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Humanitarian assistance offered during lockdown

Girl using a smartphone

A HELPING hand is being extended to people with complex physical and psychological needs who aren’t able to access their normal services due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Leicester City Council has set up its Virtual Humanitarian Assistance Centre, to provide a “listening ear” service for people who may be isolated or have complex issues.

The trained volunteers running the service take time to listen at length to clients who have been referred to them usually from a range of other council helplines, to offer a sympathetic ear and where appropriate to refer to them to ongoing support.

Staff providing the service comprise city council volunteers, former Samaritans workers and street pastors.

Clients are referred to various organisations if they need ongoing support, including Voluntary Action Leicester, the NHS GoodSAM initiative and other specialist local groups, as well as other city council services working in the community who proactively make contact with isolated or vulnerable people.

Many of the Virtual Humanitarian Assistance Centre referrals come from the city council’s C19 Support Service – an online help service for anyone concerned about the impact of the coronavirus disruption on their daily life, finances, or access to important medication.

Since it began in March, volunteers have been receiving eight to ten referrals daily, and have helped 184 people.

Volunteers work in two shifts comprising a team leader and four volunteers working every weekday from 10am to 4pm.

Leicester assistant city mayor for neighbourhood services, Cllr Kirk Master, said: “The lockdown has brought upheaval and inconvenience to everyone, but for some people who rely on vital services for their mental or physical health needs, this disruption can be far more serious.

“Since March, we’ve been running a Virtual Humanitarian Assistance Centre, to help those who are more vulnerable and have more complicated needs. Staff include people experienced in offering support and help in those areas, while for some clients it is important that they have someone just to talk to.

“The lockdown has been a completely unprecedented experience for everyone involved, and even with Government’s plans to begin easing the restrictions, there are still many unfamiliar situations ahead for which people will need help, advice and reassurance.”

The city council’s C19 Support Service, which offers help on any coronavirus-related issues, can be accessed by emailing: