How Aberdeen City Council has supported residents since the start of coronavirus

Helping almost 10,500 vulnerable people through a crisis telephone line, 1,128 food boxes delivered, and childcare for 502 youngsters are among the wide range of positive action to help residents which has been taken by Aberdeen City Council since the coronavirus lockdown started just over a month ago.

Supporting communities and the most vulnerable people within them has been at the heart of how Aberdeen City Council has responded to coronavirus since the council’s lockdown started on 24 March.

A major effort has been carried out with third sectors to ensure people who were most in need could get help, food, and assistance with obtaining medicines and other essential deliveries such as care packs.

From 24 March to 27 April, a total of 2,402 applications for a Scottish Welfare Fund Crisis Grant, were approved totalling £119,205.

There has also been 10,618 calls telephone calls made to vulnerable or shielded people, with 3,970 individuals spoken to and 1,363 follow-up calls made to shielding residents. In addition, a total of 1,371 people asked for financial assistance and advice.

Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader Councillor Jenny Laing said: “At a time like this when coronavirus has changed our day-to-day lives significantly, it is the vulnerable within our communities who have been the most affected.

“Supporting our most vulnerable in society has been at the heart of our response and it has been fantastic to see how Aberdeen City Council staff, along with the third sector and other partners, have pulled together to ensure these people are look after and supported during these challenging times.

“This great work will continue in the weeks and months ahead as we reach out to people across the city to offer help and support where needed.”

Another part of helping communities during the virus is communicating how essential services continue to be delivered with social distancing, what support is available for residents and businesses, and what is happening with non-essential services.

The council set up a webpage at www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/covid19 which has all the up-to-date information on it, and it has had 65,753 visitors since it was set up, and the automated response bot on the council’s website AB-1 has had 3,110 conversations with customers. For those unable to find the right support or in an emergency situation, Aberdeen City Council set up a free crisis line on 0800 0304 713 which also links into the national crisis line set up by the Scottish Government.

From 24 March to 27 April, there were 10,494 calls to the crisis helpline and staff assisted people to fill in 2,120 forms.

Requests to the crisis line have ranged from signposting, completing crisis grant applications, assisting people with an urgent food need, providing financial and benefits advice, and support with housing options including homelessness. A total of 91 people have been given temporary accommodation during the lockdown, 40 of which had applied before 24 March.

The crisis line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. From 8am to 8pm, there is specialist welfare support, including what to do if people are struggling to pay bills. The crisis support line also takes requests for people wanting help to get food and passes to one of the main third sector partners during the lockdown, Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE).

CFINE provides healthy food for people living in disadvantaged communities and those living in poverty and aims are to improve health and well-being and the environment, tackle poverty and build resilience for and with disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals, families and communities.

Lisa Duthie, CFINE Chief Executive, said: “The coronavirus outbreak fundamentally altered our lives not only as an individual, but also as a team, and an organisation. CFINE efficiently adapted to the changes, transforming the food bank into a contact-free emergency food delivery service for food-insecure individuals and families.

“The need for CFINE’s support services is greater than ever before. With the help of our volunteers and partners – Aberdeen Football Club Community Trust, Instant Neighbour, and 1Call Property Maintenance – CFINE delivered 8,372 emergency food parcels to people facing difficulty since 23 March.”

Aberdeen City Council has delivered a total of 1,128 food boxes to vulnerable/shielded people, those in poverty, and people who can’t get out to supermarkets as they are, for example, being medically shielded.

Further community links have been set up with neighbouring local authority Aberdeenshire Council including a website at https://www.gcah.org.uk/ where people can either ask for help, or volunteer their services. A total of 1,427 people have signed up to Scotland Cares national campaign to volunteer in Aberdeen and volunteering is being set up along with third sector organisations, where appropriate.

In addition, Aberdeen City Council has provided for 502 pupils who are children of key workers, attend an ASN facility, or are vulnerable, to have school or childcare places since the lockdown started. Help for pupils was rapidly put in place after it was announced schools were closing. The measures include the opening of school hubs for emergency childcare provision for keyworkers, a virtual school helpline on 01224 523322 to support children and families in need of assistance, an online learning resource for pupils, parents/guardians and schools, digital provision for pupils with no access at home, free lunches, and Special School Provisions have also remained open. Supermarket vouchers are being given to parents or guardians of pupils eligible for free school meals so they do not have to make a journey into schools.