Charities and community groups are expected to receive a share of £23m in government funding to help boost vaccine take-up and combat Covid-19 misinformation in at-risk communities.
The funding was announced yesterday as part of the government’s Covid-19 spring roadmap, which outlined the phased reopening of the economy in England following the latest national lockdown.
Under the Community Champions scheme councils and voluntary organisations will deliver a wide range of measures to protect those most at risk, which aims to build trust and communicate accurate health information.
This would include developing new networks of trusted local champions where they do not already exist.
The government said the money was specifically aimed at reaching groups including older people, disabled people and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, who, according to the latest evidence, are more likely to suffer long-term impacts and poor outcomes from coronavirus.
Communities being supported will include Gypsy, Roma, Traveller, people with learning disabilities and faith groups.
Champions will be drawn from these groups to share accurate health information with their neighbours, networks, and wider community.
Two charities, Strengthening Faith Institutions and Near Neighbours, will be supporting councils in working with grassroot organisations and community leaders, to ensure that communities understand how the pandemic is being tackled and feel empowered to take action to keep themselves safe, the government said.
In addition, a total of 60 councils will develop their own plans to improve communications with these groups, including helplines, school programmes and workplace engagement.
This will include phoning those in at-risk groups, as well as training sessions to help people provide information and advice.
Champions will also work with councils to identify barriers to accessing accurate information and to provide tailored support, such as phone calls for people who are digitally excluded and linking to GP surgeries.
Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said: “It is vital that everyone has access to accurate and up-to-date information about Covid-19.
“False information about Covid-19 vaccines could cost lives.”