Highlights from the Hubs update - Friday, 22 May 2020

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Adrian Chapman

I can’t quite believe it’s the end of another week, and a bank holiday weekend too! It’s been another amazing week here in the countywide Hub, with hundreds more people contacted by the team and supported with whatever they need to help them through the shielding period.

The long weekend is a welcome opportunity for me and the team to take a breath, and restore our energy levels, but we’ve been talking a lot in the team about never taking this for granted again. Right now, we’re supporting people who have to remain at home with no face to face contact – even though limited, the easing of the lockdown measures doesn’t apply to those that need to shield and they must continue to stay at home for their own protection. Around 30,000 of our residents and neighbours won’t be able to enjoy even a short trip out or meet up with a friend or family member in the local park.

It’s times like this that make our work – our whole partnership – so very important. We’ll all carry on looking out for our shielded residents for as long as they need us, and once again I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who is working alongside us in this effort. Like me, I hope you too get some time to relax and take a breath over the weekend – we need to come back re-energised and with continued vigour to help everyone that needs us.

Adrian Chapman, Service Director: Communities and Partnerships, Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council

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Countywide Hub Bank Holiday hours

The countywide coordination hub will be operating as normal on Saturday 23 May, and will also operate on Bank Holiday Monday between 9am and 1pm.

We can be reached on:

0345 045 5219




New website will support shielded residents to keep busy

Open New Doors

A new interactive website, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, has been launched for people who are shielding to help them combat loneliness, keep busy and learn new skills. 

Launched by the Countywide Coordination Hub this week, it is a collaboration between Cambridgeshire Skills, City College Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Library Service. 

The idea for the website was borne out of the fact that one of the challenges for people who are self-isolating is being able to keep busy in their own home. 

The website will offer a set of leisure, pleasure and learning opportunities for shielded people to take part in. 

This will include aligning the food deliveries from the hub to a healthy eating class, both online or via recipe cards for those that don’t have digital access.  The food delivery from the hub will include all the ingredients needed to cook the meal that will be taught online or via the recipe card. 

In addition, there will be sewing classes taught through instruction cards for those that have no internet access, that would include a delivery of materials and instructions to learn how to sew alongside the food deliveries.

There is also a section of the website which supports families of pre-school children to help their children prepare to start school in September.

For those people who don’t have access to a computer, information that is on the website will be sent through the post. A bid for funding has also been made to set up a scheme where people can loan laptops or to supply those without digital access with tablets to allow them to access the website and engage with friends and family online.

Adrian Chapman, the council director leading the Hub, said: "As well as providing deliveries of food and medication and offering a befriending service and meeting many other needs, we know that many people who are shielding need help and support to keep busy at home.

 "This new website will allow everyone who is shielding, regardless of whether they have told us they need help or not, to take part in a whole range of activities and sessions, whether it's cooking, learning a new skill or supporting our NHS by sewing masks and other items."

Details of the website and how people can log in will be shared with those on the shielding list.

Cambridge City Council has also launched an e-newsletter for residents listing creative activities and events to engage with from home. Creative at Home is a fortnightly newsletter highlighting contributions from local creative and cultural organisations.

The content, for all ages, includes digital museum tours, theatre and dance performances to stream online, and things to make using materials found at home.

Creative at Home aims to provide residents with a positive distraction from the most serious and challenging aspects of coronavirus, as well as a productive focus for managing time and isolation during this period of social distancing.

To subscribe and receive the fortnightly newsletter visit: http://eepurl.com/g1ymDn

To submit content email: artsandculture@cambridge.gov.uk

SERVSC expands services to respond to Covid-19 emergency in communities


Charity SERV Suffolk & Cambridgeshire (SERVSC) provides essential service to NHS hospitals in the region transporting blood, blood products, samples and donated breast milk every day of the year. However, in response to COVID-19, the charity has expanded its services even further to support local hospitals and communities. 

The charity has been supporting the Peterborough COVID-19 Hub, by delivering prescription medicines to people who are unable to collect them. It has also been supporting Peterborough and Cambridgeshire NHS Foundation Trust by using its fleet of vans to transport vital PPE to community hospitals and health centres. 

This extension of services has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of calls they receive. As a result, because the charity continues to carry out its primary function, many of the services in response to COVID-19 are completed out of SERVSC hours. 

Cindy Dickerson, SERVSC chairwoman, said: "We have been really happy to support our NHS services during this challenging time.

“To do all this we have increased our hours to 24/7 every day and as a result it has enabled us to double the capacity of tasks we can do.

“Our volunteers have been fantastic and we have had some really great responses from the patients and hospitals they have been helping."

SERVSC doesn’t receive any government funding so it relies on donations from the public, charitable grants and awards and by corporate sponsorship. However, during the COVID-19 emergency it has been unable to perform its usual fundraising activities so has been relying on generous donations from the public using the charity’s text donate service.

If you would like to donate to SERV Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, you can text ‘BLOODRUNNERS’ to 70085 to donate £5. Alternatively, you can text ‘BLOODRUNNERS’ followed by the monetary value you would like to donate, e.g. ‘BLOODRUNNERS15’ to donate £15. (Messages sent at the standard text rate).

Spotlight on our partners

Abi Ferrell

Abi Ferrell is one of a number of people answering requests for help which come into the Countywide Hub either online or on the phone. This could include support sourcing food and medication, including in an emergency. She also assists with the redeployment of council staff.

“It’s a very odd time for me. I started in the County Council’s transformation team in February and then after three weeks lockdown began. After two weeks of working from home, I was very excited to be asked to join the COVID19 Coordination Hub and was chomping at the bit to get to Stanton House.

In the hub, it has been very rewarding, being on the other end of the phone for people that are facing many barriers, feeling loneliness, having difficulties with shopping, and needing someone to just reassure them.

Although there have been some difficult calls where support has been offered, there have been some real highs. I spoke to a gentleman that was so grateful with the support and help that was provided by the hub, he even ended up in tears and sang that I was his sunshine! Calls like this make me go home on a massive high and make me revel in what valuable work we are doing in the hub.

Another request for help I received via an ‘I need help form’ was from a lady who was having a really difficult time isolating, as she had to shield several weeks before lockdown due to her illness. She felt so low, and couldn’t even go outside due to the nature of her accommodation, she missed the small things. I recommended visiting YouTube and listening to those familiar sounds that we once took for granted. She was so grateful to speak to someone, and was willing to try it and was happy to call us back for further support, as well as getting support from a shielded case officer.

I have really enjoyed carrying out the Think Communities approach during COVID-19 and understanding what we can learn from a crisis and how we can work together in the future. I have been fascinated by how quickly we have been able to overcome so many barriers.

I am so proud of the work we are doing, and at times have to hold back with my emotions because I am so proud of the council and our local communities.”

Fenland hub springs into action to help resident


Fenland District Council’s COVID-19 response hub took a call from a vulnerable shielded adult with complex care requirements.

The resident required an urgent food parcel to be arranged which was actioned via the hub’s support team. Due to the individual’s complex needs a referral was also made to the NHS GoodSAM volunteer service for ongoing assistance with food deliveries.

Within 24 hours a volunteer had called the support team confirming the referral had been received and began offering support immediately. Whilst the individual has been referred to a number of care providers and organisations, due to his needs, he is now receiving daily support and regular food parcels from the NHS volunteer.

Community Response Service for shielded residents

The Community Response Service launched in the last few days to support shielded people’s wider health and wellbeing beyond basic food and medication needs. So far the service has received 46 requests for help to improve the lives of those who are shielding. 

The requests are wide ranging from essential maintenance issues to food deliveries.

A mother contacted the Coordination Hub because her fridge had broken down, which is essential for storage of her shielded child’s medication. The team sourced the lady a new fridge and she was overjoyed with the support the hub has been able to give her family and her child. 

Another family contacted the hub as they wanted to get halal meat, which isn’t provided for in the government food parcels or the hub emergency food packages. To access this the meat had to be collected from a butchers in Cambridge and delivered to the Huntingdon area. A member of redeployed staff was very happy to help and the family was very grateful for the support to be able to choose what they are eating, something many of us just take for granted but is of real significance to those who are shielding. 

On top of the 46 requests for help received there have been numerous requests for advice or signposting to other services. This is where the work of the place-based coordinators is key, liaising with district housing teams, community services, commissioned providers and others.

In one example, the hub was contacted by a local councillor with concerns for a disabled resident who was having difficulty accessing their outdoor area as the concrete was breaking up. The resident had nearly toppled out of their wheelchair on a couple of occasions. The place-based coordinator was able to speak to the relevant local team and arrange for it to be fixed the following day. 

Matt Staton from the Countywide Hub said: “It is really uplifting to hear the feedback from the people we are helping to understand what a big difference these small things make to their lives at the moment. The place-based coordinators and redeployed staff have been amazing, we’ve had a couple of urgent requests for things like painkillers or collecting medication near the end of the day and the team have managed to have it delivered to the person within an hour. A real testament to their dedication, compassion and community spirit.”

Home visits prove successful in tracing those who need support

Lots more people who need help from the Countywide Co-ordination Hub are now being supported thanks to a week-long campaign to reach people who the NHS believes should be shielding but who have not yet registered.

Almost 3,500 people were visited last week by volunteers from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Team Rubicon, Age UK, Bike Shed community response volunteers, district and city councils and elsewhere.

It followed home visits the week before to 727 people who have not answered any of the calls or letters sent by the Government.

Of last week’s visits, almost 90% were successful, with support now in place for those who have said they need it.

Letters were put through the doors of 1,109 people who were not home when a visit is made, asking them to register, or at least make contact with the hub to confirm they are safe and well and have support systems in place.

Rob Hill, part of the Hub team, said: “We are really pleased with how the home visits went and the number of people we were able to make contact with. As a result, we made around 80 urgent requests for support, including a lady who was running out of food and was having a drainage issue. We got in touch, got her registered, sent her an emergency food package and supported her to resolve the drainage issue with her district council. There were others too who need support who did not realise that we could help.

“I cannot thank enough the army of volunteers we have had supporting us – without them we would not have been able to reach as many people as we have. Their hard work is making sure that some of the most vulnerable people in our communities are supported.”

As of yesterday (Thursday) there are now 17,416 people on the shielded list, with around one third telling the hub that they need ongoing support.

The front door of the Countywide Coordination Hub

Elaine Matthews

Everyday a team of 178 redeployed council officers receives the calls that come in to the 0345 Covid helpline and keeps in regular contact with residents who are shielding.

It’s no easy task with an average of 100 calls a day received by the helpline - with the most received in any one day at an incredible 247 - and regular calls to 6,730 shielded people who need support.

A team of 16 operates the helpline between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday and between 9am and 1pm on Saturdays – they cover Bank Holidays too.

They are the first people that someone in urgent need of assistance will speak to, so their compassion, understanding and ability to help and be flexible are crucial. To date, the hub has received 4,317 general telephone enquiries. 

Calls range from the more usual Covid general enquiries such as how to register for support and questions about the government food packages, to the less usual requests such as how to support a lady with exploding light bulbs at 4.30pm on a bank holiday! In addition, a team of 159 staff (142 case officers and 17 case managers) maintain regular contact with shielded residents who have registered to say they need support. There are three support officers too. 

Elaine Matthews, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Think Communities Manager and lead for the front door team (pictured), said: ”I am hugely proud of all the officers who are working on the front line to directly contact our residents whilst they are shielding or calling us for help and advice.

“These officers, who come from all service areas including highways, libraries, HR, flood and water and road safety, have come together to form effective and supportive teams.  The majority of calls are quite positive, residents are pleased to hear from them, and the case officers are making sure all support is in place.

“Listening to what the team are getting out of this work is just so wonderful.   Many of them are already asking to keep a small case load when they return to their day job.  As one officer put it ‘I have certainly found working with the Covid calls team to be an amazing and immensely satisfying experience.  If I’m honest I was not sure at the start, but can now say it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever been involved in’.”

Lianne Parrett, strengthening communities officer for Cambridgeshire County Council who is one of the helpline call handlers, said: “I had a really lovely lady ring to pass on her heartfelt thanks for all that we’re doing to support people and to say we’re doing a wonderful job. She had rung the 0345 number the day before to request a food parcel to tide her and her husband over until they could arrange a supermarket food delivery. Two Red Cross boxes arrived that day and she was amazed at the quality and generosity of their contents. Her call actually made me choke up a wee bit. She really was very, very grateful for all that the hub is doing for people during this awful time.”

Michelle Coston, a business support officer, said: "One of the people I call weekly is a gentleman just out of hospital who kept falling over. He lives alone and had bought a fall detector without any idea how to put this together.  I contacted my support team and we sent someone round to assemble this.

The hub has also received 3,661 email contacts to date, which takes the total number of contacts into the hub so far to 7,978.

Positive response to volunteer survey

Many of the people who signed up to volunteer to help vulnerable people have been supporting the work of the hub.

But there are others who we have not been able to find a role for yet, because the numbers offering their time have been higher than the demand.

A team has been set up to help these people access volunteering opportunities where they live, to support the efforts taking place now around the pandemic and longer term.

This week a survey was sent to everyone who has not been offered a role yet, asking whether they still have the time and the desire to volunteer. 66% per cent so far of the people we contacted came back to confirm that they still want to volunteer.

Matt Oliver, head of Think Communities for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire councils and part of the hub team, said: “The response to the survey is really encouraging but it doesn't surprise me. Never before have we seen so much support for our community and we are truly overwhelmed with the number of volunteers who have come forward.

“As we start moving towards the new 'normal' way of life, we know we will need to support the elderly and the most vulnerable on a longer-term basis. We also know that, like us, many community groups and organisations will have to adapt the way they deliver services.

“Therefore, we are asking people if they would be willing to volunteer long term and if they would be keen to support other voluntary and community groups, charities or organisations such as the police, NHS or other councils.”

For more information about volunteering in general and to find local opportunities you can visit or contact your local volunteer centre, or search via https://do-it.org/.  Alternatively, you can visit the NCVO (National Council for Voluntary organisations) web page ‘I want to volunteer’ for everything you need to know to get started or you can also search for volunteering opportunities in your local area on the Volunteering Matters web pages.

Offers of mutual aid

The Countywide hub continues to receive information about mutual aid offers right across the county. These offers of support are being added to either the Peterborough Information Network or the Cambridgeshire Directory of Services, so that people who need help can seek out their own support.

Where possible, we want people to access support from these organisations or groups, or from friends, family and neighbours, to make sure help available from the countywide and district/city hubs is prioritised for those who need them most.