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Coronavirus: Oakham Neighbours: Covid-19 support group attracts army of volunteers in Rutland

A town group to help people isolated by coronavirus has attracted 1,300 volunteers in its first three days.

‘The Oakham Neighbours: Covid-19 support group’ was set up on Facebook by Julie Coleman, who felt there was a gap in the community - older people who have been independent, but were now being asked not to leave their homes.

She said: “I was thinking about my own mum’s situation.

Julie Coleman who has set up the Oakham Neighbours: Covid-19 Support Group (31817776)
Julie Coleman who has set up the Oakham Neighbours: Covid-19 Support Group (31817776)

“She lives in Oakham and under normal circumstances is a very independent over-70 who drives and no one could describe her as vulnerable.

“However, when self-isolation was advised I was worried about people passing the virus on to her.

“We can do practical things for my mum while she’s on her own, including ringing her up for a chat, and while I felt happy that would happen for her, it got me thinking about others who perhaps don’t have family members living close by.

“It’s a terribly long time that people could be isolated.”

Julie asked, through social media, if anyone would mind volunteering to help those who wouldn’t need the support of social services, care firms or charities, but might need a neighbour they can call upon.

While the group won’t cross the line into areas which may bring safeguarding issues, the volunteers could find themselves phoning a person for a friendly chat, or fetching essentials.

“When it comes to the shopping, we can’t have people handing over their credit cards and pin numbers,” said Julie.

“But I have approached the supermarkets to see if they can perhaps change their methods and take a payment over the phone from the card holder.”

In order to prevent people from becoming the victim of criminals, the group also moderates all posts on the Facebook site, making sure that older or vulnerable people do not disclose their addresses.

Describing the group as more about showing ‘neighbourliness’ than trying to be like a charity, Julie added that there had been “Nothing on this scale in society since the Second World War” and that she felt lucky that Oakham was a relatively small community with such a lot of people willing to help out.

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