Under Covid-19 lockdown the voluntary landscape changed dramatically almost overnight. But despite the necessary suspension of face-to-face services, community spirit has fought back – and improvised. With fantastic new Covid-19 support groups being set up in most areas to localise help with shopping and prescriptions, many of the established voluntary groups have also revamped their offer through both online and telephone contact.
Camberley Care for example was forced to cease its neighbourhood driving service as a precautionary measure for its volunteers’ wellbeing but instead has organised its team to support all regular clients by ensuring they receive friendly chats each week and are linked up to Surrey Heath Prepared, the new Covid-19 hub across the borough.
Another inspirational story is Surrey Heath Age Concern which has similarly set up a support network for its regulars with their befrienders continuing to maintain contact with their clients over the phone with friendship and practical essentials. Staff are also working in partnership with Surrey Heath Prepared to combat loneliness through telephone befriending.
The Time to Talk befriending service that normally offers visits to anyone over 18 has adopted a similar strategy moving to telephone and online calls to keep in touch. Elaine Hawes, the Time to Talk manager, says: “I am really proud of our volunteer befrienders who have continued to support the people they usually visit with phone calls and text messages and with practical things such as collecting shopping and prescriptions. They have been such a source of support at a difficult time”.
In Lightwater the Lightwater Resilience Plan grew out of a merge between the already existing, successful LIVE group and Windlesham Parish Council. One of the group leaders Windsor Rackham said “We have pulled together over 300 volunteers to make contact with, and look after, all 2700 households in Lightwater with shopping, prescription collection, and helping to resolve all the many issues surrounding self-isolation and long periods of quarantining”. LRP have linked to Surrey Heath Prepared for the duration of the corvid-19 pandemic in order to access their food bank facility and the security checks on new volunteers, demonstrating the power of combining voluntary resources at this difficult time.
With Covid-10 support groups being overwhelmed by offers of volunteers we can only hope that after coronavirus is past, every cloud really does have a silver lining and this revived community spirit will carry on.