Skip to main content

Farnham’s pandemic response

Three men holding banner advertising fundraising appeal

Lockdown restrictions may be easing for some, but Farnham Town Council and the Farnham Maltings believe their role in leading the coordination of offers of help and requests for support during the coronavirus pandemic is far from over.

The COVID-19 coordinating group was set up at the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak to ensure the most vulnerable people who live in Farnham and the surrounding villages are cared for.

Councillor Pat Evans, Mayor of Farnham attends the weekly coordinating group via video link and has heard for herself how Farnham has responded to the pandemic. This has included the setting up of a coronavirus helpline which has been operating since the end of March and has taken 1,300 calls and arranged for numerous offers of help.

The Mayor of Farnham says: “The helpline has been a great success. Call handlers have matched volunteers with people who are local to them that need help. This approach has really helped to strengthen communities and we’ve seen many examples of how an initial call for help has led to some lovely blossoming friendships. We also know of a number of volunteers who have gone from fulfilling a one-off request for help from a nearby neighbour to running regular errands such as picking up food orders, topping up mobile phones and mowing the lawn.”

Everybody who receives help gets a follow up phone call from a helpline supervisor to ask how the service went and if they need any further support.

As well as helping with day to day requests, the helpline team has arranged an emergency dental appointment for a vulnerable man and even sourced some plain white tiles so that a man who was convalescing after a major heart attack could pass the time by taking up his old hobby of engraving tiles.

The helpline has also taken calls and emails from people living abroad who are concerned about their elderly relatives. Volunteers have established contact with the individuals and have arranged social calls and kept in touch with relatives abroad.

Gavin Stride from the Farnham Maltings says: “Given our purpose is to ‘contribute to the quality of people’s lives’, it felt completely natural to throw ourselves into this work and it has been humbling and surprising to feel properly useful. To have so many people volunteer, encourage and want to help fills me with hope for our town going forward.”

Complementing the helpline is a support fund which was set up by a number of local voluntary organisations. The fund aims to provide financial help to residents who are facing hardship as a direct result of the pandemic. People can apply for a grant of up to £300 to help with replacing an essential kitchen appliance or paying for gas/electricity. The original fund of £22,000 has increased to over £30,000 thanks to generous donations from members of the public.

Councillor Pat Evans says: “Since going live over four weeks ago, the fund has helped 18 Farnham households that are facing hardship as a direct consequence of coronavirus.  So far, the fund has helped to buy essential items such as a fridge, single beds, a cooker, and nappies as well as providing help with fuel debt. Anybody wishing to apply for a grant or to donate money can find out how to do so at www.farnham.gov.uk.”

The mental wellbeing of people has been a focus during lockdown. To occupy people’s time, Farnham Town Council has adapted the competitions it runs as part of Farnham in Bloom so as to encourage children and amateur gardeners to get involved. The setting up of the community store Share Farnham has been a big success too. The store accepts donations of games, puzzles, DVDs and activities that can be enjoyed at home. People are encouraged to visit the store and take home a new pastime – there’s plenty to choose from and the items are free. The community stores are located at Hale Community Centre and the Farnham Maltings.

Gavin Stride says: “From the start we have wanted to ensure that our collective efforts outlive this crisis. That we should, wherever we can, contribute to prepare the town for what is now referred to as ‘the new normal’. One way we can do this is by encouraging generosity and that we share all of the resources we collectively hold.”

Details about ongoing support for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic can be found on Farnham Town Council’s coronavirus website pages.

image_pdf