The Torbay Community Helpline is gearing up for a massive increase in calls as new restrictions are brought in to tackle coronavirus.
The Helpline, which is staffed by a variety of charitable, voluntary and statutory organisations, has already taken more than 15,000 calls since it launched in March from people needing help or people offering help.
More than 4,000 people have been in touch and at the peak staff and volunteers were handling up to 350 calls a day, but in recent weeks that had fallen back to a maximum of 50 calls a day.
However, with the new restrictions and some people choosing to resume shielding, the calls are expected to increase massively with callers again needing help with prescription collections, and shopping.
A rapid response team which dealt with hundreds of urgent requests had been stood down but will be back in action when the new lockdown rules come in today (Thursday).
Recently more people had been contacting the helpline with complex needs covering finances, mental health and referrals to the foodbank and again these are expected to increase.
A triage service has been set up to deal with increasingly problematical issues using the expertise of organisations working together from across the Bay.
The helpline was originally set up one week before lockdown when Torbay Community Development Trust were joined by Age UK Torbay, Brixham Does Care, Healthwatch Torbay and Citizen’s Advice Torbay.
Since then they have been joined by Torbay Council, Yes! Brixham, Libraries Unlimited, What’s Your Problem CIC, the Torbay Advice Network, Disability Support Torbay, Homemaker Southwest and the Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust.
Last month it was also announced that the National Lottery Community Fund and The Office for Civil Society (part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) had awarded a grant of almost £100,000 to keep it going for the next six months. Additional funding has come from Torbay Council and Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.
A helpline spokesman said: “We are ready. The helpline will continue to be staffed six days a week. We are here for everyone in the Bay, and we will continue to ensure that no-one in the Bay goes hungry and no-one in the Bay becomes isolated. We will also continue to put people offering help in touch with those that need it, so we want also want to hear from people who can volunteer.”
The Torbay Food Alliance, which has brought together food banks across the Bay, has already provided more than 250,000 meals since the crisis began and is expecting a significant increase in demand.
The Helpline is staffed from 10am to 6pm weekdays and 9.30am to 12.30pm on Saturdays on 01803 446022.