COVID-19 - Rural Communities Pulling Together (Week 1)

We asked for examples of our rural communities pulling together and have been inundated with responses so far! We are going to feature 10 each week, as we receive them and have some fabulous examples this week.

We have been heartened to read stories from our rural communities this week, showing that despite the incredible situation we are living in, communities are coming together in amazing ways, to support each other.  Many of these initiatives were started before the Government introduced the NHS Volunteer Scheme, as communities recognised a need in their local communities.  

10 Rural Communities helping each other

Benniworth Parish Council, Lincolnshire

“Village has been divided into sectors and sector co-ordinators appointed. The entire population has been letter dropped to allow vulnerable residents to identify themselves. As a result, we are supporting 8 residents with assistance with shopping, medical items and all necessities. Communications between residents and co-ordinators has been via WhatsApp group also providing pet care and grass cutting etc.”

Apethorpe Village Meeting, North East Northamptonshire

“We have identified our vulnerable residents; we asked for volunteers and have set up a WhatsApp group for the volunteers so that requests for essential supplies can be communicated to the network. All of those in need of support have been assigned volunteers to help them.”

Horton-cum-Studley Parish Council, Oxfordshire

“Under our Emergency Plan, we have set up a system of villagers registering their needs and a team of volunteers to support them. This includes shopping, collecting medicines, transport or simply occasional friendly phone calls to those self-isolating or in social need. Working with local shop, golf club and farm we have arranged essential supply chains in view of the larger supermarkets' shortage of delivery options.”

Westbury-sub-Mendip PC, Somerset

“Under the aegis of our emergency plan we have set up a daily information update linked to our parish website, set up a dedicated facebook and whatsapp presence and established a grocery delivery service, collections of prescriptions, a loneliness buddying group, a listening (counselling ) service, our own medical advice service to augment the NHS and advice for parents of young children re: online educational and creative activities. We keep adding to the list as people offer and any demands are made. We are about to set up a hardship fund in partnership with our village Friendly Society.”

Church Stretton Town Council, Shropshire

“The Town Council co-ordinates a weekly Covid-19 conference of services and voluntary organisations, now coming together to support over 150 vulnerable residents and promoting publicity of local traders' home delivery offers to maintain the local economy”

Derrington Village Hall, Staffordshire

“A Helping Derrington Group is supporting the vulnerable with shopping and other necessities.  We have been supporting the Outreach Post Office (enduring someone else is always in the premises and to assist with distance control) so it may remain open.  We are setting up a small pop up shop”

Quidenham Parish Council, Norfolk

“We have 3 volunteers who are helping to co-ordinate assistance within our community. To date this has been seen to be working well.”

Eckington Parish Council, Derbyshire

“Emergency Shopping scheme for those that are self isolating.  There is a weekly donation drop-off centre for food and supplies to help people in need”

Burwash Parish Council, East Sussex

“We sent out leaflet to identify both those needing help and those wanting to help. We are now delivering prescriptions to the whole catchment area for our Doctor's Surgery (covers our Parish and part of 2 adjoining), setting up volunteers to maintain phone contact with the vulnerable, transport for the Surgery and any other queries raised. A network of local volunteers is set up accessible by email.”

Avebury Parish Council, Wiltshire

“Local Whatsapp group has been established to co-ordinate picking up prescriptions etc.  The Community Shop is doing deliveries to those that are housebound.  There is a Teddy Bear Trail to amuse children out for their daily allowed walk.”

What else do they need?

We also asked what National Initiatives would help to support their community, or whether there were other key issues to be raised.

We are feeding these points into Defra each week and key issues will be raised at the weekly Rural Stakeholder Impact Forum that we attend virtually with Defra and rural organisations.

The following points were raised:

  • Extend the government's 1.5m 'vulnerable people' classification to rural villages devoid of transport.
  • We have a number of sole traders/self employed who will have major cashflow problems if funding support doesn't come in until June -can this be sped up? Accessing info on families in receipt of free school meals and other benefits in general is difficult because of confidentiality, but it would help us target our resources to need.
  • A better linkup between national and local initiatives. We have received information from County Authorities some of which appears more suited to advertising and for a youthful audience. Rural communities are faced with different challenges to urban areas.
  • This rural area needs government funding to underwrite a mini-bus outreach of essential supplies to rural villages with a high elderly population
  • Guidance regarding safe phone contact.
  • Need to disseminate widely the best possible solutions being developed across the country. A guide to the pros and cons of the various social media platforms
  • The Parishes were left for the first 2 weeks without any guidance on practical matters - useful forms and instant access to funding. This has occurred at the end of the Financial year and some very small Parishes may not have funds available.
  • Some form of identification/authority to show to local supermarkets to prove that volunteers are shopping for others, so they are able to purchase more than the restricted number of items.


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