In response to the flooding in South Wales in February 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic which effected Wales from March 2020 onwards, Pen y Cymoedd CIC offered funding in the form of either a grant or loan.
This response funding had two strands; support for the survival of community groups and businesses and support for projects responding to the unique challenges posed by Covid-19.
The flooding funding awarded of £20,000 enabled a local response to support those who had been directly effected during the flooding period. Both the flooding and Covid-19 funding was designed to give specific support to organisations and businesses across the area of benefit who had been impacted or to drive a local response to local need.
A total of £530,000 was awarded for the Covid-19 funding. From this there was 51 Covid-19 survival funds who received a total of £363,249.63 and 23 Covid-19 related projects, who received a total of £167,435.56. In addition, a number of projects who were originally awarded a Micro Fund, altered their funding plans to respond to changing business needs during the pandemic, which was approved by Pen y Cymoedd (PyC), to allow them to flex the funds to better suit their business needs.
Through the funding local responses were helped to sustain initiatives for both Covid-19 and flooding, ensuring local communities were kept safe and supported and to mitigate against negative impacts. All recipients report that the flexibility of the funding PyC has to offer and their ability to react quickly to local needs is vital in the fund area. In the uncertain circumstances in 2020 this has been of great benefit to PyC and those in its area of benefit.
More specifically the fund has enabled a local response to the Covid-19 pandemic and flooding which has demonstrated a knock on impact to other organisations, services or businesses in the area. It has also helped support businesses to grow and diversify.
In terms of the impacts of the funding, for the businesses supported it has helped to secure local jobs and stabilise the economy. For the projects it has supported community wellbeing, education and community cohesion.
Looking more widely at those who had received funding, 36 per cent of the Covid survival recipients and 44 per cent of the Covid project recipients were new to PyC. This figure demonstrates that new organisations are accessing the funding, which is positive for the funds having a further reach.
On 14th of February 2020, the Rhondda was hit by Storm Dennis. Heavy rains brought with it raising water levels and caused flooding of homes and businesses with many families to evacuate their homes as flood water inundated defences and damaged properties and possessions. Pen y Cymoedd awarded £10,000 to the Rhondda Flood Relief Fund managed by Chris Bryant MP and his team.
Toogoodtowaste returned to work on the Monday following the flooding and went out into the community to find out how they could be of help to those in need. They asked local people what they needed to rebuild their homes after the floods. Due to the scale of the impact from the flooding Toogoodtowaste knew that they would need financial support to equip all those in need with the items they required. ‘It was going out to peoples houses and seeing what was needed and seeing lives that had been wiped away. I know the deprivation here and the pride people have in the area. There was a real need for someone to step in and sort it out rather than these people needing to apply or wait for funding. If your house is flooded and you have not even got something to sit on, you cannot wait for that. It was about being able to help people.’
Having previously received a grant from the Vision Fund and knowing that they could approach them from further support, Toogoodtowaste put together an initiative to help those worst effected by the floods. They put together a short application and received a £10,000 grant. The grant was to support the costs of providing these households with replacement items.
As a result of the funding, Toogoodtowaste was able to help around 50 households and nearly 150 people. Local people were supplied with kitchen appliances and furniture to help replace items lost or unsalvageable due to flood damage. They report that the support they offered these local families helped them to start rebuilding after the damage and disruption they had faced and allowed them to return to their homes much quicker than if they had to wait for items to be replaced. Toogoodtowaste also report that in offering support to these households it had a knock-on impact in the community who, knowing they were supporting those effected by the floods, saw an influx of donations to the cause. Toogoodtowaste noted that they have a large following on social media, which undoubtably helped in spreading the message of the work they were doing. ‘The response was exceptional. When people knew that we were helping people they offered help, it had a knock-on effect. It brought the community together.’
COVID Survival Support
51 Covid-19 survival grants and loans were offered to a variety of businesses, local groups and charities for a total of £363,249.63. A new, simplified application form and process was quickly put in place and over 6 months the staff team assessed over 100 applications to COVID fund as well as processing normal applications to the fund. Decisions usually took place within 7 days.
- Based in Glynneath, Bramwood Timber are a family run business delivering made to order timber products for the home and garden. As a small business employing seven members of staff they produce all of their products within their site in Glynneath. They are previous Vision fund recipients where they used this funding to expand their business activities and workshop facilities.
Due to the Covid-19 restrictions in the first lockdown which occurred in March 2020, Bramwood Timber had to close its operation. ‘We were constantly expanding and reinvesting the money we make. If we knew we have needed money would have saved for that, but [lockdown] was announced overnight.’ So Bramwood Timber turned to PyC for funds to tide over the pay role whilst waiting for the furlough payments to be available. After seeing a post on social media about offering Covid19 specific funding they got in touch. They were successful in receiving a loan to cover staffing costs and they also received a £1000 grant from PyC on top of the loan to help the business get back up and running once lockdown ended. ‘The funding they gave us was to cover the wages, but they also gave us an extra £1000 on top to get back on your feet type thing. [The grant was] to keep everything going to and keep to the lights on.’
They noted that as the furlough money came through from the government scheme they transferred the loan amount back to PyC on the same day.
Further to this they have been able to support some local Covid-19 initiatives. This included making a drive in test centre at a local doctors surgery, which was also funded by PyC project funding, and to support a local school with an outside covered space so that learning could take place safely outside and on rainy days.CVID Project Support
23 Covid-19 related projects, received a total of £167,435.56 in grant funding from Pen y Cymoedd.
- SNAP Cymru is a charity that works across Wales providing support, advice and information to parents, children and young people who have special education needs (SEN) or disabilities. They also have a helpline and offer advocacy and disagreement resolution services. When the first Covid-19 lockdown occurred in March 2020, SNAP Cymru branched out their support by offering wellbeing packs to children across the PyC area. The packs contained educational content to help support learning while schools were closed. They also contained fun things for the children to do to help keep them entertained whilst at home. The packs were also intended to support those with limited ability to access online learning or tools.
Initially, SNAP Cymru identified 800 families with children with additional learning needs or disabilities in the area which they used as a starting point for the packs, with the potential to reaching out to other families in the area as well. They applied to the Community Fund for funding to run the project over a 12 week period which included three volunteers working 40 hours a week on the project, although some days they worked longer hours to fulfil the demand. As a result they were awarded a £12,670 Covid Project Grant to cover costs. During the project lifetime they supplied just over 850 packs to families within the area of benefit. The packs all included activities such as colouring and educational materials.
The project helped to reach many families in the PyC area and keeping them entertained during lockdown. Due to the contents of the packs they also helped to stimulate learning for the children through the provision of numeracy and literacy activities. Further, the packs also helped to tend to the wellbeing needs of the children and families, including support on how to deal with the current situation and, where requested, anger and behavioural management content. The responses SNAP Cymru received from parents and carers were incredibly positive, especially with the ability to personalise the content of the packs for the children’s needs and interests. Families were also grateful for the support they were offered from SNAP Cymru. ‘I am writing this to express my gratitude to SNAP Cymru in these unusual times, for being so caring and supportive. It has truly helped me and I honestly don’t know what I would have done without them. SNAP Cymru have helped me feel supported. I was sent a wonderfully put together activity pack to keep my son busy, and to help him better understand his emotions about the situation we all find ourselves in. I feel that teaching him the ability to talk about his emotions has helped. There were techniques I wouldn’t have thought of in the pack.’
SNAP Cymru also feel that another legacy of the project is that they have reached new families in the area, who will now know they can turn to them should they need any advice, guidance or support in the future. ‘We have forged good links in the area, and we receive referrals, and they keep in contact. They ring us up for informal chats and sometimes they refer and sometimes they just want to know how they can help.’
- Love Treorchy Business Improvement District (BID) was established in 2019 and is responsible for managing the BID in Treorchy town centre. To support businesses reopening after the easing of lockdown measures and to reassure residents that the high street is safe, Love Treorchy BID applied to PyC for a Covid project grant for an initiative to supply local businesses with ‘Covid Ready Packs’. These packs included a sneeze guard, covid regulation stickers and signage, and hand sanitizer. They were successful in securing a grant of £14,200 for this initiative. The funding would support around 100 packs being made and distributed around the Treorchy BID area. The funding helped to support local businesses in ensuring they had the right safety equipment in place to reopen, as well as saving them money from making the outlay for these items themselves.
The project also had the additional purpose in making Treorchy businesses consistent with clear signage across all business to reduce confusion from customers with different information from shop to shop. ‘It was all about providing independent businesses with a covid ready pack. Businesses didn’t know where to look or what they needed. We were able to do all the work for them. Some were under delivering as they didn’t know what they needed, and some were massively overspending. By us supplying it took away worry and hassle and made us consistent.’ecipients
They are very approachable. I have discussed future ideas with them, and I can speak to them in total confidence. No problem in speaking to [PyC team] about the things we are thinking of and if there would be any problems. [They] would be engaging and with it and we could talk in confidence. It’s someone to bounce ideas off.
We would have supported people, but it would have been in a lesser way basically. So instead of saying what do you need and them saying this, this, and this, we would say we have this, and you can choose one item. It would have been restricted. The funding allowed us to offer out more.
If we get funding, we use local as we can get. If we are spending in shops, we always use local and we did this with PyC grant helping our members and a local business.
There was also a positive impact on the staff with the investment in the new equipment described as ‘a load off their mind’. It has helped increased usability, is more reliable and allows staff to communicate effectively whilst working remotely. This is something that has come in useful for one member of staff who had recently joined the business who can now undertake their training whilst at home. It has also meant that the individual in question has been able to ‘get off furlough’ sooner than would otherwise have been the case.