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A Month into Lockdown: The voluntary sector continues to rise to the challenge

"It's a sign of the strength of Sheffield that people are keen to offer support through these difficult circumstances and help out in their community," says VAS Chief Exec Maddy Desforges.

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Charities across Sheffield have been working together to provide practical and emotional support to people hit hardest by COVID-19. In the month since lockdown began, the voluntary and community sector (VCS) response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Sheffield has been effective, joined-up and targeted at those most in need.

Hosted at a strategic level by Voluntary Action Sheffield (VAS), the new network of over 30 organisations spans the city's geography and enables the sector to coordinate deliveries of food, provide support at community and city level for people who are vulnerable or struggling, and share critical public health information with residents and the city's decision makers.

A key part of the response has been to make sure people feel supported locally, and that they have somewhere to go to ask for help when they need it. The charities have worked together to produce a flyer featuring information tailored to different communities across Sheffield, using pictures and straightforward messages to reach a wide audience.

The response from the city has been fantastic. Over 1,000 new volunteers have signed up to support the city's VCS response through VAS. The charity has set up a new online portal to enable community hub organisations to access its database of volunteers directly.

Many organisations within the network have adapted or repurposed existing systems and approaches in light of the outbreak, including moving to provide all advice and service provision via phone and internet. The network has also proved a valuable mechanism for ensuring that COVID-19 response funding reaches the residents who need it.

Maddy Desforges, Chief Executive of VAS, said: "It's a sign of the strength of Sheffield that people are keen to offer support through these difficult circumstances and help out in their community."

Fran Belbin, Finance and Funding Manager at Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, which has adapted its work to help keep families active and supplied with food during lockdown, said: "By working in partnership with other community organisations, our local community hubs are providing services including shopping, food bank referrals, friendly phone calls to people who are isolated and advice on keeping safe, benefits and employment rights."

Sheffield residents in need of support are encouraged to visit the Sheffield COVID Support Map to identify nearby mutual aid organisations, which operate informally at street and neighbourhood level, and 'community hub' organisations, which are leading a more formalised response on a wider scale by committing staff resources, supporting volunteers and connecting with Local Response Teams coordinated by Sheffield City Council. The COVID Support Map is also available to view on the Now Then App.

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