I cannot imagine that there is anyone who did not find 2020 a challenging year with the impact of Covid-19, variable national approaches to the virus, and the introduction of tier systems that none of us would have predicted the year before. Good Neighbour groups across Hampshire were no less affected than others, and in some cases more affected. Impressively, the vast majority of groups (75%+) have carried on offering services to those in the most need whether by virtue of their age, isolation and/or health. They continue to drive people to health appointments, including vaccinations, (with appropriate precautions as advised by local public health teams), and deliver food, shopping and prescriptions.
The amount of work done in Hampshire has been colossal and hugely impressive. It compares extremely well nationally (NHS Responders locally has not come close). This is entirely down to the extraordinary commitment and dedication of the volunteers. They are the Good Neighbours who continue to ensure that everyone gets the help they need and we are all grateful to them for all their work in these difficult times. That work continues now as more people receive vaccinations and we begin to look forward to times when people can begin to see families and friends and socialise once again. We look forward to when those Good Neighbour
groups that run social and hospitality events can begin again, or people be befriended in their homes rather than over the phone. We hope eventually to be able to celebrate all the work that has gone on and share stories. For now, we must be patient but spring is coming in more ways than one!
THE STRATEGIC LIASON GROUP 2020
Chair, Dioceses of Winchester
GNN Team Leader
The Revd Dr Peter Harwood
Diocese of Guildford
Cllr Anna Mc NairScott
Hampshire County Council
Cllr Roger Huxstep
Hampshire County Council
HCC Adults’ Health & Care
HCC Adults’ Health & Care
I think we can all agree that It has been a traumatic year. For many of us it has been a year of significant adjustment accompanied by a quiet and creeping sadness. For some it has been one of loss. For everyone it has been a year when we have had to re-evaluate how we move through our lives when the everyday elements have been so challenged. My work with the Good Neighbours Network has provided a day to day reminder of human kindness - the compassion, the creativity, the adaptation that each Good Neighbour group has displayed has never been more inspiring or critical.
As with each year there are so many things I want to highlight – firstly, how with each lockdown, tier restriction and difficulty, Good Neighbours continued to help their neighbours and that we can all applaud the amazing fact that Good Neighbours volunteers delivered over 44,000 acts of kindness during the first 2020 lockdown in the spring. How the power of the Network came into its own during the pandemic, as we were able to share and clarify the government advice, respond to safe guarding concerns, do DBS checks at breakneck speed and keep you all informed and most importantly share across all the groups your positivity.
Many of our over 70’s Good Neighbours felt marginalised, when it became apparent they had to shield and could no longer offer the help into their community that was now needed more than ever and yet so many them found different ways to help, adopting telephone befriending, co-ordinating the drivers who could still get out and about safely, baking, sewing, texting and Zooming, together all of these things meant so much. Finally 2020 has seen changes in the GNN team as like many other organisations we too had to restructure – Lisa and Liza left us in December and while we shall miss them and their cheerful and consistent commitment to the work we all do, I want to thank them and wish them well.
The team will be a little smaller however with the new ways of working and the development of the digital platforms there will be no change in our focus and dedication to supporting the GNN. Let us hope 2021 is a year of continued community care and compassion and of improving health both, mental and physical for everyone.
Thank you for being a Good Neighbour
Our message for 2020 was ‘embrace the digital’, how little did we know back then how prophetic this would prove to be and that by March, work, rest and play would arrive through a screen.
Brexit continued to hold the headlines and Britain left the EU on January 31st, with many of the trade negotiations yet to be confirmed.
Megxit, bounced Brexit for a few weeks as Prince Harry and Megan decided to leave Britain and head for the Hollywood Hills, via Vancouver.
Meanwhile with not much idea of what was to come, things started the year as normal - the GNN training schedule for the year commenced with the long awaited moving and handling training session, delivered by the engaging duo Jacqui and Ken courtesy of the South Central Ambulance Service and good neighbours were reminded of the dignity and kindness they offer people each and every day.
The month for the Oscars, ah remember back when big crowds of people could gather in the same place, touch stuff and have no face coverings – the Best Film was a comedy thriller Parasite, igniting a global interest in Korean cinema. Who knew?
The applauded and well attended Resource Cafes returned for the Spring season, and as rumours about a mysterious virus in Wuhan gained attention, little did we know these vital touch points for Good Neighbours would soon be ‘moth-balled’ and as with so many things in 2020, reinvented through the power of Zoom.
Amidst mounting rumblings and speculation around Coronavirus, Shrove Tuesday and all things pancake were enjoyed by GNN groups as many held community pancake events – who knew these would prove to be one of the last celebratory gatherings we would all see for quite a while.
2020 was a leap year, picture of the day for 29th February, Northern Italy, one of the regions struck hard in the early days of the Coronavirus – it was a sign of times to come as tourists wear protective masks in Duomo Sq , Milan
COVID-19 was headlining and when the news broke on March 12th that Tom Hanks and his wife had tested positive for Coronavirus, the internet went into meltdown and suddenly the threat became, for many a lot more real. March 23rd the UK entered the first national lockdown as PM Boris Johnson made a televised statement saying ‘from this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home’.
This instruction included the ‘very limited purposes’ for which people were allowed to leave their homes, such as shopping for necessities, one form of exercise a day, travelling to work, if they could not work from home and banned gatherings of more than two people from different households in public.
A 12 week shielding for vulnerable people was introduced on March 29th. Washing our hands became a significant line of defence.
As we all grappled with the new restrictions, GNN groups were, where possible, encouraged to stay open and remain relevant for their community. The Hub received many, many calls and emails over the next few weeks as guidelines developed and the needs across the community became apparent. We are proud to say that most of the GNN remained operational at some level and many groups would go on to see an influx of new volunteers and make some proactive changes to activities. For those that couldn’t, they remained open to advice and prepared to offer what they could when they could.
Over the next few lockdown months GNN groups would deliver over 44,000 tasks.
And, as we all stayed in and watch more TV than ever before, Netflix, the on-line US streaming channel dropped Tiger King, introducing us to Joe Exotic and a bizarre story of Murder, Mayhem and Madness – as if things were not strange and scary enough?
The furlough scheme was introduced as large numbers of people were unable to work and non-essential businesses were now closed – this coincided with a lot of confusion and uncertainty.
The NHS call -out for a ‘volunteer army’ of up to 250,000 folk to help the 1.5 million shielding produced a remarkable response and undeniably the feeling across the country was one of solidarity, respect and gratitude for our NHS and an atmosphere of kindness.
It was in this environment that we saw some amazing things starting and gaining traction, including the weekly clap for carers initiated originally as a one off by Annemarie Plas.
People were invited to clap hands, bang pots, beep horns for one minute on a Thursday evening at 8pm, it immediately became as a weekly event offering a national display of gratitude for all carers across the land.
Joe Wicks devoted his time to keeping the nations youngsters fit throughout lockdown with virtual PE lessons, his programmes were actually embraced by all ages and encouraged a new outlook to keep fit.
New initiatives were launching among Good Neighbours here in Hampshire too as groups developed food and delivery schemes and collaborated with local businesses to offer curries, cakes and cookies.
We were all humbled and impressed by Captain Thomas Moore ( now Sir) and reminded that age is no barrier as he embarked at the age of 99 on a small beginning to raise some money for the NHS by walking laps in his garden. He went on to raise over £32 million pounds and at 100 was featured in a cover version of ‘you will never walk alone’ by Michael Ball, received the BBC Sports Personality, Helen Rollason Award, was knighted by the Queen and became an honorary Colonel.
Here at the Hub we updated guidelines, initiated a Digital Befriending Scheme and revitalised the Telephone Befriending Scheme that would see over 40 volunteers offer their time and kindness as they provided an all-important contact for others, often while still shielding themselves.
One lady benefiting said “the number of befriender calls she’s received have been more than from any family or friends.”
The power of a telephone call should never be underestimated, there are no pings, mute button issues, internet drop out or an untidy room to worry about – a friendly voice simply provides a powerful positive one-to-one connection with no distractions.
This was a remarkable time for volunteering - PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE - became the go-to action and Good Neighbour groups became increasingly creative in the ways they could make a positive difference – there were GNN delivery bikers (inspired by Deliveroo), collaborations with a local pub for ‘Meals of Wheels’ at the Crondall & Ewshot Village Pump Group and many volunteers got sewing at scale to help with PPE and the making of face masks, which were now becoming common attire when out and about.
CRONDALL AND EWSHOT VILLAGE PUMP GROUP AND THE HAMPSHIRE ARMS PUB
From a standing start the 8 volunteers helped by a small army of 25 cake bakers and another team of 20 volunteer drivers served up a remarkable 1,400 meals
EAST WOODHAY & HIGHCLERE NEIGHBOURCARE
After receiving an urgent request to help with delivering a backlog of 120 prescriptions, ten volunteers leapt into action and cleared the backlog in three days – responding to an ongoing need, the group set up a longer term system and to date have delivered up hill and down dale over 4,000 prescriptions and travelling over 8,000 miles
Things began to look a little more normal as lockdown restrictions were lifted and pubs, hairdressers, restaurants and zoos were able to re-open with COVID secure guidelines.
The trend for volunteering continued with over 200 new volunteers having joined groups across the network in the last few weeks.
The COVID secure guidelines included staying two metres apart and the wearing of a facemask in shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants while not sitting at a table – it did all get a little confusing.
The Chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme designed to encourage us to get out and spend money in the hospitality sector ran throughout the month of August and provided discounts for over 160 million meals – it would later be raised as a possible contributor towards the Coronavirus as it continued to spread and dominate our lives.
To the relief of our older Good Neighbours drivers who had been ‘grounded’ since March, it was confirmed at the end of the month that anyone over the age of 70 and in good health could resume voluntary driving services and so many of you did. We thank you.
Saw the launch of the long awaited NHS Track and Trace app, using Bluetooth technology to track time and distance between smartphone devices and QR codes at venues. Equipped with a check-in capability to access free testing, along with an isolation countdown for anyone required to quarantine - it is designed to allow NHS Track and Trace to contact customers with public health advice should there be a COVID-19 outbreak and is user friendly.
GNN also got digital as we launched the first of many Resource Cafes on Zoom – we learned together, laughed together and shared together again and as we look ahead to a time where we can all get together in person – the success of these Zoom affairs with the peer to peer approach they offer and the ability to increase geographical reach means we will continue to keep them as a user friendly component of the communication tools we use for GNN groups.
The mood began to change and mutterings about a second wave became louder.
The Christmas get togethers may not be together after all, the 2020 weddings postponed until 2021, perhaps safer to plan for 2022, maybe we now have to celebrate a second birthday via zoom – surely not?
Another lockdown, at moments it all felt very different from the lockdown in March as the numbers of people testing positive continued to rise and almost all of us knew of someone who had been ill with COVID-19 or sadly lost their lives to it.
Over 200 new volunteers joined the Network in Lockdown 1 and all are still with us delivering those important acts of kindness, it is these gestures every day that make the world go around and feel just a little brighter.
Hope was on the horizon as news of a vaccine continued to hold the December headlines and 90 year-old Margaret Keenan became the first to receive the Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine out of trial on December 8th.
Despite Christmas plans having to be altered last minute and the country braced for more restrictions as the anticipated second wave of the Coronavirus took hold our GNN Advent calendar highlighted on the website, kept things merry and bright.
December 10th saw our digital quiz via Zoom and all good neighbours were encouraged to wear those Christmas Jumpers and reindeer antlers that had been hiding in the wardrobe for 12 months.
GNN groups shared their festive stories – hampers and gift boxes were widely distributed by groups and a special shout out to the ‘ Langstone ladies’ who made up so many festive boxes providing so much Christmas cheer to all.
The GNN team became experts in Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 restrictions and what they actually meant and continued to update groups accordingly.
We said goodbye and thank you to two members of the Hub team, Lisa and Liza as we prepared for new ways of working here at the Hub.
December 31st and the UK ceased to be a member of the EU – what a year !
|7.Lunch Clubs||22288||*COVID-19 Related|
Embrace a house plant as a ‘key worker’ – they offer oxygen (well a little), a welcome distraction, can be rewarding and unpredictable and they need to be tended and cared for just like you.
Befriending tasks nearly doubled this year, as Good Neighbours of all ages adapted to helping within a COVID-19 safe environment
Take away meals became a new GNN feature with over 5700 delivered during lockdown 1 and 2
Daily calls were implemented during the pandemic to provide additional safe and reassuring touch points for folk
Prescription runs were essential for many rural communities
In 2021, the Good Neighbours Network will be 45 - we intend to celebrate our Sapphire year in style and promise to keep you all posted.
Thank you for being a Good Neighbour