Diocese of Portsmouth

Coronavirus: support for our communities

What churches can do to help

The community response to Covid-19 is managed in each area by a Local Resilience Forum (this looks after what we used to call civil emergency planning). It works closely with local authorities, health and the voluntary community and faith sectors. Significant work is being done by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight LRF to connect, coordinate and collaborate over the current response, including linking in to the national NHS volunteers programme (over 500,000 people have now come forward).

It is clear that movement will be restricted for some time to come except for those caring for vulnerable or isolated people. There are a huge number of people over 70 who are meant to be ‘shielding’ to avoid putting themselves at risk who will need support.

Churches can help in three main ways:

  1. They can keep in touch with the people they already know in their congregations who are at risk and who might be isolating. Check on them first and make sure that they have everything they need. This will help to reduce pressures on other services
  2. Keep in touch with people by phone. People in pastoral care groups, including those over 70 can still call people from their homes and keep in touch to reduce isolation and loneliness. Many people can go for days without talking to another human being and this contact will be an even more vital lifeline in the days to come.
  3. Find out if people need help with shopping or prescriptions because they cannot get out themselves. Shopping for friends, family and neighbours is fine for anyone but for those you don’t know or on behalf of an organisation, a DBS check is still a legal requirement and will remain so (this is due to the financial transaction involved and the vulnerability of those in need of support). An alternative approach that does not require a DBS check is to make the food collected for someone a donation to them. This way no transaction is involved, and it can be done by anyone.

In the current climate, it is important that churches do not try to set up whole new systems of their own but use those that already exist. Where you can, support the existing Foodbank. Offer to help with collection or distribution. The response in each area is co-ordinated by different groups.

In Portsmouth, The Hive is co-ordinating the response and more information can be found here: hiveportsmouth.org.uk/covid-19

In Hampshire, a call centre and hub is now operational. You can now contact the Hampshire Hub on  0333 370 4000, and Community First on 0300 500 8085 or support@cfirst.org.uk

In the Isle of Wight, details can be found here: communityactionisleofwight.org.uk

The Good Neighbours Network, which is hosted by the Dioceses of Winchester and Portsmouth continues to support people as well and further details of local groups can be found here: goodneighbours.org.uk

Foodbanks

Those Foodbanks that are part of our churches are able to remain open for the moment to help those who are needy and vulnerable, so long as government guidelines on social distancing are adhered to. The Trussell Trust, which runs many of the UK’s Foodbanks, have produced these guidelines. Churchgoers are also being asked to consider the needs of others when they shop and to add items to the collection boxes for Foodbanks in supermarkets.

Some of those involved in helping to feed the homeless or vulnerable in our diocese are the Foodbank at Harbour Church; the community cupboard at St Margaret’s Community Church; Friday Fridge at St Jude’s Church, Southsea; and Sunday Suppers at St Simon’s, Southsea. Read about what they’ve been doing to help already here.

The National Safeguarding team have released advice to help volunteers ensure the safety of everyone, but particularly vulnerable people, during this time. You can download this advice here from our Safeguarding page.