Brio Leisure look at the challenges and successes of adapting public health throughout Covid-19

Published by Elly McFahn on February 9th 2021, 11:11am

Brio leisure, a wholly owned subsidiary company of Cheshire West and Chester Council have been on a significant journey throughout the Covid crisis. Despite incredible challenges, Brio has continued to deliver all those activities permitted by Government guidance, whilst also reviewing its whole operating model with the Council.

Brio and the Council were keen to ensure a prompt return to business as soon as possible post COVID-19, allowing residents to get back to the activities they love most.

The Brio team kept the community active online by offering free live and pre-recorded workouts, and have continued to do so throughout the periods of restrictions.

Having brought their online community closer together than ever before, it grew in record numbers! With a total Facebook Audience of 35,230, an increase of nearly 20% from 2019, Brio Leisure’s content was seen a staggering 4,507,000 times in 2020.

The website was constantly updated and, with restrictions changing regularly, a webpage dedicated to the ongoing pandemic provided a one-stop-shop for Covid news and centre updates with 85,654 views. Committed to creating activities people would love, Brio created even more content for customers in 2020 resulting in their biggest growth on social media by 24%. Take a look at their highlights here, 

Brio staff were instrumental in making this possible. Ensuring the team felt safe and confident in the workplace was crucial to helping customers; if staff didn’t feel safe, then customers wouldn’t either. Creating a strong culture around safety guidance and visuals to showcase Brio’s ‘new normal’, supported through additional staff training meant that Brio opened its doors on July 25th 2020 as soon as the leisure sector was permitted to re-start again.

Brio’s cleaning standards are all aligned to the UK Active Leisure industry guidance, and approved by the Councils Public Health team, with clear social distancing guidelines and new processes.

Having continued to operate in between three lockdowns and multiple tier changes, customer and staff communication has been a top priority. Through weekly remobilisation meetings and planning committees, Brio have been able to adapt delivery and overcome any challenge, a testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone in the team.

Additionally, Brio underwent three ‘Quest Prime’* assessments: Ellesmere Port Sports Village and Winsford Lifestyle Centre earned the highest accolade and were awarded with an ‘Excellent’ score whilst Neston Recreation Centre upheld their ‘Very Good’ rating, the assessment highlighted the Covid-19 safety measures and procedures put in place to support customers and stakeholders.

Working closely with Cheshire West and Chester Council to deliver accessible, affordable leisure, health and wellbeing services, tailored to each locality to support and improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, Brio have become more than just a leisure provider with a stronger focus on improving health and wellbeing; with sites being used throughout the crisis for Shielding Centres, Hot Hubs and more latterly Test and Vaccination centres. This has also included many of Brio’s team supporting the operation. Many feel proud to have been deployed to play such a key role in the crisis when the ‘day job’ is no longer possible. In addition, rest centre support to the local flooding crisis has also been provided, with one site now a home for several months to a local primary school which had to be evacuated.

Re-deployment opportunities through partnership with the Council have been encouraged whilst others sought opportunities elsewhere, such as volunteering for local charities and delivering food parcels to those most in need.

The Stop Smoking Service has continued to operate remotely throughout lockdowns. This includes providing safe distribution of Nicotine Replacement Therapy medication, to clients’ homes as well as delivering smoking and health awareness sessions to workplaces during lockdown via zoom.

The team have supported over 900 people to quit smoking, and were one of only 8 services nationally selected to share best practice, which was showcased by Public Health England, outlining how local authorities across the UK are adapting to support smokers during COVID-19.

Throughout 2020 , Brio’s Integrated Wellness team supported over 2,000 referrals and worked with over 60 partners and referrers to deliver their services in over 30 different community locations across the borough, highlighted in this video 

The likely re-opening date of leisure is yet to be established, so much focus is on the recovery plan to bring Brio out of the crisis, resume service delivery, and enable the wider community who have maybe found that their mental health and wellbeing has been severely impacted by Covid, to access friendly and supportive activities.

Brio has now been aligned to the Council’s Public Health Service to reflect the emphasis on health and wellbeing and to further address health inequalities in the borough and to create stronger synergies with health partners. Brio sits on the borough Health and Wellbeing Board, and is able to understand first-hand the many challenges, such as the impact on mental health faced by local families, young people, and those in significant social isolation. Throughout 2020, Brio and Cheshire West and Chester Council developed a new model of leisure delivery for the future, and its approval at Cabinet in November 2020 means that Brio can take forward the key actions from this into its re-opening and recovery plans to ensure that borough residents gain access to supported and flexible services at the earliest opportunity.

Further plans to invest into the biggest site in Brio’s portfolio, Northgate Arena, are also under development, meaning that local residents have much to look forward to.

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Authored By

Elly McFahn
Managing Director
February 9th 2021, 11:11am

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