By Matt Saunders, Marketing & Communications Assistant
Since late March, we here at Torbay Community Development Trust have been doing what we can to help the community during the ongoing pandemic.
We established the Torbay Community Helpline, as a means of providing swift assistance for those stuck self-isolating at home, who were in urgent need of food, shopping, prescription medication, social contact, advice and guidance…all essentials many of us took for granted well before lockdown began, an attitude in many cases which seems to have not changed.
From the get-go, the helpline has greatly relied on the cooperation and help only the community could provide. From day one, hundreds of people came forward and volunteered their services, to help their neighbours during a time of rapid and unpredictable change, full of challenges to overcome.
Volunteers have been involved in so many levels of the helpline’s structure, it’s simply unthinkable to imagine how it could have run without the hard work put in by residents of Brixham, Paignton and Torquay, who’ve come to us from all walks of life.
However, over the past couple of months, many efforts have been made to regain some sense of “normality” – lockdowns easing, taking trips out, being able to go back to work, seeing friends, family and co-workers in person again (albeit at a bit more than arm’s length, hopefully nothing personal there).
For the helpline, this has meant many of our fantastic volunteers are now facing the reality of returning to their previous lives – returning to work, focusing more on family and friends, taking a well-earned break from hours, days, weeks, even months of non-stop volunteering.
While some things may be returning to a vague semblance of the pre-pandemic life, it’s undeniable that for most of us, things will never be the same again. Realising this, the decision has been made for the Torbay Community Helpline to continue on indefinitely, with plans for it to evolve into a point of contact for most, if not all community, voluntary and charity services in Torbay.
For this to happen, we still need the community’s help. That will always be a consistent fact in how the helpline operates…we can’t have a Torbay Community Helpline, without community involvement.
We’re now asking once again for the people of Torbay to step up, as you were so quick to do months ago, so those who can’t as quickly let down their guard can get the vital help they need.
We’re currently asking for people to lend a hand as either a call handler, or a rapid responder.
The helpline’s call handlers, all based at home around the bay, will need to be somewhat computer literate (we’re not seeking the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, just anyone with a basic understanding of how to use a computer…although any geniuses would be greatly appreciated too) be patient, have a listening ear for discussing a person’s needs and concerns, as well as a practical approach to helping others, plus knowledge of local support services and organisations would be beneficial too.
Our team of rapid responders usually do better if they own their own set of wheels, as many drive to pick up the likes of shopping and prescription medication, dropping them off on doorsteps for our callers requesting help (however owning a car or vehicle is essential, as we will assign your duties accordingly).
For both roles, training, guidance, resources and peer support are available, with staff from Torbay Community Development Trust, and our partners (from organisations including Brixham Does Care, Age UK Torbay, Healthwatch Torbay, Citizens Advice Torbay, the Torbay Advice Network, Homemaker Southwest and What’s Your Problem, all working alongside Torbay Council and the Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust) all on hand to lend advice, support, management and assistance.
If you are interested in helping us out for 2-4 hours a week, and more importantly – helping out your neighbours, from all around Torbay, please do get in touch – call the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022, or use the online format www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline.