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Help Boro Hub's key role in pandemic response

England is now in lockdown again. A number of businesses must close and there are more restrictions on meeting people. Find out what this means for you.

A pioneering initiative to protect the vulnerable as the coronavirus pandemic took hold has been hailed a success.

Middlesbrough's shielding and community hubs - known as the Help Boro Hub - helped up to 1,000 people a week across the town during the first period of lockdown.

The focus of the Help Boro Hub was to offer support to all residents whose health and wellbeing were at a significantly higher risk than the general population, not just those not on the NHS priority list.

A leaflet drop to every home in the borough raised awareness of the Help Boro initiative, with those in need of help encouraged to get in touch.

Calls to the Hub's hotline - based at the Central Library - rapidly escalated as awareness of the support available spread, with more than 2,000 calls received.

Co-ordinated by Middlesbrough Council, the Hub worked to mitigate the financial and nutritional impact of the pandemic on those self-isolating, shielding or facing hardship.

During the first two months of the crisis Council workers and volunteers delivered nearly 2,000 food parcels and collected more than 500 prescriptions.

Other support included referrals to advice agencies, emotional support and help getting residents online.

Now a new Help Boro ‘insights report' has been compiled to assess the impact of the Help Boro Hub, identifying key successes as well as learning for similar future operations.

Speaking about the unprecedented initiative, one member of staff said: "I was very happy to be part of a larger effort to help the people of Middlesbrough in the early stages of the lockdown period.

"I was particularly proud to be part of an organisation that had responded so quickly and effectively to support its citizens and reassure them.

"As a local authority I think we showed great civic leadership, and collectively we ‘played a blinder.'"

The report highlights an opportunity to further develop and strengthen the

Council's approach to working with communities across the town during an ‘incredibly challenging period'.

The vital role played by partnership working is also underscored, across the public, private and voluntary/community sectors.

Welcoming the report, Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "I am committed, and every member of staff is committed, to fighting hard and looking after everyone who lives in Middlesbrough.

"The arrival of the pandemic at the start of the year saw the Council transform almost overnight from delivering day-to-day services to focusing on shielding the vulnerable and protecting public health.

"The Help Boro Hub was a major part of that, and this report highlights just how important it was in the fight against this dreadful disease.

"Of course there will always be lessons to learn, but the Hub undoubtedly saved lives, and will act as a blueprint for others to follow."

During the current new period of national lockdown, the Council is once again providing residents with advice to help keep them managing independently- including signposting to council and partner services for financial and mental health support, helping people set up supermarket deliveries for themselves, linking them with local volunteers, improving digital skills and assisting with finding employment.  

For advice for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable residents call Middlesbrough Council's support line on 01642 729777.

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