‘Home, but not alone’ – How you can support people in Suffolk in the months ahead

The Good Neighbour Scheme volunteers in Hollesley, Boyton and Shingle Street Picture: TREVOR CONNICK

The Good Neighbour Scheme volunteers in Hollesley, Boyton and Shingle Street Picture: TREVOR CONNICK - Credit: Archant

There are a number of ways you can help in Suffolk during this crisis – including registering as a volunteer, and making contact with an immediate neighbour. Here’s how you can get involved.

Acton committee members of the Good Neighbour Scheme Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD

Acton committee members of the Good Neighbour Scheme Picture: MICHAEL STEWARD - Credit: Archant

There have already been some amazing acts of kindness as the coronavirus crisis deepens – but today we are calling for more people to step forward.

This newspaper is teaming up with key organisations in Suffolk to help mobilise a huge army of volunteers who will be so desperately needed in the weeks and months ahead.

Our ‘Home, but not alone’ campaign aims to ensure those people left isolated for up to 12 weeks still get the support, companionship and practical help they need.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has signalled this unprecedented three-month isolation period could begin as soon as this weekend, in a bid to stop the virus spreading.

The Good Neighbour Schemes run in Rendlesham and Snape. Dave Moore is pictured centre. Picture: SALL

The Good Neighbour Schemes run in Rendlesham and Snape. Dave Moore is pictured centre. Picture: SALLY CONNICK - Credit: Archant

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We’ve teamed up with Suffolk County Council, Community Action Suffolk, Suffolk Community Foundation and the Suffolk Association of Local Councils to launch this campaign.

We want to build on the existing networks in the county, encourage more people to sign up as volunteers, and develop their own community schemes – helping people with everyday tasks.

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This will be a developing campaign, led by the local experts, and will respond to the areas of greatest need. This newspaper pledges to do it all it can to help.

We will also look at fundraising in the weeks ahead, to support the groups carrying out such vital work during this crisis and who themselves may need financial help.

Be a good neighbour - and link up with neighbours you already know

Christine Abraham, chief executive at Community Action Suffolk, already oversees a host of Good Neighbour Schemes, where volunteers help with everyday tasks.

She said: “It’s great to see such a response from so many people across the community wanting to help their neighbours. We really are seeing people prepared to give of themselves, which is so heartening. The top priority has to be keeping everyone safe.

“That means ensuring that the people we are supporting, who are isolating and vulnerable, can trust the help that’s on offer.

“We encourage Suffolk residents to make contact with their immediate neighbours to let them know that they can help with a bit of shopping or a chat over the phone if self-isolating. We suggest to keep to neighbours who will recognise you and trust your offer is genuine.”

She added: “As well as being neighbourly, we are encouraging people to go a step further and volunteer in their community.

“Suffolk community groups and charities have seen their volunteering force affected as people start to self-isolate.

“The volunteering portal Volunteer Suffolk will be updated over the coming weeks to show where there are groups looking for volunteers even if it is in a temporary capacity during the Covid-19 crises.

“We are supporting the network of Suffolk Good Neighbour Schemes to respond to the crises to ensure they are sustainable and can cope with demand as well as supporting new groups to set up.”

To register as a volunteer, visit this website.

‘Staying at home doesn’t mean we need to feel alone’

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council leader, said he hoped Suffolk’s community spirit would shine through during the coming weeks.

He added: “Discussions are taking place with community co-ordination organisations, such as Community Action Suffolk, about support for communities at this worrying time.

“I am aware of a number of local arrangements that are developing, whereby communities are building local volunteer capacity via Facebook and WhatsApp groups, to carry out food deliveries, walk dogs and simply check-in on people.

“I would encourage people to follow the national guidance on hygiene, but local arrangements are to be welcomed and supported.

“The prospect of isolation or staying at home, doesn’t mean we need to feel alone or cut off.”

Keep up to date with Suffolk coronavirus updates in our Facebook group

The third sector in Suffolk responds

Stephen Singleton, chief executive of Suffolk Community Foundation, said: “We are as always, inspired by how many phone calls we are receiving from charities and community groups wanting to step up and help with the major challenges we are all facing.

“It is impressive how so many are already looking at alternative services and new ways of working to support their communities and the most vulnerable in Suffolk.

“Against this, as a funder we are constantly reviewing the way we operate so that together we can tackle this enormous challenge. This will inevitably mean that we will all need to focus much more on raise new funding to support this vital activity.”

Meanwhile, Sally Longmate, CEO from Suffolk Association of Local Councils, said: “These increasingly tough measures and restrictions on the activity of all citizens is resulting in some implementing practical ways to help, including the provision of food and organising regular contact with those vulnerable groups as a result of increasing isolation.

“We will be working in partnership to ensure good coordination and communication to help our communities get the necessary support in these unprecedented circumstances.”

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