Care Network held a special celebration event at Blackburn Library this week, highlighting the successful completion of the 2022 Community Champions Project – funded by a portion of the £2 million COVID government fund to support communities in staying safe, with trusted information supporting health and wellbeing.

Over 300 volunteers living with or connected to those with learning disabilities and autism in the community were recruited for the project, each sharing key public health messages in the borough to help keep more people safe and save lives during the recovery phase of the pandemic.

The incredible passion and work of the Community Champions has had an enormous positive impact in empowering the local community to stay safe, well and informed. Champions were a vital link between the council, people in the community and local organisations here to support them. 

Led by Care Network and supported by local partners and the council, the work of the volunteers has been an inspiring success. Over 7,500 local people were reached by Community Champions (approximately 5% of the local population), with each volunteer giving their time to be a trusted, informed voice and source of help to others.

Key messages encouraged more people to receive vaccinations and gave guidance of where to access jabs and how to stay safe. This better understanding resulted in fewer people ending up seriously ill or in hospital with COVD-19 and a significant uptake of the Autumn 2022 booster scheme.

Over 70 Community Champions attended the celebration event, along with Care Network staff and partners. Guest speakers were in attendance, including Abdul Razaq, Director of Public Health at Blackburn with Darwen Council.

Positive results from the project were shared in presentations, with thanks given to all those involved, along with a Q&A to share thoughts, ideas, and experiences.

Community Champions Suzanne and Steven took the stage to talk about what the project meant to them, and a wonderful poem was performed and signed by volunteers from partner organisation Purple Patch. Complimentary teas, coffees, cakes, and a free celebratory lunch were enjoyed by all.

Each of our Champions were awarded a market voucher as thanks for their time and effort during the project.

A particularly moving quote was shared by one of our Community Champions. She said,

“I'm going to use my vouchers to go on the market and buy fresh fruit and vegetables to start my healthy lifestyle and mental health wellbeing journey for the new year”.

Abdul Razaq, Director of Public Health at Blackburn with Darwen Council said:

“Community Champions have been at the heart of empowering our residents with access to reliable, trustworthy health information during the COVID pandemic and recovery phase. I would like to thank every Champion for their energy, passion, and time in making an enormous difference to the lives in our communities. There is no doubt that the Community Champions programme has been a social movement that has saved countless lives and helped communities to stay safe.”

James Hadleigh, Chief Executive at Care Network said:

“We are incredibly proud of our Community Champions involved with this important project. Their time, dedication and care has helped to reduce isolation in our local disabled community, provided support to those in need and had a significant impact in improving people’s health and wellbeing in what has been, a very challenging time for us all.”

“We would like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of the Champions, along with our staff, partners and the council for their wonderful support in what we can firmly say has been a hugely successful project here in BwD.”

If you would like to find out more about how Care Network can help you, or are interested in volunteering opportunities with us, please contact our friendly team on: 01254 507255.