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Coronavirus helpline number to change as demand falls, after making 100,000 calls to vulnerable residents

Published: Thursday, 23rd July 2020

A helpline set up to support vulnerable people through the coronavirus pandemic has seen over 100,000 proactive welfare calls made to city residents.

The #StokeonTrentTogether campaign was launched by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and voluntary sector partner VAST in March. In that time, the campaign has also received around 10,000 calls from residents requesting help. Now the telephone number for the service is to change, after demand has fallen and people’s needs have been supported, as the city continues its recovery from the lockdown.

The campaign phone number will change from 0800 5615610 to the council’s contact centre number of 01782 234234 from Friday, 14 August.

Since the campaign launched on 23 March, a total of 100,308 calls have been made to vulnerable residents, including those who have been identified as shielding by the NHS, and those who are over 70. Support has also been given to families through the council’s children’s services teams. The proactive calls have helped to identify any needs of residents and ensure they have the right support, which has reduced the number of calls into the service.

In that time, a total of 4,745 requests for food parcels have been received, there have been 1,886 requests for prescription collections, and 112 referrals have been made to support services for people experiencing loneliness. There have also been requests for assistance to walk dogs and help with topping up utility metres.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is fantastic that so many people came together during the biggest national health crisis in a generation to give their support to help those who needed it the most.

“We took the decision to be proactive in making welfare calls to the most vulnerable people in the city. This was the right thing to do, to ensure people have the right support to get through this most difficult of times. It has meant that we have helped to meet more people’s needs, and reduced the number of calls into the service from residents.

“The scale of the operation has been vast, and at the peak we were handling more than 220 calls every day. It is a huge credit to everyone who has given their time to the campaign that we have been able to help so many people.

“We are now receiving below 40 calls a day, which is a further positive sign that the city is recovering well from the lockdown. We have planned our response to the coronavirus in a controlled and carefully managed way. The reduced demand now means that we can continue to give the support to people who may need it through our contact centre.

“We also know that national guidance indicates that people who have been shielding can visit shops and amenities from the end of July, as part of a further phased relaxation of the lockdown.

“By making this change to the campaign on 14 August, it gives more time for people to adjust to the change in shielding arrangements.”

VAST chief executive and finance director Lisa Healings said: “VAST and the rest of the voluntary sector in Stoke-on-Trent are proud to have been a part of #StokeonTrentTogether, helping to support the most vulnerable in our community through unprecedented times. When we came together in March, as the extent of the crisis became apparent, we could not have envisaged what the next few months would bring. 

“Our communities have stepped forward in a remarkable way to respond to those in need with almost 800 people offering their help as volunteers enabling our local charities to step up their work. As we enter the recovery phase and the challenges we face evolve, the voluntary sector will continue to develop and respond to make sure we can continue to support those in need.”

Councillor Brown added: “We are now looking at how #StokeonTrentTogether continues as the lockdown eases, building on the incredible success of so many partners coming together to give their support.

“Through the campaign we have identified that there are residents who need support but don’t know where to go for it. The campaign has also identified lots of community groups wanting to offer their help. We’ll now be working at ways to match people with community support, and likewise we’ll be working with community groups who have asked for help themselves. Such a positive momentum has been built from the campaign and we want to ensure that community spirit can continue to grow.”

Meanwhile, the council is warning businesses to dispose of PPE waste responsibly, after receiving reports of used face masks being dumped in residential and commercial streets. A pile of approximately 60 used masks were fly-tipped in Media Way, Etruria earlier this week.

Councillor Brown said: “This is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. There is clear guidance for how businesses must dispose of their waste including PPE and face coverings, and this guidance must be followed in the interests of the safety of workers and residents.”

Under the guidance, businesses must:

  • Provide extra bins for their staff and customers to throw away their waste face coverings and PPE used for social distancing, and any other additional waste, such as takeaway packaging and disposable tableware.
  • Make sure that staff and customers do not put face coverings and PPE in a recycling bin as they cannot be recycled through conventional recycling facilities.
  • Make sure bins are emptied often so they do not overflow and create litter.
  • Used disposable face coverings and PPE can be put in an ‘offensive waste’ collection bag (yellow bags with a black stripe).
  • Businesses can also ask their waste contractor if there is anything else they need to do.

Trading standards teams are also warning of face masks being promoted for babies. This has emerged as an issue in Lancashire and is not an issue in the city yet. However, residents are advised of government guidance which is clear that face coverings should not be used by children under the age of three or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly.

Councillor Brown said: “Our advice to parents is that these masks have the potential to cause serious risk of harm to a baby and should not be used. If people find them for sale in the city, they should contact the public protection team, via 234234 or public.protection@stoke.gov.uk.

“Our advice to traders is that such products would be considered ‘unsafe’ for their target market and so are in breach of regulations.”

Meanwhile, new legislation under the Business and Planning Act 2020 introduced by government yesterday (Wednesday) includes provision for temporary street licenses for cafes, bars and restaurants. Under the legislation, premises can apply to councils for temporary street furniture such as tables and chairs, and the licence would cost no more than £100.

Councillor Brown said: “This is brand new legislation and we are working quickly to put arrangements in place to help our city’s businesses. The aim of the changes are to support premises as they reopen from the lockdown, so that they can continue to operate safely while social distancing measures remain in place.

“We are working through the details of the government guidance, and have already been talking to businesses and the Business Improvement District. Businesses that may be looking to make an application can call 01782 234234 and ask to speak to the licensing service, or email hcp.licensing@stoke.gov.uk.

For more information and advice on coronavirus (Covid-19) please visit Public Health England:

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/ and the NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/.

All residents are reminded about the critical importance of regular handwashing with soap and hot water for 20 seconds. The significance of this action cannot be underestimated.

For more information on digital services, visit www.stoke.gov.uk, download the MyStoke App, or follow the city council’s social media channels.

 

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For all media enquiries please contact Andrew Brunt in the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671.

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