Council makes ‘strenuous efforts’ to contact those who volunteered
“Strenuous efforts” were being made by Cheshire East Council this week to contact people who had put themselves forward as coronavirus crisis volunteers.
The announcement followed claims that there could be a delay in help reaching some people because the transfer of data was up to three weeks behind.
Cheshire East's People Helping People scheme was launched when restrictions on movement were imposed last month as the pandemic took hold in the UK.
The authority wanted to help people to support one another by “harnessing and supporting the fantastic work already being done in communities across the borough” to help with shopping, delivering prescriptions and checking on the general well-being of people.
So far, more than 1,750 volunteers have offered support and 700 are already mobilised to support those with urgent needs.
When the scheme launched, the council said: “Ensuring a timely, co-ordinated response, we are working collaboratively with our partners to channel community-based support to meet local need.” People who want to volunteer can fill in an online form on the authority's website page, submitting information about what they can help with, what day of the week they are available and if they have had a DBS criminal records check.
Applicants are told that once they have submitted their form, a member of the team will be in touch to see how they can help within 48 hours.
“But please bear with us as we work through a large number of enquiries,” says the information.
However a leaked parish council email seen by the Chronicle said: “There are delays within Cheshire East Council in transferring volunteer and vulnerable people information.
“Given the steps that (people on the ground) have made to make sure that people and mechanisms are in place to receive this information, we are disappointed that Cheshire East Council has not done the same.
“Anyone who has registered with Cheshire East probably has their information in a backlog awaiting transfer. Once transferred it will need to be checked before anyone's volunteer services can be used.
“The transfer of data is between two and three weeks behind. We are concerned that there may be people within our community who are waiting for assistance.
“We will be asking (local councillor) to lobby on our behalf.”
Alsager councillor Phil Williams, one of the town's Lib Dem representatives at Cheshire East, said he had only received positive reports about the authority's People Helping People scheme.
Coun Williams said: “I can only speak from my own experience as a volunteer here in Alsager and from what I have seen, Cheshire East has been very quick off the mark in their response. I have spoken to a number of residents on the vulnerable list who have been delighted at how quickly the council responded, and these are people who are not generally impressed or well-disposed to Cheshire East normally.
“There have been issues with messages getting through or being processed in time but that's to be expected given the scale of the operation. For instance, I know people who have received food parcels from the council despite having indicated that they do not require them but that hasn't been a problem as these have then been passed on to the foodbank or to vulnerable people.
“My own impression of the support from Community Service Volunteers (CSV) and council officers in general has been very positive indeed.”
Coun Lesley Smetham, Cheshire East Conservative representative for Gawsworth, said: “There has probably been some difficulty in sharing the information because of privacy issues. It is difficult. I would be quite happy to lobby to make sure people get the assistance they need.
“It's down to the council leader and his independent colleagues to take this forward. I would not want anyone falling through the cracks.”
Coun Sam Corcoran, the council's Labour leader, who represents Sandbach Heath and East, said on Tuesday: “Volunteers provide support for shopping/collection of medication and keeping general checks on the wellbeing of people and referring to other local agencies, if additional needs are not met.
“So far, more than 1,750 volunteers have offered support, 700 are already mobilised to support those with urgent needs while others are now being contacted with priority to provide volunteering opportunities to best support their local communities during this time and explain how they will be supported on a regular basis as a valued volunteer.
“As the main priority was to contact first those who needed help, we recognise that there are still some volunteers that we have not managed to speak to. We do appreciate all the offers of help we have received, and we will be making strenuous efforts to contact all those we can this week.
“In addition, our shielding hub is supporting 5,000 residents and to date we have issued 105 emergency parcels across the borough. The council has also developed eight volunteer coordination networks across the borough ensuring that this Cheshire East-wide initiative is connected with the amazing work happening locally. This includes sharing best practice, volunteers and a range of other resources.”
Coun Corcoran added: “We can assure people that those in the community requiring immediate assistance are receiving it. People making requests for support that are non-urgent are being regularly contacted and further requests will be met through the volunteer coordination networks in the coming days.”