June 18, 2024

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How you can help from home

The Covid-19 pandemic has upturned our lives in ways we couldn’t imagine were possible. As we grapple with radically altered routines, relationships and restrictions, many of us want to find some way to help. More than 500,000 volunteers have signed up to support the NHS in helping vulnerable people who have been told not to leave their homes, but there are many ways all of us can make a difference without setting foot outside. We may all be alone in our homes, but our collective wellbeing is arguably more linked than ever, and offering your support if you can is in urgent need.

Use tech to report your symptoms

One of the easiest and fastest ways to help researchers monitor the spread of Coronavirus is by logging your symptoms every day – even if you have none. Almost two million people in the UK have already downloaded the free COVID-19 Symptom Tracker App, developed by a team at King’s College London and health data science company ZOE. Half (49%) of app users are 18-39 (26% of the population), with those aged over 60 the lowest reporting group at just 9.5%. Download the app here and share it with friends and family, especially those classified as high risk by the NHS.

If you develop suspected Coronavirus symptoms you should contact the 111 online service to receive regular check-ins from a new NHS messaging service. Daily texts will be sent to new patients to check how you are, and ensure that those who need help to get them through the isolation period. This is vitally important to help the NHS understand the impact of the virus on patients and its progression and spread across the country.​

Give to charities that support people affected by Coronavirus

Making a donation is one of the most obvious ways to help when you’re stuck at home, but which voluntary or community organisations should you give to? While the full impact of the pandemic won’t be known for some time, one of the most immediate ways you can help is ensuring vulnerable people have enough money to eat. Find out if your local foodbank is still operating by visiting The Trussell Trust, although many have closed due to social distancing or lack of volunteers. Or you can give direct to The Trussell Trust who will direct your money to whichever food banks in the UK most need help in providing support. In London charity City Harvest redistributes surplus food intended for restaurants and cafes to more than 300 charities across the capital who in turn make nutritious food for some of the city’s most vulnerable. They have set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise essential funding to continue their work.

Alternatively, donate to the National Emergencies Trust (NET), Britain’s first domestic disaster emergency appeal, which was set up in 2017 during the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. NET is coordinating fundraising for frontline charities helping vulnerable people cope with the social impact of Coronavirus. It raised £12.5m in just one week, with individual donors giving about £1m and the remainder coming from companies and philanthropic foundations. About £2.5m has been distributed in the last couple of days through a network of 46 regional community foundations covering every part of the UK. They in turn are channelling it to frontline groups in the form of small cash grants. The chair of the NET, Richard Dannatt, said: “It is a fantastic achievement and testament to the generosity of the British public, business and charitable foundations that within a week we managed to raise £13m – and get £2.5m out very quickly to those who need it most.

Stop the spreading of false information and rumours

In the era of fake news, misinformation spreads as quickly as the virus – and is just as contagious. From conspiracy theories that claim Coronavirus was deliberately created, to ‘proven’ home remedies that can protect you, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive and reaches millions of people via social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp. Do your bit by fact-checking information (Channel 4 News has its own FactCheck website https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck), not sharing screenshots from unverified sources, and only posting or forwarding credible news and research outlets.

Support small businesses that are losing revenue

For many independent businesses the impact of the pandemic will be devastating, but there are ways to help keep them alive. Since our pounds have stopped flowing into local cafés, boutiques, boxing gyms and bookstores, many of these businesses have made clever pivots to service their customers without human contact. You may be able to shop online, buy gift cards or support a company through a delivery service if they have set one up. Small businesses play a huge part in the heart of any community, if there is one that means a lot to you reach out and ask what you can do to help to secure their future.

Shutdown scams

From online offers for Covid-19 home testing kits to phone calls ‘from HMRC’ offering you unemployment payment, scammers are taking full advantage of fears surrounding Coronavirus and exploiting it to make cash. There has been a huge spike in phishing emails and calls, and there have also been reports of criminals knocking on front doors offering to go shopping for people who are self-isolating at home.

As of Friday 20 March, City of London Police reported a 400% increase in scams as a result of Coronavirus-related fraud. Be wary of calls, texts, emails and even visitors to your home. Do your homework when it comes to people asking for donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a decision. And make sure your computers, mobile phones and tablets are updated, as well as keeping any antivirus software up to date, too. If you have been scammed, report what’s happened to Action Fraud, the UK’s national centre for reporting fraud, to help protect others.

Write a letter

Social distancing might mean we lose face-to-face interaction, but it’s crucial this doesn’t mean we socially disconnect. Caroline Abrahams, Director at Age UK, recommends regularly keeping in touch over the phone, online or by post, and the latter is particularly important for older people who may be less tech savvy. “It is time to think creatively about ways for people to stay in contact with each other and keep morale up,” says Abrahams. This might mean writing a letter to an elderly relative or friend, or contacting a care home to ask if there are any residents who would like to receive letters. The government has restricted all visitors to care homes and staff are overstretched, so sending or emailing a letter that can be printed off and read is an easy way to offer support from a distance.

At the end of March Lucy Murray from Milton Keynes set up a Facebook group called The Cheerful Little Letter Project to encourage children to write and send letters to her local care home, in Newport Pagnell. Soon other homes contacted her asking if they could also receive a batch of letter, and the initiative now has more than 2,000 members. If you cant think about what to write Murray recommends to tell them “about interesting food you’ve made, something good you’ve read, stories about your pets, anything that’s going on in your life that’s positive, like funny little stories.”

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