Long way to go until return to “normality”

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

Normal is a difficult word to define right now, except to say if your life is anywhere near normal, then you are in a tiny minority.

As lockdown restrictions lift, it has meant for some greater freedoms allowing more outdoor life and more socialising in higher numbers.

For others, it has brought closer the opportunity to return to work, albeit in an unfamiliar way, socially distanced from colleagues and customers alike.

Transport companies are even reintroducing the idea of holidays, and here in Torbay, we are eyeing the prospect with excitement and trepidation in equal measure.

Tourism and council chiefs are preparing to promote Torbay’s Responsible Riviera, urging people to respect guidelines and follow social distancing, which would help reassure locals about the influx of people.

But for thousands of others, there is currently no prospect of normal life, and so it is imperative that the Torbay Helpline on 01803 446022 will remain available for them for as long as necessary.

And that is why we are launching a Crowdfunder to help with the running costs of this essential service, which was launched twelve weeks ago.

If you are one of the lucky ones, you will not have had to pick up the phone to ask for help, but thousands have (to date we have dealt with approaching 9000 calls). Here are a few facts about why it is so important to so many.

The Torbay Community Coronavirus Helpline was set up a week before the UK went into lockdown on March 23rd 2020.

Its aim was to provide support and advice for vulnerable people in the towns of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay, ensuring no-one went hungry, no-one went without their essential medications, and no-one was left alone and isolated.

In the first 75 days of operation, it dealt with more than 8,000 calls – at its peak, we received 350 calls in one day – and we were able to respond to both requests for help and offers of help promptly.

The Helpline was the result of an unprecedented coming together of prominent charities and statutory bodies in Torbay, who each provided their own expertise to ensure no questions to the helpline went unanswered.

These partners  also provided the staff for the phone lines with teams from Torbay Community Development Trust, AgeUK Torbay, Healthwatch Torbay, Brixham Does Care and Citizens Advice Torbay, working alongside Torbay Council and Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, making it possible to offer practical help as well as expertise across a broad spectrum of needs.

Initially, the lines were available for 12 hours a day, seven days a week, but as demand lessened, those hours have been reduced on the main number of 01803 446022 to 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am – 12.30pm on Saturdays.

Although demand has reduced, we are still receiving on average 100 calls a day, rising to nearer 200 calls a day around Government announcements, and some of the callers have complex needs requiring more time and specialist responses.

However, we are also aware that as most people come out of lockdown, there will be those that will remain isolated because they are being shielded or are reluctant to come out of isolation because of other health issues.

The government says it will now regularly assess whether it is possible for the shielding guidance to be eased further in England, based on the latest scientific advice.

The next review will take place next week, and the government will then write to everyone on the shielded patient list with information about the next steps of the shielding advice and the support available to them.

The decision to go outside is yours. If you do decide to go out, the best way to protect yourself is to keep the number of visits and outings to a minimum.

We intend to keep the helpline open for as long as is necessary and we are grateful to our many volunteers who are making that possible,  and that is why we are asking for you to help fund it. We have seen unprecedented kindness in the last few months – people volunteering in their hundreds to help their neighbours – and we hope that can continue as we move forward.

We will continue to provide whatever services are needed to ensure those that remain behind closed doors are not forgotten and we will continue to encourage our fantastic volunteers to remain with them wherever possible.

If you can, please go to: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/torbay-helpline. All contributions, no matter how small will be appreciated by our fabulous community. 

Thank you. #TorbayKind