COUNCILS, health professionals and the charity sector are among those set to work together to improve ‘life chances’ of the most vulnerable residents, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ‘Building Life Chances’ programme sets out to  mitigate the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Hertfordshire.

And it aims to improve future ‘life chances’ for those groups who have been impacted the most.

The £2.3m programme – which recognises that the full effects of Covid-19 are still emerging – is expected to bring together representatives from business, health, education, voluntary, community and faith sectors and councils.

And on Wednesday (September 22) the approach was backed by a meeting of the county’s health and wellbeing board.

“This is a great opportunity for the public, the voluntary sector and the community to work together to help everybody come out of Covid in the best way possible,” said the county council’s executive member for children, young people and families Cllr Teresa Heritage, following the meeting.

“During the pandemic the public sector, the voluntary sector,  businesses and the community really pulled together to help each other and everybody.

“The Building Life Chances programme is an extension of that – where we are now looking to mitigate the impact of Covid 19 and, in the longer term,  ensure improvements in life chances for residents and for children.

“The council is providing the support that hopefully will kick-start this work.

“And I am really hopeful that it will enhance the support already given to vulnerable children and their families.”

In particular, Cllr Heritage highlights proposed work around prevention and early intervention, which she says could prevent future harm to children and families.

A report presented to the health and wellbeing board – outlining the ‘Building Life Chances’ approach – acknowledges the financial and practical support that was available in the first waves of the pandemic.

But at the heart of the work is the recognition that as a result of the pandemic there are many Hertfordshire residents who have had their ‘opportunities to thrive reduced’.

According to the report, Building Life Chances will be based around seven themes – a good start in life; education and skills; health inequalities; employment; food insecurity/poverty; crisis support and communications.

Among those to be the focus of the programme will be communities who face challenges as a result of isolation and lack of opportunity created by national restrictions – such as those with pre-existing health conditions.

Groups such as older people and new parents have been unable to access the usual range of family and community support are also highlighted.

The report recognises the impact of reduced access to universal and specialist services during the pandemic – such as mental health services, education and early childhood services.

And it points to the impact of lower incomes on health, life expectancy and wellbeing and food insecurity.

County council officers, public health, district and borough councils and representatives from voluntary, community and faith groups have already met to discuss the collaborative approach.

And next month (October) a wide range of groups and organisations – that also includes representatives from the NHS, Herts Help, schools, the Herts Sports Partnership, the University of Hertfordshire and the Chamber of Commerce – have been invited to the first ‘stakeholder group’ meeting.

That meeting will aim to map out the range of work already under way, to identify gaps and target resources appropriately.