Colchester United Football in the Community (CUFITC) will resume their activities at their Shrub End Community and Sport Centre next week, but over the last three months they have been working hard to respond to the impact on the community through the COVID-19 pandemic.

To date, the U’s charity arm have coordinated and delivered over 200 hours of community outreach work in response to the COVID-19 pandemic including over 850 food parcels delivered and over 100 hours of collections for Colchester Foodbank. Alongside this work, the community team have provided support for older people who are suffering from isolation and are developing new interventions and engagements for those in need to improve their physical health or mental wellbeing.

Corin Haines, CUFITC’s Head of Community, commented: “We’re here to help people in whichever way they need, whether that’s food deliveries, organised phone calls to lift spirits or perhaps talking about ways to look after your mental health at this difficult time.”

Colchester will continue their Community Outreach Support Scheme, and hope to help even more people by adding more new services. Thanks to a grant from The National Lottery, CUFITC are in advanced discussions to introduce new services to engage with different groups that may have felt the adverse effects of COVID-19.

One group in particular that United is looking to support is people with sensory impairments. The FITC and ECL Sensory Service (Essex Cares Limited), are piloting an innovative programme to support people in Essex with sensory impairments with exercise and social sessions, whilst isolated through current restrictions.

Social isolation has been highlighted by various groups as part of the COVID-19 impact and CUFITC staff alongside ECL Sensory staff will provide participants with low level exercise to improve activity levels, as well as social engagement in a bid to reduce loneliness and develop positive friendships and relationships to take forwards.

Faye Gatenby, from ECL Sensory Service, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside Colchester United Football in the Community on this pilot project which will help to address some of the needs we have identified over the past three months. People with sight and/or hearing loss are facing new barriers to accessing services as a result of COVID-19 and this includes the opportunities to get up moving and socialising.”

CUFITC staff have also teamed up with Age Concern Colchester to support their befriending service to those in the community who may be socially isolated due to COVID-19 and the government restrictions around shielding for older people. Staff will be checking in with matched members of the Colchester community for a weekly phone call to discuss their interests, hobbies and provide support if needed in relation to the situation they currently find themselves in.

Jane Diplock, from Age Concern Colchester, said: “We are really pleased that CUFITC staff have volunteered to befriend some of our North East Essex residents. We are very keen to match people with volunteers with similar interests and look for volunteers from all different walks of life.“It is especially important at this difficult time to make sure people living in later years feel they are connected to the outside world. Being befriended has been a lifeline for lots of people and we are overwhelmed by the support we have had for North East Essex residents.”