Dunkeld & Birnam responded to the Covid-19 crisis by setting up a volunteer group, using the PH8 postcode prefix to set its boundaries and to give it a clear brand.
Led by the chair of the community council, Stuart Paton, the PH8 Volunteer Team had cross sectoral representation, including businesses from the outset, with around 110 volunteers out of a population of only 1,300.
Clear communication was critical and the group drew heavily on the Facebook pages of the local community and Dunkeld & Birnam Community Council. The local community newsletter, The Bridge, also played a major role in getting news out to all age groups within the area with 6 special Covid emergency editions.
The first phase of action from the PH8 Volunteer Team was to protect the community members and ensure that everybody could get the essential supplies that they needed such as food, prescriptions and hand sanitiser. A number of community members also contacted the group offering to make financial donations to help everything run smoothly.
A community Crowdfunder project was set up, raising nearly £4K with an additional £3K coming in by cheque. This pot of funds helped to pay for fortnightly editions of the local newsletter to every home, covered volunteer costs and various other minor expenses. Community larders were set up in disused phone boxes and a confidential community hardship fund helped those struggling financially.
Businesses offered to prepare food although there was limited uptake from the vulnerable/shielding members of the community as they are fiercely independent. Shops offered priority shopping times and worked together to run joint delivery services. Other business offers included accommodation for emergency workers, supply of PPE and bed loans for the local nursing home, loan of rental bikes and e-bikes as well as food prep and delivery for vulnerable groups. The local co-working space opened its printing facilities up to school pupils.
The second phase was to get the businesses to work together to get a joined up economic recovery. The PH8 Business Facebook page was setup, other businesses in the area were contacted and encouraged to engage and Zoom was used to hold virtual meetings to share best practice.
Recognising that tourism is a significant part of their economy the group knew they needed visitors BUT, also knew that a lot of older people in their community needed to be protected. So they crafted a notice aimed at potential visitors with a message saying - let’s take it slowly and please stick to the rules. A school pupil designed a poster encouraging shoppers to wear face coverings.
Now, in August 2020, most businesses have now reopened and visitor numbers to the area have increased hugely. The shopping service has been suspended after demand dropped, apart from a couple of households, the same for cooked meals.
The organisers are trying to ensure that the large pool of volunteers stay engaged so that they can quickly respond to any local outbreaks without having to start from scratch again.
A small group has been tasked with setting up terms of reference for looking at a community profile plan to take the area forward, perhaps through a community action plan.