Children in Staple Hill and Mangotsfield in South Gloucestershire have made pictures and messages for residents who are shielding.
The initiative is a development of a volunteer programme organised by Staple Hill and Mangotsfield councillors, Katie Cooper, Ian Boulton and Michael Bell, and Clive Heath of the Mangotsfield Residents Association, to support vulnerable residents who are shielding from Covid-19. Since March 19th councillors have been coordinating local volunteers to pick up medical prescriptions, distribute food parcels, do food shopping and walk residents’ dogs.
As the lock down has continued volunteers have also been providing simple psychological support, particularly by making regular phone calls to check up on residents and provide some human contact. The children’s art scheme developed from this as it became apparent that many people were shielding alone and were beginning to feel very lonely. Children of volunteers, friends and neighbours have produced a range of pictures and messages that have been distributed with shopping, medicines and by dog walkers.
Councillor Katie Cooper said: “We began the volunteer scheme in March, as we felt local councillors had a responsibility to ensure that help was properly coordinated and vulnerable residents could feel confident that they could ask for assistance. With the help of the volunteers every household received a leaflet letting them know where to turn to if they needed support. The response was immediate and the volunteers have been really busy – shopping, delivering food parcels, collecting prescriptions and walking dogs.”
“We started the phone call scheme to check if residents were okay if we hadn’t heard from them,” added Cllr. Cooper. “Volunteers became phone buddies, calling people up for a chat a couple of times a week. That simple act can make all the difference when you are isolating alone. Last week it became clear that the isolation was really beginning to get some people down. We wanted a way to raise a smile and let people know they aren’t alone. What’s better than a piece of child’s art to cheer someone up.”
Yvonne, a Staple Hill resident, said “I don’t know what I would have done the last few weeks without the volunteers. They have been a real life line for me. They come everyday and help me with walking the dog and other things I can’t do whilst isolating. My dog would be really suffering without them.”
The councillors have been overwhelmed by the community support received since lock down began. Over 100 local people have joined the scheme as volunteers since it began and more than 300 residents shielding at home have been provided with support.
“We have such wonderful volunteers that we can really make sure that our residents are properly supported through this crisis. This brings us all a great sense of pride and comfort,” said Cllr. Cooper.
Staple Hill and Mangotsfield Covid 19 Support Group
The Staple Hill and Mangotsfield Councillors response to the Covid 19 lockdown started early in the present crisis when only those with underlying health conditions were required to isolate. It is a local initiative and not connected to the Government NHS volunteer support scheme. It is hoped, once this scheme is fully up and running, that it will handle jobs such as prescription runs.
Councillors recruited volunteers through the Staple Hill and Mangotsfield Residents Facebook group, the Mangotsfield Residents Association and through a leaflet campaign. All volunteers are required to complete a registration form. We have strict guidelines for residents and volunteers to keep them safe: volunteers do not enter residents’ houses and provide receipts before any cash changes hands for shopping or prescriptions. We felt strongly that as Councillors it was our role as community leaders to provide this service , both to support residents and to ensure that they would not be vulnerable to fraudsters who sadly see situations like this as opportunities.
We have seen an unprecedented growth in demand on our emergency food cupboard, and have extended emergency food cupboard donations. Food parcels are now managed from the following locations: the Staple Hill Hub, the Salvation Army Staple Hill, and the Red Lion Pub, Mangotsfield.
All costs of the Covid 19 service are being met by community donations, via the Staple Hill Hub.
Councillor Katie Cooper