The Isle of Wight Council has moved to reassure thousands of vulnerable Islanders that changes to shielding arrangements will not mean the end of their local support.
The council has pledged to continue its vital work in supporting around 6,000 residents who are currently shielded or isolated and need help getting food and medication.
It comes after the government yesterday (22 June) announced people will no longer be advised to shield from 1 August, with the relaxation of current guidance ending the national support offer of food parcels and medication deliveries.
Council leader, Dave Stewart, said he recognised some residents might feel anxious about the change in advice, but sought to reassure them they could still access local support through the (01983) 823600 Covid-19 helpline number.
The helpline will continue to operate beyond 1 August to ensure those that need continued support are able to access it through a range of local provisions that will remain in place.
Over the next six weeks, Councillor Stewart said the council would be contacting shielded residents to prepare them for the changes and to discuss their options.
“This is to enable our shielded population to be guided to help them to prepare for becoming self-dependent again safely,” he said.
“Throughout the coronavirus crisis, our wonderful community hubs and teams have worked hard to help vulnerable residents with shopping, delivering medication and providing regular ‘check-in’ wellbeing calls.
“Alongside our health and care colleagues, the community teams — who are both volunteers and redeployed council staff — have played a critical role.
“There have been just over 500 emergency food parcels delivered, as well as the regular shopping arrangements that have been put in place.
“Over 600 welfare checks have been undertaken to ensure people are safe and, in total, just under 19,000 calls out to people to provide them with regular contact and to check on their needs.
“I want to reassure residents that this work will continue and that over the next six weeks we will be working to help prepare them for the changes from 1 August.”
From 1 June, the measures for those shielding in England were relaxed slightly, allowing trips outside the home once a day and even meetings, at a distance, with one person from another household.
But from 6 July the guidance for people shielding in England will be relaxed further: people who have been shielding will be able to meet up outside in a group of up to six people including those outside of their household, while social distancing.
If a shielding individual lives on their own, or is a single parent, they will also be allowed to form a “support bubble” with one other household.
The government says the guidance will be relaxed because levels of infection in the community have fallen sufficiently that the risk, even to the most vulnerable, has reduced enough for such measures to be safe.
From 1 August, the government has said, people in England will no longer need to shield but local support will remain available where required.
Shielded residents who have opted to receive frequent ‘check-in’ calls will be regularly contacted by the council to discuss the changes and the support options available from 1 August to help them prepare for the shielding easement.
This will include exploring the options to continue to receive ‘check-in’ calls as well as anxiety and wellbeing support provisions.