CHARITIES and organisations across the borough remain strong in their collaborative efforts to support the community during the coronavirus crisis.
Over the last seven weeks, Citizens Advice have helped more than 1,700 households through One Front Door, which signposts people in the appropriate direction to get the help they need. Of those households, over 459 are classed as extremely vulnerable.
The organisation 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.
The service recently worked with Wokingham United Charities and the Woodley Covid-19 group to help a shielded couple fund and gain access to a new specialised bed.
Amanda Dawn Cawthorne, from Woodley said: “We made the initial call a couple of weeks ago, we asked about getting a grant for a new bed. My partner has terminal cancer, he needed something more comfortable to sleep on. They looked into it for us.
“Within a week of speaking to them we got a grant from Wokingham United Charities. After another week it had all been delivered.
“A lady came round first to do an assessment of what tools were needed to put up the bed.
Two volunteers then came round from the Woodley Covid-19 group, in full PPE and assembled it all. They were just brilliant.”
The couple said they were grateful to all the organisations.
“Thank you so much to everyone involved,” said Mrs Cawthorne. “It was a fantastic service and we’re extremely grateful. Sometimes my partner has to spend a lot of time in bed and it’ll be nice to get a good night’s sleep.”
The charity is continuing to work with the council to map out their plans to support people when lock-down is lifted.
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.
Wokingham 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 600 prescriptions since they started.
One volunteer said: “The prescription collections and deliveries have gone well so far and people are so grateful for what we are all doing. It’s such a good service for those people who are unable to go outside.”
Volunteers are currently doing between one and four drives a week and are able to respond to demand efficiently.
And one client has said how thankful they are for the help.
They said: “The prescription service is a brilliant service. I could not recommend it highly enough. I do not know what we would have done without it.”
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: wokinghamvolunteercentre.org.uk
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. Link is still experiencing an increase in calls and will need more telephone volunteers in the coming weeks — although DBS checks are required.
The organisation currently has over 2,000 people on their records for a fortnightly call and over 300 on their telephone buddy system for calls two-three times a week.
Volunteers making fortnightly welfare check calls have said how rewarding it is connecting with others.
One volunteer said: “It’s always daunting phoning someone I don’t know. By the second phone call, however, the people feel familiar and it’s really nice catching up with them again. And the responses have been very positive, if sometimes incredibly poignant speaking to an elderly woman caring for her terminally ill husband, for example.”
Another said: “I have felt supported and valued as a member of the volunteer team. I am really enjoying supporting residents in this way and it has made me think about volunteering on a longer term basis.”
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.
Anyone who knows of online groups welcoming newcomers is encouraged to contact The Link on their website www.linkvisiting.org or call 0118 979 801.
This line can also be used to refer someone for support or to apply to be a volunteer.
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.
Wokingham Community Hub
The Wokingham Community Response’s distribution hub, which is run by First Days Children’s Charity in partnership with Wokingham Borough Council and several local charities, has fed more than 2,300 people, making 2,787 deliveries to 820 households over the last seven weeks.
And they have approximately 470 households on their repeat delivery books.
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, tinned fruit and vegetables, soup, baked beans, cereal/porridge, pasta, rice, nappies — especially sizes 5/6/7, biscuits, 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 noon.
To contribute financially to the response visit the Justgiving page: www.justgiving.com/campaign/WokinghamBoroughCV19
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 search for the Wokingham Community Hub on Facebook.
And the Wokingham Lions Club, who have raised more than £2,400 for the Wokingham Community distribution hub, hold a virtual pub quiz every Thursday at 8pm, more information on the Wokingham Lions Facebook page.