Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Book Icon

Breckon Hill champions lead way on Covid

Restrictions are easing, but you must still remember: Hands. Face. Space. Fresh air. Get the latest information about coronavirus.

A photo of Amanda Buck outside Breckon Hill Community Centre

One conversation at a time, committed staff and volunteers from a Middlesbrough community centre are helping to protect people of a diverse neighbourhood from Covid-19.

Using the power of word of mouth, manager Amanda Buck and her team from Breckon Hill Community Centre are doing invaluable work to keep families safe.

The centre is part of Middlesbrough Council's Covid Champions network which works with communities at high risk from Covid.

The Breckon Hill centre received a Covid communications grant of £5,000 from the Council. It targets its work predominantly at ethnic minority and eastern European communities.

In partnership with the neighbouring Breckon Hill Primary School, the centre distributed almost 300 packed lunches on a daily basis during lockdown.

The school has pupils who speak 37 different languages, reflecting the diverse culture of the area.

"We were putting leaflets in with the packed lunches in the relevant languages. We were putting in activities for the children to get them thinking about Covid and encouraged them to get their hour's exercise safely during the first lockdown," Amanda says.

As restrictions eased and the centre was able to open, it was again used as a food bank and venue offering crisis support.

"Throughout we've been giving up to date information on regulations, vaccinations and what to do," Amanda says.

"Over the past couple of weeks we've had staff back out on the streets. They've been going to prominent areas where we know there's gatherings. We've worked closely with the community street wardens and have targeted areas with bilingual information."

The centre hasn't simply repeated government messaging but has used translators to produce material Amanda describes as more "easy-read, community based".

"We've listened to the community and heard their anxieties and tried to respond to those with a top ten myth-busting section that they can relate to.

"That seems to be having more of an impact than just saying ‘the government says you need to do this'. You've got to try and turn it so it's more about keeping yourself and your family safe and taking responsibilities for their own actions." 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of grassroots organisations and the connections they have in their community.

"It's easy for us," Amanda says.

"We've always got a motivation for people to be in the building. We've got a base of clientele that are coming in and because we're already engaging with people there's that level of trust and understanding."

Amanda had fielded lots of questions about whether she's had the Covid vaccine and without hesitation explains how she's now had both doses.

"I think people do appreciate that you have taken a lead and the staff and volunteers here have all done that."

Amanda explains how one member of staff made a social media diary of her isolation after returning from overseas, putting across "very clear messages" about the importance of following the rules.

Councillor Dorothy Davison, Executive Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, praised the team at Breckon Hill.

Cllr Davison said: "Amanda and her colleagues know their community inside out. Their work on Covid and so many other issues is vital.

"Getting accurate information to people in a format they will respond to is crucial. It's great to hear how the word is getting out on everything from social distancing rules to the vaccine.

"All the groups on the Covid Champions network can be proud of what they're doing for Middlesbrough."

Amanda believes encouraging those aged under 30 to be vaccinated will be the next challenge of Covid. The centre and all groups represented on the network will continue their determined efforts.

"The network has been fantastic," she says.

"The Council has done it the best way and gone in at grassroots level because we're already out there engaging with people."

The Council is now offering grants of up to £20,000 to support voluntary and community sector groups in the town help people to recover from the pandemic.

Bids are invited on several themes including reducing social isolation, recovering from the mental health impact, increasing community cohesion and increasing the vaccination update.

Visit the community grants page to find out more about grants.

Join the millions already vaccinated