Home But Not Alone calls exceed 12,000 in Covid-19 pandemic

Home But Not Alone has been supporting vulnerable people in Suffolk. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Home But Not Alone has been supporting vulnerable people in Suffolk. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk helpline formed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic has taken more than 12,000 calls from vulnerable people in the community.

Chrissie Geeson from Suffolk County Council said the support would not have been possible without the army of volunteers.

Chrissie Geeson from Suffolk County Council said the support would not have been possible without the army of volunteers. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

And the two biggest reasons for calls were for food and medicine for those who were unable to leave their homes.

Suffolk’s councils rallied together to form the Home But Not Alone helpline at the start of the pandemic to act as a single point of contact for those in need.

MORE: Home But Not Alone relaunched for second Covid-19 lockdownThat helpline wound down in August once demand dramatically dropped as restrictions eased, but was revived at the start of the second lockdown in November.

Latest data presented to Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee on Thursday morning indicated that from March to August it took 12,673 calls, while calls for the week ending November 18 was at 261.

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council Leader, said the scheme demonstrated the willingness of people in the county to help...

Matthew Hicks, Suffolk County Council Leader, said the scheme demonstrated the willingness of people in the county to help out. Picture: GREGG BROWN

For the initial six months, support with food shopping was the biggest reason for calls with more than 4,500, followed by help to get medicine with nearly 1,800 calls.


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Finance issues, isolation, mental health fears and social care needs were other common reasons for calls.

County council leader Matthew Hicks said: “I think it was really quite unique in the sense that in Suffolk very quickly all the local services came together to create a single telephone number point of contact, but also to recognise that in Suffolk there are many people that want to help each other.

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“The response was quite extraordinary.

Councillor Sarah Adams said volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic brought out the best of people in Suffolk. Picture...

Councillor Sarah Adams said volunteering during the Covid-19 pandemic brought out the best of people in Suffolk. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

“This was a vision that started off really centrally by government by asking county councils, districts and boroughs to work together to work together and help support the most vulnerable in society beyond those which were shielding, and a lot of it we were learning as we went – it had never been done before.”

Councillor Sarah Adams said it had “brought out the best in our communities, it‘s truly amazing”.

The council’s scrutiny committee assessed some of the problem areas with the support available, and put forward a series of recommendations for improvements such as more guidance for existing local emergency support groups that would normally deal with incidents like flooding, and communicating to those who have lasting power of attorney when supporting their loved ones.

MORE: App and phoneline launched to help vulnerable through Covid-19 in SuffolkAnother issue to emerge was how vulnerable people who were shielding could pay for their shopping when volunteers were doing it for them, as many villages did not have a bank for them to access cash and handing over debit cards was also an issue.

Chrissie Geeson, head of localities and partnerships at the county council and chairwoman of the Collaborative Communities Covid-19 Board, said: “Home But Not Alone service was there as a stopgap and a safety net for everything else that was happening across Suffolk at the time.

“We will always be eternally grateful to absolutely everybody in Suffolk who stood up and volunteered in their community, co-ordinated teams for volunteers, took calls at midnight, ran to the supermarkets and pharmacists.

“There is no chance that the local authorities and partners on our own would have been able to meet this huge demand that came about.”

The helpline is still available for people needing support, call 0800 876 6926 for help.

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