We are undertaking the huge challenge of co-ordinating the county’s community response to help those isolated by the coronavirus pandemic.
In a coordinated effort with district councils, we are working the length and breadth of the county with 23 community organisations that will work with the voluntary sector in their locality. We hear first impressions from two of them below.
“We want to make it clear that people first and foremost should turn to family, neighbours and friends for help with things like getting in groceries or collecting medication or in delivering a hot meal,” said Cllr Carl Les, the County Council’s Leader, speaking on behalf of all seven district councils and the county.
“If this network is not available to them we would then ask them to make contact with church organisations, clubs, voluntary sector organisations they are supported by or societies they belong to. But nobody should feel that they are alone. For those people with no immediate network of support, we are working with district council colleagues and selected community organisations to deliver that support in their local area.”
The 23 community support organisations will be the single point of contact for the county and district councils and working with the local voluntary sector.
People needing help should call 01609 780780 to speak to our customer service centre, which will direct them to the contact point in their area.
The first thing people wanting to help should do is to think about and talk to family, friends and neighbours who may need help. We are also urging them to contact local voluntary groups already known to them, mindful that the Government’s regulations must be observed at all times.
People in need of help who have no friends, family, church or clubs to turn to should call 01609 780780 to speak to our customer service centre, which will direct them to the contact point in their area.
What the community support organisations have to say
Coast and Vale Community Action (CaVCA) is acting as the single point of contact for Whitby and the surrounding areas during this crisis.
Jo Laking, Community Initiative Facilitator, said: “We are recruiting people to become volunteers, asking for people to come forward to help with shopping and prescriptions and we are working with existing groups to access their volunteer database.”
The organisation is encouraging people to get involved and work together to support everyone. A key initiative is setting up telephone and email friendship.
Jo said: “I am finding this challenging, but very rewarding. I’m thrilled to see how the community has pulled together so far. In unprecedented times it’s difficult to know what to expect, but we are getting processes and procedures in place to tackle this crisis. I am being proactive and quick in my approach in order to ensure nobody is left alone.
“I have had some lovely people contact me for support, even if it’s just for a friendly chat over the phone. An old lady rang for support as she was worried she wouldn’t have any food, but then a farmer from nearby dropped some food off, a great example of pulling together to help. It is showing how in a crisis the community spirit is still going.
“We have had a few calls from people with mental health issues who have said they are struggling, as they are panicking. The community support organisation gives them calm and straight forward advice. I could hear it in their voices how relived they were once they realised how simple and easy it was to resolve the problems.
“I think it is comforting and aids people just knowing there is someone to help at the other end of the phone. Also, for older people who may not have social media and just watch the TV, this could be terrifying, so it’s important that friends, family and neighbours are pulling together to support the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Jo stressed that is people have help locally, they should use it. They must ask your family, friends and community for support first and foremost.
At the end of an incredible first week supporting people in the Scarborough area, Julie Macey-Hewitt from Age UK Scarborough said: “We’ve got through our first week and it’s been a heck of a busy one, but well done to everyone who’s pulled together!
“This week we’ve set up a database from scratch, designed and printed 500 fliers to distribute, logged over 150 volunteer enquiries, collected and delivered 56 prescriptions, answered over 250 calls, dealt with 53 enquiries over Facebook/email and another 175 via our online form, provided shopping and meals to more than 80 people, posted 22 letters, collated details of over 100 essential provision suppliers, delivered eight urgent food parcels, fixed a broken gate and shared top secret information on where to buy the best gin online.”