Serving Portsmouth People In a Pandemic: An Interview with The HIVE

Image courtesy of The HIVE.

Operational Director of The HIVE, Louise Wilders, and Father Bob White, Chair of The HIVE’s Board, talk to Sarah Cheverton about the charity, and the partnership working taking place across Portsmouth to support residents in need during the lockdown and pandemic.

SC: Can you describe what The HIVE is and the work it’s doing?

LW & FBW: The HIVE has been a developing piece of work by an independent group representing the voluntary and community sector, exploring how to work in partnership with statutory bodies and other groups in the city.

Before the pandemic and lockdown, we had already begun to carry out some projects and were in the process of setting up an online ‘one stop shop’ for information and access to over 600 local groups and organisations. The HIVE was based initially on the lower floor of the Central Library, but we envisaged having a number of satellites across the city.

We are registered as an independent charity which has its own Board of Trustees, chaired by Father Bob White (from St Mary’s Church, Fratton), with Sandy O’Neill (Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Portsmouth) as the Vice Chair.

The current Covid-19 situation has meant that we have responded to act as a co-ordinating group seeking to enable the voluntary, community and statutory sectors to work together, and to harness their resources and energy to serve the people of the city.

Some people think the Hive is only for people on the government’s ‘most vulnerable’ list. Is this right, and who can ask for help from The Hive?

No, the HIVE are supporting anyone and any group, any vulnerable people and families who may need help at this time. This includes making sure that they are given safe and appropriate support from the right organisations.

How did The Hive’s community response to Covid-19 come about?

The HIVE already had a strategic partnership agreement in place with NHS Solent and Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and had established relationships with Portsmouth City Council and with voluntary and community groups across Portsmouth. We started to prepare at the beginning of March and as demand started to come through for support, we were in conversation with colleagues at NHS Solent and the CCG about how we could best coordinate the support needed.

How many organisations and volunteers are involved, and what other support or funding has the Hive received?

We are working with over 60 organisations (comprising community groups, voluntary organisations and businesses) across the city and around 920 volunteers, who have all been referenced checked, have DBS checks where relevant (a record of a person’s criminal convictions and cautions – carried out by the Disclosure and Barring Service), and have received appropriate safeguarding, data protection and MECC training (Making Every Contact Count).

We have received numerous donations of food and other essential items and we have a growing list of those donations over on our website. We have successfully bid for £21,653 awards and had £12,114 in individual donations.

1,269 welfare checks have been made in the last week with the help of all partners including 311 welfare checks by…

Posted by HIVE Portsmouth on Friday, 24 April 2020

Can people still volunteer for the Hive? What process do they have to go through to be accepted?

Yes of course!

We need to make sure we manage people’s expectations of volunteering for The HIVE, as this is a long-term project and that means volunteers won’t necessarily be used immediately. Also, a lot of the roles will be packing food or leafleting.

If your readers want to get involved, to register visit our site. People signing up are required to provide two references, which will then be checked and if they already hold a DBS certificate, this will also be checked, because of course we need to ensure safeguarding for the public. Once that’s done volunteers will be given relevant training.

What have been the main challenges facing you in trying to help so many people so quickly? And what have been your greatest successes?

Our main challenge has been around the various information streams coming from different government departments. At the same time, there has been a lot of misinformation from sources beyond official channels.

We are very fortunate that in Portsmouth there has been a pragmatic approach of just getting on and making things happen, which has meant we have not been too constrained by waiting for governmental and statutory body decisions.

Our greatest success is one that we don’t take credit for, which is how so many different organisations and groups have pulled together for the benefit of Portsmouth.

For readers who can’t volunteer, how else can they support the work you’re doing?

Your readers can donate if they can, via our website. And for those who can’t donate, helping us spread the word and signpost The HIVE to people who need our help is one of the greatest ways you can support our work.

There are now a few groups on social media offering different types of support to people in need during the pandemic. Are these linked to The HIVE, and can they link in with it, if not?

We are aware of a number of local groups and charities which are seeking to meet various needs and the HIVE sees its role as helping them to provide a coordinated response. By doing this, we hope that we can maximise the resources and energy that exist in our city and use them together, so that all who are in need at this time can be served effectively.

We also hope to provide support and advice to those groups to ensure that the quality of support given is appropriate and follows good practice in terms of safeguarding of both volunteers and those they seek to serve.


If you are a resident in PO1-PO6 postcodes, and you’re in need of help please call the helpline: ☏ Helpline: 023 9261 6709 (Lines are open 9am-5pm Monday – Friday). The HIVE provides various support, including delivering care parcels, food packages and hot meals, and can also signpost you to other organisations across Portsmouth who can help you.

Find out more about The HIVE at their website, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

If you can, donate food or make a financial contribution, and if you can’t donate, spread the word on your social media and with friends and family, or with anyone in your community who is struggling.

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