Electricity, internet, food, welfare and wellbeing : Key advice on the basics during coronavirus

Bec Horner

Bec Horner

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Electricity, internet, food, welfare and wellbeing : Key advice on the basics during coronavirus

The Local Area Coordinators (LACs) in York are a team of incredible people who directly support the residents of different areas of York. One person is responsible for Tang Hall for example, another for Acomb, another for Clifton etc. etc. 

They work with individuals and families, of all ages and abilities in their specific neighbourhood, in a way that best suits those individuals. One day they might be offering advice on finding a new energy supplier, the next how to get a prescription delivered.  Another time they might be helping a single Mum know about places they could socialise at with other people who have young children. 

Each Local Area Coordinator has a good knowledge of mental health, the welfare system, and the charity and support network in York. They are also really clued up on the specific community they work within. They provide links to relevant services, let people know about resources available and can advise on all manner of things.

Local Area Coordinators take the time to get to know local residents and the people and organisations around them – their family, friends, carers, schools, churches, shop keepers – helping build up a strong support network for the people and the community. 

They are also a really friendly, empathetic bunch, often offering emotional support as well as practical advice. They have become well-known, friendly, familiar faces for many in each neighbourhood.  

 

So when coronavirus reached York, the Local Area Coordination team were already well placed to respond quickly to the new needs of the residents of the city. 

Jennie Cox, the Senior Local Area Coordinator, told Social Vision that there were various issues that came up again and again that were affecting people during this pandemic. They issues were: 

  • Gas & Electricity
  • Communication & Connecting
  • Money & Benefits
  • Food
  • Staying active & Healthy
  • Household Repairs & Waste

And the Local Area Coordinators have collated advice specifically for these pressing topics.

Jennie was happy for us to share her findings with the wider public. She also told us a little story about something that happened to her last week:

A typical encounter for a Local Area Coordinator 

We’re overwhelmed by offers of help from those we’ve walked alongside who are now in a position to help others stay safe by going to the shop, picking up a prescription, checking on neighbours etc.

Last week I went to check up on a man I was worried about.  He struggles with memory and complex health conditions and has no phone. 

He answered the door in pain, told me he was close to running out of medication and had little food. 

He was confused, remarking ‘I keep forgetting I am not supposed to be going out’. 

From a safe distance in his hallway, I helped call the GP and arrange a repeat prescription to be delivered by the pharmacy, organise a food parcel delivery and explained I would come back in a week with a phone loaded with credit and useful numbers. 

As I was leaving, a neighbour in the flat below popped her head out to say ‘Hello’ as she’d recognised my voice. 

Someone I had previously helped through difficult times, she said she would also look out for and check in on the man I had been to visit. 

I left feeling like we can all get through this together. 

It’s exactly this kind of story that spurred Jennie and the LAC team on to create the checklist. These are practical steps people can take to help themselves and their friends and family, to plan ahead to keep well, safe and connected throughout the Coronavirus crisis. 

Here’s their advice: 

GAS AND ELECTRICITY  

Having light, heating, fuel to cook and provide entertainment/connection through devices has become very important. Many people are going to be at home for longer, therefore their bills may be higher.

ELECTRICITY ADVICE: 

  • Prepayment meters – Top these up as much as you can prioritising this over other bills which are non-priority. Take less trips to the shop to top up, either for yourself or others by budgeting in advance and helping relatives and friends out with this if you know they are likely to struggle over coming weeks. Contact your provider asap if you are self isolating and cannot top up and ask for an extension of the emergency credit.
  • Smartmeters  – Will have an app you can use to top up online. 
  • Direct Debit bill payers – Make sure there is money in your account to cover bills. If you have the means to, help others ensure they have enough in their bank accounts. 

Contact your provider asap to discuss if you will have difficulty paying your bill to see if you can change or take a break from your payment arrangement. 

COMMUNICATION AND CONNECTION 

Whilst we are social distancing and some of us are self isolating/shielding it is important we find ways to keep connected to others and the outside world. Phones, internet connection, video calling and entertainment packages can all help everyone feel less lonely. 

COMMUNICATION ADVICE: 

  • If you have a pay-as-you-go phone is this topped up? Can you help others who are likely to run out of credit by offering to top their phones up?
  • If you have a landline, phone or broadband contract make sure you have enough money to cover your bills so you don’t get cut off – Contact your provider asap if you are going to struggle to meet your payments to see if they can help. 
  • Do you know someone without a phone? If so do you have an old one you can give them? There are also some funds available to get phones to people who are completely isolated and disconnected. 
  • Can you help friends/relatives get an internet connection if they don’t have one? Share any spare devices and show them how to work them (over the phone or by writing down instructions). Help them remotely set up social media accounts, download apps which will help them stay in touch or connect to free resources such as audio books, digital radio stations or Youtube. 
  • Do you have a subscription to an entertainment package which you can share with a friend or relative? Especially if they are on their own and struggling with isolation. Netflix is one example which can be used on several devices with the same password.

MONEY AND BENEFITS 

There is a wealth of information online about new rules which have been put in place to make it easier to claim welfare benefits or to access schemes linked to the hardship fund the government has made available to local councils to help with this crisis.

MONEY ADVICE:

  • Calculate your benefits  – If you or someone you know is struggling the easiest way to check what you/they may be entitled to is to use a benefits calculator on the gov.uk site. 
  • York Financial Assistance Scheme (YFAS)City of York Council has to help those who are struggling financially in a number of ways. Please check the website or ring to find out more. 
  • Keep DWP up to date with any change in circumstances to ensure your benefits stay in payment and are paid correctly.
  • Ensure you pay your rent and contact your landlord asap if you cannot pay, whether this is your CYC HMO, a housing association officer or a private landlord. You can access free housing advice through charities such as Shelter. Keeping a roof over your head is a key part of staying safe in this crisis. 

MEDICATION 

Pharmacies and GPs are under a lot of pressure at this time so help them by planning ahead and putting things in place to get your medicines or help someone else who might need some assistance. Long term plans are being put in place which should help with delivery of all medication in the coming weeks.

MEDICATION ADVICE: 

  • Order repeat prescriptions well in advance, don’t wait until you are about to run out. Give the GP at least a week to process your repeat prescription request. 
  • Contact your pharmacy to see if you can arrange delivery rather than going in to pick it up. 
  • If you can’t arrange a delivery make arrangements for a friend/relative or a trusted person to pick this up for you or ring the CYC helpline on 01904 551550

Please do not give your prescription to a stranger to collect – make sure it is a trusted person or registered worker/volunteer from a known organisation. 

FOOD 

There are local food suppliers now offering delivery, organisations offering free meals, supermarkets doing specific hours for the vulnerable and emergency food parcels available.

  • Emergency food parcels are available through the help team at City of York Council. Call them on 01904 551550. Also check out York Foodbank 
  • Local businesses providing FREE hot meals 
  • Supper Collective (city wide) – A collective of local independents safely delivering FREE nutritious meals to heat at home for the isolated and vulnerable call: 0333 2005465
  • Planet Food (Thursdays in Southbank) Providing Pay-As-You-Feel hot meals using surplus food on Thursdays. Call 07734721187  Email planetfoodyork@gmail.com
    Please tell them:
    1. How many people is your bag of food for?
    2. Do you want meat / fish / veggie / vegan?
    3. Any items we must avoid?
    4. Can we deliver to your doorstep?
  • Isolation Grub Club (Mondays and Thursdays for residents in Tang Hall/Heworth/) – If you live in the Tang Hall area and self isolating and need a FREE nutritious meal call 01904 431492

If you have enough food and can afford it please share with others who you know are finding it hard. 

Only hand cash over to a trusted friend, neighbour, relative or registered worker/volunteer to do your shopping. 

STAYING ACTIVE/HEALTHY

This can be limited if you have to stay indoors – but there are a number of ways you can be creative about this and it is a good idea to make daily exercise part of your daily routine for physical and mental wellbeing. 

STAYING ACTIVE ADVICE: 

  • Workouts online –  There are exercise videos and workouts online
    Lunchtime chair exercises – Good Morning Britain, ITV, 11.45-12.10
    Seated exercises 

    10 minutes of movement
    – 1pm every weekday – Local charity Move the Masses are doing a 10 minute workout accessible to all ages and abilities
  • Walk about at home – If you are working from home you can stay active by taking regular breaks to walk around the house, using the stairs if you have them.
     
  • Take out a neighbours dog –  If you are not self isolating could you use your daily exercise to take a neighbour, friend or relative’s dog out for a walk? It is important to think of our furry friends and how they will struggle with being kept inside for so long. If you can’t help with taking a dog out which you know is stuck inside with someone self isolating, there are other charities which can help with this such as Age UKor York Neighbours.  Here’s a link to Age UK’s Keep your pet service

REPAIRS & HOUSEHOLD WASTE

To limit contact and minimise risks around infection, only urgent or emergency repairs in the house are allowed whilst social distancing and ‘lockdown’ is in place. This doesn’t stop you or someone in your household doing DIY or decorating but you should not have anyone else in your home to do anything but urgent repair work. 

Bins may be emptied less often and green bin collections have stopped  – Please check the schedules and follow gov.uk guidance about bagging rubbish to ensure better infection control. You may need to be mindful of this when ordering goods on the internet, which often come with a lot of packaging, or if you are planning on doing work in your garden. Please be respectful of others if you live in flats where there are communal bin areas. 

Get in touch with your Local Area Coordinator 

Need advice on anything during the COVID-19 Pandemic? Call the Council helpline on 01904 551550

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