The new normal? What’s next?

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

WEEK seven of the lockdown and some things are beginning to fall into their own rhythm with all sorts of new ‘normals’.

Frequency of calls to the Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline is slowing a little,  though they still run to around 140 a day and the needs of callers can still be urgent and immediate.

The majority of people appear to be coping well either by themselves or with the help of neighbours, friends and relatives – each looking out for each other whether in person (two metres apart) or on the phone.

But for others the ongoing isolation is taking its toll and calls to the helpline, that remains staffed from eight in the morning until eight at night, seven days a week, are becoming longer and more complex.

Such is the expertise available to us from key organisations in the Bay such as Age UK Torbay, Brixham Does Care, Healthwatch Torbay and Citizen’s Advice Torbay that we have been able to deal with everything that has been thrown at us thus far.

We were able to mobilise community builders and wellbeing coordinators to make sure no-one went hungry, and no-one was left without potentially life-saving drugs and to date, our rapid response teams have reacted to more than 1,000 emergencies.

And now with an army of volunteers swelling our ranks we are preparing to step back a little and take stock of what is needed next, and what will be needed as we go forward. And the first question has to be go forward into what?

What will the coming months look like? What will define our ‘new normal’? None of us know and so we have to prepare for lots of different scenarios, some of them extreme affecting tens of thousands of people, some less so involving fewer.

Our communities across the Bay have shown their strength and resilience during this crisis with people volunteering from day one, long before we knew the scale and seriousness of what we were dealing with.

Every day, they are out there and we have managed to match up those in need with those offering help. There are now 757 people matched to people who need help going forward.

In a nutshell between our teams and our volunteers we are helping people in their times of need, every day of the week and we are proud to be able to do so.

More volunteers mean that our community builders can begin to step back from the frontline from being the emergency response team and go back to doing what they have always done – helping our communities be the best that they can.

Already they have never been more needed and as we emerge from this crisis, we are going to need them and their knowledge of communities in the Bay more than ever.

They will be on hand to pull people ever closer together, to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society continue to enjoy the support of their neighbours and in many cases, newly made friends.

We have 50 projects across the Bay where neighbours have organised themselves into support groups – to contact each other, run errands for each other and just as importantly talk to each other and community builders will be in touch with them to see if there is any way that they can help.

Strong communities are going to be needed more in the coming weeks as people look for ways out of lockdown, not helped by mixed messages coming from various quarters and the easing of restrictions in certain areas, such as the reopening of B&Q.

We must not forget that whilst most people have been in isolation for seven weeks, the more cautious and the more vulnerable have been in lockdown for a full two months and the prospect of that being lifted any time soon are negligible.

Even when schools begin to reopen and people return to their places of work, there will be a great many who cannot rejoin their colleagues. When the time comes for pubs and restaurants to reopen, socialising for them will remain out of the question.

There are just short of 4,000 individuals in Torbay who are considered to be extremely vulnerable and have been shielded as a result. For them, the only real prospect of stepping out of their front doors is a vaccine.

We must never lose sight of them because they will continue to need our support – not just in practical ways, but by also making sure they remain safe from the virus, no matter how long that takes.