Local charities have scaled back or suspended their face-to-face services to protect staff and their vulnerable service users from coronavirus.
However most continue to support people via phone or email services. (See box for latest list compiled by Healthwatch Reading and Reading Voluntary Action).
The vital role of the voluntary sector in supporting communities through this crisis has been acknowledged with a pledge of £100,000 from Reading Borough Council to help boost the capacity of charities. Reading Voluntary Action is coordinating public offers to volunteer during this time.
RBC council Jason Brock said: “It is of course a difficult time, but I know families and close friends in Reading are already reaching out to relatives and offering their help and support where it is needed. The Council would urge people who need help to contact people they know and trust and not to be too proud to ask for support, whether that is picking up some shopping or something as simple as a regular chat over the phone."
*Healthwatch Reading has offered to free up some its staff, who are DBS-checked, to support local organisations with telephone information and advice, phone support of clients or other tasks.
Local charity services at this time
Age UK Berkshire: All classes, activities and events will be closed from 21 March until further notice. Its office remains open: please phone 0118 959 4242
Age UK Reading: Has closed all lunch clubs. Befriending moving to a telephone-only service but some vulnerable people are still being visited with agreement from both parties. Happy Feet service suspended but could be brought back in a different way. Information and advice line still open on: phone: 0118 950 2480 or email: email@example.com
Alliance for Cohesion and Racial Health Equality (Acre): has suspended Rose Centre sessions for victims of FGM, and all other face to face interactions between staff and service users unless absolutely necessary, call 0118 951 0279 and leave a message or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Berkshire West Your Way (supporting people with mental health needs): has cancelled all groups and drop-in’s and are to triage calls from their 90 existing clients
Change, Grow, Live (Reading’s drug and alcohol service): all groups, assessments and 121 appointments will be moved to telephone or video call. External drop-ins will be postponed and replaced with offers of phone assessments or support. Certain people will get two weeks’ supply of medication to reduce daily supervised pharmacy visits and arrangements will be made for users who are self-isolating.
Citizens Advice: Has closed its Reading face-to-face service until further notice. Advice is available online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk or by telephone 03444 111 306.
Communicare (which gives benefits/housing/money/jobs advice): It is working hard to keep its Advice Centre open with limited staff. It will deal with URGENT issues only and will limit the number of clients in the waiting room. Call before visiting. Advice available by phone and email: 0118 926394 email@example.com
Compass Recovery College (offering courses to people with mental health needs): is closed until further notice
Depression Xpression: is suspending all meetings including Friday morning coffee until further notice. It has set up a WhatsApp Group and a Facebook Messenger Group (join their Facebook group and ask to be added to the chat group) for people to keep in touch during this time.
Launchpad Reading: Has launched a ‘here for you’ telephone service ‘for anyone in need of support, whether they have housing or homelessness issues or not. Call on 0118 929 1111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reading Association for the Blind (RAB): has suspended all clubs, outings, home visits and face-to-face appointments. It is providing a telephone advice, support and signposting service and may set up phone befriending and scheduled group chats.
Reading Community Learning Centre (which runs language, life skills and craft classes for women from black and ethnic minority communities); has closed until at least 27 April 2020.
Reading Mencap: ME Day activity at Alexandra Road & St Paul, Coffee Club, Gateway Club, Disco and Saturday youth club will not be running until further notice. Has provided email & telephone for family support and an Easy read leaflet for service users.
Support U: (Reading’s LGBT+ charity): Is offering a video or telephone call in place of face-to-face meetings (although they cannot offer video or phone calls to people in counselling) and their groups are cancelled for the current month.