We reached a significant milestone last weekend, when the National Shielding Programme was officially paused. People who have been shielding from the virus for the past four months or more because they are clinically extremely vulnerable were able to start meeting with other people and going outdoors again from 1 August, albeit still paying close attention to the social distancing guidance.
Over the past month or so we’ve been speaking to many of the people locally in this situation, to make sure they know what the new rules are, how to keep themselves safe, and to make sure they have all the support and information they need going forwards, and it’s fair to say there has been a mixed reaction to the changes – some people very keen to return to some form of normality, and others who remain very concerned and may continue to stay at home for a while longer.
Supporting this group of people – 32,000 across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – has been one of the most humbling things I’ve ever done, and I am full of admiration for the ways in which those that have had to isolate for weeks on end have coped. We’ve built some amazing relationships with many people, and I really hope that in some small way we’ve helped make the experience at least a little more manageable.
We’re now turning our attention to supporting local outbreak management. Alongside our district and city council partners, we have learned so much about the type of support people need to self-isolate, and we are taking that learning forward to support people, where needed, who receive a positive COVID-19 test result or who are contact traced and advised to self-isolate. Although the period of self-isolation will be far shorter than those that have been shielding, many will still need help, and we remain here to provide that support.
This work is especially important in Peterborough right now because of the continued above average rates of the virus in parts of the city. Our community leaders in Peterborough are doing some amazing work with residents to deliver messages reminding everyone to be careful, and we are making good progress, but this is a whole team effort and one which we must sustain.
We’ll be pausing the Highlights from the Hubs newsletter for the next few weeks – giving it a summer break! – but we’ll be back! Meanwhile, thank you to everyone that has supported us, helped us, and listened to us, and I hope you have a really great summer!
Service Director: Communities and Partnerships for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council
Since March the Countywide Coordination Hub has been staffed by volunteers and council workers who have been seconded from their normal day to day roles in order to help look after the vulnerable in our county.
At the start of the pandemic we identified 19,040 people who required our help. All were contacted by letter and phone and from this the hub has been in regular contact, mainly weekly, with 7,812 shielded people.
People asked for help in many ways; we had 7,763 direct phone calls for help and responded to 5,737 direct emails asking for help. Help came in all kinds of forms. For example, the hub delivered 3,312 food packages and we referred 806 people for befriending support via the Red Cross.
Initially the hub was geared up for practical hands on support such as food packages and delivery of medication, but it quickly became apparent that mental health and loneliness and isolation were additional concerns and the service quickly responded to this. The support officers were invaluable in reaching out on a regular basis to the shielded community. Throughout July support officers worked with the community to help them with transitioning out of shielding. So far 6,185 people who have been receiving regular calls have been supported to learn new skills and processes ensuring that they are able to access food and medication for themselves.
Whilst the hub has paused there is still lots of information for people who have been shielding on the websites of both Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council. As well as information about the support that is on offer now the national programme has paused, people can find support available where they live via the Peterborough Information Network and the Cambridgeshire Online Directory, both of which provide residents and families with information on organisations, services and events across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. For more information visit www.peterborough.gov.uk/pin or www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/cambridgeshire-online-directory
Adrian Chapman, Service Director for Communities and Partnerships at Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council, said: “The hub has worked very hard to make sure that everyone who is shielding – around 32,000 people across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – have had all the information and support they need in place for when the shielding programme paused last week.
“Just a small number of this community are likely to continue to need support from the hub, at least initially, although we remain here in case that changes. To help people to see the sorts of changes that have happened outside whilst they’ve been shielding our support officers have been preparing them with the weekly phone calls as to how ‘the world’ has altered and additionally we have produced a short video of what to expect in a supermarket and pharmacy now.”
The video is available to view here.
You can also access a written version of the script used for the video on the websites of both councils.
Currently the levels of Covid-19 circulating in Peterborough are higher than the national average. Therefore, Peterborough City Council’s Director of Public Health, Dr Liz Robin, has issued advice to the city’s residents.
If you live in Peterborough and are clinically extremely vulnerable, you may still be at risk of severe illness if you catch coronavirus. As a result, you should still take the following precautions:
- Stay at home as much as possible and continue to take precautions when you do go out. This includes regular hand washing, avoiding touching your face and keeping a social distance of two metres away from people outside of your household or bubble whenever possible.
- Avoid gatherings of any size.
- Avoid going in person to shops if you can make other arrangements.
- Avoid going to services in places of worship where there are several other people.
- Talk to your employer to see whether you are able to work from home.
The city council will continue to review the guidance on a weekly basis. Advice will be updated when appropriate and will be shared with local employers, where possible. All shielding guidance is advisory.
Councillor Wayne Fitzgerald, Peterborough City Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Health and Public Health, said: “Ensuring that all our residents remain safe and well throughout the pandemic is our priority and we are taking all necessary steps to achieve this. While we understand the last four months have been difficult for many, particularly those who have been shielding, it is vital we continue to encourage vulnerable people to make the right decisions to stay safe. We will do all we can to provide support to make this possible.”
Now that the national shielding programme has paused, we are joining more national conversations with the Government about the potential for any future shielding arrangements.
They’ve been keen to understand more about our experiences and models, and we’ve been discussing how things might look different in the future. For example, what could we do differently if more elements of the programme are managed locally (e.g. food delivery) and what our offer of support will look like in the event of a local lockdown for residents that are being asked to shield.
We’ll keep you briefed as these conversations develop.