£1.5m Covid recovery fund to benefit Luton's 'unsung heroes of the pandemic'
A £1.5m community Covid recovery fund is set to benefit some of Luton's unsung heroes of the pandemic.
Grants could be distributed to help continue "the amazing work of the community", according to the council's director of public health Lucy Hubber.
She presented a report to its scrutiny health and social care review group, including proposals to provide financial support to community organisations supporting the town's Covid-19 response.
"Luton has received varying amounts of money depending on where we've been on any of the government's scales," Ms Hubber explained.
"During last year and this year Luton has been allocated £8.5m of contain outbreak management funds.
"We initially received £200,000 which was focused on support for individuals around self-isolation and to ensure the organisation could bring in enough resource to run such a plan.
"Our response has been assessed as being strong and robust, and among the best in the country.
"We've used that to support our environmental health colleagues, who've been critical in the delivery of the response over the Covid inspections, as well as picking up the funding of the Covid marshals.
"Another key strand we've been spending the money on is around business intelligence and analysis."
Some of the funding would support people around physical activity, mental health, the impact of inequalities and people who are vulnerable to Covid," Ms Hubber told the review group.
"So I'm proposing we develop a £1.5m community Covid recovery fund to be available for anyone other than a commissioned service to apply for grants to support them," she said.
"It's a really exciting opportunity for us to reward the tremendous work people have been doing often at their own cost.
"Luton has proved over the last 15 months just what a strong community response we have."
Labour South councillor David Agbley noted ten per cent of the funding is going into administration, depriving the front line of £150,000.
"How can we justify that when the council is doing this itself?" he asked. "I'm just thinking value for money."
She replied: "This is a huge fund and requires a significant amount of resource to make sure that the due diligence of who receives the money and the outcomes are monitored.
"It's likely we would need to use that resource to bring in extra officers to administrate that.
"If we're having a fund of £1.5m there will be administrative costs whoever runs it.
"We're hoping this fund this will run not just for one year, but two to three years if the national team agrees to that."
Councillor Agbley, who chairs the review group, said: "We want to see this is done fairly and equitably especially for those hard to reach groups, such as the disabled community, and the Black and Asian community."
Ms Hubber added: "One of the top priorities for this fund is groups working to address those inequalities which have been exposed.
"We want to make this available to the smaller community groups, such as the lunch clubs, the tea groups, the befriending services, which will make a huge difference.
"We aim to reach groups which wouldn't normally put themselves forward."
The review group supported several recommendations, including creating a community services Covid recovery fund, which have since been agreed by the executive.