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COVID-19 - Rural Communities Pulling Together (Week 6)

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

Alford Town Council, East Lindsey

We are providing a delivery service for medication and if necessary, food to residents of Alford and the surrounding villages, manned by volunteers. We also have a team set up to deal with pastoral care who are available to chat to people who are feeling isolated. We have also worked with local groups such as the Silver Band, Football club and craft centre to encourage them to use social media to interact with members and non-members to provide ideas and activities for people to do at home. We have a website, facebook page and helpline set up and work in partnership with the local food bank, shops, Doctors surgery and chemist, also with the District council and Lincolnshire Resilience Forum. Our registered group name is Chester and George Care and Share Group on Facebook.

Alconbury Weston Parish Council, Huntingdonshire District

Formed a group on Facebook calling for Helpers (over 200 signed up) in the villages of Alconbury, Alconbury Weston and Upton. The Alconbury Weston Parish Council circulated every household (population 800 including 175 over age of 70) with contact details of every Parish Councillor offering help and coordinating a named street helper. Using Nextdoor a group was formed for helpers and those needing help in conjunction with the Help Map feature on Nextdoor.

Medlar-with-Wesham Town Council, Lancashire

The Council has set up a Community Support System.  All households received a letter with contact details for support and a card to be displayed in the window of the household.  The card has a green side which indicates thanks everything is OK, and a red side which indicates that support is needed.  Over 50 residents have volunteered to help others in the community. Every road has been allocated at least 2 "wardens" who check their area daily.  The centre support phone number and email address can be contacted by those needing support and advising that a red card has been seen. The centre support have also helped local companies contact the food bank.  People have been helped by volunteers doing shopping, collecting prescriptions, ringing up for chats or just walking past and interacting at a safe distance.  The Community Centre is also being used for extra storage and packing spaces for the local food bank.  The Council website is continually being updated with helpful information and contacts.

Ashprington & Tuckenhay Village Response Group, South Hams

Over 50 volunteers to shop, get prescriptions, dog walk, telephone befriending, virtual village coffee morning, coordinating food deliveries and weekly newsletters.

Frittenden Parish Council, Tunbridge Wells

Volunteer scheme for collecting shopping/medicines/ keeping phone contact. This is a joint venture with the local church and was launched with a leaflet drop to every household in the village. This called for volunteers and asked what help, if any, each household needed. A Hardship Fund, financed by public donation and administered by the Parish Council has been set up.

Coton village, Cambridgeshire

Approximately 1000 residents, semi-rural, geographically well defined, low deprivation, shop, pub, school, church, good existing social networks, email group with 200+ members to offer and ask for help. FB community noticeboard, medicine collections, deliveries from local shop and pub, rainbows in windows, art work in windows and Easter bunny delivery to >200 households. Follow up of all individuals notified as vulnerably by district council and a grant to provide a small number of mobile phone and tablets to get more people online

Warboys and District Day Centre, Cambridge

The Warboys and District Day Centre is a Charitable organisation providing company, socialisation and support to people over 60 yrs of age who would otherwise be lonely and isolated. While the Centre is closed we are continuing to support our members. One of our members has a live in paid carer, the others all live alone I am making phone calls to our members twice weekly. Our volunteers are also contacting members by phone or where appropriate IT on a regular basis. I am undertaking shopping for two of our members who require help with this. I am also liaising closely with family and carers where appropriate. I undertake visits to members if required within the rules of social distancing. We have the telephone number for our local Social Service representative and can contact her if required, however our aim is to continue to provide support to our 14 members from within the Day Centre Structure. My background is that I am a Retired Mental Health professional and am therefore aware of issues around safeguarding and vulnerability, and am aware of reporting mechanisms should any such issues arise.

Slaugham Parish Council, Mid Sussex

Slaugham Parish is the Parish Council looking after 4 villages within West Sussex (Pease Pottage, Handcross, Warninglid and Slaugham). Each village has different needs and circumstances and each village is looking after its own villagers for food, medicines, etc. with the guidance of our Slaugham Parish Council (SPC). I first moved to a more ‘rural’ way of life 40 years ago and then, when moving to Pease Pottage (PP), I was amazed to see how our villagers look after one another even though now PP, and all around this area, is being developed. In fact, our ‘rural’ way of life here in PP, is really being put to the test with Covid-19, but I am glad to say that, so far, we are winning. Here in PP, we are very lucky to have a Secretary and Volunteers – who all pull together in such a crisis (despite having other commitments such as: working from home, volunteering elsewhere). Our PP Secretary has also been busy promoting our local businesses where people can get shopping much closer to home. Our Secretary is looking after our PP residents as far as food, friendship, dog walking, etc, are concerned, and (as a Parish Councillor, following a request from our local medical centre to our Slaugham Parish Council), I am working alongside our Secretary with regard to organising delivery of prescriptions via our Volunteers.

Bishop's Waltham Parish Council, Hampshire

Support Line for elderly and vulnerable parishioners.

Bovey Tracey Town Council, Teignbridge

A collaborative set-up of Town Council, Community Groups, Volunteers and other local organisations have set-up the Bovey Parish Coronavirus Action Group to support the vulnerable/elderly parishioners.

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:

  • Locating where those who are Extra Vulnerable live. This data was given to Supermarkets! Why not to Parish Councils?
  • Use Village Halls with a local Surgery to relieve pressure on hospitals
  • Early clear guidance.  Brief useful updates to go on websites
  • The Town Council have been very grateful of the community spirit and willingness to volunteer during this crisis.
  • Why are the NHS volunteers for picking up prescriptions not being used? We are doing the prescriptions pick ups but the NHS Volunteers are sitting at home waiting for requests.
  • Better, quicker, financial assistance to the self-employed
  • Agreement that medicines will be dispensed by nearest pharmacy (i.e. the one where a volunteer network is set up).
  • The key is to ensure universal coverage; that everyone has someone to reach out to.  The DC supported this by providing list of vulnerable residents.  Easier for us than more urban or more geographically dispersed communities.
  • We are a member of the Fare share scheme but have suspended our deliveries during the lockdown. Having information about what is available should it be required is useful for us as we continue to support our members.
  • The main issue for our members is that although they are all elderly they are lively and reasonably active, their main concern is that they are missing the socialisation provided by attending the day centre. Hopefully the plans we have in place are helping them to stay connected and supported by the Day Centre.
  • I know there has been mention of Broadband and, when I first retired, it took me a time to get used to the slow speed of the Broadband at home. I have got more used to it now though – although I recently searched for a better service but, in all honesty, I don’t know or understand Broadband speeds and am glad I do not work from home; plus I am glad I’ve got a bit more used to the slowness.
  • Better broadband would help. FTTC to the south of Satley village still does not help those communities to the north or west still struggling with old copper-wire connections.

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