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Covid-19 and our Community

Today I sent out my monthly ‘Love Reading West’ community newsletter. You can subscribe here
Here’s some of what I said:

“I am sure like me you feel somewhat helpless.  It is hard to know what is going to happen next and my usual monthly rhythm of sharing the events and activities of our community here in Reading West is obviously not possible.  But while we can’t control Corona we are not helpless.

The importance of our local community, and the wonderful actions of our public service workers and staff in our local businesses as well as our community groups and charities is more important than ever.   

Like many, many of us I applauded our NHS workers at my front door on Thursday at 8pm, but I also want to thank the shop workers and delivery drivers who are keeping us fed, the care staff looking after our elderly and vulnerable residents, the posties and the council staff, the charities getting food to people and all the other unsung heros. 

Even businesses you might not think of are working together – if you want cheering up take a look at how West Reading resident, Alex Gibson, worked with Reading Buses to take his 3D printers to work against Corona.
 Rather than talk about our community I’m emailing you this month to share with you some key information and resources, I’ve been careful to only use trusted sources.  The central government website has a summary of the facts.  
If you live or work in the Reading Borough Council area you may also want to subscribe to the council’s updates, which you can here.

Round up on Corona and our Community at time of sending:

How you can help

The government advice of staying home wherever possible is in many ways the best way we can help our NHS, care workers and shop staff stay safe.  It may not feel that heroic but it is vital to slow the spread.

It has been a real positive that our local communities and streets are coming together, supporting our nearest neighbours and family and friends is vital at the moment.

Your local community group may need support financially or via volunteering – from Whitley Community Development Association, to West Reading Together to Pangbourne Parish Council there are small groups stepping up – you can donate or give you time.
If you want to help volunteer across Reading the Council is working with RVA to run the “One Reading Community” hub – you can sign up to volunteer here.  If you live in the West Berkshire council area you can sign up via the West Berkshire Volunteer Hub 

I have been shocked by the empty shelves in supermarkets at the same time as small businesses have been struggling.   If you are spending money on something do consider supporting your local small business of whatever kind – whether it is buying a voucher for use later from your hairdresser, or ordering online from a shop you’d normally visit, small traders really need our support right now to stay in business.  #SupportLocal 

Our NHS needs data.  Until the government finally ramps up testing some of this isn’t going to happen but one way we can all help is to take part on the academic study on Corona symptoms.  They want people with and without symptoms to take part, you can 
take a look here 

Support for Older and Vulnerable people
If you are a Reading Borough Council area resident and need additional support during the outbreak please contact the One Reading hub, which brings together the council, Reading Voluntary Action and Community Groups across town.  If you, or someone you know is in need of extra support, including food deliveries you can fill in the online coronavirus support form, or call 0808 1894325 (freephone) from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday (and they are about to start operating at the weekend as well).  Give this number to vulnerable friends and family too.

 Matt Taylor, Chief Executive of Age UK Reading has asked me to remind people of the support that his charity is offering particularly to older people who are living alone.  If that is you please contact them and if you know any one in these circumstances please do put them in touch:

Reading Borough Council has waived the time limits on using bus passes for bus pass holders.  Note that we do encourage that wherever it is possible elderly residents should ask somebody they trust to shop for them, but by waiving the time limit on concessionary fares the aim is to offer a better option to those who cannot.   Some of the Parish Councillors are encouraging West Berkshire council to do the same.

Support for businesses, workers and charities

The trade unions and business groups have been pushing for more official government support for business and workers, and the government has come up with some very ambitious schemes..  l’ve been looking at this in detail as part of my day job and I’ve been contacted by local traders in my role as a councillor.  While there are quite a number of gaps a lot of employers (including charities) will be able to access some support.  It’s worth keeping an eye on the government website as it is being updated as more issues are pointed out.

 In Reading the council has made an extra £100,000 available to the voluntary sector, contact RVA for more details.
 As a worker your employer should be looking at how to support you, whether to keep you safe, help you work from home or to use the schemes available to save jobs.  Do keep in touch with your trade union, Community and the GMB for example have both been very active on this.  If your employers isn’t taking action – ask them to do so.

 Small businesses can really work together at a time like this – whether it is through a group like “The Curious Lounge” or your local small business Facebook group do look for what support there is out there. 

 If you have set up a new community group Reading Neighbourhood Network can help and can also add you to their list of community groups.

Finally I just wanted to wish you all the best.  Please do look after your mental health.  It’s a scary time and we probably all need to remember our emotions will be all over the place (this website is, I think, quite helpful in thinking about the impact on your mental health of this crisis).

While we are currently physically distant from each other, let’s still support each other.

We are a strong community and we will come through this together.  Stay home, stay safe and stay well.

best wishes,

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