Can Do News: Volunteer support making the difference

On 20th March, when Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees called upon the city’s residents to support the city’s volunteer response to COVID-19 via Can Do Bristol, it was impossible to predict how many people might be in need of support and how many volunteers may be required to help. Hundreds of residents have been supported with activities such as shopping, prescription pick up and dog-walking as well as many more being supported by the Council’s telephone buddying system.

We surveyed 239 of those residents (from the city’s ‘central hub’ including Clifton, Cliftondown, Cotham, -Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze, Stoke Bishop, Redland, Bishopston, Ashley Down and Eastville). They told us about the high quality of care and support that Can Do volunteers have given over the last few months; overall, 90% of residents rated the quality of support they received as ‘excellent’ (with this number rising to 100% for those who received support with dog walking).

Such positive feedback from residents is testament to the commitment, kindness and care shown by volunteers across the city as well as the dedicated community leaders who provided vital support to the Council in managing volunteers. One volunteer coordinator – reflecting on the support given to a young mum in the community – said the following:-

“This example of kindness demonstrated the pulling together of the BS3 community covid-19 response team. It made me reflect on the complex needs of vulnerable families and how volunteers and social prescribers are willing to go above and beyond to help those in need. The compassion and creativity used here to overcome language barriers was a ‘pick me up’ at a time when we are all facing new challenges and shows that we really are stronger together.”

A period of transition

The easing of lockdown restrictions has enabled many residents to take back their normal lives, with the majority of residents opting out of long-term support for prescription pick-up (59%) and shopping (51%) respectively. The continued demand for telephone buddying (76% of residents who receive it requested ongoing support), demonstrates a real need for committed volunteers.

Bristol City Council wants to support residents in returning to supporting themselves,. But we also want  offer volunteer support to those who continue to require a helping hand and to support them to link in thei r communities, voluntary support and services to address their needs over the autumn. The potential of a second-wave of COVID-19 (and a return to stricter lockdown measures) also means there is still a need to call on the city’s bank of extraordinary volunteers to renew their support and offer flexibility in terms of the support they are able to offer.

Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, what this period of time has demonstrated is the strength of Bristol’s communities and their united response to overcoming challenges. We’re grateful to the amazing Can Do volunteers who have helped to further demonstrate such community spirit.

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