COVID-19 - Rural Communities Pulling Together (Week 4)

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

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

Nidderdale Plus Community Hub, North Yorkshire

We are coordinating the response across the whole of Nidderdale and Washburn Valley in North Yorkshire.  We have facilitated the setting up of 13 volunteer networks across the area, and provided them with best practice so that they can recruit volunteers safely (we emphasise the importance of using DBS checked people where possible) and keep them safe whilst they are volunteering.  We have also issued a simplified safeguarding policy so that volunteers know what to look for and the appropriate way to escalate concerns. We provide templates, and have printed for some of the networks, leaflets and postcards that are specific to their area.  It is important that self-isolating residents have trust in the volunteer that is coming down their path, so we try to ensure where possible that the is Parish Council branding in each network on the information material that is produced.  As a community library, we are now offering home delivery of books and jigsaws, using our own community car and volunteers, and we also worked with the local GP practice which has three surgeries, to do all prescription deliveries to those who are self isolating, using volunteers and one vehicle.  This also has the benefit of reducing footfall at the surgery dispensaries. We are about to launch a food bank and are implementing a hardship scheme.

Caldervale Support Group, Lancashire

Calder Vale is a small village community clustered around a working Cotton Mill (Lappet Manufacturing. A village support group has been formed and we aim to provide support for anyone who is vulnerable or over 70 or self-isolating and had no family to support them, through volunteers, who are also residents, providing assistance with shopping, prescription collection and delivery, carrying out Post Office requests, phone support and other tasks such as bins being put out and back and minor gardening chores. 

The now 15 volunteers recognised that local businesses also needed support, so the local newsagent started delivering fresh milk to the doorstop and delivering local Garstang Market produce.  The Methodist Chapel monthly Lunch Club had to be suspended due to the Chapel having to be closed, it was decided that we would continue to support The Lunchbox and ask if the two course lunch could be delivered outside the Chapel each Friday.  The lunches are collected by those that have ordered them.

There is even a Saturday fish and chip supper, made by local business where orders are phoned and paid for and a volunteer collects and delivers to homes. Usually in May we host Bluebell Teas for the many visitors who come to walk in the famous Bluebell woods.  Volunteers have arranged with a plant nursery that usually supplies plants for sale to make these available to the local community.  We hope to be proactive and as a need arises we aim to rise to the occasion and help as much as we can. The volunteers use WhatsApp, a social media platform, to communicate and the help each other as well as the community!e

Etchingham, East Sussex

Etchingham is a village of 700 electors so quite small but the response from the community to a call for volunteers mounted by two local ladies is exemplary.  They were so quick off the mark the Parish Council decided to support them, by paying for the printing of the leaflets delivered to every house in the parish by the marvellous local team of postmen rather than 'compete'.  They are also promoting a number of local food businesses that are delivering directly to homes as an alternative to supermarkets.  The four firms are very local and two at least do not normally undertake home deliveries but have stepped up to the mark in this crisis.

East Illsey Parish Council, West Berkshire

Set up the East Ilsley Emergency Response Team who are 27 volunteers living in the village.  They cover shopping, medicine collection , dog walking and friendly phone chats to those who are vulnerable, in isolation or shielded.

Street Parish Council, Somerset

Local community support group set up which is providing a service for the community, helping to deliver shopping for vulnerable people, pick up and delivery of medication and prescriptions, delivery of food hampers to families of children entitled to free school meals, delivery of Easter Eggs to children, delivery of food parcels to vulnerable people through Salvation Army,  regular telephone contact with isolated individuals to combat loneliness, and a leaflet drop to all households in area.  In addition, there has been a follow up newsletter to all households and a dedicated website created to provide single place for information.  The Baptist Church is providing hot meals once a week to around 100 people a week  and the provision of "Message in a bottle" through local Lions Club to provide vital medical information for vulnerable people to health workers coming into people's homes. Provision of mobile phones to support schools needing to keep in touch with vulnerable children.

Bettws y crwyn Parish Council, Shopshire

Established community facebook page to encourage communication, offers of help and to disseminate local and county information

Carleton-in-Craven Parish Council, Craven

The local shop keeper has extended his range of goods to cater for those not able to access the nearby supermarkets. One resident has been producing hand sanitiser as a by-product of his business.

Tixover Parish Meeting, Rutland

We have a small volunteer group aiming at assisting anyone in need within the Parish. Shopping, Medicine Collections and Dog Walking are on offer, though, so far, only the Medicine Collection is being taken up in any numbers.

Tenterden Town Council, Ashford

Town Council has supported the setting up of a volunteer organisation to help with deliveries, dog walking, phone support etc for the self-isolating. This runs alongside an existing food bank service for those in need and a "meals on wheels" service provided by the local social hub. This organisation normally serves as a meals and social provider for the elderly but the service is now being handled remotely. The council has made cash available to all 3 organisations plus the local surgery and has released the pavilion for surgery usage. Our local county organisation has allocated on-going funding for the social hub.

Thwing & Octon Parish Council, East Riding of Yorkshire

We have hand delivered flyers with 4 contact numbers to everyone in the parish. We have a facebook page and being a small rural community, we have a good social network and are aware of likely vulnerable people.

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:

  • We are able to devise solution through working closely with our communities.  We just need some money to make up the shortfall in our own fundraising activities, as an enormous black hole is opening up in our finances.  I hope that the role of community hubs becomes clearer as a result of this crisis.  In good times, as well as bad, we are best placed to respond to our communities on the ground.
  • We don't have anything for teenagers / youths in our area.  We had a couple of volunteers stepping forward under 18 years old and we couldn't accept them on as we didn't feel we knew quite how to look after them.
  • Ensure there is no duplication of services being offered by National Organisations which is already being catered for by Local Community organisations, Parish Councils or volunteers.
  • Easily accessible grant to support activities    Single point of contact to support all local activities in the wider communities
  • Better liaison with supermarkets. and additional funding at county level. I believe that the county is doing its best but woeful under funding over the years has taken its toll.  There are limited things that they can cope with, especially following extensive flooding earlier in the year.
  • Even people with vulnerable status cannot get delivery slots. We are a scattered community of mainly elderly people living in fairly isolated houses.
  • Further improvements to the Broadband system. on Mondays to Fridays I have difficulty accessing websites, especially during the morning. Most time-out before getting connected. I was lucky this morning!
  • Clarity required between the roles of the many NHS Volunteers recruited by government and that of the independently organised neighbourhood groups driven by local Parishes.  It would be very helpful to get access to the list of extremely vulnerable people in the area so we can be sure to target them.
  • A better overall structure to prevent overlap of services at County, borough and local level.  Support direct to charities would be useful, particularly as these charities needed to step in to combat the effects of austerity. Our charities have been lucky in that Kent CC agreed funding to ensure their survival but it was not assured.
  • Deliveries from supermarket and doctors for prescriptions, or a local hub for drop off and collection.
  • As a rural community we have no local shops, no bus service, and are struggling to book on line grocery deliveries. Our local GP does not deliver to outlying villages and our broadband connection is poor.  Services to rural communities needs to be addressed properly especially in situations. Too much talk and no action is often the case.


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