Our work in Yorkshire is part of our vision for a nation of strong compassionate communities.
“I am Batley and Spen born and bred, and I could not be prouder of that. I am proud that I was made in Yorkshire and I am proud of the things we make in Yorkshire. Britain should be proud of that, too."- Jo Cox, Maiden Speech 2015
Jo Cox was passionate about local communities and bringing people together. Despite living in many countries throughout her life, including Belgium and New York, she always considered Batley & Spen and Yorkshire her true home. In 2015, Jo Cox was elected as MP for Batley & Spen, allowing her to represent her home town in the UK Parliament. The Foundation’s presence is a vital part of our work ensuring Jo's legacy here lives on.
The Yorkshire team along with other local organisations have been commissioned by Kirklees Council to provide mental health awareness training to community groups and individuals across the area of Kirklees. The Yorkshire team will focus on the region of Spen to better support their groups/members. The project aims to bring together a network to focus on mental health and identify further needs beyond this delivery work.
During the Pandemic a number of organisations across Kirklees called ‘Anchor organisations’ which includes our Yorkshire team, worked alongside the local authority and mutual aid groups, to provide a community response to help to provide food, prescriptions and befriending to those in need. It became clear that there were many people that we're unable to get their basic needs met, one of those reasons being Digital Exclusion and Digital Poverty. A survey was sent out to community organisations across the area to find out if their service users were able to access services online and discovered many people were unable to access their services, along with financial services, access to healthcare, education, fitness, council services, shopping and connecting with family and friends.
78% users have not been able to access online services85% of organisations moved their services online100% of users have experienced feelings of loneliness or isolation
47% think their users lack digital literacy53% think their users cannot afford a device or dataThe top two impacts of digital exclusion are: Not being able to connect with family & friends and not being able to access support servicesn
The Anchor organisations joined with local community healthcare provider Locala, to develop and deliver a pilot project to supply 100 tablets with data across North Kirklees, with the intention of upskilling community members, improving access to digital services and reducing loneliness.
We are helping people fill in application forms to volunteer over the phone because they don't have digital access. Also a lot of courses are run via zoom but this is difficult to access if you only have a phone with limited data. The Library it suites were a lifeline to many people so these closing during lockdown has meant a lot of people have had no or limited access.
- Volunteering support organisation
Community Makes Us
The Community Makes Us project was designed to respond to the emerging and ongoing needs brought about by Covid-19 for people living in Batley and Spen. One of the key issues this project sought to impact is to reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation, which we know have been exacerbated by the challenges of lockdowns. Mental health and well being will also have been improved for participants through regular contact with group peers, sharing their experiences, feeling heard and the development of ongoing relationships.
The project also intended to counteract division and divisiveness, a defining feature of the Yorkshire focused work of The Jo Cox Foundation. The inequalities highlighted by coronavirus – disproportionately affecting poor, marginalised and minority communities – has fuelled further division within already vulnerable communities. By recruiting participants from across those divides the project aimed to promote unity, cohesion and empathy.
The Community Makes Us project launched with a webinar event in October 2020. A guest panel of diverse and prominent leaders from across the region shared their personal and professional experiences of covid-19 and lockdown. The guests comprised of:
- Rachel Spencer-Henshall, Chief Executive Kirklees Council,
- Mark Burns Williamson, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner,
- Dean Hoyle, Founder and former owner of Card Factory, ex Chairman of Huddersfield Town Football Club, Chairman of The Works & Trustee of Leeds Cares,
- Lord Kamlesh Patel, Crossbench Peer, Chair of Social Work England, President of the Royal Society for Public Health and former social worker
- Isabelle Myers, Headgirl from Heckmondwike Grammar School.
Breaking Barriers Innovations (BBI)
Breaking Barriers Innovations (BBI), an organisation chaired by Lord Patel of Bradford, partnered with us to conduct a programme of work in Kirklees looking at social isolation and loneliness through the lens of employment.
We know the cost of social isolation and loneliness. It is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and costs £760 million per year in social care costs alone. We also know the role good work has in promoting good health. Yet during the pandemic, more than 50,000 workers in Kirklees have been furloughed, forcing many to isolate in their homes. The combined impact of this is yet to be fully understood, but our programme seeks to ascertain the lived experience of those in Kirklees.
20 peer researchers were trained and equipped with skills to allow them to conduct a major piece of community engagement that can inform service provision in the area.
With the support of Birstall based generous sponsors PPG, we were able to offer assistance to 6 local food poverty projects. The emphasis was on sustainability, i.e. practical support for the ongoing work of these projects. Funds were used for items such as an office printer and laptop to help with admin. A folding trolley for moving large donations, shelving, a fridge freezer and under the counter freezer. Also new pots, pans and crockery for a project that provides hot meals to the homeless and to people living alone.