Press release from North Tyneside Council 28.04.20
North Tyneside Council launched its dedicated Covid-19 support hub last month for those in need of immediate help and support and who can’t call on anyone else.
It’s part of the local authority’s response to the pandemic, helping to shield its most vulnerable residents who are living in their home without support from others, by providing non-clinical help.
And it’s been thanks to local authority staff and an army of volunteers that the hub has already helped over 3,200 residents.
A 62-strong council team – made up of the existing contact centre and 28 others who volunteered to be redeployed from their existing role – have fielded over 3,200 calls from the public. A further 65 redeployed staff are helping to support the hub by making regular welfare phone calls, checking that people have food, spending time talking to them and helping to identify any extra help and support they may need to help them to shield.
The requests into the hub from the public have included help picking up prescriptions, household supplies, grocery shopping and purchasing pet food.
North Tyneside-based charity VODA has then mobilised 255 newly recruited volunteers to carry out over 700 tasks to date, via their Good Neighbours project.
Volunteers from charities Age UK North Tyneside and Dreamshine are also offering a befriending telephone service to chat with people who may feel lonely during isolation.
It really is a community effort – with staff and volunteers from Family Gateway and Cedarwood Trust, two other local charities, also delivering meals to residents, while other charities and community groups are focusing their efforts on providing support over the telephone and via digital channels.
And 43 businesses have offered their services as part of the support hub too, helping to provide essential groceries and prepared meals, through North Tyneside Business Forum.
North Tyneside Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn CBE said: “Protecting our most vulnerable residents is always a top priority for this council – and the support hub is absolutely critical in helping to do so right now.
“Working side-by-side with so many remarkable organisations, groups and volunteers means we have been able to help everyone who has urgently needed our support. We could not do this without them, and I would like to thank them all.
“The response from the community has been truly humbling – there have been acts of kindness shown right across the borough. We have had so many community-spirted people willing to help in many different ways, and I am delighted we have been able to coordinate so much of this so successfully through the support hub and, of course, only with VODA’s help.”
Chief Executive of VODA, Robin Fry added: “It’s been amazing to see so many local residents, community groups and charities come together to offer vital support to some of our most vulnerable residents. There has always been a strong culture of volunteering and social action across the borough and we are lucky to have some amazing charities who have been able to adapt their services to meet demand. The contribution of the voluntary sector is going to more important than ever to help our communities recover from this pandemic.”
One of hub’s volunteers is Julie Partridge, a retired teacher from Whitley Bay, who has regularly been grocery shopping and doing telephone shifts talking to those feeling lonely, as well as mentoring young people.
Julie said: “The experience has been an absolute pleasure. I have enjoyed so much about this experience – the smiles, the laughter and the feeling of being a tiny helping part of a much, much bigger movement. I would encourage others thinking about volunteering to just do it!
“I wanted to volunteer during this time because there are many things about the present situation that are so completely beyond our control that I am concerned about people’s mental health and wellbeing.
“One of my regular weekly shopping trips has become a ‘chat’ as well. Once a week we chat on the phone as we go over the list and I make sure that I’m not in a rush when delivering the shopping. The person that I shop for has acknowledged that they are struggling with their mental health in the present climate and seems to enjoy the interaction that we have. Many people have used the phrase ‘human voice’ and I believe that is what is needed at this time.”
The opening hours for the COVID-19 support hub are Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm, and is available via TEL: 0345 2000 101 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
While it is available to anyone in urgent need of non-clinical help in the borough, priority will be given to those identified by the NHS as critically vulnerable due to health conditions.
North Tyneside Council’s contact centre is run by its partner Engie.