READING COUNCIL is extending a big thank you to everyone involved in the One Reading Community Hub.
The hub, which launched during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic on 25 March, was co-ordinated by the Council in partnership with the town’s voluntary and community sector to ensure the needs of vulnerable residents were met.
The Council worked alongside many local organisations, including Reading Voluntary Action (RVA), CommuniCare, Healthwatch, Age UK Reading, ReadiFood and Engage Befriending.
Thanks to the hub and its team of volunteers, over 3,500 vulnerable residents in the town received vital food deliveries during the crisis. Grateful recipients received much-needed supplies including difficult to obtain items such as bread, milk, eggs, pasta and toilet roll, along with fresh fruit and vegetables.
Over 5,342 calls were made to the hub helpline – by residents requesting help with prescription collection and for emotional support. By far the largest number of calls were from isolated residents unable to get to the shops. During the height of the pandemic, the helpline call centre was successfully set up inside a week and run by Huntswood, a professional services company (www.huntswood.com) on behalf of the Council, who professionally dealt with the high volumes of calls coming into the hub. The helpline has since returned inhouse to the Council.
Cllr Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, said: “Reading has always been known for its great community spirit and it is no surprise everyone has pulled together to ensure that the One Reading Community Hub provided for people in their hour of need. I’ve heard first hand from residents who have received support via the hub and the value of its work cannot be underestimated. My sincere thanks go to all involved. This is a clear example of partnership work at its finest.
“We all owe a debt of gratitude to the army of volunteers as well as the voluntary and community organisations who have worked tirelessly with us to ensure all of Reading’s vulnerable residents were – and continue to be – supported in extremely difficult circumstances over the past year. The efforts of everyone involved show exceptional selflessness, dedication and determination. I am grateful to you all.”
Rachel Spencer, Chief Executive of Reading Voluntary Action, said: “We are so proud of all our volunteers and partners who did such an amazing job supporting the town over the past months. The volunteer, community and faith groups really pulled together and deserve a massive thank you from all of us!”
Francesca Yates, CommuniCare Manager, said: “It has been an honour to work with RBC and our voluntary sector partners to support the One Reading Community Hub. At a time of such need it has been fantastic to see organisations across this town come together to support those who need it most. The team at CommuniCare have been giving information and advice over the telephone, much of this has been dealing with people who have found themselves in situations they haven’t faced before, such as being furloughed and receiving only 80% of the income or some even losing their jobs. They have needed advice on how they can manage financially and what support there is for them. We have given advice on benefits, such as Universal Credit, and explained some of the schemes that have been put in place because of Covid-19. We have also worked closely with Readifood and have referred those who needed support with food parcels. Many families are facing on-going need, and we will continue to support them, but the support given through the Hub has given people immediate help at a time when they have needed it most.”
Sue Winyard, Engage Befriending Project Manager said: “One Reading Community Hub has been a great example of Reading Borough Council, voluntary and community groups working together. The united approach has meant that support has been available and accessible to those who have needed it during this difficult time. Engage Befriending have responded to many calls from people needing support during the pandemic. Thanks to the response of volunteers from across Reading, we have been able to provide regular phone calls to help alleviate the isolation that many have been feeling.”
Healthwatch Reading’s chief executive, Mandeep Kaur Bains, said: “We always put vulnerable people at the heart of our work, so we didn’t hesitate to mobilise staff and volunteers to be at the forefront of the local crisis response to Covid-19. To date, we’ve taken 1,100 referrals from the One Reading Community Hub, individuals, and doctors’ surgeries to deliver prescription medicines to shielding, self-isolating or vulnerable people in our community.”
Matt Taylor, Chief Officer at Age UK Reading, said: “I’m very proud of our staff and volunteers who have continued to work hard throughout this crisis. They have been a lifeline, offering practical and emotional support to otherwise isolated older people who were passed to us by the One Reading Hub. We continue to work with RBC and our partners in the sector to ensure older people have someone to turn to as the Covid crisis continues.”
The previous government advice for vulnerable people to shield is now at an end, due to low rates of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. The hub has now scaled down its activity but will still be signposting people to help.
People who need to isolate with coronavirus symptoms or because they have been in contact with a person with Covid-19 can still access food and medicine deliveries if they have no other means of support. The hub is also still open for anyone who needs wellbeing, employment or benefits advice on 0808 189 4325 or online at www.reading.gov.uk/coronavirussupport