Community First News & Updates

Wiltshire Link Schemes Audit 2020 & Impact of Covid-19 on Local Link Schemes

by | Mar 9, 2021 | Community Development, News

As with many voluntary groups and organisations Covid-19 presented a number of challenges for the 42 Link Schemes across Wiltshire and Swindon.

During the first national lockdown (March-May 2020) the number of active Link Scheme volunteers fell from 1,807 to 414. Despite this significant reduction in volunteer numbers, 38 Link Schemes remained operational throughout this period, with 4 temporarily suspending their service. Sadly, one local scheme (Ridgeway Link) later closed permanently.

The lack of volunteers however did not stop the schemes supporting the most vulnerable individuals in their communities. Whereas the schemes would normally focus on taking people to medical and social appointments, many schemes pivoted to supporting the delivery of food (shopping), collecting medical prescriptions, calling the most vulnerable to make sure they were safe and ok and helping deliver food parcels from Wilshire’s central food bank in Salisbury.

Link Schemes offered a vital and invaluable service to local people in 2020, many of whom were at risk of becoming extremely isolated during an already difficult and challenging time for people across the county. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the amazing volunteers who supported this effort across Wiltshire and Swindon and are continuing to do so as the vaccine is rolled out locally and nationally.

Between March – December 2020 Link Schemes offered this amazing service for local people impacted by Covid-19:

Prescription collections

Food collections or deliveries

Check in phone calls

Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout

Between December 2020 to March 2021, Link Schemes have again diversified their services to help 779 clinically vulnerable people to access door to door transport for their Covid-19 vaccination appointments.

Community First – Support for Link Schemes

Community First has played an active role in supporting Link Schemes across Wiltshire and Swindon throughout the pandemic. This included:

  • Providing support in line with rapidly changing Government guidance
  • Helping Link Schemes carry out risk assessment and safety planning
  • Working alongside other organisations to offer updated guidance and support
  • Keeping in regular contact with Link Schemes to map local support networks
  • Raising the profile of Link Schemes
  • Offering funding for example for PPE and other vital equipment to ensure schemes could operate in the safest possible manner
  • Supporting vaccine prioritisation for Link Scheme volunteer drivers who are transporting vulnerable clients to medical appointments

Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

Community First also supported Link Schemes by developing a volunteer recruitment campaign. The campaign aimed to boost volunteer numbers by recruiting new volunteers to support with transport for Covid-19 vaccinations, as well as helping to sustain Link Schemes for the future.

This successful campaign helped local Link Schemes in Wiltshire and Swindon to recruit over 360 new volunteers in 2020, which is a fantastic outcome and we hope that many of the new volunteers that have come forward will continue to support their local Link Scheme into the future.

A very big thank you to people and organisations who helped to promote the campaign including Wiltshire Police, Wiltshire Council and Swindon Brough Council, Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, the wider voluntary sector, local Parish/Town councils, schools, colleges, the Diocese of Bristol/Salisbury and Ramsbury and local MP Danny Kruger.

We are also grateful for the support of BBC Wiltshire, BBC 1 Morning Live, BBC online and local publications including Wiltshire Life magazine and Wiltshire Gazette and Herald for helping us promote the campaign to thousands of local people.

What is next for Link Schemes?

Community First will work closely with Link Schemes to provide ongoing support and guidance, to champion the service offered by the schemes and to provide additional support to recruit new volunteers.

Could you support your local Link Scheme by becoming a volunteer?

Call: 01380 722 241

Please see below for the 2020 Audit as well as a guide to the impact of Covid-19 on Link Schemes (including services delivered by area).

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