VCS Sector & Community Southwark Upate

VCS Sector & Community Southwark Upate

As a sector, the last few weeks have been particularly busy and challenging. We know that many of you, who are able to, have been working hard to respond to the emergency and join forces across organisations. Here at Community Southwark we have been working to provide you with the best possible support at this time, and collaborating across the sector and the council on the Community Hub.

Here is an overview of what we have been up to, as well as the Southwark-wide response to Covid-19. Thank you to everyone who has inputted into this.

Community Southwark

Community Southwark are providing a number of Covid specific services including:

  • The front page of our website is dedicated to all important Covid news and information: 
  • Sending out bi-weekly newsletters covering all the latest Covid-19 support and information
  • Covid specific Funding ebulletin
  • Support to write funding applications
  • Specific support around the Councils Covid fund, working with organisations on policies, finance etc.
  • Safeguarding information is available as online resources both written and video and you can receive advice through our Safeguarding Lead: 
  • Volunteer best practice information is available as online resources and you can receive advice through our Volunteering lead:
  • A guide to business continuity at this time: 
  • An interactive map is being finalised that shows: 1. Food hubs/community fridges etc (in collaboration with Southwark Food Action Alliance) and 2. VCS organisations operating at the moment, where they operate and what they do (we will be moderating the information but will not be able to guarantee quality of services)
  • Providing information and support to Mutual Aid Groups through a Broadcast WhatsApp group and through our Southwark CAN website 
  • Support for both individuals and organisations to find suitable volunteering roles/volunteers
  • Bi-weekly Volunteer Coordinator networks
  • Along with our partners Southwark Law Centre and Southwark CAB, running online Covid-19 Universal Credit Networks for front line staff supporting people with UC issues
  • We are working with Hubbub to help distribute up to 700 mobile phones pre-loaded with 15gb data and unlimited texts and phone minutes from O2. Please contact if you would like more information.

Please do get in touch to tell us what you need from us and what we could be doing to support the sector over the coming weeks.

Healthwatch Southwark

  • Sharing reliable information on health, and health and care services, during the pandemic. We are preparing a second wave of pages and digital outreach. We can promote important health-related messages that the public might be missing – get in touch if you have any ideas.
  • Providing signposting to the public, and listening to people’s feedback, including via SAIL referrals.
  • Working alongside Community Southwark colleagues to support new pathways and directories.
  • Sharing feedback about people’s experiences with local partners, the CQC and Healthwatch England (for example to contribute to a Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry).
  • Developing ways to hear about people’s experiences in depth. We have launched a public blog focused on health and mental health experiences. We’d love to include your contributions – please share this opportunity with your networks.
  • Looking for opportunities to join you in online sessions where we can listen to our communities – for example, we value hearing from carers at the Mental Health Carers’ Forum. Please get in touch if you know a group that would like to talk to us!
  • Working with commissioners and providers to ensure our upcoming patient survey will provide useful feedback.
  • Talking to the local NHS and Council to find out how to contribute more to current local decision-making based on what you tell us, and with our South East London Healthwatch Director to contribute at six-borough CCG level.

Southwark Food Action Alliance

  • Mapping food provision in Southwark
  • Collaborating with the council to set up a food hub
  • Supporting food organisations with good practice guidelines
  • Providing support to organisation with funding advice
  • Setting up weekly Covid-19 steering group meetings to keep sector up-to-date with news around Southwark
  • Covid-19 newsletter in progress
  • Covid-19 network meeting 
  • Information sharing
  • Joining up organisations to collaborate and provide more efficient food delivery
  • Resourcing the SFAA website
  • Keeping up with comms on twitter

COVID Community Hub

The Community Hub was set up after the central Government announcement that these hubs would be created to support the Shielded lists for each borough.

We have been working closely with the Hub Steering Group to ensure the VCS has a voice in this and that the approach is coordinated. We have agreed that:

  • The Hub is hosted by Southwark Council and is a joint initiative with local charities, the local NHS and GP surgeries to provide residents with all the important information in one place. 
  • There is single point of entry for all Covid related calls through the Council’s main line 020 7525 5000 or
  • There is also an e-form organisations can fill in on their beneficiary’s behalf. Once sent the Hub will phone the individual directly
  • Once someone has contacted the Hub they will be referred either internally in the Council or to the VCS or NHS (or a combination of these), depending on need. 
  • Community Southwark will be providing support for individuals looking to volunteer who may contact the Hub

The phone line is open 8am to 8pm on weekdays and 9am – 5pm at the weekends and Bank Holidays.

Through the Steering Group and smaller working groups a number of VCS organisations have been working with the Council, and local NHS to work out the details and processes of how everything will work. There is now:

  • A welfare script for the main line that has been contributed to by the VCS and NHS
  • A referral script/form
  • LBS have a new Microsoft/Hitachi database through which all Covid enquiries will be logged and referred.
  • A VCS Covid database has been created that is a rationalised list of a) those services still operating and b) those that have capacity for the council and other partners to refer to. 

The Covid Community Hub is now fully functional and sending food parcels out to 1,500 individuals per week (1,200 of these are from the shielded list). When combined with the VCS, the total number of food parcels will be far greater.

The Shielded list total for Southwark is 6,600 and the Council are working on contacting everyone on this list to find out what support they require. GP’s have also been contacting this list as well as Central Government and so a conversation is taking place to find out what is being asked and if information can be combined.

The hub aims to respond to all enquiries within 24 hours. Hub case workers are carrying out welfare calls to those on the Shielded List and their own Social Care. Those phoning into the main number will be triaged by call handlers who will refer onto the most suitable service.

Please do provide us with any feedback you have on the phoneline.

With regards to Prescription Medicines, those who already have repeat prescriptions will continue to have these delivered by Community Pharmacies. If individuals do need other prescriptions delivered, they can now contact Good Sam directly

Joint Statement

A joint statement from the VCS, NHS and Council has gone out last week to the people of Southwark, confirming the single point of contact and how we are working together.

Do you need some extra staff?

If you have some jobs that need doing from extra van drivers, to someone to help write a funding application or take on some administrative tasks, then you may be able to have a member of Council staff re-deployed to you or volunteer for you.

Areas the council can support:

  • Food Supply: The council has a good relationship with a number of suppliers, who are able to supply food below supermarket rates. (Please go to the Council directly to discuss your organisations food supply requirements before applying for a council grant to be spent on food purchase).
  • Distribution: The council has access to a number of vehicles and drivers who can assist with the distribution of your service.
  • Financial: The council has set up a Covid support small grants scheme whereby VCS organisations can apply for grants up to a maximum of £10,000 per funding round.
  • HR: The council has a huge human resource supply, many of whom are not currently operating at full capacity. These include, admin support, those who are accustom to telephony and email, procurement, project management, customer services etc. Please get in contact (details below) if you require additional volunteers to assist your effort.

The nature of your contact will differ slightly depending upon your request and need.

Please send an email to the below contact. In your email please let the Council or Community Southwark know: 

1. The name of the organisation you work for 

2. What it is you are doing to support those in need? (i.e. food support, contacting the lonely etc) 

3. The extent of support you need (quantity, one off or ongoing support etc). Please specify 

  • Type of role/tasks
  • Skills needed
  • Time commitment (e.g 4 hours work/ 2 days a week/ on a Monday etc)
  • How long you need this additional resource for
  • Location(s)
  • Whether DBS check is required? 


For ad-hoc skills/staff time support, please contact Community Southwark directly on 

For food supply and/or distribution services please email

For Human Resource supply (if a full-time staff member is required), please email George Beesley and Neil Kirby, and and they will connect you with the correct contact depending upon your request.


The effects of Covid will be long-standing. At some point the Community Hub will be stood down and Council staff will go back to their jobs. We need to help shape the longer-term response and there will be a significant role for the sector to play in this.

Therefore, it will be good to formulate a collective response. This will involve understanding the impact of Covid on your service users and services, and the impact you have achieved during this time. 

We need to understand where gaps need to be filled, what funding is needed to form a clear and long-term response.

This information will be key to moving forward. It will hopefully highlight the importance of the sector, help us to understand how we can all work and adapt, and identify the needs of people in Southwark in the future.

We are aware everyone is extremely busy but if you do see a survey from us, please, please do take some time to fill it in.

We would also like to know what support you need from Community Southwark in the coming weeks. What do you want us to do? What services would be of most use to you that CS could provide?:


Join the conversation below