Dozens of City of Wolverhampton Council staff have been redeployed to run an emergency hotline for the city's most vulnerable residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Working remotely from home, they are providing help and guidance for local people who do not have family, friends or carers who can support them as normal at this time.

Last month, the council and Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group began sending out letters to residents who have an underlying health condition or disease that makes them more likely to become severely ill if they become infected with coronavirus. The letters contain essential advice and guidance to help them stay safe, and details of a hotline to call or email address to use - - if they need additional support.

Over 60 staff from a variety of council departments have been trained to take calls and ensure residents are able to get advice, support and access to basic provisions through voluntary sector organisations, Wolverhampton Homes, volunteers and from the Wolverhampton Food Hub. 

Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council has had a brilliant response to its request for volunteers, with well over 400 people offering their support so far. At least 100 of those – along with more than 60 volunteers from Wolverhampton Homes – will be working with the council to ensure that the most vulnerable get the food and medicine they need. Other volunteers will be supporting voluntary organisations across the city, allowing them to increase the help they can provide at this difficult time. 

The move bolsters the work of the Wolverhampton Food Hub, which was set up by the council within 48 hours and has already delivered much-needed food and supplies to up to 1,000 residents this week. It also enables information sharing so that the council and partners can better meet the requirements of those who need help most. Volunteers will complement the food hub operation by getting shopping for those that want it and delivering crucial medical supplies.

Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “We've always said we will do all it takes to get through this national emergency, and this is yet another example of Wolverhampton coming together as one city in times of adversity.

“The council, working with health colleagues, has written to thousands of our vulnerable residents and provided details of how to contact us if they need help. That might not be a food parcel, they can also call us if they need someone to go to the shop for them or give them a ring and check if they are ok.”

Ian Darch, of Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council, said: “A co-ordinated response to the current crisis is essential and people and organisations in the city are rising to the challenge. 

“The council has led the way with the establishment of the food hub, many voluntary organisations and groups are also doing brilliant work in their communities and we are keen to ensure that every person who volunteers to help can make a real impact on the lives of those hit hardest by this pandemic. 

“We need even more than ever to work beyond any organisational barriers and to pool the extensive resources of the voluntary sector in Wolverhampton, with the council using its resources and citywide role to co-ordinate the response. It feels really important that our city works together in this way to help people in their hour of need.”

Joanna Grocott, who is managing the operation, said: "We have received hundreds of calls and emails from vulnerable residents requiring support to get food and basic provisions, and from people who are feeling isolated or anxious and need reassurance or just a friendly voice to speak to. 

“We expect the number of calls to continue to increase in the coming days as more of our most vulnerable residents receive their letter from the council, and as other vulnerable people come forward for support.

"The response to the hotline and support available has been incredibly positive. One person called us in tears of happiness because she had just received her food parcel, and said that she didn't know what she would have done without our support as she had no family or friends to rely on. 

“A 71 year old told us they were really worried about helping their elderly father as they were self isolating, but with our help, they could see the light at the end of the tunnel. And another caller said they were truly grateful and felt incredibly looked after by the team.

"The call handlers themselves have been fantastic, demonstrating such care and support for the residents who are obviously very stressed and anxious when they first phone up."

To manage demand, details of the hotline are only currently being provided to those residents who have and are being written to by the council as they are believed to be most vulnerable at this time. However, If you either are, or are aware of, a vulnerable resident who needs support, please email as soon as possible.

Anyone who would like to volunteer their time to support the city's most vulnerable residents should please visit COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Response to register their interest.

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages at Coronavirus advice and information. There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves and their families from coronavirus from the NHS at Advice for everyone - Coronavirus (COVID-19).    

The council’s Stay Safe, Be Kind campaign offers clear and simple advice about how people can help themselves, and how they can support others who may be particularly vulnerable at this time. For more information, please visit Stay Safe, Be Kind.