West Berkshire Council

West Berkshire Council logo
Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Find information about community support and our services during the coronavirus pandemic, on our information for residents pages, our information for businesses pages, and our community support hub page which has guidance to help coordinate community organisations.

See a summary of our Local Outbreak Control Plan and read our frequently asked questions. 

West Berkshire Community Support Hub Thanks Community and Volunteer Groups for Lockdown Support to Residents

2020 - Community Support Hub Volunteers collage 2

The West Berkshire Community Support Hub would like to thank the 90 community and volunteer groups it has been working closely with to support residents during the coronavirus lockdown. The Community Support Hub has been linking individuals in need to the services available from these groups, who represent nearly 3,000 volunteers across the district.

Nearly 9 out of 10 community and volunteer groups were quickly formed as a direct response to the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, according to recent survey of the 90 group co-ordinators collaborating with the Hub. The remainder came from existing community and voluntary services which urgently adapted to meet the coronavirus emergency.

According to the survey, the most prevalent services provided by the community and volunteer groups included collecting prescriptions (97%), shopping (94%), befriending someone who is isolated (66%), delivering food parcels (54%), and providing advice (51%).  Other services included dog walking (40%), transport (37%), and emergency repairs (31%).

Howard Woollaston, West Berkshire Conservative District Councillor for Lambourn Ward and Executive Portfolio Holder for Public Health & Community Wellbeing, Sports and Culture, said:

"The Community Support Hub, together with our partners Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and Greenham Trust, would like to convey our enormous thanks to all those involved for their outstanding help and support throughout the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.

"The speed of reaction by community and volunteer groups, local towns and parish councils, and individual volunteers, has been truly amazing. Their dedication has helped us to respond to the elderly and vulnerable at a time when they have needed it most."

2020 - Community Support Hub Volunteers Collage 3
2020 - Community Support Hub Volunteers Collage 3

Collaboration and communication core to volunteers' successes

The community and volunteer group co-ordinators revealed in their survey feedback that the keys to their teams' numerous successes came from focusing upon collaboration, both within their teams and with their local providers, and using a variety of communications tools to bring their local community together. These techniques included the use of Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp, socially distanced meet ups and telephone calls.

For example, the Mortimer Village Partnership (MVP) Covid Support Group operated a Helpline as well as a "Listening Circle" weekly via Zoom where people could come to talk and feel heard with several experienced "circle facilitators." In addition, the support group was able to call upon its volunteers using a specially designed system to nominate those particularly in need and to deliver free meals offered by local pubs or fish and chips shops.

2020 - Community Support Hub volunteer collage 1
2020 - Community Support Hub volunteer collage 1
In Berrys Road, Upper Bucklebury (including Blacklands Road and Woodside Close), weekly socially distanced coffee mornings every Sunday were started at the beginning of lockdown, with anyone welcome to join.  These get-togethers have since been expanded into frequent  BBQs on residents' front driveways, sing-along sessions with local musicians and big celebrations with bunting, music, dancing and food for Easter, VE Day, and Father's Day/Summer Solstice. Neighbours also gathered around to sing a socially distanced version of Happy Birthday to those who were celebrating during lockdown. 

Apart from being a lot of fun and helping the community in the roads, these activities, along with the NHS Clap on a Thursday, have promoted mental health and well-being. They've also been described at times as a lifeline especially for those residents who do not have digital access, or nearby family and friends for support. In addition, those residents who volunteer to assist with the more practical needs (coordination via WhatsApp and passing information to the wider area using a Community Facebook Group) feel greatly rewarded by helping others.

The Compton COVID-19 Volunteer Group has run numerous community socially-distanced activities such as sewing scrubs for the NHS; crafts such as 'tinsects,' bunting and rainbows; sunflower growing; cake making; Easter Cards; book and puzzle swaps; and preparing home cooked food for families. They also plan to continue their befriending scheme for many months to come. Shelley, one of the group organisers, said that the volunteers have been having great fun helping to keep community spirits up while assisting isolated residents with all their needs such as shopping.

Working with the Community Support Hub

In the volunteer group co-ordinator survey, 97% of respondents noted that they felt supported by the Council throughout the lockdown, with all saying that they wished to continue receiving the Hub Bulletin, a news and resource update issued to them by the Community Support Hub each week.

Moving forward, several of the co-ordinators and Towns and Parish councillors will be working with the Community Support Hub and the West Berkshire Public Health and Wellbeing department to collaborate on further enhancing ways of reaching the elderly, vulnerable and other marginalised communities across the District.

The Community Support Hub was originally set up in partnership with Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and Greenham Trust in March 2020 to connect people in need with groups offering help during the coronavirus lockdown.  Although national shielding paused on 31 July, the Community Support Hub is staying open to ensure that the elderly and most vulnerable people have access to food, medication and other services. The Hub will also continue to support and consult with the wonderful volunteers and community action groups that are helping vulnerable people in their local areas.

People in significant difficulty can contact the West Berkshire Community Support Hub on: 01635 503579 or by email on westberksbct@westberks.gov.uk. The Hub will be able to direct them to the help they need. The Hub is open from 8:30am to 5pm on Monday to Thursday and 8:30am to 4:30pm on Friday.