SINCE the announcement of the UK lockdown, Dorset communities have come together to support each other and those most vulnerable.
Community groups were created overnight and have provided not only vital support for residents, but have highlighted just how caring our Dorset residents are.
Thanks to these community groups and volunteers, including Lyme Regis Community Support, help with services such as food delivery, medication collection, dog walking, befriending and more has been made available to residents who are self-isolating or have been identified as super shielded. This would not have been possible without Dorset’s army of 2,000+ volunteers.
Working closely with Age UK North, South and West Dorset, Citizens Advice in DorsetHelp And Kindness, Volunteer Centre Dorset, Dorset Community Action and Dorset Community Foundation, local volunteers have been matched to services to offer support to the county’s most vulnerable residents.
A total of 3,500 calls for help have been answered and more than 1,900 telephone calls have been made to the most vulnerable residents, with isolated and lonely residents are also receiving regular wellbeing calls.
Support for volunteers and organisations has also been available through weekly webinars and more than £170,000 in grants has been awarded to groups that are helping vulnerable people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Advice on employment and finances
Volunteers are providing advice for those with queries regarding employment and benefits through Citizens Advice in Dorset.
Dorset resident Thomas approached Citizens Advice for help as his wife had been furloughed and their income had fallen as a result. He had developed some coronavirus-type symptoms and complications meant that he would be off work on basic sick pay for around six to eight weeks.
They have three children, own their house and have a mortgage which had recently been renewed and left them with very little leeway, even when they were both earning their normal salary. Thomas wanted help as to how he and is wife could keep up mortgage payments. He was very worried about talking to the bank about this.
Citizens Advice explained that lenders were sometimes able to offer a mortgage payment holiday and assisted Thomas to negotiate a two month break from payments. They also gave Thomas advice on how to manage his credit card debts by moving to minimum payments in the short term.
Thomas is now returning to work and he has become a volunteer for his local community; delivering food parcels and collecting prescriptions for his neighbours.
Befriending services and support for vulnerable residents
Staff and volunteers from Age UK North, South & West Dorset have been helping support many of Dorset’s older residents during the pandemic.
From taking requests on the phone, to working with a network of hundreds of volunteer organisations across Dorset they’ve been helping older people with their day-to-day needs.
Whether it’s arranging the collection of prescriptions, support with shopping, befriending and even facilitating the replacement of a fridge, the dedicated volunteers have been making a real difference.
Bernie, a volunteer with Age UK since 2016 who is currently helping in the community response call centre, said: “We’ve predominantly been helping with shopping and prescription requests, but we deal with a wide range of needs that we match with volunteers throughout the county.”
“We recently received a call from a lady in Cyprus whose grandmother in Dorset needed assistance and it’s been a pleasure to help. We’re also enabling befriending volunteers to provide support and companionship to people who are coping alone, or who are struggling with the extra pressures this crisis is bringing.”
“We are also proactively ringing everyone who’s made contact with us in the last year, to make sure they are doing okay and if we can we help in any way.”
Thank you from Dorset Council
The work our volunteers are doing is making a real positive difference to those most vulnerable in our communities.
Cllr Laura Miller, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all of our amazing volunteers for all that you have done and all that you continue to do to help our communities.
“The strength and resilience that you have shown has been outstanding. We could not have achieved all that we have, had it not have been for you.
“I encourage anyone who would like to volunteer to sign up. The road ahead is not yet clear, but we are all in this together and we will get through this by supporting each other.”
If you don’t have family, friends or a support network that can help you get the things you need, you can call 01305 221000, 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week to get specific help and advice.
In Lyme Regis specifically, you can also call Lyme Regis Community Support representative Cheryl Reynolds on 01297 443814 or 07796 074 849.
Find our more information about the help available and how you can get help by visiting Dorset Council’s communities and volunteering webpages.
Follow #DorsetTogether for important updates, news stories and positive feedback from those who are receiving help and those supplying help – we are all in this together.