The Wokingham Paper

GIVE HELP, GET HELP: Charities unite to coordinate borough's volunteers during coronavirus crisis

Emma Cantrell, founder of First Days is preparing emergency packs for vulnerable families who are self-isolating with young children and babies.
Emma Cantrell, founder of First Days is preparing emergency packs for vulnerable families who are self-isolating with young children and babies.

TO GET HELP: Call 0300 330 1189

TO HELP OTHERS: Call 0118 977 0749

CHARITIES across the borough are coordinating a united front to help residents self-isolating due to the coronavirus.

Earlier this week, representatives from more than 15 local charities created a plan to help the most vulnerable across the borough.

Working together, Citizens Advice Wokingham are acting as the ‘One Front Door’ for other charities, explained their CEO, Jake Morrison.

Residents who need help and support due to self-isolation are urged to ring Citizens Advice, where their needs will be assessed, and they will be signposted to the appropriate charity for support.

The group’s main concern is access to essential items, identified under four categories; food and drink, medication and prescriptions, toiletries and energy cards and keys.

They want to ensure that residents across the borough who are self-isolating have access to these items throughout the coming months.

During the last week, community support groups have been set-up across the UK, including local branches of Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK.

Currently, there are four Mutual Aid UK groups in the borough, with more than _ members on Facebook.

Phil Cook, general manager of Involve Community Services — a charity that helps residents find the right support from local charities and community groups — believes it is essential to consider individual safety when coordinating a response.

He said: “We want to urge and encourage people to sign up to one scheme, we encourage people to come on board with us, and help combat this [virus] as best as possible.”

Borough residents who want to help their neighbours are encouraged to print this image and fill it out, before delivering it though neighbours’ post boxes.

The group is asking members of the public who would like to volunteer their services to sign up via the Wokingham Volunteer Centre.

From there, their individual skill-set will be assessed, and assigned to a specific role to help the community.

Mr Cook explained how the system being set up will help keep the most vulnerable safe, in a time of uncertainty and change.

“The key benefit of this system is that it offers a level of safety and safeguarding support,” he said.

Volunteers wanting to help will be asked to provide a reference and ideally, a DBS check.

Debbie Morrison, manager of CLASP Wokingham — a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities — is also concerned about safeguarding charity members.

She said: “While there are lots of people offering help, there are also lots of not nice people out there that may take advantage of people. We need to protect our members.

“Charity members and volunteers are already checked, so they can start helping in all areas, as soon as possible.”

Leader of the borough council, John Halsall urged residents receiving and volunteering help to use official channels.

“You have to be careful who you trust, there are scamers rolling up to households and offering help,” he said. “We have a duty of care to our residents.”

He said that those in need of help should contact Citizen’s Advice to access the ‘One Front Door’ service.

Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, wellbeing and adult services at WBC, said: “We are very conscious of the need to support the elderly and vulnerable in our community over the next months whilst the UK takes preventative measures over the coronavirus.

“To this end we held a meeting with a number of voluntary groups yesterday to design a system of providing the best support possible to our community.

“We are working through the design of this plan and hope to launch it later this week. We will be launching a campaign in the next few days looking for volunteers from the Wokingham community to help us support our older and more vulnerable residents and would appeal to all residents who are able to get involved and help our community fight the coronavirus.

“Please remember that if you do decide to call on elderly neighbours you should put a note through their door asking how you can help rather than knocking on the door.”

How to get help:

  • To access the ‘One Front Door’ service, call Citizen’s Advice on 0300 330 1189. Those calling from a mobile phone should enter if prompted: 0118 978 7258

How to help others:

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