DORSET Council and partners in the community response to COVID-19 are working together to offer help and support to struggling residents this winter.
Efforts are focused on supporting families with children, people in financial difficulties and those facing loneliness and isolation over the festive season.
The aim is to make sure vulnerable people have access to food and warm clothing for their children, and someone they can talk to if they need to.
Here’s some details on the help and support on offer this winter…
Help to deal with financial struggles
People experiencing financial difficulties are urged to seek help by calling the Dorset Citizens Adviceline on freephone 0800 144 8848 or textphone 0800 144 8884.
By calling the Adviceline, anyone struggling to pay their rent, mortgage, debts or other bills can access free expert help and advice and secure a referral to a local foodbank or community food initiative if needed.
Comprehensive information is also available online at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/reaching-out
Coping with isolation and loneliness
Anyone staying at home because of COVID-19 without the support of family, friends or neighbours can request help from the Dorset Together team including food shopping and delivery, collection or prescriptions, dog walking and befriending.
Help can be accessed via an online form or by calling the helpline on 01305 221000, 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
People with queries about getting online or improving online skills can call the Dorset Digital Hotline with a digital question on 01305 221048, Monday to Friday from 10am to 12noon. Outside of these times you can leave a message and a Digital Champion will get back to you.
If you are on a low income and do not have a broadband connection or device at home to connect to the internet, it may be possible to help you to get set up.
What else is being done to help families?
Dorset Council is working with schools to make sure families who need it (including those who receive free school meals) can receive food vouchers during the holidays. Families will receive details of the scheme direct from their school.
Cosy at Christmas Appeal
An appeal asking for new or nearly new children’s winter coats and pyjamas to be donated launched this month. The appeal is asking for winter coats and pyjamas for children aged from three to 12 so they can be provided to help families. Find out how the scheme works and where your local drop off and collection point is.
Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Children, Education, Skills and Early Help, said: “Outdoor play is incredibly beneficial for children, and with winter drawing in we are asking residents to support Dorset’s children to help them stay warm and dry by providing a winter coat and cosy pyjamas.
“These items can be a significant cost for many families and we are calling on the generosity of Dorset’s residents to help keep children cosy this Christmas.”
Cllr Jill Haynes, Dorset Council portfolio holder for Community and Customer Services, added: “Dorset’s residents have been fantastic throughout the pandemic and I wish to thank our communities for pulling together to support one another.
“Whether by simply adhering to the restrictions to keep infection levels down or going the extra mile to lend support to fellow residents through difficult circumstances, the community spirit demonstrated in Dorset is something we can all be proud of.
“That said, we know this is going to be a difficult winter for many people in Dorset and on behalf of the council and our Dorset Together partners, I want to offer reassurance that we are doing all we can to help and support those who are most vulnerable.
“No one should be cold, hungry or feel alone. If you don’t have a support network in place for whatever reason, please call our Dorset Together helpline on 01305221000 or ask for help online at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/coronavirus.”