COVID-19: how we can help each other and the most vulnerable across Oldham and Saddleworth

We are in unprecedented times as the country and the world tries to come to grips with the coronavirus pandemic. At times like these, when people are worried and even frightened, it’s not surprising some people turn inwards and behave selfishly. The stockpiling of supermarket goods is an understandable, but clearly undesirable response. But as we know, there is much strength we can get from being part of a supportive community, in coming together for common endeavour, and this is what we need to do now.

There are various ways we can do this, whether that’s checking on a vulnerable neighbour who may need a little extra help, picking up the phone and making a call to someone who’s isolated, delivering food to someone’s doorsteps or thanking our key workers who are stepping up to the plate every day. At a time when we are being told to observe ‘social distancing’ and keep at least 2 meters between people, keeping this physical distance needs to be compensated in other ways; small acts of kindness like this mean so much and could not be more important now.

If you’re assisting someone who is self-isolating, please remember to follow the necessary social distancing precautions. The government have produced guidance on How To Help Safely.

Co-ordinated effort

Volunteers are also needed now more than ever to help community projects like our foodbanks. I know many of you have already taken up the call to action and I thank you for your compassion and commitment. If you are healthy and can help here in Oldham and Saddleworth I urge to support volunteering programmes through recognised organisations like Action Together. You can find out more about how you can help here.

To help co-ordinate volunteering activities across Oldham and Saddleworth, ensuring that all areas and anyone in need is supported, Action Together, alongside Oldham Council, Oldham Foodbank, the NHS and MPs’ offices have come together to ensure that our constituents are supported as best they can be. As part of this, a community response hotline has been launched. If you are struggling to get food deliveries or other support, please call 0161 770 7007 between 9am and 5pm on weekdays and 11am and 2pm at the weekend. The Council aim to get back to people in 24 hours.

This includes providing a basic package of food essentials and other items such as sanitary products and basic toiletries. The delivery of prescription medicines will be handled separately by local pharmacies who will be contacting people on GP lists.

Community ‘Hubs’

Five local area ‘hubs’ are also being opened across the borough where supplies will be co-ordinated. This will link into an emergency food provider. The hubs will also be able to link people to mutual aid (local voluntary support), whilst helping to co-ordinate emergency response volunteers and act as a source of local intelligence.

The hubs will be led by Oldham Council Districts teams in partnership with Action Together and will be supported by staff from other parts of the council, partners and the community and voluntary sector who have good knowledge of the local community.

The hubs will build on the fantastic work already being done in the community to make sure those in need can access emergency supplies including the work of Oldham Foodbank and by Age UK Oldham’s Shopping Service.

The hubs will need help from volunteers and many people have already come forward. If you are interested in getting involved, click here.

How to donate items to the Foodbank

Increasingly our local foodbanks are running out of food at a time when they’re needed more than ever. If you are able to, this is how you can help:

You can also drop donations into the main Oldham Foodbank at Three Crowns, 1–3 Manchester Street Oldham, OL11LE or visit Oldham Foodbank’s website. 

From Monday 30 March you will be able to drop off donations at the following locations:

Neon Community Centre, Holt Street, Greenacres, OL4 2DQ

South Chadderton Methodist Church, 25 Thompson Lane, Chadderton, OL9 8LX

Honeywell Centre, Hadfield Street, Hathershaw, OL8 3BP

Clemency House, Nugget Street, Oldham, OL4 1BN

NHS Volunteers

NHS Volunteer Responders has also been set up to support the NHS and the care sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. Tasks will include:

Community Response volunteer: This role involves collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating and delivering these supplies to their home. 

Patient Transport volunteer: This role supports the NHS by providing transport to patients who are medically fit for discharge, and ensuring that they are settled safely back into their home.

NHS Transport volunteer: This role involves transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites, it may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery.

Check-in and Chat volunteer: This role provides short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

You can register as an NHS volunteer here.

I have heard from local organisations how Oldhamers have stood up and taken action at this time of need – I can’t thank you enough and I am so proud of each and every one of you.

We will only get through this crisis together. Look after yourselves and each other, but stay safe.

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