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Vital volunteer service will continue

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THE team behind the Melksham Community Response team, which has helped hundreds of vulnerable people during the pandemic, has said that they plan for the service to continue, offering much-needed support.

Set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the service has recruited over 400 local volunteers who have helped with a variety of tasks including shopping, collecting prescriptions, and dog walking.

The service has also highlighted the ongoing issue of social isolation within the community – and with the help of volunteers has also delivered a ‘friendly phone calls’ service, making hundreds of phone calls to people living alone.

And now there are plans for the founders of the service – Melksham Town Council, Melksham Without Parish Council, Melksham Area Board, and Age Friendly Melksham – to discuss how the Melksham Community Response service can continue long-term, offering this vital support.

Speaking at an online Melksham Community Briefing hosted by the Melksham Area Board last week, parish clerk for Melksham Without Parish Council, Teresa Strange, said, “The Melksham Community Response service will continue – it’s about finding a way for the service to be sustainable. The service was set up as a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic, but now we are moving towards developing the relationships we have created – so a volunteer who initially helped someone get some emergency supplies, might now become that person’s regular shopper.

“Also there are some people still shielding who are very frightened – and come August/September time they may not have left their house since March. So the service might help them with someone to go with them on a walk, and develop a buddying/befriending type relationship.”

Wiltshire councillor, Jon Hubbard added, “The key thing is relationships – to make a service like this sustainable, it’s about building these relationships. Some of our volunteers, as they return to work, are managing their return so that they can continue volunteering.

“Long term – one of the things we have spoken about is dealing with the challenges of social isolation – and what this service has done has given us a root in to a lot of people in the community and a relationship between the community support team, the volunteers and the service users.

“It’s about maintaining this, finding a sustainable way for continuing to support people, and recognising that this need is out there – the need was there before Covid, perhaps not as extreme, but the need was there before Covid, and the need will be there post-Covid.

“We need to work carefully with the four organisations who have sponsored and set up th programme, the volunteers who have made this possible, and the users – listen to what they want and create something sustainable in the long-term.”

In addition to the ongoing work of the Melksham Community Response Team, an online workshop to discuss a Covid recovery plan for the Melksham area will also be held next month.

Local authorities such as Melksham Town Council, Melksham Without Parish Council, local police and the Melksham Area Board will discuss what the emerging priorities are for Melksham in terms of its economy/health and wellbeing/education/care/community recovery, and develop a ‘shared strategy’ for the area.

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