The existing Oxford Hub infrastructure has pivoted all resources towards four different volunteering areas:
- Practical support volunteers – providing immediate support with food, prescriptions, and other crucial errands (from walking the dog for shielded older people, to talking a child to school where a disabled mum or a key worker cannot do that).
- Phone Links – providing a daily check in for people who are struggling during lockdown. This includes older people but also people with learning difficulties, mental health issues or anyone who just needs more social contact.
- Street Champions & Neighbourhood Coordinators – a network of 500+ individuals who are supporting their streets, connecting their neighbours and acting as a hyper-local community safety net for their immediate community.
- Back up for key services – providing volunteers for food delivery to SOFEA, the Community Emergency Foodbank and Oxford Food Bank. Plus volunteer drivers for pharmacy and charity support.
Volunteers have come from many backgrounds and for many reasons including software developers to manage the administration of the support; operational partnership with Oxford City Council; seconded staff on furlough from local charities and arts organisations plus individuals offering their time.
Oxford Together have received feedback on the higher levels of support people are experiencing compared to ‘normal times’ and they are exploring how to make this sustainable through longer-term community involvement. Legacy plans will sustain community engagement and address the expected growing inequalities.
Thousands of people have stepped up to help others. Many people who have received support through Oxford Together have gone on to volunteer themselves, either over the phone or in person once they’re no longer quarantining.
100 days since they launched Oxford Together, they have pledged to continue delivering their Practical Support, Prescription Runner and Phone Links services: these programmes have revealed a high need for this kind of support that will not go away after lockdown. They are still receiving requests for support every day and you can still sign up to volunteer via the Oxford Hub website.
When Sara spoke at our webinar, a key message was how funding from OCF allowed her the time to think about the future and the legacy of Oxford Together. This has become a theme of our Community Resilience Funding and will be part of recover stronger the focus of our longer-term support to the local voluntary and community sector. We Share Oxford Together’s ambition to have a stronger, more connected community for the future – a world in which we will all look out for our neighbours and help those who are vulnerable in our local communities all the time – and nor just when we are experiencing a global pandemic. Oxford Together’s systems have been designed with multiple layers of support – through different ways of connecting and integration with other providers of support – key for ensuring that ‘nobody falls through the cracks’.
Sara Fernandez explain Oxford Hub’s COVID-19 response.