Across the country there is now hope and optimism that the gradual easing of Covid-19 restrictions, along with the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, will lead to a return to something more like normality over the coming months.
Progress will no doubt continue to be slow and steady, with no unnecessary risks, and mirrors the approach of Wolves Foundation as the club’s official charity returns to more face-to-face delivery in keeping with the changing regulations.
Staff are delighted, to say the least, to be able to be meeting participants again and getting out and about to lead projects after a stop-start year split between ‘in person’ and ‘online’ due to the global pandemic.
At the same time, that progress will continue to be gradual, with all the necessary procedures followed to ensure activities are delivered in a Covid-safe environment with the welfare of both staff and participants the main priority.
The Foundation’s senior manager (operations) Lee Smith has provided an update on how things currently stand and how the charity has come out of the latest national lockdown to support the community.
“From an operational perspective I am constantly working with all the managers offering support and guidance and making sure we are all doing everything we can to restart activities in a safe and secure way,” says Lee.
“Within the Foundation, we are working with a ‘live’ spreadsheet document which can be updated and edited so staff across all our different project areas can post questions, discuss new developments and identify and mitigate any potential risks.
“Our over-riding approach, as always, is to make sure we are getting back and delivering our projects for the right reasons, and not just because we can.
“For example, we didn’t actually go straight back into outdoor delivery as soon as the regulations allowed and decided not to get back on the horse straightaway!
“Because of the situation Wolverhampton had been in, we adopted a more cautious approach and decided we would wait a little bit longer to make sure we got everything right.
“It was about following a moral compass, and we knew that having been in lockdown for so long, just waiting another two or three weeks people would appreciate the attention to detail we are committing to delivery.
“We have also taken the opportunity to review and reflect as we have done over the last year throughout the pandemic.
“It wasn’t just about coming back to deliver the same offer that we had previously, but to take learnings, improve the offer, and be better.
“Hopefully things are looking more positive now than they have been previously with case numbers falling and the rollout of the vaccines.
“If things continue to progress we could be working towards a more sustained return to project delivery this time, and so we have looked at making sure we are ready and prepared and are not just getting back, but getting back by making things better than they were before.”
The learning over the last year extends not just towards improving individual projects and the offering for participants, but also in terms of staff operations and general safety protocols moving forward.
“We are working in line with restrictions but also thinking beyond that,” adds Lee.
“There is clearly not going to be one day at the end of this when everyone can go out and celebrate and everything is suddenly back to normal.
“It is about taking the learnings from what has happened and looking beyond what we hope will be coming out the other end of this pandemic and how we can work better in the future.
“The importance of general hygiene, of wiping down all the equipment used in sessions and keeping everything cleaner is going to be vitally important, not just with Covid but in terms of preventing any spread of other germs or virus.
“We have also learned more about how staff can work to be more efficient and improving what we do, and all these areas are really important for how we operate in the future.”
Creating opportunities and changing lives remain the key focus areas for the Foundation across areas including health, education and sport participation, but there will also be a refreshed outlook particularly in providing more mental health support, food poverty provision and improving employability chances.
Over the last year of the pandemic, the Foundation has adapted hugely to ensure staff kept in touch with participants and delivered projects ‘virtually’ wherever possible.
The same also applies to the treatment of staff, whom, like the rest of the country, had to change their working practices but remained focused and committed and continuing to serve the local community.
“The Foundation did some internal communications recently providing a video for the staff to show just how much they have contributed recently and to show that their work is so appreciated,” added Lee.
“As much as we have been quite rightly focused on looking out for our participants and the people that the Foundation engages with, we have also done the same for staff who we haven’t been able to see either.
“Usually in an office you are seeing each other every day and sharing ideas and showing appreciation but that hasn’t been able to happen in the same way.
“The staff have been fantastic in being able to adapt and be agile to take whatever projects they could online, but it has also been important to keep them motivated and look after their welfare.
“Everyone has really been looking forward to some more direct delivery and meeting up with our participants once again, and hopefully it feels more positive this time and everyone within the community can start to gradually move back to more like a sense of normality.”
Here are updates from some of the different areas of the Foundation as to how activities are being able to change as the restrictions ease:
Our walk & talk sessions for Head 4 Health have returned in West Park and it’s been lovely to have some nice weather to go with them as well! The participants enjoy the sessions and it’s a great way of getting people used to getting out and about a bit more again. We are still running the majority of our sessions online but we are hoping to return to more face- to-face delivery from mid-May dependent on restrictions.
It will be great for us to get back to some more personable delivery but we are also going to continue an online option for individuals who may not be able to access face to face sessions, due to transport etc, or who may not feel comfortable in doing so.
We have mental health awareness week coming up in May and have an anxiety workshop planned to help share top tips of returning to ‘normality’. Our participants are currently working on special project to be launched in mental health awareness week so watch this space!
For out Healthy Goals project for pre-school age we delivered a successful second scavenger hunt in West Park during the Easter holidays and were able to give out some of our new activity books which was exciting. All of our outdoor park-based sessions have also returned with Fit Momma’s, Fit Dadda’s and Wolfie’s Walkers sessions all happening on a regular basis.
Again, after the next stage of restrictions easing, we are hoping to start some indoor stay & play sessions and some play in the park activity which we are really looking forward to. We are also starting a new antenatal programme for expectant parents covering pregnancy yoga, maternal mental health and breastfeeding advice.
Our walking football sessions are also due to restart with the restrictions on adult indoor sport due to be eased on May 17th.
Rachel Smith (Health & Wellbeing Manager)
All project ‘delivery’ across our education programme has returned as we transition out of the national lockdown.
BTEC courses have continued over the last few weeks with enrichment being delivered virtually and the games programme has returned at City of Wolverhampton College and will continue for the next few months.
We have delivered three highly successful ‘taster days’ at the college as we look to welcome more students with us from September. The BTEC at Telford College are looking at having us back in over the summer to offer support to existing students and to help with recruitment for the new year.
Our students on the University of South Wales degree programme have pretty much all finished and are now looking forward to a deserved break before graduating or transitioning into the next academic year.
The PL Inspires activity gets back into action now within secondary schools with a greater emphasis on face-to- face delivery. Education Officer Liam Turner is overseeing a social action (youth-led) project with one school who will represent Wolves at the ‘virtual’ national finals in the summer. We are looking to collaborate with the Inclusion & Health teams over the coming weeks on a few activity days as well.
The NCS (National Citizen Service) project for 16 and 17-year-olds is in full recruitment season where we have a residential trip to South Wales in July as part of a three-week programme and a home version (two weeks) in August here in Wolverhampton.
Jonathan Warburton (Education and Skills Manager)
The team have done a fantastic job in adapting to new measures and protocols that have been put in place, working with smaller group sizes to ensure physical activity remains at the forefront of our delivery programme.
We have seen a real increase in changes of behaviour in school and a natural change in size and stature of pupils in schools which makes physical activity now more important than ever.
After discussions with staff and teachers, delivering a variety of Teacher CPD and PSHE programmes upon our return, we are now looking forward to really focusing and honing in on support for children whether that’s one-to-one or in small groups as well as supporting teachers with session ideas that can support maximum intensity in lessons.
We are looking forward to providing a fantastic service as well as recruiting new schools ready for the next academic year. it’s important we retain and sustain key relationships we have built to progress forward as a Foundation.
Greg Warren (Schools Officer)
We are delighted that the Wolves Disability FC team are now returning to training. We made sure we presented our new offer to parents before sessions restarted so that they were aware of how we have used this time to try and improve what we do.
We are always on the lookout for new players to join our pan disability set-up, especially those aged between ten and 16. For more information on how to get involved please email email@example.com
The Premier League Kicks sessions, like many of our activities, went online during lockdown but we are delighted that they are restarting as well. Currently we can’t accept any participants without online bookings, which so far have been coming in really quickly. Bookings for each week’s sessions will open on Monday mornings.
Luke Shearing (Cohesion & Inclusion Officer)