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Volunteer groups vow to go on as lockdown bites

Groups say they can continue to help those in isolation by operating “safely and sensibly”

27 March, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

ISLINGTON’S volunteer groups, which have sprung up amid the coronavirus outbreak, say they can continue to help those in isolation under the new lockdown rules by operating “safely and sensibly, within its parameters”.

COVID-19 Mutual Aid UK posted a statement online on Tuesday reassuring its members of their ability to carry on, adding: “Groups should continue to follow the guidance to ensure you do not put yourself or others at risk in carrying out this support, but otherwise we would encourage groups to continue as before.”

Many of the groups are now reducing the number of trips they make and are using each one to carry out multiple errands to avoid people going outside too often.

Phone calls and online support are also being offered to those who are experiencing anxiety and isolation.

Guilene Marco, 41, who is heading up the St Mary’s ward group, which has grown to more than 150 people, said they are still dedicated to aiding people through a period of uncertainty and isolation.

“We’re even trying to come up with more inventive ways to support anyone who needs it, like parents who need help keeping their children entertained,” said the marketing manager,who is currently working from home.

“You meet people doing this that just live down the road that you’ve never met before. It’s all virtual for now but when this is over we’ll all definitely be meeting in the pub, maybe we’ll organise a big party.”

Islington Council leader Richard Watts has launched a new helpline to coordinate coronavirus Mutual Aid efforts across the borough.

Under the banner of “We Are Islington”, the helpline will offer support and advice to anyone struggling to cope with self-isolation, or anyone worried about a friend or a neighbour. The launch was accompanied with a call for volunteers and donations.

The helpline ties together efforts from the council, the borough’s voluntary sector and grassroots Mutual Aid groups. It will offer help with getting food or medicine, accessing online group activities, legal advice or just a friendly phone conversation.

“We’re at the start of our biggest national crisis since the Second World War,” said Cllr Watts.

“To get through it we’re really going to have to pull together.

“We Are Islington can ensure that residents have access to the basics of food, medicine and someone to talk to if they are feeling lonely while they are isolated.”

The helpline, which was launched on Saturday, will be open every day from 9am until 5pm. To use the service, call 020 7527 8222.

Businesses and people who want to offer their services should get in touch with Voluntary Action Islington by emailing volunteer@vai.org.uk or approaching a local grassroots group.

Donations can be made to the Islington Giving Crisis Fund at https://donorbox.org/islington-giving-crisis-fund


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