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Map shows 'official' groups helping vulnerable during virus outbreak

Several communities have joined together to help those who can't get out.

Published by Dan Gooding at 5:36am 24th March 2020. 4-minute read.

Map shows 'official' groups helping vulnerable during virus outbreak

Groups are popping up all over Buckinghamshire to help the vulnerable through the outbreak.

Several - including in Haddenham, Gawcott and Amersham - have officially registered with COVID-19 Mutual Aid.

You can check out the map here.

An army of people have joined coronavirus Mutual Aid online groups to deliver goods to those unable to leave home in their areas.

Within days of the first Facebook page launching in south London, a UK-wide network of organisations has now formed - some of which have thousands of members already.

Users of the groups have described them as a vital boost with NHS services likely to be stretched in the coming weeks.

Though people in need of them are being urged to be wary of potential scammers, especially when handing over money.

Co-ordinator for the national Covid-19 Mutual Aid umbrella group Kelsey Mohamed, 28, said the response had been 'overwhelming'.

"It shows us what's possible when we prioritise simple compassion.

"People are self-organising with incredible efficiency, respect and creativity." 

Many of the groups formed through a templated leaflet being delivered through letterboxes in a particular area.

Across the UK

Seren John-Wood , 24, helped set up the first mutual aid group in Lewisham, south London, on Thursday, March 12.

The theatre worker and her housemates distributed hundreds of leaflets around their local area asking if people needed deliveries of food or medicine.

Shortly afterwards, the friends decided to launch an umbrella organisation to guide the various groups around the UK. 

Its website displays a map of the volunteer groups they know of from the tip of Cornwall to Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Some cover a single street, others a neighbourhood, ward or town.

"It shows us what's possible when we prioritise simple compassion."

In Lewisham, the support network has grown to the extent those in need of assistance are marking their windows with a red piece of card. There are now 4,000 members on the local Covid-19 Mutual Aid page. 

Nicola Spurr, 46, who works for non-profit organisations, set up a WhatsApp thread in Westminster on Saturday. 

She quickly saw hundreds of people volunteer to shop for the elderly, deliver medicine and walk dogs.

She said:

"I've lived in Lancaster Gate for two years and I've never really spoken to my neighbours. London can be a bit like that, it can be a lonely place. 

"But we saw this huge outpouring of solidarity and neighbourliness straight away."

Worries about scams

Dieticians, therapists and dementia specialists were among some of the people offering their services for free.

But there are concerns criminals could take advantage of informal set ups to exploit the vulnerable.

In Brighton and Hove, a councillor is creating an ID card with a space for a photograph to ensure the helper is who they say they are.

Mutual Aid is advising its groups to check up on who is offering help to make sure they have done the right thing.

A post to a national group said:

"If you are giving or receiving help, tell someone, a friend, family member, or someone on this group, what the plan is.

"Even if you think you're the most savvy person ever, ask them if something sounds off."

In most cases, the groups are providing hope to elderly residents who could be forced to self-isolate for four months.

Islington resident Hope Winter-Hall has a disability care package and is looking after her 92-year-old mother.

She said:

"We already know that social services and the NHS were overwhelmed before this virus hit. 

"I am very well prepared for months of isolation but I will be needing help before it is over. 

"Finding the Islington Mutual Aid group lifted our spirits and changed our view of the future."

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