Army of North Yorkshire volunteers still here to support residents like Northallerton local Michelle

Although the national programme of food and prescription deliveries has now ended, we continues to ensure no-one in need of support slips through the cracks.

Guidance around shielding changed on August 1 and people who have been shielding are now able to visit shops by following social distancing rather than full shielding measures and can return to work provided that their workplace is covid secure.

However, we will continue to offer a safety net to those who still need support

Since March the county council has been working alongside district councils with 23 community support organisations to co-ordinate a massive volunteer effort to make sure nobody felt alone or went without food and other essentials during the pandemic.

These community support organisations became single points of contact for anyone who needed help with food deliveries, prescription pick-ups or simply a friendly face and a chat. This network of volunteers will continue to help anyone who needs it even now that shielding advice has changed and this partnership with the voluntary sector will continue until at least the end of the year.

Although family, friends and neighbours of those shielding and vulnerable have showed their community spirit by helping out wherever they can, the community support organisations and wider network of voluntary groups are invaluable to anyone who needs support.

Michelle Sherriff lives in Northallerton and has been shielding to protect herself from coronavirus.

Michelle said: “I have mixed feelings about the changes. I’m shielding because I have asthma, diabetes and take immunosuppressant medication. What worries me about leaving home isn’t so much who you’re going to meet, it’s who they’ve been in contact with and have they got it. That’s what scares me.”

During isolation Michelle has been helped by volunteers through Hambleton Community Action, one of 23 community support organisations.

“They have been amazing, I cannot believe what they do. People are giving their time to help others. I have a friend next door, and she does little bits of shopping for me, but it was too heavy for her. She was struggling and isn’t in good health.

“When I contacted them the lady said to write a list out, then they came and took the list, did all my shopping, then you just pay over the phone. Amazing. They have been absolutely amazing.”

Lucy Currie owns a gym in Northallerton and lives five minutes away from Michelle. Lucy has been volunteering with Hambleton Community Action and helping Michelle with shopping and other essentials.

Lucy said: “I started volunteering because my business is closed. I thought rather than sitting at home doing nothing, what else can I do. It’s brilliant.

“I have done mostly shopping, telephone befriending, prescription collection and drop offs.

“I live in Northallerton, so everything is nice and local and the people are just lovely. I think when you get situations like this, you can see the very best of people.

“Most people have at least one decent neighbour who’s been checking up on them, one lady I do the telephoning befriending with she lives out in Swainby but she has got a brilliant neighbour helping with shopping. I normally speak to her for about an hour a week. She always says she’s got such lovely neighbours and that people just look out for each other.”

Gary Fielding, Corporate Director of Strategic Resources, said: “Across North Yorkshire, thousands of people have stepped up to support those around them.

“Whether that’s checking on a friend, family member or neighbour – or, volunteering as part of the support effort.

“Colleagues in our customer service centre have been working hard to put alternative arrangements in place for those residents who will need help now that shielding has been paused. Our partners at North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, the district councils and our own council staff have all gone the extra mile by volunteering to check in on people.

“It’s been a huge team effort, but the reassurance that we will continue to support residents should they need it has provided much needed comfort to those who are vulnerable.

“Many people have relied on the help of community support organisations and the army of willing volunteers and we want to reassure anyone who needs that support now or in the future that we are here to help.

“In communities in North Yorkshire throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve tried to make sure that no-one falls by the wayside or slips through the cracks, and rest assured this will continue despite the change in government advice.”