I wanted to introduce the work of the Collaborative Communities COVID-19 Board and explain what we are doing, and what we hope to do in the coming weeks, to help those most in need in our communities during the Coronavirus pandemic.
It is important to say that the work we are doing as a Suffolk wide-partnership is by no means intended to replace any local arrangements, rather to support and provide a co-ordination point between national government and vital local networks. The Board recognises that local knowledge is essential and that you will know the needs of your neighbours well, and will continue to keep vital support systems in place. It is clear that across Suffolk, there are many groups and people doing amazing work (and have been for many years) and as long as we follow the social distancing guidelines, there is no reason for this to stop.
The Collaborative Communities COVID-19 Board is intended to bolster and support these existing neighbourhood networks, whilst also bringing an element of coordination and structure to some of that volunteering. We have been asked by Government to join-up arrangements across Suffolk and connect them to national and local offers of support to avoid situations where individuals find themselves in desperate need of help or left without care and support. Please think of us as a safety net behind the army of volunteers already working in our communities.
Some of you will be aware of the work being done behind the scenes and will have seen how this connects to the work you have been doing on the ground. At the end of March, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Robert Jenrick, outlined his vision for the role of local public bodies in working with and supporting community groups. He talked about ‘community hubs’ co-ordinated on a countywide basis, in line with Suffolk’s Local Resilience Forums (strategic lead group dealing with the overall emergency). This the role that the Collaborative Communities COVID-19 Board is fulfilling.
We have launched the Tribe Volunteer App which enables individuals, charities, town and parish councils, community and religious groups to register their details on the app and support the co-ordination of local need and volunteers. As well as managing immediate need, over the coming months, we know that this support will be vital and the app will help match volunteers with individuals and communities who need help. This help may consist of delivering groceries, medication or essential household goods, in line with social distancing guidelines. This system has already matched a number of people with volunteers (where existing groups weren’t available) and this number continues to grow daily. Tribe Volunteer can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. We would urge all individuals and organisations to register on the app, even where local support is already in place, so we are able to see where the resource is and where there may be gaps in the system. This allows us to map the whole of Suffolk. It is worth mentioning that this is a new app and we are working through any problems or constraints that may appear and we also plan to introduce improved functionality for groups who register.
There is also a free phoneline which is staffed daily by councils and is targeted at vulnerable members of our communities to call for help and support. Friends or family may also call on their behalf. The telephone line is not a general information line for COVID-19 queries, but for those people who do not have a network of family, friends or community to support them and who need emergency support with care needs (including food), loneliness and to connect with community support. This is a new service and will be adapted over the coming weeks. The telephone number is freephone 0800 876 6926 and will be staffed from 09:00 to 17:00, seven days a week. This phoneline and the Tribe Volunteer app are part of the Home, But Not Alone brand.
The Board is also working with foodbanks and arranging supplies, storage and transport of any food parcels needed. Last week, central Government wrote to nearly one million people who were identified by the NHS as being clinically vulnerable to COVID-19, referred to as the ‘shielding’ approach. We believe this applies to around 11,000 people in Suffolk. The Government asked these people to call or register any needs that cannot be met by family, friends or neighbours online and request a regular food parcel to be delivered directly by food companies organised by Government. While the Government gets this system up and running, councils were tasked with providing emergency food parcels to those people most in need and this action took place last weekend and this week. Suffolk Fire and Rescue and council staff helped us to do this. This will not be a permanent arrangement and as time progresses, we will be asking foodbanks and local groups to support this effort, alongside those national deliveries.
The Collaborative Communities COVID-19 Board is also working on additional housing needs in communities. This includes putting in place temporary accommodation for homeless people to protect them from COVID-19.
These are unprecedented times and while we have always had emergency plans in place, the work of the Board is unlike any we have implemented before. It is therefore more important than ever that everyone – across parish and town councils, businesses, the voluntary, community and enterprise sectors, council staff, councillors and members of the public – work together to make sure we get through this. It is by no means an easy task – the logistics of mobilising across organisations with urgency and haste is challenging, so please bear with us.
If you require any further information, please consult the following sources and please continue to follow Government guidelines – Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives;
- Latest updates and advice in relation to COVID-19 in Suffolk can be found at www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus
- To see the latest daily national and regional updates, the best source of information is www.gov.uk/coronavirus
- For medical advice, visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus
The Board will be communicating further information through the website, local media and notifications on the Tribe Volunteer app, so please sign-up if you can.
I thank each of you for the part you are playing in this enormous Suffolk effort. Please continue to offer your support to people in your neighbourhoods. We really appreciate the work you are doing and together we will get through this.
With best wishes,
Christine Geeson (Head of Localities and Partnerships, Suffolk County Council)
Chair of the Collaborative Communities COVID-19 Board
On behalf of:
Community Action Suffolk
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils
Church of England in Suffolk
East Suffolk District Council
Ipswich Borough Council
Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG
Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG
Ministry of Defence
National Probation Service
NHS – Integrated Care System
Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner
Suffolk Association of Local Councils
Suffolk Community Foundation
Suffolk County Council
Suffolk Voluntary Organisation Group
West Suffolk CCG
West Suffolk District Council