A new target of £3 million has been set by Cumbria Community Foundation (CCF) to raise money for its COVID-19 Response Fund which supports community and voluntary organisations that are helping to feed and protect elderly and vulnerable Cumbrians as part of the county’s co-ordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund was launched four weeks ago with an initial target of £1 million, and since then CCF has already given out more than half a million pounds in grants.
The money has provided much-needed food and medicine to isolated old and vulnerable people sheltering in their homes, helped families in poverty and those in temporary accommodation, women affected by domestic violence, and supported isolated and vulnerable young people. Grants have also been given to help charities that have seen a rise in demand for their services, such as mental health provision and carers organisations.
Throughout the county, thousands of volunteers have come forward to create new self-help groups, alongside support from many of the existing 6,000 charitable groups across Cumbria that are stepping up and working to reduce pressures on the NHS. Teamwork among public, private and charitable organisations means Cumbria now has a call centre and a network of hubs coordinating volunteers and delivery of food and medicines.
CCF’s chief executive Andy Beeforth said: “Cumbria has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic with some of the highest recorded incidences of the disease. Our doctors, nurses, health workers and all key workers have all been magnificent and we thank them.
“As we enter a further three weeks of lockdown, many people are unable to work. Families are applying for Universal Credit for the first time and many businesses have been without income for weeks.
“The need is great and growing. Our charities are at the forefront of supporting people at this desperate time. The money we’ve given out so far has kept people safe but what we have raised will soon run out. Some of our most important charities are themselves facing financial problems and without support from the COVID-19 Fund they may have to close. “
Assistant Chief Constable, Andy Slattery, who chairs the Cumbria Covid-19 Strategic Coordination Group said: “I have seen the way local charities and community volunteers have worked together in support of our most vulnerable people. I understand the significant impact the virus is having.
“It is vital that we have funds available for local charities and voluntary organisations to support people in urgent need.”
Cumbria’s director of public health Colin Cox said: “Supporting older and vulnerable people to self-isolate is particularly challenging for community groups, as the situation is exacerbated by the remote, rural nature of our county. In addition, there are proportionally more people in the vulnerable self-isolating category as the county is characterised by a ‘super-ageing’ population, particularly in the more rural areas.
“The need for practical support will last for at least three months and may well be extended beyond that, such as the delivery of food and essential items to those who are self-isolating. There is also a need for other types of support, such as befriending, emotional wellbeing, mental health, bereavement and counselling, which will increase and be required over a longer period.”
One in eight households in Cumbria have an income of less than £10,000 a year. People locked in poverty are more likely to be in poor health, disabled, and to be caring for others. In addition, people stuck in poverty are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and other mental health difficulties.
The implications of COVID-19 also mean that many more people struggling to keep their heads above water could be swept into poverty as a result. The virus has forced many people to look for help in areas that they may have thought they’d never need, and local Citizens Advice have seen an unprecedented demand for their services.
Older people are particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus. Along with having isolation and mobility challenges, older people often have a weaker immune system and are also more likely to have conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or kidney disease, which weaken their body’s ability to fight infectious diseases.
Much more needs to be done to support families with children in this time of national crisis. As unemployment rises over the coming weeks and months, many more families will require welfare support to get by. 12,000 children across Cumbria live in poverty and in Barrow, it’s one in three. Free school meals make a huge difference to those on low income, but we know there have been issues with children receiving the vouchers provided to replace the meals they would receive at school. Many more families will need to turn to food banks, which have also been hit by shortages and many are running low on essentials.
Andy Beeforth added “For all these reasons, Cumbria Community Foundation is asking those people who can afford to donate to please do so and help them meet the new fundraising target of £3 million for the Cumbria COVID-19 Response Fund.”
To make a donation and support local groups, visit: www.cumbriafoundation.org