- Posted by: Canterbury Labour
- Category: Latest News
The tragic COVID crisis has revealed much about the failings to fund social care in our country, but it has also reminded us of the fundamental decency and community spirit of local people. In Whitstable, this spirit is embodied no better than through the Whitstable Cares initiative, a single point of call where anyone could access support and through which all agencies ensured no one was left behind.
Launched at the end of April by Councillor Chris Cornell and Red Zebra’s Ewan Flack, the initiative hoped to learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower disaster where vital time and money was wasted by people volunteering and seeking help from multiple charities rather than through one single point. Bringing together over 20 local organisation, Whitstable Cares was a single place people who needed help could go to, over the first week it had used volunteers to distribute over 5,000 postcards to people not venturing out and stuck up posters all the way through town. It’s small army of over 50 volunteers eventually helped deliver over 1,600 welfare calls to people shielding by the end of its first week.
For some five weeks before the council had arranged its own community hub, charities worked together to deploy staff from Red Zebra, the Whitstable Umbrella Centre, Age UK, Riverside Church, the Haven, St Vincent De Paul, Canterbury Foodbank and the local MP’s office, delivering food parcels, immediate financial support grants, benefit advice and hot food to over 220 families in the first two weeks. With local churches, schools and social workers referring we were able to centrally secure money and focus it on where it was needed most; helping expand Riverside Church’s Food Pantry scheme when capacity at Canterbury Foodbank was running low and using Granny Smiths and Longs the Butchers to provide fresh food parcels when supermarket shelves ran dry.
When the call came, we answered – whether by sourcing donated furniture and white goods for a homeless family of four moved into their area in the middle of lockdown or providing fresh food and birthday presents to a gentleman about to turn 90 who had been eating dried food solely for five days. When a local care home had to isolate its elderly relatives we collected over 30 TV’s and DVD players to keep their spirits up. “It was a privilege to see a community come together to help” reflected Chris Cornell, “every call for help we put out was met with a wave of public support and people wanting to help.”
Rather than let their ovens run cold Sale & Pepe, The Rose in Bloom and VC Jones turned their hand at helping provide over 400 hot meals a week through the Umbrella’s Food Friends; ensuring people received food and friendship during this uncertain time.
As government food parcels began to land, people hungry for information sought out regular updates from local councillors and what was open and what help was available. These ‘top 10’ Facebook posts were distributed in school newsletters, cut and pasted into emails for elderly relatives, distributed through the Whitstable Talking Newspaper to the blind and even integrated into online acts of worship through the Whitstable Team Ministry.
As this pandemic passes we will continue to ensure people can get the help they need, rather than the help they can find. We are blessed to live in a place which cares so much.