With more cases being reported daily, community leaders are concerned that self- isolators need support with day-to-day tasks such as shopping, prescription collections and dog walking.
Staff at Torbay Community Development Trust (TCDT), Ageing Well Torbay (AWT) and Brixham Does Care are working with voluntary groups across the Bay and have set up an emergency phone line for people in need of help because of illness or isolation and also for those that are prepared to offer help.
TCDT and Ageing Well are also on call to provide advice and guidance on the best ways to help and support people that are affected in partnership with the statutory services to help as demand increases..
Callers to the helpline who are offering support will be asked in what way they can help and will then be asked to provide a reference so that some necessary checks can be carried out. It is then hoped to be able to help put helpers in touch with those needing help for the duration.
Tracey Cabache, community development manager, said: “These are extraordinary times and communities are going to have to look after their own wherever possible.
“We can at least provide a central point where neighbours can coordinate their efforts and between us, we can help the most vulnerable.”
Ageing Well is already aware through their community builders that some people are self-isolating for fear of contracting the virus, particularly those that already have an underlying condition that would be exacerbated.
Some of them may not even have had the chance to tell their friends and neighbours what they were planning and may be in need of deliveries of top-up supplies.
Not everyone either has the will or the ability to stockpile – they might not be able to afford a big shop and even if they could, would never be able to carry the heavy bags home and may now have very limited supplies.
In Torbay nearly half the population is over the age of 50 with one in four over the age of 65, making many local people across the Bay more vulnerable than the average across the UK.
Nationally a campaign with the hashtag #viralkindness is gaining ground with postcards that neighbours can fill out offering help.
It then goes on to list the person’s name, phone number and a list of offers of help including picking up shopping, a friendly phone call, posting mail, urgent supplies.
But it has already come in for criticism for being open to fraudsters posing as good neighbours and people using it will have to remain vigilant and watch for their own safety. The TCDT/AWT scheme hopes to add a layer of checking to the system, but it is not foolproof, and Tracey stresses there has to be an element of trust.
“Hospital staff and doctors are doing all they can. Emergency services will require support and understanding, and so we all need to do our bit” she said.
“It is an unfortunate analogy, but we really must all invoke the wartime spirit. Large numbers of people are self-isolating either because they have been ill, or are trying to avoid becoming ill.
“Not everyone will have been able to stockpile enough food for the duration, and we will all have to rely on each other. Thankfully our communities are strong, and we can provide a focus for the great work that goes on within them.”
The phone line, which will be staffed 24/7, covers Torquay and Paignton. The number is 01803 446022. Brixham Does Care can be contacted directly on 01803 857727 (mon-fri 9am to 4.30pm).
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