Volunteers and community groups key to getting help to those in self-isolation

New dedicated phone lines are being setup across the county to allow vulnerable members of the community to request help from their council.

Southend, Basildon and Thurrock councils have all launched dedicated phone lines and websites to coincide with new community hubs that are centred around working with volunteers willing to step in and help those in need.

The new ways of contacting the councils will allow resident who are in self-isolation or struggling to get out of their homes to get access to food and medication.

The community hubs will put social care council workers, contact centres and other council departments in contact with volunteers so they know who needs help and where.

The Southend initiative is called Southend Coronavirus Action and is centred around a Facebook page where volunteers can register their interest in helping to shop for people in their community.

The group is also asking businesses to come forward to offer their own way of providing support.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “Although this is a very strange and difficult time for all of us, it is clear that many people in our borough want to do something to help others.

“It is heartening to see so many people already liking and sharing this Facebook page, and signing up through the online forms, to offer their services.”

In Basildon, the council has launched the Community Hub. Much like Southend, this is focussed on coordinating volunteers who are able to deliver food and medication to those in self-isolation.

Basildon Council’s chief executive, Scott Logan, said: “This Community Hub will coordinate all of the activity across Basildon borough to make sure the right people get the right help at the right time.

“We will work with our partners in the public, voluntary and private sectors, along with people who express an interest in being volunteers, to get support to people.

“This will focus primarily on trying to help people unable to access groceries and other essential supplies, such as medication, but we are also considering what we can do to help people who feel socially isolated at this time.”

Mr Logan further explained the council has launched a Business Hub that will work with the business community to help them “access the various offers of support from central government” and from the council itself.

Thurrock Council’s Coronavirus Community Action group is placing the priority on helping residents who have been contacted by Government and Public Health England to say they are at very high risk of severe illness the virus and must self-isolate for 12 weeks.

The leader of the council, Councillor Rob Gledhill, said: “As the coming days and weeks become more difficult, self-isolation and access to help may be a source of worry for many of our residents. I urge residents who have received a text or letter from the NHS this week to sign up for support as soon as possible.

“Thurrock Coronavirus Community Action will be providing our most vulnerable residents with help to access food, medicines and social contact.”

Residents who are in need will be able to register with their relevant councils.

Basildon has two dedicated email addresses, one for residents in need and one for businesses. These are [email protected] and [email protected].

A dedicated phone line is also available by dialling 01268 533 333.

Southend Council residents can call 01702 212497 for the helpline open seven days a weeks, from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Information on how to contact Thurrock Council can be found at: www.thurrock.gov.uk/coronavirus-action.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter