Volunteers make all the difference in South and Vale

At the start of national volunteers’ week, the leaders of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have offered their heartfelt and sincerest thanks to the thousands of volunteers that are helping in their communities.

Within days of lockdown starting, charities and voluntary groups in our districts were helping those in need. As it became clear more support was required hundreds of residents set up informal help groups in their local communities to make sure their most vulnerable and isolated neighbours were able to get help.

They used the powers of social media to recruit other volunteers and to get the message out to those who needed it. They also used more traditional methods to reach people, such as telephone calls, door-knocking and posting home-made leaflets through their neighbours’ doors.

There’s no doubt these local heroes have saved lives in their communities – they have been the backbone of the country’s response to the crisis.

To help coordinate the community response, the district councils set up a community hub, which has helped bring the hundreds of independent groups and individuals into a huge linked network of volunteers responding to requests for help.

Working together with the district councils and others, local volunteer groups have made an enormous difference to people who are having to self-isolate. They’re carrying out tasks that in normal circumstances would normally seem simple such as doing the food shopping or picking up people’s prescriptions.

More than 30 members of staff at the council have been redeployed to work on a community support helpline to support the coordinated effort across the county. So far, the helpline has referred 910 people onto community groups for ongoing support. The district councils have also created a food hub, which has supplied meals for 783 adults and children.

Cllr Emily Smith, Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council said, “I’m extremely proud of the hundreds of local volunteers that have been helping their neighbours and some of our most vulnerable residents. I hope the work that we have been able to do as a council creates a long-lasting legacy of active community groups that support vulnerable and isolated residents far beyond this pandemic to support ever more cohesive and connected communities”

Cllr Sue Cooper, Leader of South Oxfordshire District Council said, “We are so grateful to our local community groups, volunteers and own staff that have stepped up and helped to provide all the extra support. Without them, vulnerable people would have undoubtedly suffered so much more during the pandemic.”