Healthwatch Essex Wins Prestigious National Award

Healthwatch Essex has won a prestigious national award for a campaign aimed at preventing the abuse of people with sensory impairments during the pandemic.

Healthwatch Essex won the ‘COVID-19 response’ category in the Healthwatch Awards 2021, which were run by Healthwatch England this week.

The annual awards celebrate the difference Healthwatch’s 4,300 staff and volunteers make across England by providing advice and alerting health and care services to issues people face.

Healthwatch Essex reached over 160,000 people with their campaign which was launched in response to reports of people with sensory impairments being verbally abused for inadvertently contravening lockdown measures, such as blind people breaching the two-metre social distancing rule, being unable to follow one-way systems and identify the location of hand sanitizer stations.

Healthwatch Essex was one of only a handful of local Healthwatch to win an award out of a total of 152 across England.

The Healthwatch Awards’ ‘COVID-19 response’ category sought to recognise the incredible lengths which many local Healthwatch went to in order to support their communities during the pandemic.

In their comments, judges said that despite particularly strong competition in the category, Healthwatch Essex’s submission stood out for raising awareness of the unique challenges people living with a sensory impairment faced during the pandemic.

Commenting on the award, Healthwatch Essex Chief Executive, Samantha Glover, said:  

“It is an honour to win this award as Healthwatch up and down the country have worked so hard during the pandemic to support their communities. This campaign was designed to give an immersive experience of what life was like for people living with sight and/or hearing loss during the pandemic. At a time when people in Essex living with sensory impairment in Essex were experiencing abuse because they were finding it difficult to follow the COVID-19 restrictions, we wanted to raise awareness of the unique challenges they were facing and, in doing so, increase tolerance and kindness towards this group.

“We worked closely with our Disability and Carers Forum to create the campaign and they told us that it made a significant difference to how they have experienced people interact with them and they felt their voice had been heard and amplified. This award recognises the work of the whole Healthwatch Essex team and the significant contribution from our Forum members.”

Other Healthwatch Awards winners from around the country include:

  • Healthwatch Reading for highlighting the issues asylum seekers experienced when trying to access healthcare during the pandemic.
  • Healthwatch Islington whose volunteer ‘digital champions’ worked to improve the skills of people who were unfamiliar with or without access to the internet so they could still access vital services during the pandemic.
  • Healthwatch Leeds for highlighting the concerns of care home residents during the pandemic and helping to develop a plan for how families could safely visit their loved ones again.

Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of Healthwatch England, said:

“The last 16 months have been a time of unprecedented challenge as we all grappled with the impact of COVID-19, yet Healthwatch across England all rose to meet that challenge magnificently and went the extra mile to look after their local communities in a moment of crisis.

“The Healthwatch Awards have been a fantastic chance to showcase how Healthwatch makes such a difference to people’s lives and Healthwatch Essex’s tireless work for its community during the pandemic is a perfect example of this. I would like to congratulate the Healthwatch Essex team for their achievements and dedication to the local people they serve.”

Sir Robert added: “The awards also serve to highlight how, by sharing your experience with Healthwatch or giving up your time to volunteer, you can make a real difference to your community.”

The award was presented during Healthwatch Week – a virtual conference celebrating the vital work of Healthwatch which featured high-profile speakers including NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard and historian and BAFTA award-winning TV presenter/producer Professor David Olusoga.

There is a local Healthwatch in each of the 152 local authority areas in England. They supported over two million people to have their say on care or get the advice they need in 2020/21.

The campaign video, which was supported by posters and advertising across the county, can be found here.