Labour MPs step in to help co-ordinate emergency volunteering

Croydon’s Labour MPs are working with council agency Croydon Voluntary Action to help recruit volunteers, collect donations for food banks and offer support to those that need it during the coronavirus emergency.

Some people predicted an apocalypse

With the sudden emergence of a wide range of volunteer groups, set-up through Facebook pages, NextDoor or other social media platforms, CVA is providing some coordination so that the resources that these street-by-street groups can offer is directed at those where the need is greatest.

The website of Croydon North MP Steve Reed has set up a dedicated page for people to help the community during the outbreak, including an interactive map showing street and neighbourhood self-help groups who have logged in to the system.

“If you or anyone you know in Croydon North needs help or advice about coronavirus or are in difficulty because of the current situation, Croydon Voluntary Action has set up a helpline on 020 8253 7076,” the site says.

Anyone able to volunteer their time or skills to help in Croydon North are asked to fill in an online form by clicking here. 

Labour MPs Sarah Jones and Steve Reed are helping to co-ordinate the volunteer effort

Reed’s page also says, “Our local food banks are running out of supplies. If you can make a donation of food or sanitary products, please take them to the Trussell Trust’s foodbank donation point at the entrance to Tesco, 32 Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath.”

As highlighted by Inside Croydon yesterday, as some supermarkets apply a version of rationing, local homelessness groups such as Croydon Nightwatch are unable to buy the volume of food that they require for their nightly soup kitchens.

Other groups, such as the South Norwood Community Kitchen, have decided to defer their weekly sit-down, cooked meals for the duration of the covid-19 quarantine, and are instead organising deliveries of cooked food to those in their neighbourhood in need – though this does mean that they need supplies of food containers.

The interactive map of volunteers and foodbanks as it appears on MP Reed’s website today

The food banks are particularly short of dried pasta, tinned fruit, tinned fish, pasta sauces in glass jars, soap, toilet roll, and women’s sanitary products. A list of all the items they need can be found by clicking here.

The CVA launched a new page for volunteers to sign-up online yesterday. “If you can offer some time, please email Croydon Voluntary Action giving your full name, address and contact phone number,” Reed’s website advises.

CVA also has a new page with links for those who need assistance. That can be accessed here.

In an email sent to constituents last night, Sarah Jones, the MP for Croydon Central, wrote, “These are unprecedented times. As you will know, schools will be closed for most children after tomorrow, and the government has encouraged everyone to work from home if possible.

“But I want to thank you so much for signing up to help volunteer to help the community during this time and showing the community spirit we will need to get through the coming months.”

The list of foodbanks in Croydon Central, as distributed in MP Jones’s email overnight

Jones’s email is hoped to be the first of a weekly signposting service for community activities in her constituency.

Importantly, Jones acknowledges that not all those in need of help are logged on to the internet or have ready access to mobile phones or high-speed broadband, and so she is also seeking volunteers who might assist in distributing letters to her more elderly constituents.

“I will be printing thousands of letters which my team and I need to fold and stuff into envelopes. If you are able to help with this job, we can arrange for a pile of letters and (postage paid) envelopes to be delivered to you for folding and stuffing,” the MP writes.

But as one Katharine Street source said today, “In the past decade, Croydon has endured fire, in the form of the riots, water, from the serious flooding, and so now it’s the turn of pestilence.

“Yet it seems that the council has been left flat-footed in dealing with the immediate emergency caused by coronavirus: it is community groups organising online, and the MPs co-ordinating, who are taking the lead, not the Town Hall. And this is all being done now, more than a week into the crisis, because there was nothing prepared and systems weren’t ready to use when required.

“It exposes how fragile the local authority support services have become: the leadership is coming from the community and their MPs, not the council.

“This is worrying, because it really risks some people who may need help being overlooked.”

Indeed, because while two of the borough’s MPs are involved in co-ordinating a response, nothing has been heard from the third, Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South, an area which has perhaps the greatest concentration of people over the age of 70.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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