North Yorkshire support extends through to autumn

This story was published 15 January 2021

North Yorkshire residents who need support during Covid-19 lockdown restrictions can be reassured that help will be available right through to autumn if required.

Malcolm and Hazel Boyes

Support put in place by North Yorkshire County Council at the start of the first lockdown last March and which has continued ever since,  will carry on for months ahead, even after the current national lockdown is lifted.

Since the first lockdown in March last year, the County Council has invested in 23 community support organisations (CSOs) across North Yorkshire and worked alongside district councils to coordinate volunteer and community help for people who need assistance and do not have friends, family or neighbours to call upon.

These community support hubs are a single point of contact, pulling together other organisations to provide a safety net for people. More than 1,500 volunteers have helped thousands of people each week with shopping, hot meals and prescriptions, as well as checking on people’s health and wellbeing. That work continues apace, especially as the clinically vulnerable – 26,000 people in North Yorkshire -  have once more been asked to shield.

While people are shielding they must stay at home as much as possible, get help with shopping and limit their contact with others. They are also advised not to attend work if they cannot work from home.

The County Council has now agreed to extend funding for the community support organisations for a further six months after the current agreements end in March. This will ensure people can access support through current restrictions and beyond.

“During this most difficult phase of the pandemic we want to reassure people that the safety net of support we have put in place will carry on in the months ahead,” said Gary Fielding, the County Council’s Corporate Director for Strategic Resources said: “We are very grateful for the work of the community support organisations and all our volunteers in past months and their efforts are redoubled presently as people are required to stay at home and refrain from social mixing and the clinically vulnerable have to shield once again.

“We are proud of the culture of kindness and neighbourliness and volunteering that is at the heart of North Yorkshire’s identity, a culture which has seen us through the darkest months and which I know will continue in the time ahead.  We are all looking out for each other and the extension of these contracts will ensure nobody slips through the net.”

From April to December last year the CSOs delivered help in the following ways:

  • 81,878 volunteer hours
  • 14,897 prescriptions delivered
  • 23,172 befriending calls made
  • 21,223 shopping delivered
  • 4,516 food parcels delivered
  • 1,614 pets cared for
  • 2,984 transportation provided
  • 3,148 books, jigsaws and craft materials supplied
  • 17,900 phone check-ins
  • 17,196 advice and guidance provided
  • 25,989 meals delivered

One of the volunteers, Siobhan Moore, a retired social worker who has been working with CSO Community Works Thirsk since last March said: “I seem to have spent an awful lot of time in Tesco in Thirsk with shopping lists for people who cannot get out and need to stay at home and in taking people for hospital appointments.  One of the things that has made me really happy recently was taking a genretlman to the James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough for his second Covid vaccine.  That was a real highlight.”

In response to the current national restrictions, the North Yorkshire Local Assistance Fund (NYLAF) Covid19 Self-Isolation Grant that is administered by the CSOs has been amended to ensure that those who are required to self-isolate due to being unwell, being contacted by track and trace, or shielding are able to access support for food, utility, and other household essentials.

In addition to the work of the CSOs the County Council’s Stronger Communities Programme is also able to offer small grants for groups who are operating in order to ensure they can offer support in Covid secure ways and in line with whatever government restrictions are in place.

A second round of funding from Defra’s Local Authority Emergency Assistance Fund for Food and Essential Supplies was also made available last December for food banks and other food supply schemes (for example community kitchens and fridges, or meals on wheels) to support voluntary and community sector efforts over the winter months. A further 24 grants totalling £100,000 were awarded and distributed before Christmas.  

Marie-Ann Jackson, North Yorkshire’s head of the Stronger Communities Programme said: “We are trying to cover every base to make sure anybody who needs help continues to get it through the course of this pandemic.  The vast majority of our residents are pulling together to bring down the Covid-19 infection rate, to look out for neighbours and friends and to support our local business. We carry on this good work, stronger together.”

Case study: Malcolm and Hazel Boyes

Malcolm and Hazel Boyes were left with a greater need for help than many North Yorkshire residents when the coronavirus pandemic struck, but special measures funded by the County Council meant a lifeline was available for the couple.

Malcolm, 78, was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and as a result was advised to self-isolate at his home in Norton during lockdown while Hazel, 76, has Parkinson’s.

Their circumstances were made more difficult because they have no children or family in the district and they lacked neighbours who were able to help.

While a friend stepped in for shopping trips, he quickly found himself overwhelmed with his own family’s needs, so had to give up.

At that point Malcolm and Hazel contacted the County Council and were put in touch with the Ryedale Community Support Organisation headed up locally by Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource and Ryedale Carers Support, two of 23 community support organisations which get financial support from the authority.  

They were allocated a volunteer who took on their weekly shopping runs.  When that volunteer was able to return to full time work she had to give up the role and Jenny Potter took over.

The Boyes have praised Jenny’s commitment, which has allowed them to live safely at home while maintaining shielding – a need both take extremely seriously.

They email a weekly shopping list to Jenny, who visits the supermarket and delivers the goods, leaving the bags on the doorstep for the Boyes to empty before returning the bags and a cheque for payment.

Hazel said: “Jenny has been brilliant. Malcolm makes a shopping list on the computer and sends it every week.  She is very, very helpful and asks that if there is anything else we need, to let her know, but we have managed so far.”

The couple lead busy lifestyles despite the restrictions of shielding, but have managed to do so without close human contact.

Having Jenny to help with shopping meant there had been only two other people in their house since March, said Malcolm, one to work on their heating boiler and a neighbour who was experiencing problems.

They also use the Home Library Service, with volunteers who deliver audio books they can download and listen to via a computer, another County Council-backed service available to North Yorkshire residents.

Claire Robinson and Claire Hall, community support organisation lead officers in Ryedale, said: “The last 10 months have been exceptionally challenging for everyone, but they have been brightened every day by the gigantic effort of our volunteer team.  

“Both CSO volunteers and those volunteering locally in mutual aid groups, have gone above and beyond to ensure every request for support has been met in full. They have shopped, delivered meals, walked pets, collected prescriptions,  distributed activity packs and made countless befriending calls, to name just a few of the requests our volunteers have responded too;  we couldn’t be more proud to be part of such a positive and successful response to the current challenge. 

“We are delighted to have made a small difference to Malcolm and Hazel’s journey over the last few months, and I know their volunteers have been very pleased to have been involved”.