With rising numbers of coronavirus cases, and the city entering ‘high alert’ level Stoke-on-Trent City Council is reminding vulnerable residents that support is available to help them should they need it.
People who are in need as a result of the coronavirus pandemic can contact a dedicated #StokeonTrentTogether helpline – 01782 234234 – to access a range of services.
#StokeonTrentTogether was first set up in the city in March to support vulnerable people through the coronavirus pandemic and over recent months the support service has made over 100,000 proactive welfare calls to city residents. With the city now in tier two, there is a greater range of flexible support available as needs change through the course of the pandemic.
Help available includes access to food – including for those families who are in need over the half term holiday- and assistance for those who are self-isolating providing essential day-to day support such as prescription collections.
The initiative was first developed with voluntary sector organisation VAST and through the pandemic provided 4,745 requests for food parcels, received 1,886 requests for prescription collections and made 112 referrals for support services for people experiencing loneliness. Focus through the first phase was on protection of the most vulnerable who were isolated. As the situation and service has evolved, the council’s support has moved to focus more on economic hardship as well as social isolation.
A number of organisations have been involved in delivery of the scheme and the strong partnerships between the local authority and voluntary and community sector partners has meant that provision can be flexed accordingly to meet these changing needs.
Children’s charity The Hubb Foundation, based in Stoke-on-Trent, organises fun and education activities for children during school holiday periods – as well as providing nutritious meals.
Since March, working as part of the Port Vale Community Hub and by liaising with its network of 42 primary and high schools across the Potteries, it has overseen the delivery of more than 160,000 meals to homes across the Stoke-on-Trent – supporting more than 50,000 people, 32,000 of whom were children.
During the October half-term holiday, the Hubb Foundation has already planned to support at least 1,225 children and 446 adults – providing more than 3,700 meals.
This includes emergency referrals of children and families by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and other organisations and the continuing Hubb Pots project which has seen slow cookers, ingredients and recipe instructions delivered to hundreds of families.
Gareth Higgins MBE, Chair of the Hubb Foundation, said: “There is, quite rightly, a great deal of discussion at present around food poverty and free school meal provision. We don’t do politics. Through working with our extensive network of schools in Stoke-on-Trent we just focus on helping children and families. We’re extremely grateful to all our partner organisations, local businesses, volunteers and donors for supporting us with this vital provision.”
Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Public Health at Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “The effects of this horrific virus are being felt by families in our city in more ways than just the physical illness. Coronavirus has put a huge strain on families who may already have been struggling, as well as forcing people into hard times, or causing financial difficulties for those who may have been asked to self-isolate. A range of support is in place for individuals and families who may need it. At the beginning of the pandemic, the city council joined forces with various brilliant voluntary organisations such as the Hubb Foundation and Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank to set up #StokeonTrentTogether which supports vulnerable residents, or those in need of help at a tough time, and this fantastic support network will continue to be there for our residents. If a family is struggling over half term, or the coming months, they can contact #StokeonTrentTogether confidentiality and we will ensure that a rapid source of support is in place. With rapidly increasing cases of the virus in the city, it is imperative that residents know this service is available for them as we continue to ask residents to do their part in stemming the spread.
“StokeonTrentTogether was a fantastic success during the first wave of this pandemic. The city council will continue to stand behind our partners and we will continue to ensure that no family or individual goes hungry or without the help and support they need in these difficult months ahead.”
A range of financial support has been provided by Stoke-on-Trent City Council through the pandemic. This has included direct funding provided by Government as well as the council’s own investment as part of the support for the voluntary sector. It builds on strong partnerships that are already in place with organisations like the Hubb Foundation and Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank with specific funding also directed through the Opportunity Area and the Community Investment Fund (CIF). More recently Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank received £50,000 for heating and storage improvements through CIF. Discretionary funding from the council has, and continues to be, directed as necessary to help those in difficult circumstances across the city.
For more information and advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit Public Health England: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.
All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated. For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.