Responding with compassion to the coronavirus

As social distancing measures increase, schools are closed and most social and community activities cease, many are asking: How can I give help? And how can I get help? Loneliness, hunger, social isolation, mental ill-health and increased stress are likely to grow in the coming days.

Churches are, as always, at the forefront of offering a compassionate response, often because of pre-existing networks, community relationships and our track record of effective social action. Food banks, winter night shelters, lunch clubs, community cafés, toddler groups and other support groups may not be able to function as usual, but the networks required to support them can be repurposed to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

This short guide explains how community activities are usually structured, and which organisations you should reach out to if you want to offer help or get help. If you would like more in-depth ideas or support, please contact the Deputy Director of Mission (Social Responsibility).

The most important thing to say is do not go it alone. Wherever you are, you are surrounded by others who have had the same thoughts and will already be making plans. As church people, we need to work with those of other denominations, and other voluntary sector groups. God is at work in our communities, inside and outside of church. And as our worship services are curtailed, we have a great opportunity to focus on our calling to be ‘the church scattered’; to be salt and light and a blessing to those around us; to discern God at work in others, and to join in.

Government guidance for volunteers

Government guidance says that you can leave the house to help someone who needs looking after. Even when you are doing this, you need to do so safely. Minimise the time you spend outside of home and make sure you are 2 metres (6 feet) apart from anyone outside of your household. Find out how to help safely here.

How do I know what is going on already in my local community?

Listen to your local BBC radio station. As our public service broadcaster, BBC stations are already providing a ‘go to’ hub to connect people.

Check out Facebook to see if there is a local community page that covers your area.

Seek out local newspapers, newsletters and community bulletins for information about who is doing and planning what in your area.

Online forums such as Nextdoor are contexts in which individuals can post requests and offers – though be aware of potential safety issues around these. Look out for new initiatives via social media, eg #viralkindness. And see Covid-19 Mutual Aid Groups

Working Ecumenically: different denominations bring different gifts to a community response. Work with your local ‘Churches Together’ or similar group where possible.

Statutory Services will be overwhelmed at this time. If you have pre-existing relationships with your local councillor, with the police, or with other local politicians (e.g. your Cabinet Members for Social Care), get in touch with a simple question: what are you doing, and how can we help? If you do not know who your local councillor is, or anything about your local authority, you can find out by going to https://mapit.mysociety.org/ and entering your postcode. If you then google your Ward, you will find information and contact details for your local councillors.

The Diocese has a strategic partnership in place with Citizens UK – foremost Community Organisers in the UK. The organisation is currently conducting a rapid listening exercise regarding issues emerging in local communities. To take part in this, and subsequent developments, see: https://www.citizensuk.org/covid_response

Find out about local Voluntary Sector activity. Each county has infrastructure bodies which co-ordinate and support the not-for-profit organisations in the area. There may be support bodies which are more local than county, and you can find out what these are by getting in touch with the county bodies listed below:

Oxfordshire Community and Voluntary Action (OCVA):

Food distribution;

Migrant help in different languages; 

Support for older people.

Age UK Oxon

Archway Foundation: serving those hurt by loneliness (in Oxford and Oxon) 

Community First Oxfordshire

Connecting Communities in Berkshire (CCB) and Reading Voluntary Action

Community Impact Bucks 

Community Action MK

Community Foundations are also county-based. They co-ordinate grant-giving to community groups, and therefore are closely in touch with the needs of local communities and can be a useful source of information at this time.

Buckinghamshire Community Foundation

Milton Keynes Community Foundation

Oxfordshire Community Foundation  A programme of resilience grants has been launched to enable voluntary groups to respond better to Covid-19, and facilitate recovery when the time comes.

Berkshire Community Foundation

With your local council

Find your council below to connect locally.

Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire or Cherwell

Oxfordshire has united to support the initiatives of Oxfordshire All In and Oxford Together. These sites can help coordinate your efforts – whether that’s delivering essentials, putting the bins out for someone, or being on the other end of a phone, there are hundreds of opportunities available across Oxfordshire for you to get involved and these organisations will be a central point of information for you. Community groups, community organisations and local businesses are being asked to include details of their initiatives on the Oxfordshire All In Response Map. If you have linked with your District or the City Council already – please do not worry they will make the link. If you live in Vale of White Horse, South Oxfordshire, West Oxfordshire or Cherwell then please visit Oxfordshire All In who have details on all opportunities across Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire County Council

To volunteer in Oxford City, please register your details at Oxford Together register your details at Oxford Together The County Council’s staying safe and safeguarding guidance has recently been updated to be in accordance with updated government advice on how volunteers can stay self and keep others self while helping-out.

Reading Borough Council

One Reading Community Hub Support A new Community Hub has been created for Reading Borough Council residents needing additional support during the outbreak for those wanting to volunteer their time or services, and for businesses who have the resources to help support the community. If you, or your business wish to volunteer, fill in the Team Reading: Coronavirus response volunteers form
Groups can register online with Reading Neighbourhood Network or call, 0808 1894325 (freephone) from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Wokingham Borough Council

Check in on vulnerable family, friends and neighbours. Just helping them with their shopping and checking they have everything they need can make a huge difference. Know someone self-isolating? Call or text them to check that they’re ok. Print out the I Can Help form (PDF document) and put it through your neighbour’s letterbox. To volunteer with a local charity providing community support, visit the Wokingham Volunteer Centre website or call 0118 977 0749. The phone line is staffed Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm, outside these times please email or leave a voicemail.

Buckinghamshire council

A promise to:

Milton Keynes Council

The council has an emergency response appeal to raise funds to donate to vulnerable people, for example via Age UK and foodbanks.
The Council, the MK Community Foundation and Community Action: MK have worked together on a Good Neighbour Guide with some do’s and don’ts for helping out in your community. There are leaflets to download. Find out more.

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

The RBWM community hub will help community groups and individuals who want to volunteer during the COVID19 outbreak. They are asking residents the following:

  • Become a COVID–19 Good Neighbour. Just get involved in your local neighbourhood. Share the message and encourage others to do the same. www3.rbwm.gov.uk/goodneighbour
  • If you are an individual looking to volunteer please complete the form on this page and register via wamgetsrecycling.co.uk/covid-19-volunteering/ and the RBWM community hub will be in contact with you.
  • If you are an organisation already working in your community and offering services – please let the council know where you are and what you are doing so we can reach the most vulnerable. Email: info@wamgetinvolved.org.uk
West Berkshire Council

In partnership with Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and Greenham Trust, WBC have created the Community Support Hub page to give guidance and help coordinate organisations representing their communities. This page will help you find out what the community is doing to help those affected by coronavirus. Whether that be those in need of help or those that can offer help, the information on this page will be updated regularly with details of the individuals, groups and businesses offering help across the district.

Established groups:

West Berkshire Directory
Volunteer Centre West Berkshire
ASD Family Help
Flag DV

Hungerford self isolation network