Derby County Host Virtual Visit from Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden

Derby County Community Trust were delighted to host Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, on a virtual visit to their ‘Stay Safe. Stay Fit. Stay Connected.’ project on Wednesday evening. The MP was interested in finding out more about the initiative which has adapted a city-wide approach to tackling the issues which have been exemplified by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the call were members of staff from the Derby County Community Trust, Leon Taylor – a trustee and volunteer at the Trust, Paul Brookhouse – Project Manager, Derby Food 4 Thought Alliance and Caroline Spalding – Assistant Headteacher at The Bemrose School.

The project was initiated by Derby County Football Club’s players and manager, who recognised the role that a football has to support its community, particularly during a crisis. The expertise of staff at the Community Trust, who have long-established links with a raft of organisations in Derby, were used to establish the demand for services in the city.

The obvious need for increased supply to the food network became the starting point of the project, which has operated a donation hub at Pride Park Stadium since April. This partnership attracted further investment from The National Lottery Community Fund, through which the Secretary of State found out more about the initiative.

The visit involved a tour of the food network hub in Derby to show how organisations have come together to source and supply food packages to those in need.  m supermarkets donating surplus stock to places of worship providing premises to store goods, to the volunteer network who were recruited through the Stay Safe, Stay Fit, Stay Connected project to deliver the parcels, every part of the initiative has exemplified how effective partnership work is.

Leon Taylor, who volunteered every week during lockdown, said:

“Throughout the initial lockdown I volunteered at the food hub and delivered food parcels. It was amazing to see how many people the project and the Trust were helping.”

Another element of the project which the Secretary of State was keen to learn more about was its youth mental health support, a particular concern for vulnerable pupils.

Caroline Spalding outlined some of the work that the Trust were able to deliver within her school, which is situated within a high area of social deprivation. She said:

“Derby County were able to come in and deliver very tailored, specific wellbeing sessions alongside our academic approach. 100% of pupils said it helped them get back into routine, and their grades and attendance have continued to rise as a result of the programme. I genuinely think the impact of Derby County coming in has been totally different to us delivering these projects ourselves.”

The visit culminated with some discussion on future plans and the project’s legacy beyond the pandemic. In response to the second lockdown, the weekly food donation hub at Pride Park Stadium has been reinstated and will be open every Thursday from 11.00am-2.00pm.  Donations will continue to support the project’s vital work in keeping the city safe, fit and connected.

Alongside increased provision in schools around wellbeing and a full virtual timetable with activities for all ages, the Derby County Community Trust were proud to highlight the vital work that has come to fruition as a result of the pandemic.

The Secretary of State visit highlighted that the unique approach to the work undertaken by the Trust across Derby has not gone unnoticed and the initiative will strive to address issues which arise during the second lockdown and beyond.