COVID-19 - Rural Communities Pulling Together (Week 8)

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

Hewelsfield and Brockweir Parish Council, Forest of Dean

Support network of volunteers (offering any support needed), coordinated by myself, and information and contacts details provided via social media, website and leaflet to every household in the parish.

Albrighton & Donington Parish Councils, Shropshire

The Village Hall (called the Red House) are using the mini-bus which is jointly funded by two local parish councils to deliver groceries and medicines to isolated and/or vulnerable residents. It is also used each Wednesday to deliver hot meals provided by a local older people's club.

Boxgrove Parish Council, Chichester

The local shop has remained open (one person at a time) and takes telephone orders and is delivering them to the three villages in this parish (and a little further afield).

Lazonby Parish Council, Eden

Volunteers to do shopping, medical appointments, prescriptions, vet visits, dog walking contacting on the phone for comforting.

East Budleigh with Bicton Parish Council, East Devon

Gift parcels to the infirm and elderly at Easter. This will be repeated on VE day along with copies of historical photos of the Village in a small album. Making Scrubs for Care Homes. The first 20 scrubs will be delivered this week (29/04/2020).

Grindleton Parish Council, Ribble Valley

Grindleton Parish Council have set up a volunteer service of over 50 volunteers who are willing and able to do shopping for those in the village who are not able to do this themselves through self-isolation. We have a volunteer group who distribute the prescriptions for those who require regular prescriptions. The church have organised a telephone befriending service. The local WI have organised a group to sew scubas for East Lancs Trust. There are also regular village communications on all social media platforms.

Elohim Christian Church, Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council

ECC Barlestone with Churches together, with the support of Barlestone Parish Council has launched "Love Your Neighbour" which is a Scheme to support elderly, vulnerable, shielding, single parent families and isolated villagers during COVID 19 crisis. We are helping with food shopping, prescription collection and delivery. We have a staffed help line and are available to chat to anyone who phones in, providing a friendly listening service. We can also arrange a regular phone call to those without other support networks. There is an emergency food bank on site and we are able to signpost to other agencies. A list has been compiled of local suppliers who will deliver fresh goods. In response to locally identified need we have enlisted local teaching staff to put together key stage 1 and 2 craft packs which we print and deliver to 91 children to help parents and children engage with fun and educational activities. 1200 leaflets were printed and delivered to houses in the area, plus information and updates are posted on the community website. There are 25 willing and hardworking volunteers, who are provided with masks, gloves and hand sanitiser, along with instructions on social distancing compliance and safe deliveries. We are keeping a log of calls, needs and volunteer response.

Hamsey Parish Council, Lewes

Here in Hamsey Parish we have set up a volunteer service which is dedicated to helping those that are elderly, vulnerable or self isolating to get their shopping, prescriptions, run errands such as dog walking or taking out their bins and also having the availability to chat to someone for reassurance if they are lonely or worried about the impact Covid-19 is having on them. Where possible all of our local businesses such as farm shops and pubs are offering takeaways/ a delivery service of goods to those shielding. We have made sure to leaflet all households twice to ensure no one is left out and they all have access to any help they require. We are regularly updating our community social media page with details on how to get help from various organisations but to also let people know we are here, and they are not alone in this situation. We are also liaising with councillors from Lewes District Council and the community hub to provide support.

Leominster Town Council, Herefordshire

The town council have joined up with charities, county council and the local COVID-19 volunteer group to coordinate the provision of shopping, medication collection, welfare phone calls, dog walking etc to vulnerable residents. We have agreements in place so that we can all use the same database to enable us to respond quickly to support residents in the town.

Bardney Group Parish Council, West Lindsey

The Parish Council has joined with the local Churches and Co-op to create a Food bank and deliver food parcels to the vulnerable. The Parish Council have also finished creating a woodland walk and community walk which provides further outdoor space for residents to utilise. The Parish Council are also offering financial support to village schemes, one of which make scrubs for the local hospital and another is making food for the hospital, ambulance and fire brigade.

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:

  • 60% of the local population are over 65 so it is difficult to find volunteers in this current situation to help others as they are all shielding.  CDC and WSCC do have volunteer hubs though.
  • To get volunteers and people who needed help and were vulnerable. Volunteers did a leaflet drop as mobile phone signals are rubbish as is the internet connection. Many of our elderly do not use social media.
  • If we could more easily identify those who are struggling, we could better organise food parcels in addition to the national initiative of parcels to those most at risk.
  • The Prompt Action Grant is extremely useful.
  • As we are in a rural area, maybe some better guidance regarding footpaths going through farm yards and crossing land where there is livestock. To help both the farmers and the general public understand the boundaries.
  • Generally the local community is best placed to be able to respond swiftly to local needs, Support with small grant funding has been invaluable from our local County Council.   Our Parish Council and Borough Councillor helped us with information on funding. A help line for organisations to be able to contact with queries as they arise would be very useful.  Although we are fortunate to have a Next Gen coordinator at the Borough Council who has helped us. Other schemes in the area have been useful connections and helped with shared experiences.  It is encouraging to see communities come together to respond to local needs. Sustainability of these local programmes would be a good starting point for the basis of future initiatives.
  • Advice to non tech savvy residents on how to use the internet.  Perhaps once social distancing restrictions have been lifted then a workshop where people could attend to gain some information and knowledge of how to use simple IT skills. Living within our parish we have a lot of elderly residents that do not have the knowledge on how to access the internet. Giving people the tools/ knowledge on how to use the internet will enable them to stay connected to their families especially at times like these when people are feeling very lonely and vulnerable. Although getting shopping deliveries at the moment are few and far between if everyone had access and the knowledge of how to go online then shopping, paying bills and just staying connected to love ones will be of much benefit to our whole community.
  • Better broadband and a training programme to help the more rural residents.
  • Better communication regarding Cemeteries and burials.  Information has been quite piecemeal and the Church of England have provided more information than the Govt.
  • Our concerns now extend to the possible introduction of NHSX especially as the phone signal in our area is quite bad in parts.  We also have privacy and data storage concerns over NHSX.    Another issue relates to the NHS vulnerable letters as quite a few people who have complex health issues have not received the letter.  There is a resident in our community who is blind and has not received the letter and therefore is struggling to access services.    Further to this, teenagers are being advised that University Applications etcs will ask 'what did you do during lockdown?'.  As a rural village, opportunities are very limited for grand volunteering gestures and schools are sending a large amount of work for home schooling.  Therefore rural children will be disadvantaged when it comes to applying.


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