More than 2,500 households have now asked for help during the coronavirus crisis since Oxford City Council and Oxford Hub launched a new support service on 26 March.
The council received 244 new calls and online requests for emergency support during the last two weeks of May – bringing the total to 2,537 since lockdown began. The need for urgent supplies and help picking up shopping remained the top reasons people asked for support, with 101 and 39 requests respectively.
During May there were 796 new requests for support, compared to 1,577 in April and 164 in March. With a daily average of 26 new support requests the busiest day last month was Wednesday 6 May, when 65 people asked for help. In April there were an average 53 new requests each day and this peaked with the 106 people who asked for help on Monday 20 April.
The need for emergency support varies across Oxford. The areas with the highest numbers of support requests are Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill and Iffley and Northfield Brook.
Asking for help
Oxford residents can ask for help during the coronavirus crisis by calling the council on 01865 249811 or completing the online form at www.oxford.gov.uk/CommunityAssistance
Support is available for urgent problems like getting food, picking up shopping or prescriptions and coping with the effects of self-isolation.
Skilled customer services officers assess support requests and connect residents with the right services for their needs. This may mean referring them to one of the council’s five locality response hubs to arrange delivery of food and other essentials or putting them in touch with Oxford Hub volunteers to collect shopping and prescriptions.
Reaching out to help
As well as taking requests for help, the council has been proactively reaching out to offer support to residents who might need help during the pandemic.
Easing of lockdown measures means that people on the shielded list can now leave their homes if they are able to maintain physical distancing. However, new government guidance emphasises that they are still vulnerable and the council is calling everyone on the shielded patient list to make sure they know what support is available and offer help if needed.
On top of this, the council is calling people who received an NHS letter but did not then register on the shielded patient list. It is also using its own records to call everyone on the electoral register aged over 70.
Once all calls have been completed, council and ODS staff working in the locality response hubs will carry out in-person checks on people who did not respond to phone calls.
Towards a new normal: community support
The locality response hubs and Oxford Hub have been working with community groups to develop and strengthen local support initiatives during the pandemic.
This work includes supporting a BAME group in East Oxford to look at ways of complementing an existing community larder project to meet local needs and helping Cutteslowe community association launch their own food box scheme. The aim in Cutteslowe is to develop this scheme into a larder project to increase opportunities for volunteering and community activity beyond the immediate crisis.
The hub in Rose Hill has been working with Oxford Hub volunteers to involve communities in providing support. A successful “pasta drive” in May led to the donation of hundreds of bags of food for emergency parcels and a “rice drive” is now planned to help ensure food parcels are nutritious, culturally appropriate and meet the needs of a wide variety of dietary requirements.
Oxford Hub has also created an Amazon wish list to help the locality response hubs meet people’s other emergency needs.
“Although the government has started to ease the lockdown rules there’s still a vital need for emergency support – whether that’s a food parcel, picking up a prescription or providing a regular friendly ear for someone who’s lonely and scared in lockdown.
“Working hand in hand with Oxford Hub volunteers, council and ODS staff have now helped more than 2,500 households who have asked for support and we’re reaching out to many more. I’d like to thank everyone involved for their commitment and dedication.
“But this isn’t just about today, or the immediate crisis. It’s been heartwarming to see communities coming together to support their neighbours in times of need, and this is something to hold on to and nurture in the days and years ahead. People have really connected and we all have a part to play in sustaining this. That doesn’t just mean the council. It means all of our communities and the different organisations and groups in our city, working with each other and the council to create a better Oxford.”
Councillor Marie Tidball, cabinet member for supporting local communities