One-to-one calls, in native tongue, to be offered in Manchester for those most at risk from Coronavirus

Communities are being supported through Covid chats in a person's first language.

It’s good to talk is a well-known adage – and it’s one that Manchester is taking to heart with plans for ‘Covid chats’ in our communities, to give people time and opportunity to ask questions around the virus and the vaccination.

The ambitious programme – which could involve more than a thousand people - is part of the city’s bespoke approach for those communities who may be most at risk from the virus, including people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people and others groups. It also builds on the findings and work of the Covid-19 Health Equity Manchester group.

‘Covid chats’ will be one-to-one or small group conversations that residents can have either on the phone, by video call, or face-to-face where safe to do so. The chats will be with trained volunteers, who will be recruited from April onwards, from a diverse range of backgrounds and age. Conversations will be in the language chosen by the resident with people who understand the culture and perspective of their community. And, the aim of the conversation is to address any questions -or fears - around the Covid vaccine in particular, as well as general Covid concerns.

Volunteers will be trained by Manchester Adult Education Service and the city’s public health professionals, and other NHS teams, so that they have the confidence and ability to help with any potential questions. The volunteers will also be aligned to key community groups who will be known to Manchester people.

Funding for the project is mainly through a recently awarded grant of £621,000 from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government as part of the Community Champions fund. This funding will be put towards Manchester’s own Covid Health Equity Programme. Within the project, £594,836 is being awarded to the city’s voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise groups and organisations, with £329,010  reserved specifically for these organisations to support with digital inclusion and wider Covid communications on staying well, testing and where to get help and support. This scheme will be trialled in April with a formal launch in May.

The project has already started on a smaller scale with one of the city’s leading public health consultants, Dr Cordelle Ofori offering the facility for people to have calls with her, that they can film and then share in their communities. First to come forward was Kemoy Walker, 30 , a youth worker from Moss Side, who spoke about why he thought people in his neighbourhood needed more time and more information from people they trust over the Covid vaccine.

“I will be having the vaccine, when I get the invite,” he said. “And I am going to film it so that people can see it.”

Councillor Bev Craig, Executive Member for Adult, Health and Wellbeing at Manchester City Council, said: “Throughout the pandemic Manchester has been committed to tackling inequalities and promoting inclusion.There is no such thing as one size fits all. We will listen and adapt to what people need, so that we can be sure that everyone has a fair chance of being able to ask questions – and get answers - over a really important issue with major health implications. That personal touch and extra time is crucial in giving people the support that they need so that they can stay as safe and well as possible. As the project gets bigger we expect it to form a network that will then be another strength within the communities that we are so proud of.”

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