It’s only been a week since the Prime Minister announced the emergency measures calling for everyone who can stay at home to stay at home. Yet it’s increasingly clear we’re going to be in it for the long haul – at least three months. It may even be as long as six months before things return to something resembling normality.
As time passes the impact on us all is likely to get more profound. We’re social animals and we don’t like to be kept apart. Our routines, at work and at play, have been disrupted – from going down to the pub to work to church. People on their own can become lonely and can feel down. The elderly and vulnerable in our community are likely to need help with shopping for food and medicines in addition to wanting company. In many cases families and friends are rallying round – calling each other up by phone or Skype and helping out with shopping and other supplies.
Yet not everyone has the level of family support they need. This is why Dover District Council Leader Trevor Bartlett and I have set up a Super Neighbour scheme. So that while you are at home, you are not alone. Your community and your neighbours will be there for you.
Super Neighbours aims to put together those who want to help with those who need it. Already we have been inundated with people wanting to help and matching them with elderly and vulnerable people in need who are seeking help or company. Whether it is help with shopping or simply wanting someone to speak to, Super Neighbours are there for us all.
In addition the council has set up a hotline for those in need of assistance – particularly focussed on the medically vulnerable who need to be shielded. There are 1.5 million such people up and down the land, several thousand of whom live in our community.
Meanwhile many villages and local groups in the towns have been developing their own networks to rally round. I’ve been impressed how swiftly our community has adapted – with innovations like online church services by my own church of St Paul’s Dover, while groups like Deal’s Talk It Out are providing online and telephone mental health support.
It is the hallmark of our community that we look out for each other. It’s what makes our area so strong and resilient. The response to Super Neighbours and the way so many groups and communities have swung into action to help others out makes me so proud.
We know the next few months will not be easy. Yet with the strength of our community and the fellowship that we provide to each other I know that we won’t simply get through it – we will emerge stronger than ever, ready to forge an amazing future for our community and country in the years and decades to come.