Coronavirus Community Support
Community support groups provide a safe way for self-isolating people to ask for non-contact help – to receive shopping or medicine, phone contact or even help with animals – without embarrassment, as a new norm.
If able to do so, we encourage people to join an existing local group, or via the new NHS ‘volunteer army’; or help set up a new group. Likewise, we encourage people who need to self-isolate to consider using a group, if it exists in your area, as one way to make self-isolation possible – find one in links below. Being ‘mutual aid’, of course self-isolating people can also often volunteer to give phone or admin support. These are new and vital ways to love our neighbour!
Yes! You will need to appoint a coordinator who will receive telephone calls/emails, and organise volunteers to help the individuals in need. Please read our safeguarding guidance before undertaking this, and ensure broader government and NHS guidance is always followed.
Please note that Devon County Council, Torbay Council, Dartmoor National Park Authority and Devon Community Foundation (incl Torbay & Plymouth) are all now offering small grants to facilitate coronavirus community responses, as well as small and large ones from the National Lottery.
The response may include a new food bank / community larder (if there is already one locally) – please see our Foodbank page.
Mutual Aid groups and resources
- Covid Mutual Aid is a network of local ‘mutual aid’ groups with a Google list linking to each initiative’s Facebook group. You can add your local group here. This umbrella organisation has brilliant (and evolving) resources to set up and run a group – including overviews of aims and roles, leaflet and sign-up templates, advice on request management and data storage, tips on online coordination, safeguarding, security and health and safety (to prevent best intentions from inadvertently spreading the virus). Single use cards, posted through a person’s letterbox, are available to download here. See also links to many resources and process examples below.
- In addition, the new NHS ‘volunteer army’ will also collect food and medicine, as well as transport discharged patients and medical equipment. See more / sign up here.
In Devon councils and voluntary sector partnerships are increasingly coordinating information about local groups. Please search for a group near you, or add yours if not listed:
- Devon County Council area general info, and see list / map / register new group here.
- Devon Voluntary Action – charity partnership, providing advice and coordinating community responses – contact district coordinator to be signposted to local group needing help or to get peer support setting up a new group
- Exeter Community Wellbeing – a matching service from Exeter City Council & Wellbeing Exeter – search for support / add your service
- Plymouth City Council area – Good Neighbour Scheme – find / offer support (as an individual or business)
- Torbay Council – broad information, and charity partnership mutual aid helpline to request/offer help
I want to set up a new group – are there any good local examples?
Many church leaders/members are involved in mutual aid groups for everyone in their local areas. Projects are usually community collaborations, but there is often a strong degree of church leadership. This news piece summarises some examples of innovative church community actions taken during lockdown across Devon, and this one on Transforming Plymouth Together’s Feast of Fun in particular. A few other examples and contact details are on this Google spreadsheet – please add yours there or email Chris Keppie so that we can learn from and support each other.
A template overview document for a delivery project (based on Teign Valley & Haldon) and approved by the diocese safeguarding team, is here. Ideally a coordinator would have an (existing) DBS check, but this needn’t hold a project back given the urgency of the need; organisers must take reasonable steps to ensure that volunteers and coordinators are suitable for the role. You will see security measures are built into the process to ensure accountability and safe handling of individuals’ money.
Holsworthy Benefice is another good early example – click on links for their leaflet and poster. St Thomas, Exeter have recently set up an ecumenical community larder with three other local churches combining wider mutual aid approaches.
A secular project in Gloucestershire, Neighbour Networks, has a very well-structured Facebook group and parallel website, which also includes broader information / guidance, links to relevant local charities, as well as a list of micro-groups. Rest assured you do not need to go into this much detail; a simple and safe process that enables support as quickly as possible is what is key.
Why should I get involved?
As Bishop Robert says in this short video, the accent on the second of Jesus’ great commandments, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is particularly needed during this coronavirus pandemic. Bishop Robert said:
“If we are well, if we don’t have underlying health problems, here’s a real opportunity to serve our neighbours, to look out for those in our community, perhaps by picking up the phone to check in they’re alright, or indeed offering to do their shopping for them”.
Please contact Chris Keppie, Church & Society Officer, if you have any questions or would like to share inspiring stories. Email Chris Keppie
You can also join the new CofE Devon Community Facebook Group to chat/share links etc.
Are there other things I can do?
Food banks for people are sadly vital for many people on low or even no income in normal times – and demand is increasing as people lose employment in the current crisis. Please see our Food Bank page for details of food banks across the diocese – including where and how you can give, or to be referred to one yourself.
Staying on the theme of food, please see our Family Fun Cooking Club page for budget-friendly and fun recipe ideas. Don’t forget the importance of buying Fairtrade goods (online at the moment!) to support others around the world. Also of course from local farmers, fishers (directly or through local shops) as far as possible; please see our Rural & Coastal page for details of Christian support agencies for people in these sectors who are struggling commercially or personally.
More broadly, here’s a useful article on volunteering during this period of physical distancing – how, where, rules, health guidance, etc.