Many able but older residents in Soham have little need, like the rest of the UK, for “day-to-day” adult social & medical care intervention(s). That all changed when Central Government imposed its first national Lockdown with very little public notice early in 2020.
Although the provision of adult social and medical care provision in the community remains Duties of Higher Tier (District & County Councils) these Authorities were not prepared for this ‘immediate and on the ground’ need. A massive response repeated throughout the UK and primarily through social media platforms spearheaded by community spirited individuals bringing essential products such as food and medicine to those able but older generation who were self-isolating. These volunteers were performing tasks often incurring out of pocket expenses and placing themselves in cases where accident or incident occurred at risk and personal (vicarious) liability.
Outside of food orders collections and deliveries simple things like collecting pensions or medicines for individuals that did not use electronic facilities meant ‘chain of custody’ (and risks) had to be established between Third Parties.
Soham Handy Helpers (SHH) was established using Facebook. The then Chairman Cllr Warner was very concerned that this group was operating without requisite insurances or other legal provisions whilst local government assistance being late in its response perceived as obstructive and interfering. With the agreement of the community organiser, Ms Sally Prior and during the notice week given by Central Government this group became a voluntary group under the town councils own Insurances under its Emergency Powers.
Residents were requested to register with the town council office so that GDPR could be maintained-the news quickly spread and out of Parish and District registration requests flooded in and initially overpowered the office resources! Once residents were registered and provided permissions under GDPR their requests were fielded by the town council offices (that worked remotely throughout having the town council phones diverted to their own numbers) as many older residents simply did not (and still do not) have on-line presence or internet access and these requests were dispatched to the community group leader and then onto SHH volunteers provided with town council ID’s. All volunteers were similarly required to register provide permission to the town council.
The system employed allowed for ‘trace and track’ long before it was even considered or provided through the national app!
Soham Town Council recognises the tremendous effort and contribution made by its Office Staff, Ms Prior, volunteers within Handy Helpers and Triple A motorcycles to support residents in Soham.
Fortunately restrictions have and continue to be eased and the urgency and need for this activity continues to reduce. However this arrangement continues under Soham Town Council’s approvals in the hope of building a friendly face and resilient community service that is sustainable and ready to go in any future difficulty. For further information and to volunteer please contact Ms Sally Prior via Facebook.