Meet the community groups supporting vulnerable people across the county

Communities across North Yorkshire are pulling together to support their most vulnerable members during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since the lockdown began in March, we have worked with community support organisations to make sure they can keep staff and continue to support their area.

In a joint effort with district councils, we are working with 23 community support organisations who will be the single point of contact for the council’s and oversee their local voluntary sector.

The support ranges from befriending services to shopping, meals on wheels and prescription deliveries to providing such things as books and craft materials to entertain those isolating alone.

Here we hear from some of the CSOs with which we are working.

Easingwold District Community Care Association

Before the pandemic, Easingwold District Community Care Association supported people to improve their quality of life. It delivers a range of services – some which have been stopped due to social distancing – including dementia day care services, community transport, befriending services and Meals on Wheels.

A team of 50 volunteers from Easingwold and the surrounding villages has been supporting them since March 23, collecting and delivering prescriptions, shopping and delivering an increased Meals on Wheels service. They help 400 people and deliver 34 meals a day.

Di Watkins, Chief Officer of EDCCA, said: “It’s been really helpful having the support of the County Council. Having the grant – it’s not like you’re walking a tightrope without a safety net. We can offer help to people where they really need it.

“People in crisis, we have been able to help without thinking about it, so being part of the Hub has been fantastic. We’ve had people call us from all parts of the country, even email us from Australia, saying they are concerned about a family member and we can support them. It’s a massive relief to them that we can help.

“We help people with dementia, too, and it’s hard for them to understand what is going on in the world around them. One of my lovely volunteers took them flowers just to cheer them up and say the world is going to be okay.”

Coast and Vale Community Action

Coast and Vale Community Action have been commissioned by us to support Whitby and the surrounding areas during the pandemic.

Jo Laking, Community Initiatives Facilitator, said: “We are very much a community development organisation supporting people in their own community to develop new things and set up new initiatives and projects.

“For us to set up a community support operation is so different. We have a team of staff who deal with enquiries coming in to our Covid dedicated helpline which is available for people to ring and leave a message 24 hours per day.

“We had to recruit a brand new team of volunteers who are going out and doing shopping, befriending people, pick up prescriptions – whatever we get asked, we do.

“For a lot of people, it’s good to have a friendly voice at the end of the phone. People are very frightened as we haven’t been in this territory before - but having someone to talk to really does help.”

“We have also supported the development of a new meal delivery service for elderly or vulnerable people who aren’t able to cook for themselves but want to stay independent and remain in their own homes. The caterers, Tim Lawrence and David Cross, from Estbek House & Restaurant in Sandsend have been cooking and delivering freshly prepared and nutritious food to more than 30 people in Whitby and the outlying areas.”

The Bridge at Catterick

The main focus of The Bridge at Catterick is usually health and wellbeing within the community, helping people to live independent lives. After being asked to be a support hub, they’ve been keeping an eye on volunteer groups in local areas to check they are supported. They cover Colburn, Catterick, the Garrison, Richmond and North Richmondshire.

Judith Bromfield, Chair of Trustees, said: “We are a charity that supports older people but obviously we had to close the service. In the interim we were approached to be the support hub for the area, which we were keen to do.

“We are using social media to our advantage as well – as soon as something appears on the Facebook page, we have some super volunteers who just pick it up and are happy to do that.

“It’s really working well. We are meeting 100 per cent of the requests, mainly for shopping and medication. We’ve had a lot of requests from people who are shielding if their help hasn’t come through yet as well. In a lot of the village communities we support they’ve done a mini-hub themselves, too.

“People are ringing the office and saying how grateful they are. I think it’s really important people get their basic staples and their medication. Many of our volunteers continue with the same person, too, so it’s someone to speak to.

“We get calls from people in other parts of the country worried about their parents or relatives too, so I think it means an awful lot that someone cares enough to have done it for them. The whole caring in the community side is definitely coming out.”

Gary Fielding, our Director of Strategic Resources also asked residents to help neighbours where they can. He said: “Seven weeks into lockdown and the 23 community support organisations and the partners they are working alongside continue to be at the heart of our response in making sure that nobody in North Yorkshire feels alone or is left without food, medicines or other essential supplies.

“It’s important that we recognise and celebrate the energy and enthusiasm with which they have all embraced that challenge. We are committed to ensuring that we build upon this superb community response.”

Tadcaster Volunteers Car and Services Association

Tadcaster Volunteers Car and Services Association is a long-running car scheme. They have recently opened a charity shop and a tea/coffee café.

They have 200 clients they help and along with supporting other community organisations, they do prescription collections and arranged a shopping service with a local Costcutter.

Ian Talbot said: “We were asked by the County Council to take on the role as a CSO. It’s very much a co-ordination role where we help all the villages we cover to get sorted out with an action group, to make sure that action group is then resilient with contingency contacts and arrangements in place and we also make sure they have contingency supply lines.

“We’ve made sure the support is there and they are robust, and then we’ve kept checks on them and monitored them just to check everything is working smoothly. We’ve been extremely fortunate in this area and we haven’t been too badly affected, but the support groups have been brilliant, too. It’s business as usual now, no-one is too stressed out.

“We’ve had calls from outside of our region where a chap wanted support for his daughter from one of our villages. Within five phone calls we were able to put the chain in place to get her support. No matter where in the country it’s from, we manage to get support in place.

“We do quite a few prescription collections and we established an arrangement for entertainment packs – we run a charity shop under normal circumstances.

“On our shelves we had a lot of DVDs, CDs, books and craft material. Rather than leave that sitting there on the shelf, we put together packs for people. We take them a delivery of what they are after to keep them entertained, pick up the others on rotation, put the items in quarantine to avoid transmission.”

Age UK North Craven

Age UK North Craven is based in Settle and serves across to Hellifield up to the border with Cumbria and across to Malham.

It has been running for 30 years, so is embedded within the community. They have 200 active volunteers and work with small aid groups in towns and villages in the area. Although their usual work is supporting the elderly, during the pandemic they have been supporting any vulnerable people who need it.

Jonathan Kerr, Chief Officer, said: “All the work we are doing is cross-community and all the groups are cross generational.

“We are there for people who need extra help, support over the phone and we can also escalate support to social services if people need it.”

The charity has been dropping off wool to people in the community who knit and trying to obtain plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to keep people healthy. They are still running services to support the elderly too.

Jonathan added: “We have 100 people who are being telephoned by volunteers to check they have everything they need and just to have someone to listen to them. We used to do lunch clubs as well, so we are trying to get those people who live alone food and ready meals to live as healthily as possible.”

Boroughbridge Community Care

Boroughbridge Community Care covers Boroughbridge and 27 surrounding villages. It usually offers transport services, trips out, a befriending service and coffee mornings. It has adjusted its services but continues to offer support for the community as well as being a CSO.

Karen Parker, manager of BCC, said 120 volunteers came forward when they put the call out on social media.

She said: “We got local shops involved and set up a food delivery scheme. The community can call up the shop and say what they need, pay over card and our volunteers will deliver it for them.”

Along with delivering food and medication, the charity also helps to administer our local access fund. Through their befriending service, Karen and the team are also aware of people who live alone and make sure they don't fall through the cracks.

She said: "People are really benefitting from this bit of social contact and if any of us have any concerns we can alert the right people."

Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource, Ryedale Carers Support, and Ryedale Community Transport

A CSO made up of Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource, Ryedale Carers Support, and Ryedale Community Transport and involves a Ryedale collaboration of known local voluntary sector and community groups, such as Ryedale Charities Together and the Scarborough and Ryedale Voluntary Sector Leaders Forum. Stronger Communities, Ryedale District Council, and emerging groups in the community are now working closely to bring the County, District, and community initiatives together to support the people of Ryedale. 

Claire Robinson, who is working in the CSO, said: “After the initial couple of week we had the system in place. The last four weeks have allowed us to establish a regular pattern on how we receive referral from a range of different partners. Then we are able to process those to the growing bank of volunteers we have. Now we are in a strong and healthy position.

“We are dealing with requests the same day they come through, which is fantastic, and we’ve started to work more closely with colleagues in the wider networks across our district.”

Our Stronger Communities Team also provides advice to CSOs on a daily basis.

People who need help and do not have support in place through family or friends or community groups near them should contact our customer service centre on 01609 780780 and we will direct them to the contact point in their area.

Gary Fielding, our Director of Strategic Resources also asked residents to help neighbours where they can. He said: “Firstly, I would like to thank every single North Yorkshire resident who has checked on a neighbour and the volunteers helping people during this crisis. The kindness we’ve seen has been truly humbling.

“If you helped someone in the first couple of weeks with shopping or collecting a prescription and you haven’t been in contact since, I would urge you to please keep checking they are OK.

"Anyone over 70 or with underlying health conditions should not be leaving their homes. Just putting a note through their door could be a lifeline, even if it’s just to offer them a friendly chat over the phone.”