A campaign established by Oxford City Council and the Oxford Hub, “Oxford Together” has seen over 4000 volunteers sign up to help with the city’s response to the coronavirus. The Oxford Hub has now focused all of its efforts on helping those affected by the virus, with its normal volunteering activities suspended as a result of the outbreak.

The volunteer campaign currently consists of 3 key areas. These include providing support to neighbours as “street champions”, doing phone-in check-ups on those isolating, and completing shopping and other practical tasks on behalf of others. Additionally, some volunteers are helping to distribute food via community centres.

Emma Anderson, COO of the Oxford Hub, said to Cherwell: “Buying milk or food, taking the dog out, putting the bins out – these are all simple, easy things to do that people who are self-isolating, or at high risk, are not able to do. We are asking people to step forward and let us know if they are willing to join the movement and support vulnerable people with small acts of kindness as the public health situation develops.”

Sara Fernandez, CEO of the Oxford Hub, added: “It’s time to get together to ensure we can provide support to the most vulnerable in our communities, and make sure that we are looking out for one another during this difficult time. It’s essential that we work together right now to protect those who are most at risk from coronavirus.”

On Thursday the City Council outlined its response to the outbreak. Local Response Hubs will now act as the single point of contact for those who need to request food bank support, medicines, or mental health advice.  According to the council, work had already begun on this prior to the government’s announcement on Tuesday 24th March, and the city’s response is now ready. Five Local Response Hubs have been set up across Oxford, covering the northern, southern, eastern, western and central regions of the city.

Councillor Marie Tidball, Cabinet Member for Supporting Local Communities, commented: “It’s vital that we support the most vulnerable at this difficult time. The Contact Centre and the Hubs have been set up in a matter of days to make sure that those people are supported, and to coordinate the fantastic community response in a coherent way.

“This has been a huge effort on the part of all involved, and I’m grateful to all our staff and partners, including the County Council, pharmacies, food banks and other agencies, voluntary and charitable organisations, and businesses, who have so willingly and rapidly completely changed their ways of working to make this possible.”

Those who want to volunteer can sign up to be a Street Champion or Phone Champion via the Oxford Together website. If a member of the public knows of someone in need of support, or is in need of general support themselves, they can refer to the practical support or phone-link support posted on the Oxford Together website, www.oxfordtogether.org

Those wishing to contact their Street Champion directly, for help with shopping, a daily phone call for the isolated, and to connect with online groups, can visit www.oxfordtogether.org/postcode-lookup/ 

For those in more urgent need, or those particularly vulnerable owing to age, health, or mental health issues, the City Council’s Contact Centre team is available on 01865 249 811 or an online form is available at www.oxford.gov.uk/CommunityAssistance

If you or someone you know has been identified as high risk and has no support network, contact the dedicated team on 01865 89 78 20 or email shield@oxfordshire.gov.uk