The Wokingham Paper

Charities across the borough continue to support community during coronavirus crisis

CHARITIES and organisations across the borough are working hard to support the community during the coronavirus crisis.

Those working together include the Wokingham Borough Community Hub, First Days Children’s Charity, Citizens Advice Wokingham, Link Visiting Scheme, Wokingham Foodbank, the Wokingham Volunteer Centre and Involve Community Services.

Bracknell’s MP James Sunderland praised the organizations in parliament last week: 
“Within Wokingham Borough, the hub at St Crispin’s Leisure Centre has been a beacon of community spirit and I’ve been privileged to deliver food myself to families who cannot venture out.

“So well done to everyone at the Wokingham Citizens Advice Bureau, Link, and all of the volunteers who have done so much.

“And in Bracknell many others have come together to support Healthwatch Bracknell Forest and involve Community services.

“Thank you to them and both Wokingham Borough Council and Bracknell Forest Council for underwriting this vital provision and for their fiscal responsibility.”

Mr Sunderland lauded individuals on the front line and expressed his condolences to the many who’ve lost loved ones:

“Given that so many people remain on the front line, I wish to pay my own tribute to key workers right across the U.K and beyond who continue to serve others.

“I also wish to pay my respects to the families and friends of those who’ve been so gravely affected.

“In my own constituency at Bracknell, I’ve been proud to witness the superb provision of life support to those in isolation.”

The Bracknell MP gave his views on how central government has addressed the crisis:

“As for central government, there has been a commendable and entirely conditioned based approach to the pandemic.

“The word unprecedented is often overplayed but it is quite true that there is no policy precedent for Covid-19 and the government has rightly needed to feel its way on medical and scientific advice.”

Mr Sunderland continued: “It is not down to the U.K government to regulate every aspect of people’s lives and nor is it for the media to seek definitive clarity on every permutation of what we can and cannot do.

“It is in fact for us, as individuals to follow the guidelines, maintain social distancing, respect others and hence prevent further loss of life.”

“Getting our children back into schools and our staff back into work is essential. Whilst many in the cabinet are conflicted it is our duty to keep people safe whilst we also ease lockdown and I believe social distancing remains the key.

“If people are given the personal responsibility to ensure that the virus does not spread then we will all be able to carry on with our lives as before.”

Over the last eight weeks, Citizens Advice have helped more than 1850 households through One Front Door, which signposts people in the appropriate direction to get the help they need. Of those households, over 540 are classed as extremely vulnerable.

The organisation, which has 85 volunteers working from home, offers guidance and support on a range of issues from benefit and employment enquiries to food and prescription requests.

Jake Morrison, the charity’s chief executive, is encouraging people to contact Citizens Advice if they are in need: “If you are at a financial cliff-edge, worried about getting into debt, reach out to us now, rather than waiting for it to get worse.”

Citizens Advice have also created a supermarket list — available on the website — detailing opening times, when the dedicated slots are for specific groups of people, limits on purchases, and more key information.

Anyone who needs support should contact Citizens Advice on 0300 330 1189 (entering 0118 978 7258 if prompted) Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm. Or visit and complete the online form.

Volunteer Centre

The Wokingham Volunteer Centre is helping vulnerable people get their prescriptions from pharmacies. With approximately 55 volunteers across the borough, the organisation is working hard to ensure clients receive their medication as quickly as possible. Staff report the centre is receiving around 20-25 requests a day and have delivered more than 680 prescriptions since they started.

Nick Fellows, chief officer at the Wokingham Volunteer Centre said: “We are looking to plan how we can bring back some of our other services, such as our gardening service. “Older and vulnerable people need their lawns mowed and their hedges cutting. We will continue to follow advice on social distancing.”

The centre is working together with Wokingham Borough Council and reports that most referrals come from Citizens Advice, with some from the council, The Link Visiting Scheme and others through self-referral.

For updates on specific roles that are needed, visit:

The Link Visiting Scheme

The charity is currently running a telephone buddy system offering social support and friendship over the phone, and is encouraging anyone who is feeling lonely to give them a call. The organisation currently has over 1900 people on their records for a fortnightly call and 315 on their telephone buddy system for calls two-three times a week.

Staff at the Link have said they will still need many telephone volunteers in the coming months — DBS checks are required.

Marjie Walker, manager at the Link said: “We’re keen for people to keep volunteering in the long-term, post crisis. We want to keep the volunteering momentum going.”

Volunteers making fortnightly welfare check calls have said how well organised the service is and praised individual staff members.

One volunteer said: “I have found Jo Mason, who I’ve communicated with throughout, incredibly responsive and supportive and that has been an enormous help, plus the weekly feedback has been really good – and the information for making the calls in the first place. I think the way the whole system has been organised is excellent, so well done!`’

Another said: “I’m enjoying the phone calls as it is clearly of benefit to the recipient and they feel reassured that they are cared for and that people are there to help them. “

Staff at the charity are coming up with alternative ways to help ease loneliness in the community. Various local groups have set up virtual gatherings online and Link is encouraging anyone who is feeling lonely to sign up to one and get involved.

If you are aware of an online group that welcomes newcomers, please contact the charity, details below.

The charity is in need of help with its Goody Bags, introduced to help cheer people up.

Anyone can nominate someone to receive a Goody Bag by visiting the Link website.

Donations can be delivered to the Wokingham Borough Community Hub in the outside bins at St Crispins Leisure Centre Monday to Saturday, 9am to 3pm and at Lower Earley, Twyford and Woodley libraries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10am and 12pm. They will then be safely distributed.

Suggested donations for older people include hand wash, hand cream, puzzle books, jigsaws, magazines, handwritten notes/letters, wool, colouring books, pencils, hamper style goodies and sweet treats.

And for families: Hamper style goodies, colouring books, pencils, jazzy pens, magazines, drawing paper, sketchbooks, sweet treats including gluten free and vegan treats, puzzle books, educational books and little games.

To refer someone for support or to apply to be a Link volunteer visit or call 0118 979 8019 on weekdays from 9am until 5pm.

Wokingham Community Hub

The Wokingham Community Response’s distribution hub, which is run by First Days Children’s Charity, has fed more than 2,300 people, making 3239 deliveries to 857 households over the last eight weeks. They have 446 households on their repeat delivery books, with 165 staff and volunteers working six days a week on this service.

Based at St Crispins Leisure Centre, London Road, the hub is taking donations of both fresh and non-perishable food, toiletries and other living essentials and delivering them to people unable to leave their homes.

Staff report they are currently running low on cat and dog food, hand soap, washing up liquid, tinned vegetables, cereal/porridge, pasta, rice, baby milk, nappies — especially sizes 5/6/7, crisps, snacks and special dietary requirement foods such as gluten free and vegan foods. Any food donated must be unopened.

Donations can be left in boxes outside St Crispins Leisure Centre, Monday to Saturday between 9am and 3pm and at Lower Earley, Twyford and Woodley libraries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10am and 12pm.

To contribute financially to the response visit the Justgiving page:

All money raised will go to fund food parcels and any funds left over once the food hub has closed will be distributed to the voluntary sector organisations involved in this combined response.

For more information and the latest updates visit:

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