North Yorkshire is to continue its work in supporting residents who are shielded or isolated and need help getting food and medication.
Although the Government is easing some lockdown restrictions and people who are being shielded are now able to leave their homes once a day for fresh air and exercise, Government advice for anyone in this group at this critical stage in the COVID-19 pandemic is to maintain strict social distancing.
Gary Fielding, the County Council’s Director of Strategic Resources, said:
Anyone who is at an increased risk of being hospitalised as a result of COVID-19 should remain at home, but we want to reassure people who are being shielded and those who are self-isolating that our support for people who do not have anyone else to call on will continue.
In a coordinated joint effort with district councils, North Yorkshire County Council has been working with 23 community organisations the length and breadth of the county which have been coordinating the voluntary sector in their locality, providing a safety net of support for those with no-one else to turn to.
Those who have needed help with shopping, prescriptions and other essentials but haven’t had anyone to call on, or anyone concerned about the welfare of someone else, has been able to contact the County Council’s customer service centre on 01609 780780. The centre is open seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm and that support will continue.
Thousands of outbound telephone calls to make sure that people who are being shielded have support in place have been ongoing for several weeks in partnership with district councils. The vast majority are getting help from family, friends or neighbours but there are currently 3,427 shielded residents who need support with shopping and other essentials.
County Councillor Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Leader, said:
North Yorkshire is known for its great spirit of generosity so that for those with no immediate network of support, we have been working with districts and selected community organisations to deliver that support through our great volunteers in their local area.
This has been a lifeline for thousands these past weeks and we want to reassure people who still need the support that it will continue to be there. Government advice for anyone shielded or needing to self-isolate is not to go shopping or attend gatherings and if people do not have a network of family, friends or social groups to help them we will continue to provide that support.
We are moving into another phase where some lockdown restrictions can be eased but if we are to prevent a second spike in infections we have to maintain social distancing and the two metre rule, regular hand washing, the avoidance of crowds and protection for the medically vulnerable.
For more information, including links to the main supermarkets for people who can shop safely for themselves, go to www.northyorks.gov.uk/help-you-during-coronavirus-covid-19
Michelle Sherriff lives in Northallerton and has been shielding to protect herself from coronavirus for the past ten weeks.
I have mixed feelings about the changes. I’m shielding because I have asthma, diabetes and take immunosuppressant medication. What worries me about leaving home isn’t so much who you’re going to meet, it’s who they’ve been in contact with and have they got it. That’s what scares me.
During isolation Michelle has been helped by volunteers through Hambleton Community Action, one of 23 community support organisations.
They have been amazing, I cannot believe what they do. People are giving their time to help others. I have a friend next door, and she does little bits of shopping for me, but it was too heavy for her. She was struggling and isn’t in good health.
When I contacted them the lady said to write a list out, then they came and took the list, did all my shopping, then you just pay over the phone. Amazing. They have been absolutely amazing.
Lucy Currie owns a gym in Northallerton and lives five minutes away from Michelle. Lucy has been volunteering with Hambleton Community Action and helping Michelle with shopping and other essentials.
I started volunteering because my business is closed. I thought rather than sitting at home doing nothing, what else can I do. It’s brilliant.
I have done mostly shopping, telephone befriending, prescription collection and drop offs, and this week I will be starting dog walking as well. Michelle is one of the ladies I have been delivering to who has been shielding, she hasn’t been out in ten weeks.
I live in Northallerton, so everything is nice and local and the people are just lovely. I think when you get situations like this, you can see the very best of people.
Most people have at least one decent neighbour who’s been checking up on them, one lady I do the telephoning befriending with she lives out in Swainby but she has got a brilliant neighbour helping with shopping. I normally speak to her for about an hour a week. She always says she’s got such lovely neighbours and that people just look out for each other.
Peter has been receiving vital help and support from The Bridge at Catterick while he’s shielding.
I have no family or friends locally and those that I do have live several hours away. So I was in the predicament of being unable to shop for food and other essential items as well as access my medications. I contacted North Yorkshire County Council in the first instance as I was unsure as to what the options were. Fortunately, they were able to signpost me to the local community hub facilitated by The Bridge. I was extremely impressed as although I didn’t need the medication until the following day, I received a buzz on my intercom later that afternoon to be informed by a cheerful volunteer that they had my medication for me. Several days later, I was in need of some food and other essential items and a volunteer spent what must have been a lengthy period of time queueing and shopping on my behalf before delivering it to me. Again they were thoughtful, helpful and professional in their approach. The support that I have received has been invaluable and I would like to sincerely extend my gratitude.
Joanna Chambers lives in Marton and is currently shielding to protect her son William. William, nine, has complex medical needs, developmental delay, visual impairment and epilepsy. The swine flu epidemic caused William’s disabilities so Joanna is very aware of the risks such illnesses pose to him.
Before lockdown William would have respite support five mornings a week to get him up, dressed and administer his medication and three evenings a week to support his bedtime routine. Joanna would take him to school before she went to work, pick him up at the end of the day and put him to bed. Four nights per month William would go to a respite centre so Joanna could have an overnight break too.
But when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out Joanna decided the safest thing would be to keep William shielded at home. She said: “I thought it would be better if I could care for William without others, reduce the risk of infection and keep him safe. So at the moment I am his 24/7 carer on my own.
It’s a physical strain and a mental strain – I have a lot of anxiety around his needs and his epilepsy, considering how vulnerable he is during the Covid crisis.
Joanna added another element of William’s care is the amount he’s grown during lockdown, meaning his wheelchair and equipment needed to be changed in a safe socially distant way.
Joanna is thankful for the robust group of healthcare and social care professionals she and William have around them. She said: “We have a really wonderful, supportive group of healthcare, education and social care professionals around us. They have kept in touch via email, letter, phone calls and video calls so we have not felt abandoned in our situation.
There’s a lady in the village who is part of the Marton volunteers network and she’s been picking up prescriptions for us and I’m getting shopping delivered. We do have a network of people I can shout out to if we’re stuck.
A lot of the measures we have in place for William are robust, safe and work for us. It’s been a long road, but we managed to get into a routine and settle down.
The shielding and the support will continue for Joanna and William, despite the easing of lockdown restrictions. She said: “People are out and about again now and there seems to be a lessening of the fear in the general public which is scary for us as people may forget to be as careful but we can only keep doing what we are to keep William as safe as possible.
I feel it’s important for us as a society to overcome the sense of other when we see people with disability and also to talk about issues we all face such as mental health and isolation, issues that can touch any of us at any time.
Joanna had to stop working as a face painter and is unsure when this will change. She is still working as a fibre artist mainly crocheting clothing and accessories. The creative aspects of her work give her an outlet for some of the pressures of being shielded.
And during lockdown Joanna has herself been volunteering by making regular befriending calls to others who are self-isolating through the community support organisation in Ryedale.
This is made up of Scarborough and Ryedale Carers Resource, Ryedale Carers Support, and Ryedale Community Transport and involves a collaboration of local voluntary sector and community groups. The County Council, Ryedale District Council, and emerging groups in the community are working closely to bring the county, district, and community initiatives together to support the people of Ryedale. This support is continuing and Joanna will carry on
My befriending experience has been so positive as I have been able to reach out to people I would never have met before at a time when I felt particularly isolated and unable to take positive action due to my own shielding situation.
It’s been a real joy to learn about their lives and also really rewarding to be able to help organise for essential items to be delivered when they have been stuck.
I hope to be able to continue these calls after the covid situation has eased and would suggest others pick up the phone and try it too.