Guide East Devon residents Coronavirus update - 15 May 2020

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7. Ottery Community Volunteers

Each week we thought it would be interesting, useful and encouraging to let you know more about what the fantastic communities of East Devon are doing to help support their residents during these difficult times. Last week we featured Membury’s excellent community effort, this week we have two messages, the first from the Ottery Community Volunteers, who are also doing some great things.

Ottery Community Volunteers are working to support anyone that lives in the Ottery St Mary Town Council area, which covers Ottery St Mary, plus some surrounding villages such as Tipton St John, Alfington and Wiggaton as well as more rural households. 

“Ottery Community Volunteers has been running for nearly 2 months. It was formed in order to provide relief and support for our local community during the Covid-19 Pandemic and subsequent lockdown. We quickly assembled a group of over 300 volunteers with diverse skills and experience. The core team is comprised of people from various backgrounds including Ottery St Mary Town, Devon County and East Devon Councillors, ex-military personnel and local business people. Our Mission Statement is “To Deliver Essential and Sustainable Support to our Community in its Time of Need”. We have also had ongoing advice from Dr David Strain (MBChB MD FRCP) Clinical Senior Lecturer, Diabetes and Vascular Research Centre, University of Exeter Medical School, Head of Academic Department of Medicine for older adults, Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, Exeter UK.

In a very short space of time we have created systems and delivery capacity capable of sustaining those in need throughout lockdown. We have extended our help and support to anyone that needs it in our parish regardless of age or situation.

We’ve set up a helpline, 01404 600013, or there’s an online form people can also use to ask for help: 

We have:

• Delivered over 300 prescriptions to people. It has meant that people have been able to stay at home and have their essential medicines delivered. This in turn has reduced people’s exposure to the risk of infection, reduced pressure on the staff at the pharmacies and within the NHS and also their own delivery services.
• Done over 200 shops comprising of thousands of different items for people and delivered that shopping to their homes. Again this has resulted in less need for people to go out to the shops and therefore helped reduce the risks of infection. It has also ensured that vulnerable people have the food and essential supplies that they need in this difficult time.
• Taken over 1,300 phone calls from our community and provided help wherever possible. This support includes sign posting to various businesses and services, advice on how to pay, shopping deliveries, pharmacy collections and repeat prescription requests.

Keeping staff and customers safe:

• Our pre-paid card facility has been running brilliantly and has allowed us to greatly reduce the need for cash handling while also making it as easy as possible for our customers to pay for their goods. By minimising the need for cash handling we have also reduced exposure to infection risks and helped keep our volunteers and customers safe.
• Our shopping teams have been issued with VHF radios which means that even should they have no signal or a flat battery on their phone they can still contact us if they encounter problems or get into difficulty.
• We issue any PPE that is required. We want all of our volunteers to stay safe while minimising the risk of infection.
• High visibility vests are issued to shoppers so they can easily be identified while carrying out their duties.
• We are running a rota system of 3 days on and 3 days off in order to ensure that our volunteers have adequate rest and a break from any potential exposure. This is in line with medical advice we have received.

We are also referring older people who are particularly vulnerable, for example those with long term health conditions such as dementia, physical mobility issues etc. to the Ottery Help Scheme instead. Residents can contact them on 01404 813041 or info@otteryhelpscheme.org.uk.

The Government is currently preparing an Exit Plan from lockdown. We have approached the point where a measured and gradual release is being brought in. We know that there will still be certain restrictions and that the country will still be facing immense challenges in dealing with this new reality we find ourselves in. We still have no way of knowing if there will be another wave of infection or indeed a repeat of lockdown if the government feel it is required.

We are prepared to continue offering support where it is most needed. The financial implications of this Pandemic mean that many will be facing hardship, poverty and deprivation. Our most vulnerable people will still need to be self-isolating and will still require support.

We have had enormous support from our local community with many private individuals and business owners making donation. We have also secured funding from various local authorities. Heartfelt thanks to everyone that has stepped up and helped us help those in need.”