A COMMUNITY group helping vulnerable residents in Taunton is the latest to join a support network in the town.

The North Town Community Support group, which has come together this year to offer a lifeline to those in need during this coronavirus pandemic, is the latest group to join the Somerset Good Neighbours Scheme.

Good Neighbours Schemes are community projects run by local groups of volunteers to help those who are frail, elderly, disabled, vulnerable or isolated to enjoy a better quality of life.

Help is given free of charge with simple tasks such as shopping, collecting prescriptions, attending hospital appointments, dog walking, gardening as well as the opportunity for a regular friendly chat.

North Town Community Support was formed in mid-March by Cllr Caroline Ellis and neighbours Ann Shorthouse and Jenny Eastwell-Keogh, when it was clear the pandemic was going to have a massive impact on people’s everyday lives.

The group sprang into action, leafleting every home in the area to let people know how to ask for help if shielding or self-isolating.

Using WhatsApp for day-to-day communication, offers of support came flooding in and within days the group were out and about getting help to those in need.

Cllr Ellis said: “The current Covid-19 crisis is far from over and other big challenges lie ahead (rising poverty, the crisis in health and social care, climate change) so every community needs to pull together and be good neighbours as never before.”

During lockdown, North Town Community Support offered a lifeline to more than 150 people, not just in practical terms with shopping and prescriptions, but also by helping to reduce isolation and loneliness.

The whole community has benefitted, the group said, with lots of new friendships made and everyone has the reassurance of knowing they can access help, should they need it.

Volunteering gave people a positive purpose too, with some of those who couldn’t get out and about or help physically making a contribution in other ways, such as sharing food and sewing masks.

Now, the group has joined the Somerset Good Neighbours Scheme, making it part of a supportive network with access to peer support and advice on best practice.

"The more areas join the scheme the bigger the difference we will make in terms of community wellbeing and preventive support, helping people maintain their freedom and independence for much longer," Cllr Ellis said.

"If you live in or near North Town, can spare a few hours of your time a week, or even a month, and would like to join our amazing volunteer team we would love to hear from you.”

Somerset Good Neighbours is run by CCS (Community Council for Somerset) and is supported by funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.

Marie Fraser, project manager for CCS, said: “We’re calling on residents and community groups in Somerset, who have been volunteering to support their community through Covid-19, to get contact with CCS about setting up a Good Neighbours Scheme.

"CCS can provide advice, training, and a small grant to go towards set-up costs.

"The scheme can help local groups, who want to keep that incredible Covid-19 community spirit alive, to be sustainable for the future and able to face the challenges now and in the months and years ahead.”

For those considering setting up a Good Neighbours Scheme, a useful toolkit is available by visiting the CCS website https://ccslovesomerset.org/somerset-good-neighbours-scheme and any community in Somerset interested in setting up a scheme should contact CCS by emailing marie@somersetrcc.org.uk or by calling 07746 340536.

Anyone wishing to volunteer with North Town Community Support should get in touch via the website www.northtowncommunitysupport.com.