Urgent call for volunteers as calls surge to Bristol helpline during lockdown

Food parcels being delivered to those shielding during the last lockdown. Image Bristol City Council.

Volunteers are urgently needed to support vulnerable people across the city – following a surge of calls to a Bristol helpline during lockdown.

The council’s free service, We are Bristol, offers support to those who need it most.

It is especially important during lockdown – with the current one expected to be in place until 2 December.

In response to an influx of calls for support, more people across the city are needed to give a few hours of their time to help those who are vulnerable, lonely and self-isolating during the pandemic.

Through the volunteer network Can Do Bristol, people can help residents with their shopping, pick up medication or prescriptions and ‘befriend’ those in isolation with weekly phone-calls. They can also offer online/tech support and help with dog walking.

The network is looking for volunteers for particular areas across the city. In South Bristol these include Filwood, Knowle, Hartcliffe, Bishopsworth and Withywood.

Can Do Bristol is also seeking volunteers who can speak in different languages from Somali, Polish, Arabic and Urdu to Punjabi, Bengali, Chinese or Kurdish – as well as people who can use British Sign Language.

Citizen Service Manager at We Are Bristol, Darin Hedges, said: “As expected, we are receiving increased calls for help through the We Are Bristol helpline under the new lockdown restrictions.

“For those who are at high risk from coronavirus, and considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ by the National Health Service, staying at home is vital to their safety, but realistically poses a risk of loneliness and an impact on their mental health…” 

He said over 600 volunteers had given up their time to help since the first lockdown in March – and they now needed to recruit more local people who could spare a few hours and “make a huge difference to people’s lives”.

He added: “Volunteering offers a great opportunity to meet and support people across the city and ‘give back’ at a time where kindness and generosity brings us together…”

Charlotte Senior, who has been volunteering for Can Do Bristol since April, said:… “If you want to form new relationships and support your community I would urge you to sign up. I’ve been able to help with a range of tasks from weekly shopping and telephone befriending whilst also working full time so it’s flexible.

“It helped to give me a purpose whilst feeling quite helpless about everything else going on around me.”

You can sign up online through the Can Do Bristol website at https://candobristol.co.uk/activity/c19-winter.

After your pledge is received you will be sent a link to an online registration form. Once your form is received applications will be processed focussing on priority areas and tasks.

If someone you know needs help, they can call the free We Are Bristol helpline Hotline on 0800 694 0184 (open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 2pm).

Find out more about the We Are Bristol helpline here.

For local volunteers stories during the pandemic see: http://www.knowlewest.co.uk/thanking-those-who-have-given-their-time-during-covid-19/