Volunteers still here to give support as shielding guidance changes

Guidance around shielding is changing from tomorrow (August 1)

Meaning those who are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19 are being encouraged to follow strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures so that they can resume normal day to day activities and regain some independence.

People who have been shielding will be able to visit shops and return to work from August 1, provided that their workplace is Covid-secure.

Although the national programme of food and prescription deliveries will end at this point, the County Council is ensuring no-one slips through the cracks.

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 within a community 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 when the shielding advice changes. This partnership 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.

Over the past few weeks, residents who have been shielding since March have been contacted to reassure them this support will continue. Alternative arrangements are put in place if needed and if someone isn’t reachable over the phone a volunteer is asked to carry out a door knock check.

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 when shielding is 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.”

Anyone who needs to arrange help can contact the County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780 seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm. Find more information about help for people during isolation.

Alan Kane from Hambleton has been shielding with wife Sue as they both have lung disease.

He says simply knowing the CSOs and the team of volunteers were there to help him was incredibly reassuring and made him and Sue feel less alone during the lockdown.

He said both of them are very grateful and pleased the support will be continuing even when the Government guidance changes at the start of next month.

Alan, who was in the fire brigade before he retired, said: “Me and Sue have to shield because of our lung disease – if we catch anything, it could be incredibly dangerous.

“At first it was very hard not seeing anyone, especially the family and my grandchildren. But knowing we had the volunteer organisations behind us to help was incredibly reassuring and it still is.”

Alan and Sue have had their prescriptions delivered by volunteers throughout lockdown, but they also appreciated the time taken by the volunteers to simply call and check they were okay.

He said: “We have managed and it has got easier, but knowing someone was looking out for us was marvellous and I’m very glad it’s continuing. If one good thing has come out of this, it’s how friendly people have been and how willing to help. The volunteers who helped me could have sat at home and not, but they’ve put themselves out there and keep doing so.”

Tina Whiteley, from Selby, was supported by volunteers as she entered the long recovery process from Covid-19.

The illness put her in hospital and she ended up being so weak she couldn’t walk from her living room to her kitchen to make a cup of tea.

Tina, a mental health nurse who has asthma, contracted Covid on March 24. After a day walking, she said her arms began to feel like lead and she was exhausted. Symptoms quickly accelerated and Tina was hospitalised and placed on a high dependency unit.

At the time, she focussed on just breathing – and thought once she returned home she’d be over the worst. Although the recovery period has hit Tina hard, she had support from the council and community volunteers.

She said: “When I came out of hospital I was shielding, which was hard because I was isolated.

“I physically couldn’t go out either because my blood oxygen levels were so low – walking to the kitchen to make a drink just about took it out of me. Getting up the stairs, I had to go one step at a time.”

Tina had support from her family, but realised she was running out of medication and had no-one available to collect her prescription for her. But a call from the council alerted her to the fact that support was available and she could get her medication delivered by a volunteer.

She said: “They went and got my medication and brought it back. It’s simple, but it helped me so much, because I didn’t have to worry about it. When I found out they were there it was a big reassurance to me and I’m glad it’s carrying on.

“Covid is like a silent assassin. It grabs everything you’ve got and I experienced that first hand, so it was nice to know there was support if I needed it.”

Valerie Teasdale, from Ryedale, is shielding with her husband, a transplant patient. Both contracted Covid in April and have been shielding since. Being farmers, they’ve both found it difficult, but have managed to get by with their dogs and a large garden.

Valerie only has good things to say about the support she’s received from volunteers.

She said: “If we asked for support, they’ve been there – cheerful, with a smile on their faces. Everyone has been lovely and wonderful. They come to the gate with whatever we need and we have a socially distanced talk for a couple of minutes.”

Valerie added that being a farmer, she’d usually be out and about in all weathers and has found the adjustment period hard.

She said: “In my head I’m 21, but my body is 73, so I’ve had to learn to take it easy. We will still be shielding after the guidance is changed and it’s good to know there is ongoing support.”

Peter Murray, from Scarborough, started isolating in February after becoming concerned he had symptoms of Covid-19. He suffers from COPD, asthma, depression and anxiety along with problems with his legs and feet, which make it hard for him to get around.

But the support from his local volunteer organisation has helped him come through the pandemic.

He said: “I’ve been shielding since February but I got a letter from the NHS advising me to do it officially in March.

“NYCC has been fantastic – they call me every few weeks to check that I’m okay, but also linked me up with my local volunteer group. I get shopping from them and also my medication picked up.

“The volunteer who helped me was a really nice person – he deserves an award. Just polite, lovely to chat to. He always kept his distance from me but always made time to make sure I was all right.”

As the guidance changes, Peter will slowly start to go out again in a safe, socially distanced way but is pleased to know the volunteer support is still there.

Anyone who needs to arrange help can contact the County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780 seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm.

Find more information about help for people during isolation.