Coronavirus helpline goes live

Penistone & Stocksbridge neighbourhood support 

Over the last few weeks life has changed in ways that none of us could have imagined. Things we took for granted – jobs, school places, freedom to meet our family and friends – are no longer guaranteed. The speed at which our world can change has shocked us, and I know many people are now facing an uncertain future.

But I’ve been struck by two things that have made me immensely proud of our communities.

Firstly, people’s willingness to do whatever it takes to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. So many of us have made tough and costly personal decisions like keeping their children off school, choosing to shop less, even closing their businesses in order to follow the Government’s guidelines and slow down the spread of Coronavirus.

Secondly, I’ve been so impressed by the many volunteers and groups in my constituency who have risen to the challenge of providing practical support to people who are self-isolating in our communities.

In my home village of Oughtibridge, residents have organised a leaflet drop and are already shopping for those in need. In Penistone, a number of organisations including the Town Council and the Ladies Circle have worked together to develop the website, a one-stop-shop where local people can find help. The ‘Friends of Dodworth Village’ group have recruited dozens of volunteers to look after those who are most at risk. Parish Councils have sprung into action and many of our churches have recruited volunteers to phone people regularly to combat loneliness.

Lots of our local groups are using Facebook and websites effectively to organise volunteers and provide support to those in need. However, I've been concerned that people who don't have internet access – often older people - may struggle to know where to turn to for information and support.

So I’ve set up a freephone helpline for people who are self-isolating and don't know where to go for help. The number is 0800 955 4002, and we're open from 9:30am - 5pm, Monday to Friday.

The phone is manned by me and my team ,and is for residents of the Penistone and Stocksbridge Constituency (including Dodworth, Pogmoor, Higham, Tankersley and the Penistone villages) who don’t have internet access. Please share the number with friends and neighbours who are not ‘online’; it is vital that everyone has somewhere to turn to for help.

Coronavirus is a global emergency. I am so proud of our NHS, our schools and our Government in the way that it has so quickly announced unprecedented support for workers and businesses through such a testing time. But we need to acknowledge that no health service, no government, no society can prevent all the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19), and there will be costs to many of us in the short term – costs to our finances, our health, our freedom.

But this is also an opportunity for us to demonstrate what makes our towns and villages such great places to live, by making a real practical difference to people’s lives when they are most in need. Our national institutions are vitally important, but it is our family, friends and neighbours that have the most impact on our everyday lives. We have the chance now to build new relationships – albeit remotely – that cross generations and social backgrounds, and so to strengthen our communities for the long term.

We will come through this, and across Penistone and Stocksbridge I believe we will emerge stronger, more supportive of our neighbours, more appreciative of each other.

And to every volunteer and every group that has rallied round to respond to this crisis, I want to say a heartfelt ‘Thank You’, our whole community is grateful.