis, writes the Head of Profession, Communications and Marketing, Essex CC.

There is a heartwarming introduction on the website of the charity Reset Communities and Refugees about the Homes for Ukraine program: “Thank you. It’s amazing that you want to know more about how you can sponsor Ukrainians to achieve safety in the UK.

Andy Allsopp, Head of Profession, Communications and Marketing, Essex CC and LGcomms National Secretary

So let’s all say. Reset launched a matchmaking service for sponsors looking for Ukrainian families to support or Ukrainians looking for sponsorship, and in Essex County Council and our partners learned about our role, helping people who will host Ukrainian families in the county.

This welcome is so, very important.

Places like Essex, as well as most of the country, don’t have large Ukrainian communities, so we lack a bit of the ‘glue’ in terms of cultural or religious institutions and infrastructure that could help . The branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain closest to Essex is in the neighboring London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Packs for refugees and sponsors

In Essex, the county’s family of public service communicators across councils, the NHS, emergency services, charities and the voluntary sector have been part of an impressive collaboration to deliver information packs to Ukrainian individuals and families and their sponsors under the Homes for Ukraine program. help make learning about life here as warm and welcoming as possible.

The release of the packs is a great example of the kind of collaborative communications that have been a feature of our work during the pandemic

Sponsor packs are online and the first packs full of local information are arriving with sponsors via Essex District, Borough and Town Councils. Frustrations with the speed of the application approval process aside, we are ready on time for our Ukrainian arrivals, with around 600 expected at the time of writing.

The release of the packs – 12 of them, one for each of our district, borough and council areas, plus two more produced by neighboring Southend-on-Sea Council and Thurrock Council – is a great example of the kind of collaborative communications that have been a feature of our work throughout the pandemic period.

And not only that. Content was produced at lightning speed, with less than two weeks from initial project discussion to delivery. The 12 versions are being translated into Ukrainian and Russian (the main languages ​​of Ukraine) for Homes for Ukraine guests for publication last week.

Reception points

The packs are the first deliverable of our information strategy for Homes for Ukraine and align with our aim to provide useful and practical information to help people start their lives here, but infused with as much local flavor as possible. Local content provided by our District, Borough and City Councils achieves this well, with basic content on Essex-wide services provided by County Council, NHS and Health Services. emergency.

We still have work to do on the “receipt points”. The funding announced for these is welcome, but at Stansted Airport work was well advanced before funding was announced.

Stansted is important to Essex and the UK not least because, thanks to Ryanair’s Eastern European destination network, the airport currently has the second highest number of Ukrainians arriving in the UK .

So far, the vast majority of them have arrived through the Ukrainian Families Program and need little help from us to reunite with their extended family members. But for some, for whom the arrangements have not worked out, the drop-in point actually provides lifesaving help and connects them with agencies such as the County Council, NHS and Uttlesford DC, all via the superb British Red Cross volunteers, whom we work with to provide information and advice.

This will be a key element for information and communication as more and more people arrive through the Homes for Ukraine program.

Legacy of the pandemic

What is clear and so important – not to say pleasing – from a communications and personal perspective is that the experience of collaborating on communications as a system during the pandemic and post- pandemic, when we successfully welcomed hundreds of Afghan refugees to the county, serves us well, and its legacy for communications is alive and well.

When it really matters to communities and new members of our communities, we prove again that we are up to the task

We could never, in a million years, transform our welcome packs in the time that we did without this experience.

In two-tier Essex, we placed a premium on the whole system and working together, but those lingering doubts that the new normal would mean we were going back to our old silos were there. I don’t need to worry.

I desperately want this “new” experience of collaboration to be incorporated into the expectations our political leaders and CEOs have of us. Responsibility and sovereignty are important, but when it really matters to communities and new members of our communities, we prove once again that we are up to the task.

I will take this message to our partners at all levels of government for all it’s worth.

Andy Allsopp, Head of Profession, Communications and Marketing, Essex CC; National Secretary, LGcomms

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