South Gloucestershire Council has issued a range of information and guidance materials to support the increasing number of informal and formal community groups that are springing up in neighbourhoods across the district to help those having to self-isolate.
The Community Aid South Glos pack has been distributed via town and parish councils, who play a key role at the heart of their communities and are already helping to coordinate local responses.
The council says it is also seeing groups as small as residents in the same street starting a WhatsApp group so that neighbours can share offers of help and requests for assistance with shopping or picking up prescriptions for those who are required to self-isolate during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The pack is introduced with a note of thanks from council leader, Cllr Toby Savage and chief executive, Dave Perry, and sets out the authority’s intention to support these community focused efforts by providing information and guidance as well as helping promoting the groups so that volunteers and those in need know who to contact in their area.
The pack includes template documents that groups may find helpful in logging the offers of help and understanding the skills on offer from the public, meaning that the right help can be directed to the people who need it. There are a series of links to trusted sources of accurate and up-to-date information in a fast-changing situation, helping them to avoid misleading and unhelpful rumours causing undue worry, or even harm.
The pack is also available online here: www.southglos.gov.uk/communityaid
The council says it wants to support connecting the individuals who would like to help those in need, by promoting the groups and arrangements being put in place. It also asks residents to let them know about groups already set or in the process of being established, so that it can provide a directory of the help available.
Please email CommunityAid@southglos.gov.uk with details of groups including:
- Name of group
- The area the group operates in
- Contact details, including the main contact person for the group (if known)
- How to contact the group if you want to volunteer
- How to contact the group if you need help.
While these street-level groups are taking care of their neighbours, the council says that it is working closely with a range of groups and existing service providers to ensure more specialist services can still be delivered, by deploying trained and qualified staff to the individuals and communities where they are most needed.
A council spokesperson said:
“While COVID-19 is expected to affect huge numbers of people in the coming weeks and months, we are working to ensure that statutory services continue to be delivered as much as possible, even if we need to find new ways to do that in light of public health advice on social distancing and where significant numbers of staff may be forced to self-isolate.”
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Toby Savage, said:
“This outbreak is absolutely unprecedented and will impact in some way on almost all aspects of almost all of our lives. It is vital that we follow the expert advice, but as restrictive as that may sometimes feel, I am so delighted to see our communities responding with displays of open-hearted generosity to each other. Self-isolation can have a greater impact for those who already feel lonely, which is why it is so heart-warming to see communities rallying round during the outbreak to ensure that no one is forgotten.
“I want to express my thanks to everyone for the way they are facing this challenge already and for the efforts that we know will have to come in the future.
“As a council, we have strong resilience and business continuity plans in place, which we are working through tirelessly to ensure we adapt our services to the situation and respond to the advice that comes from central government and public health officials. Our own public health teams are at the heart of that, but right across the authority, our teams in the education department are supporting all South Gloucestershire schools; while those in the rest of the Children, Adults and Health Department are working to ensure that we can continue to deliver the help our most vulnerable residents need, now more than ever.
“This is a changing picture and we are likely to have to find new ways to deliver some services as we all adapt to the restrictions in place. Already we have seen the decision taken to close schools and libraries and there will be other services that we simply cannot sustain at times when we need to focus our efforts on protecting those in the greatest need.
“We have set up a section on our website so that residents can see what services are affected and how and we will keep the information on our COVID-19 response web pages updated as the quickest and easiest way of getting the messages out there in a fast-changing environment.
“To those who are working so hard in and outside of the council to keep us all fed, the lights on and the vulnerable cared for, we thank you. For those who need to self-isolate for a time, my pledge to you is that we are there with you, as are your neighbours. And for those who are responding with such kindness in these difficult times, we will be forever grateful.”
For the latest on how South Gloucestershire Council is responding to the COVID-19 situation,visit www.southglos.gov.uk/coronavirus for information on service disruptions, the Community Aid South Glos guide and the forthcoming directory that will help individuals connect to the community groups in their area.
The South Glos Post has its own comprehensive information page: Coranvirus (COVID-19)