Still here for you: Charities reaffirm their pledge of support during lockdown

Volunteers help package food parcels for the vulnerable. Picture: Stewart Turkington

CHARITIES across the borough have reaffirmed their pledge of support for residents during the pandemic.

Citizens Advice Wokingham, which has been running the One Front Door service since March, is pushing forward community mental health provision and will be training specialist first aiders.

Jake Morrison, chief executive of Citizens Advice Wokingham said: “There are lots of people facing mental health issues for the first time.

“We’re working to upskill people, and I’ll be delivering training to 192 people over the next six months to become mental health first aiders.

“That includes 60 council staff and some of the elected members too.

“There are still roles and spaces available, so anyone interested can contact us to find out more.

“Having mental health first aiders across our community can only help ensure we’re getting to people as soon as possible.”

Last year, it supported Earley residents and helped them receive additional wellbeing support.

The town has the highest rates of depression and anxiety across the entire borough, with more people suffering from those mental health conditions than anywhere else.

In partnership with the local NHS groups, the charity has helped improve the wellbeing among all those who were supported.

This week, the council is launching its new partnership with Mind, the mental health charity.

The 18-month pilot scheme will aim to help ensure early intervention and timely referrals for residents in need of help.

Mr Morrison said the charity aims to lead with positivity, and support residents continuously with their needs.

“If the voluntary sector doesn’t step up, who else will,” he said. “We owe it to ourselves and to our clients to move forward positively.

“We’re dealing with some of the saddest situations people can be in, but we want to be a place to come and push forward.”

He added: “We know the consequences of the pandemic will roll on for a few years. We are prepared to take that on with our open door policy.

“We are far more equipped now than ever before to help people throughout the pandemic.

“There’s nothing arising that we haven’t already dealt with, and we have absolute confidence in supporting people and knowing what resources are out there.”

Wokingham Foodbank

Wokingham Foodbank is also encouraging anybody who is struggling for food to seek help.

Under the new coronavirus restrictions, it is continuing to offer its usual support including providing food and fuel payment top-ups.

“We are very much open and we will remain open throughout this lockdown period,” said Annette Medhurst, manager of Wokingham Foodbank.

“If you’re struggling and don’t know where to go, get in touch with us and we can signpost you or contact Citizens Advice Wokingham’s One Front Door scheme, please.

“We are here for you.”

Wokingham Foodbank has also extended its collection hours throughout lockdown, and is open for people to pick up food parcels on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.

It will continue to deliver to those who are self-isolating or cannot access the foodbank on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, too.

To access these services, residents must get a referral.

Anybody wishing to donate to Wokingham Foodbank is encouraged to drop donations off at local supermarkets.

“If people are out on their daily exercise or on their way to walk we will accept drop-offs, but coming to the food bank is not an essential journey so please go through the supermarket.”

Share Wokingham

Those that do not wish to go through the referral process can also make use of Share Wokingham.

Born out of lockdown, the charity, which works with supermarkets to turn products destined for the bin into food parcels.

It says it will continue to operate until there is no more demand, and is ready to support anybody who needs help throughout lockdown.

“Our team is extremely dedicated,” said Claire Revie, one of the charity’s volunteers.

“We are absolutely ready to carry on, with extra measures in place so we can still serve those that need the help.”

Anybody is able to collect a food parcel from Share Wokingham, which operates out of Norreys Church, without a referral.

Food parcels are available for collection from Norreys Church in Wokingham town centre, but Ms Revie says the charity is considering arranging booking slots so people can stay safe while getting help.

“We will continue to be here for as long as there is a supply and a need,” she added.

“There’s no judgment, no preconceptions, we are simply here. Come and get the help because nobody is going to ask any questions.”

To access the ‘One Front Door’ service, call Citizen’s Advice on 0300 330 1189. Those calling from a mobile phone should enter if prompted: 0118 978 7258.

For more information on Share Wokingham, visit: www.facebook.com/sharewokingham

For more information about donating to Wokingham Foodbank, visit: wokingham.foodbank.org.uk

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