Thousands helped as hub gets set for gradual wind down

Community hub in action

Having delivered food parcels or medicine to nearly 3,500 vulnerable local people during the Covid-19 pandemic, Canterbury City Council is to start winding down its community hub.

Having received more than 3,000 requests for support and delivered food parcels or medicine to nearly 3,500 vulnerable local people during the Covid-19 pandemic, Canterbury City Council will shortly begin winding down its community hub.

But the council is stressing that it has the ability to rapidly reinstate it should a second wave of the pandemic hit and local people need help in the event that a similar lockdown is required.  

The winding down process will start with the turning off of the phone line after Friday 12 June. The hub will continue to operate after this date, but will switch its focus to working with those people still on its books to look for alternative ways they can be supported in the future.

The council will also set up a new online directory to give details of local organisations that people can get help from, as well as information about local pharmacies.  

The hub's final day of operation will be Friday 4 July, at which point people will be directed to local support organisations such as Canterbury Food Bank and Age UK.

It may be the case that in exceptional circumstances, particularly vulnerable individuals who cannot be helped in any other way will continue to be given specific support, such as with deliveries of medicines.

The hub launched on 27 March having been set up in a matter of days. Council staff were drafted in from a variety of departments to help run it, backed up by an army of more than 1,000 volunteers who responded in style to the council's public call for help.

And the effort has been further boosted by the generous financial contributions of local people, who have donated more than £36,000 towards the cost of food for vulnerable residents, or personal protective equipment for staff working in the hub.

Chief Executive Colin Carmichael said: "This gradual reduction in the hub's services is very much in line with the slow easing of the lockdown restrictions. We're giving ourselves a month from now to ensure that we do this in a planned and phased way, instead of going with an immediate withdrawal.

"The number of people we have been helping has reduced as time has gone on. This is linked to the fact shopping has become easier compared to the early days of the pandemic, and more recently, the public have been able to move about more and family and friends have been in a position to get more involved with the needs of their loved ones.

"Setting up a facility like this from scratch has been an incredible learning experience. It is not something we ever expected we'd need to do, and we certainly hope we don't have to do it again, but if the worst does happen, we will be ready to get back up and running and ensure we are there for the people who need us."

Council Leader Cllr Rob Thomas said: "I want to congratulate everybody who has been involved in the hub for doing such a fantastic job over the last 11 weeks or so. The commitment and hard work has been phenomenal and you have undoubtedly helped to save lives with the vital deliveries of food parcels and medicines.

"It's not just those practical things, though. For some people, that conversation with a member of staff in the hub will have been the only person they will have spoken to that day, or maybe even longer. That simple human contact will have done wonders for their mental wellbeing. 

"Sometimes in local government, we are accused of being too slow or bureaucratic, but I want our residents to understand that this has been an outstanding project run by some of the most dedicated and caring people I know. 

"And to the more than 1,000 local residents who came forward as volunteers when we really needed you, or to anybody who dug deep to donate money, a huge thank you. It has simply confirmed what I already knew - that we are so lucky to have such a great sense of community in our district."

Published: 5th June 2020