Mon, 06 Apr 2020
VOLUNTEER groups that have sprung up across West Berkshire to help their communities through the coronavirus pandemic have been praised by co-ordinators of the district’s Covid-19 support hub.
The praise comes as the number of calls being made to the West Berkshire Coronavirus Community Support Hub are gradually starting to rise.
The hub was established two weeks ago to try to keep people updated on the situation and let them know what they can do and where they can get help if they need it.
The hub, working with local charities, has also been set up to ensure that the district’s elderly and most vulnerable residents have access to food, medication and anything else they need.
Nearly 80 calls were made to West Berkshire Council’s support centre on Monday, and the number of confirmed cases in the district stood at 43 as of Tuesday morning.
Calls are triaged depending on need.
Higher needs are sent through to the community hub and others are signposted to advice or to community groups.
The council and hub has a list of vulnerable and shielded people, which is being updated daily.
WBC Building Communities Together team manager Susan Powell said the hub was getting “a good number of calls” surrounding food, medicine and wellbeing.
She said: “Some people have been struggling to get their prescription filled and the person who would normally do that has been unable to do so.
“It’s about getting that changed to get it delivered or to find someone else to pick up the baton.”
Mrs Powell said other calls concerned people wanting a bit more support around food shopping and some wanted to check if they were on the sheltered list.
She said that some people who went into self-isolation early were “starting to feel a bit more vulnerable”.
She said: “A couple of weeks in they are starting to need a bit more advice and support and to check in with someone to make sure it’s okay.”
Numerous volunteers have stepped forward to help their neighbours in need during the outbreak.
Mrs Powell praised the 60 “wonderful community volunteer groups”, saying they were all “incredibly responsive and doing all they can to support people”.
She said the groups ranged from larger groups to six ladies trying to do the best for their community.
When asked if there were enough groups, Mrs Powell said: “It would be lovely to have more.
“Some of the community groups are people that were volunteers in voluntary groups, but have had to fill these gaps.”
She added that there were some geographic gaps and asked volunteers to possibly spread out to cover a wider area, either to walk dogs or do shopping for vulnerable people.
And with police forces warning of a possible increase of domestic abuse cases during the lockdown, Mrs Powell said: “You do not have to stay home under any circumstances if it’s not safe to do so.”
Addressing the rapidly-changing situation, council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said: “We seem to have spent the last few weeks where everything was coming together and arranging things to get people and resources where they needed to be.
“It certainly feels that we are in that position now.
“I think what’s clear to everybody is to follow the national guidance and to follow these messages – these are going to be really key.”
The council has issued a leaflet containing advice and guidance about support available to them.
The first leaflets were delivered in the east of the district and will eventually be distributed to all homes.
Mrs Doherty said there had been a demand for business support, saying “we know phone lines are busy, we are doing everything we can, but obviously there’s high demand”.
She added that the council’s adult social care team were “doing what they are doing to protect the most vulnerable and to keep these services going”.
The contact details for the Community Support Hub are firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call (01635) 503579.