18,000 vulnerable people helped by Northumberland's covid support network

Thousands of residents have been supported by Northumberland’s one-stop shop for the vulnerable and those in need during the Covid-19 crisis.

Hundreds of groups have been providing help around the county
Hundreds of groups have been providing help around the county

Its initial remit was to ensure the county council met its statutory requirement to support the clinically extremely vulnerable or shielding patients.

The Tuesday, December 1, meeting of the authority’s health and wellbeing committee heard that by August, 18,000 shielding patients were being supported while 300 community groups were actively providing help.

Maureen Taylor, the council’s director of business development and communities, said: “We have been very privileged in this county to have such an amazing voluntary sector and community response, and NCT has managed to harness that work which was already there under the surface.”

She told councillors that when the shielding period ended in August, it offered the team a chance for a breather, but it soon became clear that ‘the need was still there’.

The result is that NCT is no longer a temporary set-up, but a permanent service in the council supported by a team of 26 whole-time-equivalent jobs, a blend of existing positions from across the local authority and NHS.

“We are still in the response stage in this second lockdown and we will continue to do that, but we are now thinking more strategically about hardship, engaging with communities and the voluntary sector to make this much more robust,” Ms Taylor said.

“Whatever Northumberland gets thrown at it, I think we are in a good position to be able to respond.”

Cllr Veronica Jones, the cabinet member for adult wellbeing, added that it was ‘now embedded in the core business of the council’.

The report highlighted that during its eight months of operation, NCT has handled more than 17,000 calls, connecting people to support with access to food, medicines and other essential services along with wellbeing support.

In addition, 2,196 home visits have taken place for shielded residents who had not accessed Government support or who the national hub had been unable to contact.

Funding has been distributed too – more than £14,000 in small grants to 31 community organisations and more than £5,000 in individual hardship grants to residents – alongside 1.93million face masks, 119,344 disposable aprons, 16,029 litres of hand sanitiser and 2,092 boxes of gloves.

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