Shaftesbury area residents are being assured that they will receive help and support with everyday activities if they need to self-isolate. Alfred learned how Shaftesbury, Donhead St Mary and Motcombe locals are planning to respond to the coronavirus crisis.
“We’ve had lots of communication over the past couple of days with people coming forward who want to offer their help and support,” said Brie Logan, Shaftesbury Town Council’s business manager.” We also know there’s a proactive bunch of volunteers in our community belonging to various groups and we thought, ‘How could we reach out to people who may be in need?’”
Brie’s job has altered dramatically in the last few days. Much of the Town Hall team’s regular work has been overtaken by the need to support our community and keep our townspeople safe.
Down the hill in Motcombe, villagers have been putting together a network of responders ready to assist any self-isolating residents. “Motcombe IS united,” exclaimed parish councillor Barney Mauleverer, as he referenced the name of the COVID-19 initiative.
And to the east of Shaftesbury, Richard Ecclestone is helping to ensure locals in the Donhead St Mary Parish don’t suffer too many difficulties when self-isolating in this large, rural area. “It also takes in Ludwell, Charlton, Birdbush and Lower, Middle and Higher Coombes” said Richard.
Brie Logan says Shaftesbury Town Council is supporting the town’s community response and has partnered with the Civic Society and the Blackmore Vale Partnership in an initiative called ‘Supporting Shaftesbury’. Town Hall staff have overseen the creation and printing of a leaflet which public-spirited residents can collect if they want to volunteer to help.
“You put your details onto that form, and you pop it through the letterbox of somebody that you may feel would value your support. We have identified that people may need help in picking up prescriptions or dropping off essential supplies. They may need a newspaper or the dog walked,” said Brie. The leaflet also asks the housebound recipient whether they need letters posting.
Motcombe has produced a similar flyer and Barney says volunteers have fulfilled their first requests already. “We’ve had our first two jobs which have both been delivering the newspapers every morning. We now have a volunteer who has signed up to do that and there’s a backup helper who can support them if they can’t do it from time-to-time,” he said.
The Motcombe United offer goes a bit further than Shaftesbury. Self-isolating locals can ask for help with basic home maintenance jobs. “We are offering DIY, which comes with the caveat that we might not be very good at it but I’d like to think that most of our team could change a lightbulb. We are not offering medical advice. We are not medics but we can also offer telephone calls to the lonely and offer them a ‘comforting arm’ to lean on,” said Barney.
Of course, volunteers fixing problems inside homes will need to make sure they keep their distance from the self-isolating residents and disinfect surfaces. Shaftesbury’s leaflet offers some guidance for helpers. “We have put recommendations on the form. We are suggesting that people don’t come into contact with those who may be at risk and any supplies are dropped off on the doorstep,” said Brie.
Each of the local response teams has tailored their services to their respective community. A Motcombe volunteer has offered to look after livestock. “If anyone’s got a pony, sheep or cows then we are happy to help out on that level,” said Barney.
The Shaftesbury coronavirus support approach is separate cells of volunteers operating within the town independently. Residents who want to help simply need to pick up a form, fill in their contact details and post it through their neighbours’ letterboxes. The volunteers need to wait for people who need support to get in touch with them directly. “It’s all about connecting people with people and, if people need help with connecting, they can contact any one of us and we can point them in the right direction,” said Brie.
The Shaftesbury form also includes the names and numbers of five contacts including two members of Town Council staff, two members of the Blackmore Vale Partnership health team and Jackie Upton King of Shaftesbury Civic Society. Brie says any volunteers are asked to call one of these coordinators to let them know which part of Shaftesbury they are prepared to cover. “We are trying to map that support so we can have all areas of the community covered. That’s an aspiration but it is early days yet,” said Brie.
Brie and her Shaftesbury Town Council colleague, Zoe Moxham, are now logging details of people who are prepared to help and pairing them with residents who require support. “We’re trying to offer what you might call a ‘matchmaking’ service,” said Brie.
The Shaftesbury forms have been sent to some of the town’s largest membership organisations, including the Civic Society and the Chamber of Commerce. Residents who want a hard copy can find them inside the foyer of the Town Hall. “They are for anybody who wants to collect one, two or a handful,” said Brie.
Motcombe is smaller than Shaftesbury. That makes the extent of their village’s response perhaps more impressive. Barney says volunteers are already recruited and they are in touch with each other through a mobile phone app.
“We’ve created a WhatsApp group and have 25 volunteers on there. It seems to be growing every minute, which is fantastic. Anyone who is shut away can call any number on a sheet of paper that we put through the door and we will then put out a call to our network on the WhatsApp group. We will make sure that a person is appointed to each call for help. Andy Marshall is keeping a log on the spreadsheet of every call that comes in,” said Barney.
Motcombe residents who have not seen the request-for-support leaflet will find it printed in the next edition of their community publication. “We have got it going out in The Villager magazine at the end of this month. We’ve put it on all the various online channels, and we’ve left a big bundle of them in the shop so, hopefully, everybody will have an opportunity to see one of those. We’ve also asked the volunteers, if they live next door to someone who lives alone or may not have access to anything electronic, that they should pop it through the door as well,” said Barney.
Donhead St Mary Parish residents will have forms delivered over the next few days. “We’ve identified a contact for people in a particular area within the parish who they can call if they need support if they are self-isolating. It also gives the number of the coordinating team. That should be to get hold of somebody who can organise the help that they need,” said Richard.
Barney says the Motcombe self-isolation support service has been well received. “I’d like to think there’s been quite a lot of relief. It’s quite a strange thing to be offering but we are incredibly resilient in Motcombe and I hope we don’t have to do it for too long,” said Barney.
Shaftesbury Town Council staff have also agreed to post daily coronavirus advisory notices on their website and the noticeboard outside the Town Hall. Council meetings are suspended in Shaftesbury until further notice. Dorset Council has also decided to call off their meetings this afternoon. “We are looking at support from the government to enable us to conduct meetings via an online facility. It means important decisions can be made so we don’t end up with a backlog of work,” said Brie.
Just as well. It seems that council staff and the volunteers might have their work cut out for them, especially if the government strengthens its call for the over 70s to self-isolate.
You can download and print a ‘Supporting Shaftesbury’ form here.
You can download and print a ‘Motcombe Is United’ form here.