Over 200 people have responded to a call to action to create an ‘army of volunteers’ operating on the frontline of practical and emotional support for older and vulnerable people across the Harrogate district.
Harrogate & Ripon Centres for Voluntary Service (HARCVS) is the nominated ‘Community Support Organisation’ for Harrogate during the COVID-19 crisis and is also working closely with Ripon Community House to support the needs of people living in the city and surrounding villages. In the last four weeks, the charity’s Harrogate Easier Living Project has recruited more than 200 new volunteers and has received over 400 requests for support from people who are isolating or shielding family at home.
Karen Weaver, CEO at HARCVS, said:
Our team has been working at capacity to respond to the need in our community and we’ve had to redeploy the majority of staff to become more operational to cope with the sheer numbers of requests for support. Last week we received 108 referrals for help from North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council as well as a further 78 calls from local people in need or their worried families.
Our incredible team of volunteers are busy responding to the requests for shopping, prescription pick ups and errand running for people who can’t leave the house. Over in Ripon we are able to deliver food boxes to those most in need thanks to a partnership with KE Bland and our fabulous volunteer team. We’re also offering telephone befriending to those who are struggling on their own at home and would like to hear a friendly voice to help them get through the crisis.
We were able to mobilise our teams quickly as providing practical and emotional supporting to older and vulnerable people was the bread and butter of what we did on a day to day basis before the crisis. Our team has worked hard to tweak the systems and process the new volunteers so that we have a completely trusted and reliable service for some of the most vulnerable people in our community.
The charity’s Help at Home team, who normally carry out gardening, decorating and DIY jobs for people in need, have been redeployed to respond to the more complex requests for support during the crisis. The team have been checking on people who NYCC haven’t been able to get in touch with through their welfare calls, as well as shopping for entire households of adults with learning disabilities who live in community houses in Harrogate.
The team at HARCVS and HELP have also been able to refer people on to some of the long established community groups in the district as well as those which have been created specifically to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
We are hugely grateful to the teams of volunteers such as the Oatlands Community Group and the Duchy Helpers who are helping people in their direct locality which helps ease the pressure on our small charity. Without them we simply wouldn’t be able to help everyone who needs supporting. It really has been a huge community tour de force from the people of Harrogate.
HELP has a track record of helping people with more complex needs and is well-placed to respond to those at the margins of society.
It’s great to know that many people have the wherewithal to ask for help from neighbours and the local community. However, there is a hidden need from people who may be struggling with mental health issues, addiction, those who are estranged from their family and those on low incomes. This is where the role of our trusted charitable service is making a vital difference.
Another part of the charity’s work during the COVID-19 crisis is signposting people to other sources of support and businesses offering food deliveries. The HARCVS website www.harcvs.org.uk is being update daily with crucial information and advice on where to turn in these challenging times.
The charity is working harder than ever, under increasing financial pressure, and with no knowledge of what the future will bring.
All charities are going to be hit hard both financially and operationally and we are no different. Community fundraising accounts for nearly a third of our annual fundraising income and has all but dried up as well as the regular client donations towards the Help at Home work we normally carry out. The government’s announcement of a £750m package of support for charities might come too late for some smaller charities. Around half the funds will be allocated by government departments to charities providing ‘key services’ such as hospices, St John Ambulance and Citizens Advice with several smaller pots going to charities providing domestic abuse online support, international development charities, the Red Cross and leading mental health charities.
The most likely route for funds to reach smaller local charities is via £370m being allocated by the National Lottery Community Fund, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice.
The process for applying for these grants is still to be announced and hence no local charities have so far benefitted from the government’s announcement. The impact of the COVID-19 crisis on small charities and the communities they serve is set to last for many years to come.