VOLUNTARY groups and charities are springing into action to support families and individuals in lockdown three as Wiltshire Community Foundation relaunches its Coronavirus Response Fund.
The community foundation has already raised more than £1.2 million and distributed more than £1 million through 220 grants. Now it is appealing for more donations as the groups it funds face the new challenge.
Charities providing counselling, youth mentoring, food distribution, shopping for the elderly and befriending are switching services online, reactivating volunteers and reforming partnerships to cope with the lockdown announced on Monday.
Wessex Community Action will be organising volunteers to do shopping and collect prescriptions for elderly and clinically vulnerable people in Salisbury. Chief executive Amber Skyring said: “We have emailed all the residents who asked to stay on our books and we have contacted all our volunteers to ask if they are available.
“We will also be supporting Covid response groups who need advice or guidance.”
Anyone who is elderly or clinically vulnerable can contact WCA on 01722 326822, at wessexcommunityaction.org.uk or via the Wiltshire Together online platform.
Wiltshire Creative in Salisbury distributed hundreds of craft bags to isolated youngsters during the second lockdown and hopes not only to do the same again but extend it. Take Part Director Louise Dancy said: “We want to continue the craft bags and extend the offer to include isolated older people.
“What we provided before was really valued, and we were proud of what we were able to achieve but we were aware there is a whole other group of people who would benefit from an activity.”
She said its theatre groups, which work with youngsters from low-income families, will switch online where they can but there is a concern for the wellbeing of young people. “When we were able to meet with some of our groups face to face, we saw the impact of the first two lockdowns on their mental health so that is a real priority now,” she said.
Wylye Coyotes will again be taking out meals and food parcels from the Fare Share scheme with supermarkets and food producers to isolated and shielding people in Codford and the surrounding villages.
Director Kate Brayne said: “We’ll be supporting vulnerable families with the food and working with the Wylye Valley Group of Churches to identify more isolated people.
“I think there is going to be more need this time around because people are so dispirited by this lockdown. Being able to step up quickly, just to reassure people that there is going to be help out there, is going to be important.”
Help Counselling Services, which provides low cost or free counselling to hundreds of people across the county, including Salisbury, expects the lockdown to trigger a new surge of inquiries.
Chief executive Amanda Wilkes said: “In the second lockdown we saw people feeling so much worse than the first one because of the cumulative effect of going back there again.
“Over Christmas we saw 12 or 13 applications for counselling come in and that’s not normal, it is usually quiet. We have seen a really big rise in people accessing our services over the last year and we have more counsellors than we’ve ever had.
“We are seeing families falling to pieces, people unable to cope with the stress and anxiety about family, money and a general lack of spontaneity in life. There’s a real lack of hope. My expectations are that we are going to see that rise.”
Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said the 46-year-old community foundation will continue to be there for small charities who need support and guidance.
“We have been constantly amazed and inspired by the resilience and determination of the grassroots groups we fund as they adapt their services to ensure they are there for those who need them,” she said.
“Our Coronavirus Response Fund has been a vital resource for them and we hope with the support of the public it will be again as we all rise to the challenges of this third lockdown.”
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.