An interview with Guillaume Strebelle, EU Project Officer from lead partner, Kent County Council.
Tell us about your project
C-Care stands for Covid Channel Area Response Exchange. The project was born during the pandemic to respond to some of the socio-economic challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
C-Care built on some of the initiatives put in place to help businesses and individuals during the pandemic. This included support for individuals such as skills training, apprenticeships, and digital inclusion.
The project also provided help for businesses via advice, vouchers, and grants to help sectors hard hit by the pandemic develop new business models to respond to market changes and ensure a green, inclusive, and sustainable economic recovery.
What have been the key outputs and results for C CARE?
The partnership designed and delivered an innovative range of schemes to provide support to 2,407 businesses and 2,784 individuals at risk of exclusion in the France-Channel England area to aid economic recovery.
In terms of the key highlights, we’ve seen over 200 skills action plans in Plymouth, the creation of a sustainable tourism academy in Pas de Calais, 14 programs across Finistere fighting against digital poverty and 144 new businesses started in Norfolk.
Social interventions have battled digital poverty, upskilled individuals, supported self-employment and unlocked apprenticeships. While business interventions have awarded £1 million of vouchers to tackle technology barriers, support sustainability, and enhance business resilience.
The project has also developed toolkits, case studies and blueprints for the future use of town centres to improve the long-term prospects for businesses and find new ways to tackle social exclusion.
Can you give an example of the types of businesses and individuals that have benefitted from your training and support?
As some sectors have been more impacted than others by the pandemic, and there were also differing regional challenges to address, there were different schemes available to SMEs from different sectors.
For instance, Pas-de-Calais Tourism Agency designed activities to support businesses in the tourism sector, whilst in Kent, one of the schemes was designed to support businesses in the home improvement sector to help restore consumer confidence.
Invicta Security in Kent was one such business that benefitted from this scheme. Following Covid-19, consumers were typically more reluctant to let people in their homes and were more concerned about rogue traders. Invicta Security, which provide a range of domestic and commercial security solutions, received C CARE support and advice which involved the business securing Trading Standards Checked Status. This well recognised brand and status helped the business build trust and confidence with potential customers.
In terms of individual benefits, the Access to Apprenticeships (A2A) in Norfolk scheme has unlocked 373 apprenticeships opportunities to date. Evaluation shows that 96% of individuals and 93% of businesses said the support from A2A was important in unlocking these opportunities.
What lessons have you learned through this project?
There have been some really practical lessons learned. Through all the activities we have learnt different lessons.
We found that if you’re supporting people, social mobility affects everything. The hard to reach are hard to reach, so be creative with how you engage and deliver support.
Capturing management information via suitable solutions, such as Power BI, is important for monitoring delivery and stay agile.
The vouchers really worked. It shifts the cash flow blurred into the supplier and is a great way to light fire inside the company.
And overall, for the partnership, we found that innovation is very important in the face of issues exacerbated by the pandemic.
What do you hope is the legacy of the project?
We hope that other regions can benefit from and apply our learnings. The toolkits and the blueprints are or will be available soon, and they are a key part of our legacy. The partnership has also created a series of video case studies which will remain available on the C-Care YouTube Channel and or partner websites:
C CARE project ran from August 2020 to June 2023 and had a total budget of €6,7m. The project was led by Kent County Council with six project partners: Norfolk County Council, New Anglia LEP, Plymouth City Council, Pas de Calais Tourisme, Conseil Departmental du Finistere and Campus d’enseignment Superieure et de Formation Profressionnelle.