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Spring is sprung: While the local community gets organised, Nature goes blithely on her way.

Spring is sprung: cherry blossom on Quarry Hill. While the local community gets organised, Nature goes blithely on her way.

Council and partners set up community support hub

As the corona virus tightens its grip on society, there has been a heart-warming upswell across the country of support and offers of help for those who most need it – the elderly, vulnerable, those suffering from the virus and those who for whatever reason are unable to provide for themselves in conditions of lockdown. Hastings Borough Council, together with partners, has set up a community hub to coordinate the effort. Nick Terdre reports.

The community hub will act as a clearing house, receiving requests for assistance and directing them to the organisation best placed to provide it.

“Those who do not have family or local support at hand, and those who are self-isolating because they have the virus or symptoms of it, can contact Hastings Borough Council to be registered, and the council will then triage them in terms of need and support required,” the council says.

“The aim is for us to make first contact and triage people requesting support, and then Hastings Voluntary Action ‘match’ people with organisations and volunteers who can provide that support – this process is currently being finalised and worked through,” Kevin Boorman, the council’s marketing and major projects manager, told HOT.

In the interim the council has been working with Hastings Foodbank to deliver emergency food packages to those in crisis, with 12 such deliveries made over the weekend.

In addition to support with food, help can be provided with matters such as prescription collection and dog walking, and befriending people left lonely by self-isolation.

HVA launches telephone befriending scheme

Hastings Voluntary Action has set up a telephone befriending scheme whereby volunteers will provide emotional support down the line for people in isolation in the Hastings area.

“The scheme is to help reduce loneliness in people ‘shielding’ or self-isolating,” says HVA’s Debby Anderson. It can be beneficial both ways, as volunteers with time on their hands become a telephone befriender, giving them something positive to focus on, she says, whilst for those with anxiety, no one to talk to, and so on, it can provide a lifeline of regular calls and signposting to useful sources of support.

People can sign up to receive calls here or call 01424 444010 and have a member of the HVA staff complete the registration for them. Volunteers can also register by following the same link.

Participating parties

Other organisations participating in the community hub include Heart (Hastings Emergency Action Response Team), Hastings & St Leonards Neighbourhood Watch/Covid-19 Support Group, Hastings Foodbank, Heart of Hastings, the NHS and the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). Also involved is East Sussex County Council, which is the lead for extremely vulnerable groups, Boorman said.

Residents, or their friends, family or carers can register a request for help on the council’s website, where they can fill in an online form. They can also call a special helpline, 01424 451019, which is open 9am–5pm, Monday–Thursday, and 9am–4.30 pm on Friday.

Vulnerable people known to statutory social agencies should already have received a letter from the government with advice on staying safe and how to ask for help.

Out of bounds: playground on Gensing Gardens.

Out of bounds: playground on Gensing Gardens.

Going above and beyond

Council leader Cllr Kim Forward said: “A lot of people have worked incredibly hard over the last three days to set up this community hub, really going ‘above and beyond’ to ensure that those who need our help most will get it.

“I am very grateful to them, our partners and the many other organisations who are helping with this vitally important scheme.”

Steve Manwaring, director of HVA, added: “These are unprecedented times, and we have to look after the most vulnerable in our community. We are delighted to be working with Hastings Borough Council on this project…

“We will also be working with many other local organisations to help provide this service, which shows Hastings at its very best :- it’s great to see the local community coming together to help those most at risk.”

Hastings & Rye MP Sally-Ann Hart has posted advice to residents and businesses on coping with the corona virus outbreak on her Facebook page, with links to HBC, ESCC and Rother District Council, while Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, has a comprehensive list of links to local volunteer groups and sources of help in towns and villages across East Sussex on his Facebook page.

While London is the region hardest hit by the virus, East Sussex is so far relatively unaffected. According to Public Health England, 45 people had been identified as having the virus in East Sussex as of 30 March, against 6,406 in London boroughs.

For the UK as a whole the total was 22,141, though the largest daily increase in new cases, 2,885, was recorded on 27 March. The total number of deaths was 1,408. Due to the limited extent of testing, the confirmed cases count no doubt underestimates the true number.


Facebook addresses for:

Hastings and St Leonards Neighbourhood Watch/Covid-19 Support Group
Heart – Hastings Emergency Action Response Team
Beat – Bexhill Emergency Action Team
Rye Mutual Aid Group 

Posted 12:47 Tuesday, Mar 31, 2020 In: Covid-19

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