Torbay Community Helpline set to stay for the long run

By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead

At the end of next week, many of the services provided for people who are shielding will be withdrawn.

Following Government advice, Torbay Council won’t be checking in with you on a regular basis anymore and the food parcels and medicines will no longer be delivered, which for some people will be problematical.

Not everyone is happy about coming out of self-isolation and some will choose to remain shielded until a vaccine is developed, and that is where the Torbay Community Helpline will continue to provide the services it has since its launch on March 16th, a week before lockdown.

Our call handlers will remain available on 01803 446022 from 10 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm providing support for people as long as people  need it.

Since we launched the service – made possible by an unprecedented coming together of charities, organisations and statutory bodies – on March 16th we have been taken aback by the number of people who have been offering to help their neighbours through difficult times.

To date, we have been contacted by more than 3,700 people from across the Bay who have made more than 11,500 calls that have lasted for more than 740 hours in total.

We received 2,363 different offers of help covering everything from doing someone’s shopping, collecting their prescriptions, posting letters and parcels, walking dogs and telephone befriending.

Additionally, our rapid response team dealt with more than 2,700 requests for urgent help where people had run out of food altogether or were in urgent need of,sometimes, life-saving meds.

Most people who needed help and contacted us were aged between 55 and 94-years-old, but our lines were open to all , and we were on hand to help all vulnerable people regardless of age.

As the crisis developed and the stresses and strains of lockdown began to show we were able to add to our support with triage into mental health services as well as more detailed financial advice for those who had lost their livelihoods.

We were also a part of the Torbay Food Alliance, a partnership between 12 foodbanks supported by the TCDT, Torbay Council and Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, who together provided the equivalent of 130,000 meals in the first three months.

So although the Government sponsored food parcels will stop for now, for those who need it, we can continue to provide food parcels and, where needed, pre-cooked meals.

We have continued to develop our services through the Helpline since day one and we are now in the best position to support people who either do not want to come out of self isolation or are nervous about doing so.

We have volunteers ready to buddy up with people going out for the first time since the crisis began who will hopefully provide the advice and the confidence needed to take those first tentative steps.

Social distancing will of course be maintained at all times and people coming out of shielding have the option of wearing a yellow lanyard which points out that they are vulnerable and need to maintain a two-metre distance.

None of our services will be affected by the Government’s decision to end shielding and we intend to keep the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022 going because the last few months have shown that this is a new way of working that needs to be built upon.

Although various organisations in the Bay rubbed along happily enough before the crisis, COVID has provided the catalyst for a fresh approach   – statutory bodies (especially councils and the NHS), charities, volunteers have now proved they can work together to great effect.

We have stood and clapped the NHS, but in doing so we were also acknowledging the extraordinary work that has gone on in other agencies to ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable people across the Bay.

Four months ago Torbay Community Development Trust, Age UK Torbay, Healthwatch Torbay, Brixham Does Care and Citizen’s Advice Torbay came together to deliver the Helpline without which things might have been very different.

Since then we have been boosted by the expertise of many other organisations, all of whom are looking forward to continuing to work together into the future. Several hashtags have been coined over the last few weeks all of which bear repeating: #nevermoreneeded #communtiestogether, #buildbackbetter and, perhaps most poignantly #TorbayKind.

Long may it last.