NHS volunteers invited to join Darlington Support

Without a local entity to organise their efforts, Darlington risks losing the community contribution of hundreds of public-spirited NHS Responders

A grass roots charity is extending an open invitation to all NHS Responders to swell their ranks to make sure that motivated and skilled volunteers stay connected as lockdown eases. Organisers fear that as no one knows when or how big the second wave of coronavirus will be it is more important than ever to keep Darlington volunteers active and organised.

At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, it is estimated that hundreds of people in Darlington signed up to join the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme. These individuals have been allocated support tasks through a central system that operates across the country by matching them with nearby residents who require help.

At the same time, Darlington Support was set up when the local community in Darlington came together back in March to confront the COVID-19 virus. A 6,000-strong Facebook group was formed and local support teams across all areas of Darlington were created with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

In addition to assisting hundreds of residents with their shopping, prescriptions or dog-walking, Darlington Support has established a call centre, a system to manage the thousands of tasks completed and a companion call team. The charity also expanded the services that it offers and entered into partnerships with Darlington Borough Council, Darlington Football Club and other local groups.

As a result of its growth, Darlington Support is now offering its volunteers opportunities to help Darlington Library, King's Church Foodbank, The Bread and Butter Thing charity, Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington, Healthwatch Darlington, amongst others. The charity has also worked with local schools to cheer the town's residents up, organised training sessions for its team members and is planning its first social event to celebrate the work of its volunteers in the presence of the Mayor of Darlington.

Darlington Borough Councillor Mike Renton, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of Darlington Support and an NHS Volunteer Responder, said: "Because of the two contrasting approaches of a national scheme and a local community group, NHS volunteers have been carrying out their valuable community work without the support and guidance of any local structure and without benefiting from the strong personal bonds that develop amongst members of the same team. Furthermore, there is no framework to enable them to help and assist other good causes and charities in Darlington."

Darlington Borough Councillor Chris McEwan, who is a member of the Board of Trustees of Darlington Support and whose wife is an NHS Volunteer Responder, explained: "Many of the NHS volunteers are yet to complete their first task supporting the community. However, they have the potential of making a positive impact in our town if they join Darlington Support and start receiving information about new volunteering opportunities across Darlington. By inviting these kind-hearted individuals to join Darlington Support, we are ensuring that there is one local strong group in Darlington to create a positive legacy out of this difficult situation."

Darlington Borough Councillor Matthew Snedker, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees of Darlington Support, added: “One of the lessons that we all learned from this crisis is that there are many people in our community who are keen on helping others. It is important not to let the opportunities that came about in a painful manner be lost in vain. Instead, we must hold on strongly to the precious bonds that were developed across our town."

If you are an NHS Volunteer Responder who would like to join Darlington Support, please complete this form: www.darlingtonsupport.uk/nhs or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Some of Darlington Support volunteers who are taking part in the collaborative project with Healthwatch

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