Virtual events are being held to thank people and groups across County Durham for their good work during the pandemic and to gather views on the future of the area.
Durham County Council has been running its Better for Everyone sessions through its 14 Area Action Partnerships (AAP) to hear views on a wide range of issues and also thank the public for its efforts throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The meetings, which began with Derwent Valley AAP on Tuesday, 20 October and are ongoing until Thursday, 12 November, invite residents, businesses and community organisations from each area.
So far, seven sessions have been held with well over 600 comments so far from participants. Feedback has been extremely positive, with praise for the collective community effort and support from the council’s AAPs during the pandemic.
One comment said: “The community spirit of our volunteers has been tremendously heart-warming. They have helped me to deliver the Teesdale Care Package Project to over 150 households per week and have shown a true spirit of community engagement and grassroots empowerment.”
A second comment said: “So many people have done so much without even being asked. Good neighbours; community spirit; friendship; Covid has brought us the worst challenges but has brought out some of the best community action with so many focusing on what they can do to help look after others.”
Following each session, a word cloud image has been created using keywords of gratitude and the names of the groups that people wanted to thank in each area.
The picture is made from words from the comments made in the meeting’s chat function to thank those who have helped out within their community during the pandemic.
Each meeting is being attended by Cllr Simon Henig, leader of the council, and Amanda Healy, the county’s director of Public Health, to give an update on the pandemic, the authority’s work, and details on how residents can play their part in reducing the spread of the virus by becoming community champions.
Cllr Henig talks about the new Vision for the county, which has been developed by the council and the County Durham Partnership following a major consultation exercise last year and highlights as key priorities, more and better jobs, connected communities and supporting people to live long and independent lives.
Those taking part in the online events have the opportunity to influence future projects and activities including £20 million of work to make towns and villages around the county more vibrant – one of the key priorities of the Vision.
Since the pandemic began, the AAPs have provided more than £1.1 million to almost 300 community groups and organisations working to support the county’s most vulnerable residents. This is, in addition, to support provided to groups through partner organisations including Durham Community Action and the County Durham Community Foundation.
Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “These sessions have been extremely valuable so far in allowing us the opportunity to hear residents’ views for what they would like to see for the future of their areas as we look towards our new Vision for the county.
“But, not only that, the meetings have also enabled us to meet and thank the people who have been working incredibly hard within their communities, dedicating time to help those who are vulnerable or in need of support during this difficult time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am looking forward to meeting and speaking to more people in the remaining sessions to come.”
The remaining events, which will each run from 6pm to 7.30pm, and will take place on the following dates:
• Durham AAP – Monday 2 November
• Mid Durham AAP – Tuesday 3 November
• Stanley AAP – Wednesday 4 November
• Bishop Auckland and Shildon (BASH) AAP– Thursday 5 November
• Chester-le-Street and District – Tuesday 10 November
• 4 Together Partnership – Wednesday 11 November
• Great Aycliffe and Middridge Partnership (GAMP) – Thursday 12 November
The events will be taking place on Microsoft Teams so attendees will need access to an internet-enabled device.
Further information and places at the sessions can be booked via www.durham.gov.uk/betterforeveryone