Coronavirus helpline number to change as demand falls, after making 100,000 calls to vulnerable residents: Stoke-on-Trent City Council Press Release

A helpline set up to support vulnerable people through the coronavirus pandemic has seen over 100,000 proactive welfare calls made to city residents.

The #StokeonTrentTogether campaign was launched by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and voluntary sector partner VAST in March. In that time, the campaign has also received around 10,000 calls from residents requesting help. Now the telephone number for the service is to change, after demand has fallen and people’s needs have been supported, as the city continues its recovery from the lockdown.

The campaign phone number will change from 0800 5615610 to the council’s contact centre number of 01782 234234 from Friday, 14 August.

Since the campaign launched on 23 March, a total of 100,308 calls have been made to vulnerable residents, including those who have been identified as shielding by the NHS, and those who are over 70. Support has also been given to families through the council’s children’s services teams. The proactive calls have helped to identify any needs of residents and ensure they have the right support, which has reduced the number of calls into the service.

In that time, a total of 4,745 requests for food parcels have been received, there have been 1,886 requests for prescription collections, and 112 referrals have been made to support services for people experiencing loneliness. There have also been requests for assistance to walk dogs and help with topping up utility metres.

Council leader Abi Brown said: “It is fantastic that so many people came together during the biggest national health crisis in a generation to give their support to help those who needed it the most.

“We took the decision to be proactive in making welfare calls to the most vulnerable people in the city. This was the right thing to do, to ensure people have the right support to get through this most difficult of times. It has meant that we have helped to meet more people’s needs, and reduced the number of calls into the service from residents.

“The scale of the operation has been vast, and at the peak we were handling more than 220 calls every day. It is a huge credit to everyone who has given their time to the campaign that we have been able to help so many people.

“We are now receiving below 40 calls a day, which is a further positive sign that the city is recovering well from the lockdown. We have planned our response to the coronavirus in a controlled and carefully managed way. The reduced demand now means that we can continue to give the support to people who may need it through our contact centre.

“We also know that national guidance indicates that people who have been shielding can visit shops and amenities from the end of July, as part of a further phased relaxation of the lockdown.

“By making this change to the campaign on 14 August, it gives more time for people to adjust to the change in shielding arrangements.”

VAST chief executive and finance director Lisa Healings said: “VAST and the rest of the voluntary sector in Stoke-on-Trent are proud to have been a part of #StokeonTrentTogether, helping to support the most vulnerable in our community through unprecedented times. When we came together in March, as the extent of the crisis became apparent, we could not have envisaged what the next few months would bring.

“Our communities have stepped forward in a remarkable way to respond to those in need with almost 800 people offering their help as volunteers enabling our local charities to step up their work. As we enter the recovery phase and the challenges we face evolve, the voluntary sector will continue to develop and respond to make sure we can continue to support those in need.”

Councillor Brown added: “We are now looking at how #StokeonTrentTogether continues as the lockdown eases, building on the incredible success of so many partners coming together to give their support.

“Through the campaign we have identified that there are residents who need support but don’t know where to go for it. The campaign has also identified lots of community groups wanting to offer their help. We’ll now be working at ways to match people with community support, and likewise we’ll be working with community groups who have asked for help themselves. Such a positive momentum has been built from the campaign and we want to ensure that community spirit can continue to grow.”