The Community Helpline which was set up at the start of the current COVID-19 lockdown has now helped thousands of Thanet residents in need and has been inundated with offers of help from volunteers.
- Over 2,150 people have called the council’s Helpline or emailed the Community Support email. Referrals are made in approximately 10 minutes and contact made in 48 hours
- Over 150 local residents have been put in contact with Kent Coast Volunteering, who match volunteers to local voluntary and community organisations
The helpline was established to offer a single point of contact for people in the community that required help but are not on the central Government’s list of ‘shielded’ or extremely vulnerable people. It offers support to those who may not have previously needed help but because of existing health conditions, or age have been asked to stay at home and take particular care.
Working with partners
The council is working in partnership with established local organisations, including Salvation Army, Global Generation Church, Kent Coast Volunteering, AgeUK and Town and Parish Councils to lead a coordinated response. The system ensures that people in need are directly connected to those best able to help them either due to proximity or specialist skills.
Anyone who doesn’t have a support network of family or friends and is now deemed vulnerable can contact the dedicated helpline (01843 577 330) to request assistance. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm, including weekends and bank holidays. It is staffed by officers from the council’s Community Support team as well as a number of others who have volunteered to be redeployed to provide this invaluable service. The work being done by staff members to provide support and reassurance to people who may be feeling stressed or anxious at this time, is essential.
Cllr Helen Whitehead, Deputy Leader of Thanet District Council said:
“There has never been a greater need to support the most vulnerable people in the community, and it’s important for people to remember that you don’t have to be on the shielded list to approach us for help. We are here to help anyone who finds that they are in a vulnerable position, and we encourage anyone in need to contact us.
“By acting as a central contact point we are making sure we’re able to see the whole picture and direct help to where it is most needed and to the right areas. Our team might connect a caller to an NHS volunteer to pick up a prescription, or to a local voluntary organisation who can pick up some shopping or make a referral to a befriending service so they have someone to talk to. This is a challenging time for everyone and it’s important to remember that it’s absolutely normal if you feel isolated – we encourage you to reach out if you feel you need support.
“I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has put themself forward to help in some way, from our local residents – many of whom contacted us with offers of their time, or donations of food and supplies – to the many staff at the council who are taking calls in their homes and keeping the phone line going, and the officers and councillors out collecting donations and making checks on residents. The levels of generosity and can-do spirit being shown are phenomenal.
“None of this would be possible without all of our partner organisations and the people working together behind the scenes to make life a little bit easier for those who are most vulnerable and dependent on help from others at this time. Thank you all. It’s at times like this we show just what an incredible community we are.”
The response from people receiving help has been overwhelmingly positive with many residents getting back in touch to express their gratitude for the assistance provided:
- “Just wanted to pass on my thanks to the person who called my step sister… She was so impressed with the kindness of the person she spoke to… You are all doing a fantastic job.”
- “Thank you sooo much for the wonderful food box. Mum and I are extremely grateful. Many thanks.”
- “Thanks to TDC everything is sorted with food deliveries and medication.”
Support for the shielded
In addition to the community helpline, staff from the Multi-Agency Task Force are proactively contacting those on the list of ‘shielded’ or extremely vulnerable people. Contact is made to assess their welfare, understand any needs they may have and to inform them of the Thanet Helpline number.
- Over 97% of people on the extremely vulnerable (shielded) list have been called to date (List is over 4,300 individuals)
- 325 home visits have been made to check that the most vulnerable people are safe and well
Donating food and other items
With so many people shopping online there aren’t as many opportunities to donate food or toiletries at the supermarket. Anyone with food or toiletries to donate can contact the helpline 01843 577330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and someone will get in touch to arrange collection. Pick ups take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Items are then delivered to the organisations we are partnered with for onward distribution to the people they’re helping.
Thanet District Council is also part of the Kent Resilience Forum, a county-wide multi-agency group working collaboratively to ensure a coherent and comprehensive approach to dealing with this situation.