By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
#TorbayKind – read that hashtag and remember it, because it encapsulates what is happening across the Bay.
Two words, one hashtag, lots of emotion, not just one community but lots of communities showing amazing practicality and resolve to get through the current coronavirus crisis.
We knew our communities were strong but even we have been taken aback by the offers of help that have been flowing into our helpline – both on the phone and online at www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline.
All our staff are now taking it in turns to staff the telephone helpline – 01803 446022, which is open from 8 am to 8 pm (seven days a week) and our colleagues at Brixham Does Care are doing the same for their number 01802 857727 which is staffed from 9 am to 4.30 pm (Monday to Friday).
It isn’t easy.
Thankfully we have had nearly 400 people come forward to offer to help their neighbours with a host of tasks from collecting prescriptions to doing shopping, to walking the dog or by simply becoming phone befrienders and checking in with people who are not just self-isolating, but are as a result entirely alone.
We have also had more than 100 requests for help and we are working as quickly as we can to put people in touch with each other, normally based on where both parties live.
And then there are the calls from people, who are quite simply scared. They need a friendly voice, albeit at the end of a phone to talk through their anxiety and some of those calls are heart-breaking.
Mother’s Day was of course a case in point, the best laid plans were abandoned in favour of keeping our Mum’s safe and as well meaning and sensible as that was, there was more than one tear shed as a result.
Others worry that, at their time of need elderly relatives do not have the physical support and presence of their loved ones, because either self-isolation or geographical distance.
We know through our work with Ageing Well that a great many people retire here, leaving families and friends behind, which even in ‘normal’ times can lead to unintended loneliness and isolation.
The current crisis has exacerbated that in a Bay population that is nearly 50% over the age of 50 and one in four over the age of 65.
We cannot and we will not offer medical advice – that is for the 111 NHS service which is available both by phone and online, and we are aware that some people are struggling to get through to it, but all we can advise is to keep on trying.
We do not know how long this crisis will last, or how bad it will get and we do not yet know how much of society will be forced to stay in their own homes for the duration, but we do know that where we can help, we will.
Community and charitable organisations across the Bay are stepping up in a way that has never been seen before. They have always been there but have never had the recognition that they deserve.
This is their time.
A combination of determination within communities – big and small – alongside groups that organise and galvanise action are working with our local council, NHS and emergency services in ways that have never been seen before.
The worst is almost certainly still to come and it is as well to remember the words of Dickens ironically used in a recent TV advert: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Things will never be the same again, but as we are proving in Brixham, Paignton and Torquay and all the areas in between, the human spirit is ultimately a kind one and one that will help their neighbour in times of need.
We need to continue to work together and we need to imagine together. We are all in this together and because of that we really need to be #TorbayKind
If you need help or want to offer help please go to: www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline
Or call either 01803 446022 or BDC on 01803 857727