Lancashire's communities rally round for those needing help due to the coronavirus outbreak

It seems that community spirit in more plentiful supply than many essential items in Lancashire.

Thursday, 19th March 2020, 6:00 am
Banana King Norman Young, who is offering a free delivery service to OAPs

Volunteers and business across the county are putting special measures in place to help those affected by coronavirus.

Nationally, more than 1,500 'mutual aid' groups have been set up, and their work is being replicated locally.

Over the next couple of days, every door in New Longton and Whitestake will be leafleted by members of the New Longton and Whitestake Community Facebook page, offering help with deliveries and dog walking.

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The help has been organised by four New Longton mums: Janet Quinlan, Nicola Pop, Cloe Scott and Sarah McGuinness.

Janet, 44, said: "It started with a Facebook message from Sarah and then other people started making noises.

"Me and Nicola rely a lot on one another as our husbands work a way, and we wondered 'who's helping everyone else?'

"We found a 'help if isolated' form and started out to create a hub.

"We've put out an SOS for volunteers and have been adding their names, addresses and mobile numbers to a database. The numbers have been added to a WhatsApp group, so that if someone gets our leaflets and calls us for help, we can put it out to the group and wait to see who can help.

"I'm also hoping that we find patterns that will help. For instance, if Fred from Chapel Lane has been asking for help with something every day, then a few days go by without us hearing from him, then we will ask for someone to check on him."

Janet is keen that the group helps all members of the community, not just the elderly and vulnerable.

She said: "I think it's important that we don't assume somebody's alright. There are older people who rely on going out for meals and need help making meals. There are parent relying on schools to feed their child.

"We want to try and protect all members of the community."

The group is looking to work with local suppliers, churches, the chemist shop in New Longton and the village hall to arrange for a network of supply and delivery.

Anyone wishing to help or who is looking for help should visit the New Longton and Whitestake Community Facebook Page.

In Preston, Matt Wade's Banana King, based in Orchard Street, is one of several local businesses offering delivery of essential supplies.

Owner Norman Young is offering free deliveries to pensioners, and is vowing not to raise prices unnecessarily.

He said: "We have been serving Preston for 130 years, we had the banana allocation for the town during the war, and it's back to the spirit of that.

"We are not just a shop, we're a service, and we're going to do as much as can to help out when we can."

The shop is currently offering fresh fruit and veg, bread, milk, cheese and cooked ham. Norman is in talks with a local butcher to see whether fresh meat can be included into the service.

He added: "We've been doing an online service for 15 years in the Preston area, but we've found a lot of elderly people don't have the internet or they're not very computer friendly.

"With the over 70s being told to self-isolate, they will be looking for trusted people to deliver goods.

"It's very difficult to get a major supermarket to deliver at the moment, and we're not asking for a minimum order either. An elderly person on their own might struggle to order £20 of products."

Other businesses on Preston Market are also offering delivery of goods to shoppers who might not be able to leave their homes. They need to be contacted individually.

They include:

Pickles of Preston: cheese, eggs and dairy

Redmans: cooked meats, sandwiches, bread

Livesey's butchers: meat

Fresh and fruity: fruit and veg

Mark Williams: fishmonger

Strands: cooked meats and pies

The national picture

Nationally, more than 1,500 'mutual aid' groups have been set up, being coordinated by ‘Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK’. They have organised online meetings as well as taking to the streets to give people flyers describing the kind of support they are offering.

As well as practical support the groups are offering telephone calls with people who are self-isolating due to infection or increased vulnerability.

Anna Vickerstaff, one of the coordinators of the national network, said: "No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much money we have, getting sick reminds us that at our core we’re all just human.

"And in every country it’s the old, the sick and those already struggling who will be affected worse. That’s why we set this network up - because we want to make sure that no one in our communities is being left to face this crisis alone, and because we want to try and redress some of the serious inequalities this outbreak will expose.

“Groups are being set up and run entirely by volunteers - and our hope is that they can help to make sure people who need support get it. With the NHS and public services having been so ruthlessly underfunded in the last decade, we really just want to make sure that people don’t end up suffering alone, or without the basics and support that they need from the outside world.

“There’s some pretty big questions about whether or not the government’s response to this crisis has been fit for purpose. So it’s even more important that so many ordinary people across the country are keen to offer solidarity to each other in a moment of need. We’d love to see even more communities get involved too - and we’re developing resources to help people take action in their neighbourhoods.”