Vaccination volunteers are symbol of Torbay’s response to pandemic

Members of Brixham Salvation Army were among organisations and groups across Torbay who stepped up to support the vulnerable

Members of Brixham Salvation Army were among organisations and groups across Torbay who stepped up to support vulnerable members of the community through the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions - Credit: Brixham Salvation Army

On Friday, I was at the English Riviera International Conference Centre having my Covid-19 vaccination.

Within five minutes I was ready to leave, none the worse apart from a slightly sore arm the following morning.

Throughout my time there, experiencing a smooth-running friendly NHS service in action, I was reminded that the vast majority of the people working around me were volunteers.

It is a symbol of Torbay’s entire response to the pandemic – a compassionate community coming together with energy and ideas to counter our biggest challenge since wartime.

It is a year this week since we went into our first lockdown and I would like to pay tribute to the immense hard work of people and organisations across the Bay to help us get through it.

From the figures below, you will see that the partnership working has been extraordinary to relieve poverty, financial stress, counter isolation and give people hope for the future:

  • £87.8 million in grants and business rates relief to businesses in the Bay affected by restrictions
  • more than 470,000 food parcels have so far been sorted, packed and distributed by Torbay Food Alliance which started in March 2020 as a direct response to Covid-19, with 12 community organisations coming together to meet demand for food from those facing food poverty or needing extra help due to shielding or self-isolation
  • 28,958 contacts have been made by council staff to offer people clinically vulnerable to the virus and advised to shield from it, help and support
  • 18,500 calls taken by volunteers at Torbay Community Helpline, which is a group of organisations from the charity and voluntary sector in the Bay led by Torbay Community Development Trust
  • 7,000 local children, young people and their families in the Bay provided with vouchers over the school holidays
  • almost 7,000 businesses contacted directly about restriction grants, support and guidance throughout the pandemic
  • 1,688 ‘rapid responses’ made by volunteers to people unable to leave their homes and needing urgent help with shopping and prescriptions
  • 1,500 volunteers offering their help, including 323 people helping get people to and around the vaccination centre in Torquay, 245 people signing up to be community champions who help share key information with friends and family, and 81 volunteer drivers. Sixty-eight new Good Neighbour schemes have also been established.

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There are many community organisations and individuals who have contributed to this effort and I would particularly like to thank Torbay Community Development Trust for its immense work in bringing people and organisations together from across the Bay.

Our local churches churches have seen growing congregations through online services and have made a massive contribution to those in need.

In my regular meetings with church leaders I have been blown away by the compassion these men and woman have for their fellow human beings.

Torbay Council has also been hard at work ensuring self-isolation payments are made and helping our care homes protect some of our most vulnerable residents.

We continue to work with the NHS and Department of Health and Social Care to deliver essential testing and vaccination services to the Bay.

We now have two testing centres for people with symptoms, a growing testing service for those without symptoms, as well as the vaccination facility at the English Riviera International Conference Centre which I saw for myself.

I like to think it is the most efficient in Devon!

We could not have achieved all this without our partner organisations working alongside each other and an army of volunteers from across the Bay stepping forward.

We knew our communities were strong, but the response to this pandemic has proved that not only are they strong, they are resilient, caring and looking out for their neighbours.

We now look forward to welcoming visitors, for an uninterrupted summer when the sun shines, when trade is brisk and our businesses can get back on their feet.

Hospitality to strangers is also part of Torbay’s generous heart.