It has been more than a month since the UK went into lockdown and we all started living a socially distanced life. In some ways this prolonged period at home has brought people together and forged new friendships.
The Otley community, including businesses, individuals, charities and groups, has rallied to support anyone and everyone who needs help, but we’re concerned that our most isolated and vulnerable members might be falling through the gaps. They may be getting little or no social interaction or connection with the outside world at all – for some, self-isolation turns quickly to loneliness. For others they may be having to leave home for essential errands when they’re in a group who are advised not to.
Otley Action for Older People and Otley Courthouse, supported by Otley Town Council have been coordinating volunteers, tell us that they have more offers of help than requests and agree that, although this confirms just how lovely the people of Otley are, it also suggests that some people are getting left behind.
We have heard from vulnerable neighbours who feel that they have no option but to go shopping for themselves, and in contrast, people who feel so nervous about going out that they are doing without essentials. Together we can make sure this doesn’t continue…
There are loads of fabulous stories about streets getting together to watch out for each other.
If you haven’t already, PLEASE get together (in a socially distanced way!) with others in your street and make sure everyone is being looked out for.
You can set up a neighbourhood group on WhatsApp or Facebook, or even just across your garden fence (at a safe distance). If there are vulnerable people in your street, make sure that they have at least one neighbour’s phone number and, between you, try to provide a weekly shop, a phone call or simply the odd pint of milk and a brief chat through a window. Small acts of kindness can make a huge difference.
Phone buddy systems can become a lifeline for those who are isolated and having to shield themselves at home. The same can be true for much younger people, such as single parents, who are coping alone and may be desperate for a friendly adult voice with whom to share their day. Volunteers simply call their ‘buddy’ at a designated time each week, or every few days, to check in and chat. Could you arrange something like this where you live?
We know that Otley is full of ‘good neighbours’ and that there are many fantastic examples of this type of support already happening. We’d love to hear the stories from your street, so please drop us a line and let us know how you’re getting on. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or share your stories and photos on Instagram using the hashtag #otleygoodneighbours
Together we can make lockdown a less lonely time for many. Let’s come out of these difficult times with a positive legacy; we want the people of Otley to feel better connected than they ever have done before.
Stay safe and well,
Andy Boyle, Otley 2030
Please follow Otley 2030 on Facebook and on Instagram: @otley2030
OTLEY HELPLINES: Those under the age of 60 years who are isolated, alone or under self-quarantine can contact the Courthouse on 01943 467 466. Those over 60 in need of help should contact Otley Action for Older People on 01943 463965
Our research has also settled on three key resources for how to help your neighbours safely and we continue to keep our eyes open for what else is emerging.
The following document from Leeds City Council provides guidance on safety for all concerned when helping out, including key messages about ensuring people only deal with people they know and not entering people’s homes: https://doinggoodleeds.org.uk/news/2020/03/20/being-a-good-neighbour-202003201456/
The second is the website https://covidmutualaid.org/which provides resources for getting a local group off the ground which can be as simple as posting a leaflet (templates and SAFE LEAFLET HANDLING! instructions included https://covidmutualaid.org/resources/), setting up a Facebook/WhatsApp Group and making sure people keep asking how everyone is getting on.
Finally to reinforce the message about looking out for each other, the Friends Against Scams campaign here https://www.nationaltradingstandards.uk/news/beware-of-covid19-scams/ reinforces the need for vigilance and people only dealing with trusted organisations like Otley Courthouse, Otley Action for Older People and people they know. If you have already set up a neighbourhood group or do go ahead to organise one, please register on the website https://covidmutualaid.org/local-groups/.