AN advice service helping city residents who are concerned about the impact of coronavirus on their daily lives has so far been in contact with more than 4,500 people across Leicester.
The C19 Support Service is being run by Leicester City Council to support residents who need information and advice on any matters relating to local disruption from the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.
Since its launch at the end of March the service has responded to over 4,500 emails – about 200 per day – giving help to people on topics including food parcels, questions about benefits or finances, medical deliveries and help with businesses.
Residents contact the council on a dedicated email address, providing a contact phone number, which an adviser then rings back on to talk them through what help is available. The service is easy to access by emailing staff on: email@example.com with the requester’s name and contact phone number.
The C19 Support Service is being run by staff from a range of services across the council, including the Customer Service Centre and others who would normally be providing over the counter advice from their base in Granby Street.
The council has also created an additional team who have also contacted over 15,000 potentially vulnerable people by identifying from council records residents who are elderly or housing tenants, to ensure they know where to get help.
Also, officers from the council’s social care teams for children and adults have been contacting people who are supported o known to them, to check their wellbeing and safety.
It is part of a wider package of community help being run by the council, which also includes emergency food deliveries, a phone service to keep in contact with vulnerable or isolated people, and a package of help for businesses.
Since the lockdown began, more than 1,000 food parcels have been distributed by the council to those in most need, and emergency fuel support totalling more than £7,300 given to help 79 families experiencing fuel poverty. This is in addition to the valuable, established community foodbanks that serve many communities, run by volunteers and being supported by the council through the Emergency Food Partnership and Action Homeless.
Separately, the city council has set up a Virtual Humanitarian Assistance Centre to provide a telephone ‘listening ear’ service to people referred for help from other support services dealing with more complex physical or mental health issues. The service, which is staffed entirely by city council volunteers, street pastors and former Samaritans staff, has received up to 10 referrals a day, and has so far helped 134 people.
Leicester assistant city mayor for neighbourhood services, Cllr Kirk Master, said: “We are all sharing an unprecedented experience during the coronavirus lockdown, but for people with more complex needs, or those who need help and information to help them deal with particular issues, this is an especially tough time.
“The C19 Support Service has proved to be a very valuable way for people to get in touch with us and source the right information to help with these new, unfamiliar problems they are facing.
“The majority of the calls have been to request food parcels, but people are also worried about benefits, their finances or access to medical supplies for example, and our staff are contacting them to discuss their needs and the options available to them.
“I’m very pleased with the hard work done by our staff to run these services and to be able to adjust to the demands of what has become the new normal.
“It is vitally important that we work together to help each other at this difficult time, and go the extra mile to ensure that information, support and advice is easily available to anyone who needs it.”
The C19 Support Service is being managed by customer support officer Megan, and depends on staff from many different roles across the council who are working from home to keep the service running, as well as partners from outside organisations.
Megan added: “It’s a massive positive to be able to talk to people. That way we can get a feel for how they are doing. They may have called about one thing, but from the conversation we are able to help them with other things too.
“We also can’t do what we are doing without other teams’ support as we are part of the bigger picture.
“The driving force for me and the team has been the amazing feedback from the public who have been contacting us to thank them for the help they’ve given. It’s good to know that in some way we have helped alleviate some pressure from the hardship people are encountering.”
Anyone in crisis or who needs support can email the C19 Support Service on firstname.lastname@example.org giving a name and contact phone number.
Details of all coronavirus-related support available from Leicester City Council is available on the council's coronavirus advice webpages