Appeal for volunteers as Torbay coronavirus helpline takes 3,000 calls

Tracey Cabache from Torbay Community Devlopment Trust

Tracey Cabache from Torbay Community Devlopment Trust - Credit: Archant

Helplines set up in the wake of the coronovirus crisis in Torbay have been inundated with calls since the lockdown began to bite.

More than 3,000 calls have now been made to a virtual call centre set up by Torbay Community Development Trust and Brixham Does Care to provide help and support to those in need.

Now the call has gone out for more volunteers to help, as phone befrienders to chat to anyone isolated and alone, help with shopping and delivering prescriptions and other outdoor jobs such as putting bins out.

The helplines are connecting people in need with those offering to help.

Telephone lines were doubled from five to 10 to cope with demand as the call load exceeded 60 per hour.

They are now staffed by a minimum of six people, out of team of 40, 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Each call for help is graded as it comes in with black being immediate, red to be dealt with within 24 to 48 hours, amber within seven days and green for over a week.

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The colour coding allows, staff from several groups, including TCDT, AgeUk Torbay, Healthwatch Torbay alongside volunteers to target the most urgent whether that is those who have run out of food or in need of life-saving medications.

So far the teams of volunteers and community builders have responded to around 800 requests for help and almost 1,000 people have offered help.

A matching service is working behind the scenes to put the most suitable candidates together.

In Brixham, more than 600 people have been supported either physically or on the phone and around 50 volunteers have so far been identified.

Emma Barton, director of BDC, said: 'Everybody is working incredibly hard – there are so many unsung heroes in the voluntary sector providing care for people across the Bay.'

A consortium of 14 organisations has also come together to the run the food banks across the Bay and coordinate sourcing food and cooked meals.

Tracey Cabache, community development manager for TCDT has been coordinating the community builders who are still active in Brixham, Torquay and Paignton.

She said: 'The pressure is mounting as more people run out of food, meds and money.

'We are doing what we can as quickly as we can, but it is a huge task.

'I am so proud of the work that is being done by the charity and voluntary sector across the Bay.

'Our teams have stepped up and are leading the non medical response.'

The helplines which are also staffed by Age UK, Brixham Does Care, CAB Torbay and Healthwatch Torbay are also putting volunteers in touch with people nearby who need help urgently.

A trained counsellor has been brought in to support those manning the phone lines who are dealing with some distressing calls.

There has been high praise for the 19-strong team of community builders who have been working across the Bay for several years.

As they were already in place, Torbay was able to put in structures to support the community faster than in some areas.

Information about food availability, who is delivering and opening hours along with details of the food banks has also been posted on the www.torbayhelphub.com website.

Additionally, neighbours are being urged to self organise to help each other and to help TCDT have a form online at www.bit.ly/torbaymicrovol where people can register.

• To ask for help or to offer help you can ring 01803 446022 or 01803 857727 (BDC) between 8 am and 8 pm seven days a week or go online to: www.bit.ly/torbayhelpline