COVID-19 - Rural Communities Pulling Together (Week 3)

We asked for examples of our rural communities pulling together and have been inundated with responses so far! We featured 10 each week, and this week are pleased to feature 10 more this week!

We have been heartened to read stories from our rural communities, 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

Yaxham Parish Council, Norfolk

We have set up a volunteer scheme to provide shopping, prescription and other reasonable errands to assist the vulnerable who are self-isolating in our parish

Kettleburgh Parish Council, Suffolk

Regular emails and updates of the Kettleburgh website to keep residents informed of all aspects of help available including details of assistance available, details of local businesses providing take-aways or food, entertainment available on the web and the regular bulletins from Suffolk County Council and other sources

Sutton Parish Council, East Cambridgeshire

Sutton Time Bank, Sutton Helping Hands. We are now working with the Community Hubs

Woodgreen, Hampshire

We are a small village, approximately 500 residents, with a church, village hall, pub and community shop. Our shop is run with assistance from volunteers and although we have had to reduce our opening hours, we continue to provide this valued service. We are delivering to vulnerable residents 5 days per week with the help of volunteer drivers. We also offer a collection service which allows people to quickly pop in rather than having to spend time shopping. Our lovely local pub is providing take-away food and beer and is being well supported by the community as we do not wish to lose it. Our church organised the delivery of a newsletter to all villagers to see who needed help and who can offer help, to make sure that those without internet are contacted - sites like Facebook and Nextdoor are great but we do need to be aware that not everyone has internet, or likes to be on social media

Launceston Town Council, Cornwall

Within Launceston we are working in partnership with local organisations and have set up a website to connect and support residents. The partnership offers help to people if they need to have prescription medicines collected, attend hospital or medical appointments, or just wish to have someone to call them. Residents can upload their details and link with people able to support them. The website also includes local information relating to delivery services. Council officers are taking the calls and then arranging the necessary follow up calls/visits etc. We have had leaflets delivered to the households in the town and surrounding parishes advising of the service, thereby ensuring that those without access to the internet are still able to make use of the service

Ross-On-Wye Town Council, Herefordshire

The Ross Community Development Trust is one local Charity who are providing help and assistance to members of the Community who are struggling to get shopping. They offer a home shopping service for those who are isolated and will make daily phone calls to check on the welfare of those living alone

Broadclyst, Devon

Broadclyst Parish Council has set up a Community Support Scheme that utilises a bank of volunteers to support those self-isolating for whatever reason who are without friends, family or other support networks.  This extends to shopping, medicines, exercising pets, posting mail, and just being a friendly voice on the end of the phone.   At the time of writing (7th April 2020) the Scheme has a database of over 110 volunteers and is actively supporting over 30 households.  The council website has a dedicated page for information and advice, as well as online forms to register as a volunteer or submit a request for help.  The website also promotes the Broadclyst Fund, which can give emergency cash grants to people who are experiencing hardship.  3,000 fliers were initially distributed across the parish to make residents aware of the scheme and appeal for volunteers, with further fliers regularly delivered to over 400 targeted addresses i.e. retirement bungalows, to remind residents of the support scheme.  The Council is working with local shops and Doctors Surgery to ensure that food and medicines are being distributed across the parish to those who are self-isolating.  Amongst our volunteers we are lucky enough to have qualified counsellors and a reiki healer offering remote support to those feeling overwhelmed as the impact of Covid-19 begins to hit home.  Broadclyst is a large parish, covering a geographical area of over 25 square miles, with a population of c.7,000. It is a diverse mix of new strategic-development housing estates and very remote rural farming hamlets, as well as a cluster of more traditional well-established built-up villages. Reaching everybody and working out how best to respond to their very different needs presented a challenge, especially as we recognised early on that many of those likely to need support are the section of our community less likely to have internet / social media

Condover Parish Council, Shropshire

Small team of paid/volunteer Parish Support Coordinators - banners in villages advertise this service - Prescription/medication collection/delivery service/Shopping/food delivery service/ Virtual foodbank. There are Village and Parish Facebook pages. There is a dedicated C-19 support page on website - for news, advice and twice weekly bulletin. Local catering company has set up a pop-up shop and take away - with deliveries if needed - Parish Council is setting up a 'pay forward' scheme to complement the food bank and enable local residents to make an active contribution Advice and support for local businesses through Dorrington Business Network We're currently working to set up a chat-line/ telephone buddy networks

Supporting Crowborough, East Sussex

We've leafleted our town with contact details for the army of volunteers and we're supporting those in need with deliveries of food and medicines while they're trapped at home

Foxton Parish Council, Leicestershire

In conjunction with the local pub and our exceptional Neighbourhood Watch lead, a HELP AT HOME initiative has been launched.  Each of the 5 streets in the village has a designated contact - and each contact has available to them a pool of help.  Each household in the village has had a HELP AT HOME flyer delivered and each strategic position in the village carries the same detail as a poster.  The practical upshot of this is that any resident is only a call away from a collection, a delivery, a prescription pick-up or just a good old fashioned chat.  Further, we have pushed the service out to the family and friends of loved ones in the village enabling them to check in (via social media) on people for whom they have a concern.  A significant amount of space has been given to the scheme digitally (see the parish council website news link here

A specific group on Facebook was also established as a place for people to share news and ask about loved ones in isolation in the village.  The group grew to over 150 individuals in the village (and also from people with elderly loved ones in the village) within 24 hours of establishment.  Further, I have watched the number of 'hits' on our website leap by 2,000 since we made the commitment to digitally connect the village via website, social media and phone.  Deliveries have been made to homes, the pub has converted to running a food box scheme (fruit & veg and 'treats' like chocolate - very important in times of lockdown!).  The offers of help have been wide ranging, heartfelt and valuable.  What has struck them most about these initiatives is how the community was able to rapidly mobilise around delivering this service, which is now an established part of the community activity.  They want to thank Sam Smith, the village NHW leader, for his contribution on this and the rapid commitment of a 'core' team of people who have stepped forward to help.  It is a true community effort

What further support do they need?

The Rural Services Network also asked each of these 10 communities what further support they need from national initiatives or locally and they stated:

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:

  • Get BT to improve the broadband available. Most of the entertainment available is via broadband and the speeds are variable and dropping. Streaming sometimes is impossible.
  • The UK needs to draw up a list of what we need 'next time' and make sure that it is available before 'next time'.
  • It is difficult for those 'shielded' residents to get delivery slots from the local supermarkets.
  • As a rural community, limited broadband speeds and poor mobile signal can make modern methods challenging. These both need improving as a matter of urgency.
  • The lack of internet connectivity has proven to be a significant hurdle, with many remote farms / dwellings not able to access reliable broadband. As they know they don't have good broadband, they largely don't bother with websites and social media, so communications rely very much on labour and resource-intensive methods such as phone calls or hand delivering fliers.
  • Advice /toolkits on how to set up chatline networks. Practical guides to setting up eg zoom conferencing with public access.  Clear restrictions on dog walker behaviour with immediate sanctions/fines for not picking up their mess and for not keeping dogs on leads around livestock.  We need greater protection for the natural environment to stop people taking advantage of the crisis for example people felling hedges and oak trees, the local authority has limited capacity to respond.
  • Access to food parcels to save lots of trips to supermarkets. Additional staff at overloaded pharmacies.
  • We'd like rural bus services to collect and deliver produce - and a nationwide parish council digital platform to share and help each other (ie a national website platform which we can all connect in to) and push messages out to the communities we serve.


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