Council launches community project to support vulnerable people during coronavirus pandemic

Cllr Darren Rodwell has revealed plans to support those in self-isolation. Picture: Ken Mears

Cllr Darren Rodwell has revealed plans to support those in self-isolation. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Community groups from across the borough are set to come together to help vulnerable people and those self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Coronavirus is spreading across the UK. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Coronavirus is spreading across the UK. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images - Credit: PA

Barking and Dagenham Council leader Cllr Darren Rodwell explained that the BD Can project will see a co-ordinated effort by the council and those who want to help others in a bid to make sure everyone is supported.

“What we have done is set up a Can Do network, having involvement for residents of our borough in decision making,” he said.

“What we are doing now, as the first part of that programme, is working with community and faith groups that are in the borough to support the most vulnerable residents through the situations they may find themselves in over the next three months.”

Cllr Rodwell said that he had so far spoken with around 40 groups about participating in the scheme, and that more information about how it would work would be issued by the end of the week.

“Residents will still phone the contact centre, and the council will then work out what the situation is,” he said.

“For low level needs or general support, we will put that over to a council partner that we have worked with in the past in different situations.”

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Low level needs could include food deliveries or a daily phone call to people living on their own to stop them feeling lonely.

“We are looking at that group that are normally able to look after themselves,” Cllr Rodwell said. “They are going to be the residents most in need of this support, who may need help with their shopping or who can’t go to their usual community events.”

He urged people not to stockpile food or other goods in preparation for self-isolation. So far, there have been 10 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the borough but the govermnent is asking those showing symptoms, or living in a household where one person is showing symptoms, to stay indoors.

“I went out on Sunday into four food shops and it was like locusts had gone into the shops,” Cllr Rodwell said.

“I just thought, what does that person who comes out one or two times a week do? What do they do when there’s no food?

“The people who are stockpiling are able to do that. I’m thinking of the people that are unable to do that, they’re who I’m concerned about.”

He also asked people to contact the council and report shops that are selling goods such as hand sanitiser or toilet roll at heavily inflated prices, adding: “We have already had to take action against one shop that’s trying to exploit the situation.”

Cllr Rodwell urged parents not to keep contacting schools about whether they would be closing due to the pandemic.

“We have got 62 schools in our borough and every one of them is getting bombarded by parents,” he said.

“The schools themselves don’t know any more than residents because they are watching the same bulletins.

“We will contact residents when we have information that needs to be disseminated.”

He added that there were “no plans for the schools to be shut” and that there would have to be a “real and bona fide medical reason” for parents to keep their children at home without facing a fine.

The council leader urged people to be sensible when sharing information online about the virus,

“We have seen a lot of scaremongering on Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “People who are particularly vulnerable are seeing fake news and fake information sharing. We are asking people to be mindful.”

Cllr Rodwell said that the council would be issuing regular video updates about the coronavirus situation in the borough - currently planned to be released on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

He reminded people of the importance of washing their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, and said contingency plans had been put in place for council services, which included seeing office staff working from home.