Staff from across New Forest District Council have mobilised to create a vital new service providing food and support to those most in need, seven days a week. Together with partners in Hampshire County Council and Community First, the service is ensuring that vulnerable New Forest residents get the essential supplies and support they need while shielding from the coronavirus.
The New Forest Shielding Hub, a local response centre (LRC) set up at the end of March by New Forest District Council, is helping people in the district who need food, medicines or are feeling particularly isolated and have no family or friends available to support them.
New Forest residents needing support call the Hampshire Helpline on 0333 370 4000 to be referred to the local team.
The Council’s new team, redeployed from other council departments, responds to the needs of extremely vulnerable people in the district. In particular they help those with underlying health conditions who have been advised to take shielding measures and self-isolate, and are not able to get help from local friends, family or community groups set up to help during the coronavirus crisis.
Around fifteen council officers usually working within other departments, including elections, coastal management, parking enforcement, and health and leisure, have delivered over 100 food packages in their first two weeks of operation. They have identified 35 households whose needs aren't met by the standard Government food parcel, to receive regular weekly food parcels that meet their specific dietary needs. The new team manage referral calls, source, put together, and deliver bespoke food parcels to shielding households in need across the New Forest.
Rebecca Drummond, NFDC’s Elections and Business Improvement Service Manager, now leading the Council’s Shielding Hub said; “In a district of more than 76,000 households with a high proportion of older people, we know there are many people who are being advised to take shielding measures for protection from the coronavirus. Not all of them will have a local network of people to help them with the essential supplies they need.
“It’s really important that people know where to go for help and advice, to support themselves and their families during this crisis. We’ve got a dedicated team supporting residents and we urge those in need to please call for help.”
She added; “I couldn’t be more proud to be leading a team of people who would ordinarily be doing very different jobs to provide support for some of the most vulnerable in our community right now. Their unquestioning commitment to do whatever’s needed, seven days a week is making a real difference to those, who for various reasons, have no one else available to support them.”
Chloe, who normally works in Electoral Services, told us; ‘I have had many people tell me how grateful they are for what we are doing. I personally feel like it is such a privilege to be doing this work, knowing I am helping all these people in need of our help.’
One resident, who told us she’d been struggling to cope during this crisis, emailed the team; ‘I would like to say how very grateful I am for your very kind support. It gave me great comfort knowing I could turn to someone for help.’
Another resident who received help told us ‘I don’t know what I would have done without NFDC’s support through all of this, I am eternally grateful for your help through this time’
The team has been dealing with requests large and small, from essential food supplies for special dietary needs, to sanitary supplies. One shielding resident told us; ‘I have lived through a war so I have all my essentials like tea, coffee and sugar. I just need some toilet roll.’
Food packages are provided in monthly or weekly supplies, adapted to meet any special dietary requirements. A typical food package contains a selection of non perishable goods, such as pasta, rice and tins along with household items. Weekly boxes supplement this with some fresh food; bread, milk fruit and vegetables and cheese. The food packages are delivered straight to the doorstep by the team.
How does it work?
Residents in need of support contact the Hampshire Helpline on 0333 370 4000
They are contacted by the local New Forest team to discuss what they need, from advice and information, to food parcels, prescription collections or someone to talk to.
Depending on their needs, their request is carried out by the team at the Council’s Shielding Hub or community volunteers coordinated by Communities First.
Tim Houghton, CEO, Community First said; "We are proud and humbled by the way the voluntary sector in the New Forest has been mobilised and is pulling together to deliver the essential life saving support that vulnerable people need. We know this is a team effort. Community First colleagues have helped mobilise a whole army of volunteers who have worked tirelessly to help with getting food and medicines or sometimes just to provide a friendly voice on the phone for people who are alone. We’re grateful for the support and commitment of NFDC. It’s partnership working at its best and we're proud and pleased to be playing a vital part in helping our residents at this difficult time."
Anyone needing urgent assistance with essential food or household supplies, collection of medication, or who are at risk of loneliness can contact the Coronavirus Hampshire Helpline on 0333 370 4000, available seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.
Information on other community groups and resources available to help New Forest residents is available at www.newforest.gov.uk/coronaviruscommunity
Those who are helping friends and family should make sure they are being safe. The Government has issued useful advice and guidance on how to help people safely