Council and volunteer partnership for coronavirus support still much needed, statistics show

Published: Tuesday, 19th May 2020

Oxford City Council’s support service for the coronavirus crisis took 228 requests for support last week (Mon 11 May – Sun 17 May) .

The service offers support for people coping with emergency needs like food parcels and health problems from prescription deliveries to tackling loneliness, and has taken 2293 request for support overall.

The Council’s contact centre took 228 calls and online requests asking for support. The top reasons for calls were:

  • 76 requests for urgent supplies
  • 36 requests for help picking up shopping

The demand for emergency support varies across the city. The areas with the highest numbers of requests were Rose Hill and Iffley, Blackbird Leys and Northfield Brook.

The contact centre was able to help by referring people to the locality response hubs the council has set up for urgent problems getting food and other supplies. They also put people in touch with volunteers who can collect shopping and prescriptions, and referred callers to voluntary groups who arrange daily contact calls to tackle loneliness.

Residents needing support can fill in the form online on our Community Assistance page or call the contact centre on 01865 249 811.

“As the government begins to modify some of the rules around lockdown, it's vital we continue to keep offering emergency support. The impact of lockdown on people’s incomes and support networks still continues, and the Council and Oxford Together are there to make sure they have the support they need.

“Oxford Together, and many other community organisations, have organised an army of volunteers to get help to those who need it. The energy and commitment to helping each other is really impressive, and something we as a Council are keen to help sustain as we begin to return to something more normal in our daily lives.”

Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities

Volunteer case study

When the coronavirus outbreak plunged many across the city into isolated and challenging circumstances, the GoodGym volunteers were well placed to step forward to support the Oxford Hub as it coordinates volunteers to support those in need. 

This has included members giving the usual vital support such as shopping for groceries and collecting prescriptions. But one volunteer went the extra distance and has helped deliver a music mix-tape to help beat the blues of lockdown loneliness.

Alice Robinson, 26, works as a researcher with the Medical Sciences Division of University of Oxford.  Alice began volunteering with GoodGym Oxford around a year ago, attracted to the opportunity to volunteer to give something back to the community while also meeting new people and keeping fit. 

GoodGym’s strapline – do good, get fit – sums it up.  Members run together to undertake a voluntary tasks, from helping community groups with physical maintenance task, to working on a more regular individual basis with an isolated person.

Around a year ago, Alice began to work with two ladies aged in their 60s, known to her as Alison and Jenny. Both have their own health conditions and needed some support. But with the lockdown creating new challenges, Alice’s support has become a life-line to them both.

Alison lives in Wood Farm.  She has some health conditions and while she has been able to source most groceries, Alice frequently helps to deliver those essentials such as cleaning products that have been harder to find locally.  Alison’s friends and family are of a similar age and they too are self-isolating. Understandably, she feels the loneliness and anxiety of the situation.

“We have always had frequent chats and I know she finds it really helps her to deal with some of her anxieties.

“Recently, we’d been chatting about music as there are some current pop artists, including the rapper Post Malone,  that she really enjoys.  I thought I’d make her a mix-tape, putting her some tracks onto her music player.

“Not only was it such fun to talk about what music means to us both, resulting in heaps of interesting conversation, but Alison was delighted to take her favourite tunes for a bath and continue listening in bed, making another week in self-isolation a bit more groovy! What a legend!”

Alice is also helping Jenny, who has a visual impairment and compromised health, living in Headington with her beloved dog Popsie. 

“Last week, after a plumbing leak, Jenny was in need of some spare clothes.  We cobbled together some very jazzy pyjamas, some nice warm and dry tops and dressing gowns.”

“For Jenny’s weekly shop, her sweet little dog was again (as always!) top of the list but it was wonderful to see her request some comforts for herself too this week.”

Speaking of her volunteering, Alice reflected on her own situation: “I am so fortunate to have good health and friends and family.  I want to help, but I also really enjoy spending time with Alison and Jenny – learning about their lives and it is lovely to do whatever I can to help.”

Alison spoke of her gratitude for Alice’s support: “Alice is a god-send to me - it’s so hard being cooped-up, not able to pop out to the shops or just get out of the flat.  While I have careers to get some shopping locally, Alice has been sourcing those hard to get items. To know I have all my essentials makes the world of difference and is one less thing to worry about.  I also enjoy our chats and we have some fun together too – particularly the music she gave me. When you spend time on your own it really means a lot.”

Jenny said: “My goodness me, how lucky I feel to have Alice to rely upon. Although she can’t walk my dog at the moment, having her get my groceries and ensure my little darling Popsie has everything she needs is a fantastic help and huge relief. It’s also been a wonderful distraction to chat away to another animal lover and a refreshing break from listening to the news – thank you so much!”