Community support to stay available until end of July

James Sunderland
Bracknell MP James Sunderland with food parcels ready to go from the Wokingham Community Hub

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

Those working with Wokingham Borough Council on the One Front Door initiative 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.

Over the last nine weeks, Citizens Advice have helped more than 1914 households through One Front Door, which signposts people in the appropriate direction to get the help they need.

Of those households, over 568 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 and emphasises that their core service is still available, as well as One Front Door.

The charity is continuing to work with the council to map out their plans to support people when lockdown is lifted.

Mr Morrison said: “We’re very grateful for the continued support to deliver our service.

“The council has agreed One Front Door will be available till at least the end of July.”

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.

And Wokingham borough council have compiled a list of meal delivery services, also available on the Citizens Advice website.

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 citizensadvicewokingham.org.uk/coronavirus/ 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 15 requests a day and have delivered more than 700 prescriptions since they started.

Volunteers are currently doing between one and three drives a week and are able to respond to demand efficiently.

In addition to delivering prescriptions, the volunteer centre is discussing plans to re-introduce other ways of supporting shielded individuals.

Helena Badger, volunteer development coordinator at The Wokingham Volunteer Centre said: “Our gardening service is starting back next week, we have safeguards in place and everything will be with social distancing.

“We’re also in discussions about starting up our transport scheme again.”

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: www. wokinghamvolunteercentre. org.uk

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 more than 1,900 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.

Volunteers making fortnightly welfare check calls have said how much they’re enjoying supporting shielded individuals at this time.

One volunteer said: “My calls have been very straight-forward. It’s nice to know I’m able to contribute in some practical way.

“There is a comforting normality in speaking to other people about how they are and general comments about the situation.”

Another said: “I’m really enjoying the phone calls I make each week. All the people I call seem genuinely pleased to hear from me and really appreciate that someone is there for them whilst they’re isolating.”

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.

The Wellbeing Goody Bags are being put together for vulnerable older people and families who seek support during social isolation. People can support their community by putting together a bag of goodies and treats in supermarket bags for life.

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 noon.

They will then be safely distributed.

The charity asks that those donating make up a full pack and label the type of household it’s most suitable for, such as a family, lone person, older couple, teen household or new baby.

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 tovolunteer visit www.linkvisiting.org or call 0118 979 8019 on weekdays from 9am until 5pm.

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 3,636 deliveries to 857 households over the last nine weeks.

They have 438 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, tinned meat and fish, tinned dessert (custard, jelly, rice pudding), cereal and spreads such as jam and marmalade – the hub cannot accept homemade spreads.

Any food donated must be unopened.

The hub is currently in need of the following for their Wellbeing Goody Bags: Puzzle books, puzzles, unopened hand creams and magazines. Due to high volumes, the hub cannot currently accept books or DVDs.

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 noon..

To contribute financially to the response visit the Justgiving page:

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