Local champions in south Suffolk support vulnerable in lockdown

Cabinet member Derek Davis thanked the community champions for their work. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Cabinet member Derek Davis thanked the community champions for their work. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Babergh council has recognised the work of community champions who have stepped in to help those who are having to self-isolate or who are struggling to cope with life in lockdown.

It is highlighting the work of individuals and groups who have stepped up to run errands, provide meals, be a source of companionship, and more.

The Glemsford Angels “didn’t want any resident to feel alone” so they have been regularly checking in with vulnerable people already known to them. The group also arranged for a letter offering help to be hand delivered to 1,700 residents in the village, resulting in further requests for assistance, which they have been able to fulfil.

Chair Fiona Dinning-Cole said: “Wonderful kindness is taking place in our village. Sarah Meston is producing meals from the Black Lion Pub with help from Landlord Steve and working with Rev Patrick Prigg to support the vulnerable in the village who wouldn’t otherwise be getting hot meals. Well done all concerned and in particular ‘hooray’ to you Sarah.”

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Lavenham’s Good Neighbour Scheme is another group providing a lifeline to Babergh villages. More than 100 volunteers came forward to help villagers who are isolating or alone with shopping, prescription collections and other requests.

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Chair Doreen Twitchett said: “I have been involved with Good Neighbours since it launched in March 2014, so it was a natural progression to get all those in the village who volunteered at the beginning of this crisis, to join a scheme already proven to work. I want to thank all our volunteers who regularly go the extra mile to help.”

Getting food to those who need it most has also been a priority for Bildeston Coronavirus Support Group, who have set up a foodbank, taking self-referrals from local people who find themselves in need.

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Founder and co-ordinator Shaun Moffat said: “We wanted to create a non-judgemental and strictly confidential facility to lighten the burden on individuals and families who are feeling the financial effects of this crisis. The lockdown has left many communities such as Bildeston at risk of being cut off, but fortunately we are a creative and resilient village.”

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These communities are not alone in their desire to help – more than 1,200 volunteers have already signed up to the Home But Not Alone scheme, which was launched last month by the Suffolk Collaborative Communities Covid-19 Board.

The initiative matches volunteers to callers of a helpline for our county’s most vulnerable, which is free to call on 0800 876 6926 and is staffed seven days a week, from 09:00 to 17:00.

This hotline is for people without family or a friendship network to support them, and who require emergency assistance with care needs (including food), loneliness, or connecting with community volunteers.

Although still in its early stages, the scheme has already proved to be a lifeline, with vulnerable residents receiving delivery of shopping and prescriptions from volunteers.

Babergh council is offering grants of up to £2,500 to support groups with increased costs incurred as a cost of coronavirus, including general running costs, ongoing staff costs, volunteer expenses, utility bills and purchasing of food. Larger requests for funding will be considered under exceptional circumstances.

Now, in addition to offering financial support, and with so many different groups to recognise, the council is launching a #communitychampions social media campaign to encourage community groups to highlight what they are doing. To take part in the campaign, tag @BaberghDistrict in your social media posts so that these can be shared.

Derek Davis, Cabinet Member for Communities at Babergh said: “During social distancing, we can remain united through kindness and looking out for one another.

“I’d like to thank communities in Babergh who have demonstrated immense strength and resilience at a time of national emergency. They are doing an amazing job and we want to recognise their efforts.

“We still need help to continue this invaluable support and I’d urge anyone wishing to volunteer, as well as any existing community groups, to register on the Tribe Volunteer app, which is available on both Apple and Android. This will enable our communities team to identify where resource is and if there are any gaps in the system, ensuring we can help those who need it most.”

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