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COVID-19 - Rural Communities Pulling Together (Week 2)

We asked for examples of our rural communities pulling together and have been inundated with responses so far! We feature 10 each week, and this week are pleased to feature 10 more!

We have been heartened to read stories from our rural communities, showing that despite the incredible situation we are living in, communities are coming together in amazing ways, to support each other.  Many of these initiatives were started before the Government introduced the NHS Volunteer Scheme, as communities recognised a need in their local communities.

10 Rural Communities helping each other

Blackdown Support Group
(Blackdown Support Group is a member of our Rural Services Partnership)

Blackdown Support Group is a registered charity working in partnership with the Blackdown GP Practice and covering the Blackdown Hills, a very rural area and stretches across the county border of Somerset/Devon.  They offer voluntary support to any one in need in their area - in ordinary times this includes community transport, social clubs, befriending and sign-posting. All services aim to reduce social isolation, facilitate access to services and improve quality of life for people suffering the effects of loneliness, old age or ill health.    The most urgent priority when the Covid-19 outbreak began was to identify or establish trusted, local volunteer networks to whom they and the GP Practice could safely and confidently refer patients to for support in the community. We have suspended all usual services and have instead kick-started or supported community initiatives which provide a neighbourhood assistance service with shopping, errands, food deliveries etc as well as a prescription delivery service from the GP Practice. This is being done via a network of Volunteer Co-ordinators and groups of helpers in each Parish.

Marketing of the services has been done through community websites, Facebook and Parish Magazines.  They have distributed general guidelines and safeguarding advice for people self-isolating along with guidance on providing assistance safely, (available on their website.)    They are also working hard to network and support our local food suppliers, village shops, pubs, takeaway or deliveries, farm shops and market stall holders, encouraging people to source products more widely and utilise what is on their doorstep.

Anyone who lives in the Blackdown Hills can contact us and if we don't have a volunteer who can help it is likely we can sign-post them to their most local co-ordinated group. There is support out there even in the most rural locations and people can reach out to us on our phone line 01823 681 036 Monday to Friday 9-11

North Warwickshire Borough Council

In North Warwickshire, the Community has set up areas of Volunteers to provide support for the residents in their part of the Parish and Parish Councils have been supportive. Local businesses have offered to supply food and volunteers are getting shopping/medication collection. Newspapers have been offered for free by local weekly newspaper for the isolated. Free food boxes were also offered by the Borough Council if required. There is a Council information line for concern re utility bills and there is a Help Line to support Mental Health. Our Council Chief Executive Steve Maxey and his Team are a constant backup for Councillors regarding on going information for their residents

Berkley Parish Council, Somerset

Berkley Parish Council have registered a Next Door community group and ensured that all of their small community are invited, and ensured that there is someone checking on any vulnerable residents

Hundleby covid-19 Community Support

Hundleby Covid-19 Community Support have set up a community volunteer team, who have leaflet dropped the entire village with details on how to contact them in case of need

Lakenheath Parish Council, Suffolk

Lakenheath Parish Council are jointly supported by the District and County Councillors, Lakenheath Good Neighbours, Emergency Resilience Committee and other Community Groups.  They are supporting those that are in self-isolation or cannot get out by shopping, collecting prescriptions or a friendly phone call

Oake Parish Council, Somerset

The community group has leafleted all homes to ask if anyone vulnerable needs help, and medication has been collected for them. This has been backed up by a Facebook page and posts. Community shop is also 'looking out' for vulnerable people and providing essential provisions for the elderly.  The Parish Council is very active on Facebook and information is also available on notice boards

Bredenbury Group Parish Council, Herefordshire

Bredenbury Group Parish Council split their parish into different areas and co-ordinators delivered communications to the whole parish and some outlying residences. This had their telephone number or email address and would be the first point of contact for residents. The co-ordinators would then signpost them to someone for support. We have a list of volunteers in each of those areas who were willing to shop, collect medication or phone. Emails are sent to Parish Council subscribers frequently to ensure they know they are here for them and have had very positive responses

Bigbury Parish Council

Established a Support Group for the many 70+ year-old people in the parish.  Identified a string of volunteers to help the batched ordering and delivery of essential supplies to the needy from our local shop, which has been quite outstanding in its operation: identified those in need of phone support for lonely.  Our parish magazine, distributed widely by email has helped fantastically.  Local farmers are using social media to offer 'farm to fork' supplies of meat and vegetables, avoiding need for travel to supermarkets in towns

Toseland Parish Council, Cambridgeshire

Toseland Parish Council established a team of volunteers to do shopping and fetch medicines for those considered vulnerable

Hamsterley Village, County Durham

Hamsterley Village is a very small community in the rural west of County Durham. In response to COVID-19 they have set up a Buddy Scheme, which now has 50 volunteers ready to support the elderly or infirm. In addition they have established, with the help of a local pub and with the approval of the local Police, a weekly mini-market, out of doors, which is just sufficient to help older villagers to avoid the need to go shopping in Bishop Auckland, the nearest town. There is a local information service reaching 170+ households almost daily, and other new initiatives include a village Facebook Page, a local Quiz, and for the first time digital distribution of the Parish Magazine.

What further support do they need?

The Rural Services Network also asked each of these 10 communities what further support they need from national initiatives or locally and they stated:

We are feeding these points into Defra each week and key issues will be raised at the weekly Rural Stakeholder Impact Forum that we attend virtually with Defra and rural organisations.

The following points were raised:

  • Financial support for disadvantaged
  • We need help on how to keep our volunteers safe. Guidance on how to help someone who has covid-19.   In addition, lots of our elderly do not have internet or mobile phones and they aren’t aware of online ordering.
  • It would be useful if NHS Good Sams volunteers could be put in touch with local organised support groups where they exist so support can be co-ordinated and dove-tailed. National initiatives should support local schemes because local schemes have in-depth knowledge of the needs in their local area, this is especially so in tight-knit rural communities who have always supported each other in this way.
  • National initiatives and information seem to be largely online and may fail to reach the most isolated or vulnerable groups. We are passing this information on, along with local information, via volunteers and other methods but it is an ongoing issue.
  • HM Government guidelines on whether 2nd home owners should stay put or travel back to their main residence. This is a prime, coastal holiday area as well as a rural haven in South Devon
  • “I would like to commend the ways in which the large supermarkets in St Neots, Cambs, (our nearest market town) particularly Aldi, Waitrose and Tesco have organised their stores to take account of social distancing while shopping.”
  • We still have quite a number of households who have either very poor broadband connection or, in fact, none at all. There is a fibre-enabled cabinet in the middle of the village but in a very dispersed, rural community the download speeds decline dramatically over distance - so even only half a mile away, the speeds fall from perhaps 60Mbps immediately near the cabinet to as little as 4Mbps. Mobile connection is also extremely variable here.
  • We also live in an area where many people run small, or very small, businesses. They are disadvantaged by the broadband issues above anyway, but the current restrictions thanks to COVID-19 will now test them to the limit.

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