A Darlington parish council has launched an innovative online way of helping to tackle social isolation among its residents during the pandemic.
As part of its new Coronavirus Support Network, Sadberge Parish Council is enabling vulnerable and elderly local residents who are shielding or self-isolating at home to have video chats with their friends and family via two new tablet computers, which have been purchased with a £1,000 grant from the Community Fund linked to Banks Renewables’ nearby Moor House wind farm.
Tablets are delivered to each user’s home with the video link already up and running and their friend or relative waiting to speak to them, meaning that no IT knowledge or setting up is needed to make it work.
Strict cleaning and social distancing procedures are also in place before and after each session to ensure there is no exposure to the virus along the way.
Local resident Millie Scaife, who was one of the first people to test the system, says: “It was really easy to use, and once I’d collected the tablet from the doorstep, I could start chatting straight away.
“It was lovely to see each other as well as have a good chat – it’s the next best thing to a cuppa in the Village Hall Coffee Shop!”
The Sadberge Coronavirus Support Network is providing different types of assistance for any local people that need support, including collecting shopping and prescriptions, dog walking and a new food support voucher scheme that’s being run in association with a local trader.
Alastair Mackenzie, a member of the Network’s steering committee, adds: “The vibrant social side of life in our village has been one of the biggest misses since the restrictions, especially for a lot of our older people, and we thought this would be a good way to help people keep in touch with anyone from a friend down the street to family in other parts of the world.
“When we heard that grants were available from the Moor House fund, we came up with an idea that we think will make a big difference to the well-being of local people who can’t get out and about at the moment.
“Being able to see someone as well as hear them makes it easier for older people to communicate with them and it’s great to be able to offer this service to our older and vulnerable residents in these difficult times.”
Wind farm operator Banks Renewables agreed with the Moor House Wind Farm community fund committee members to temporarily relax the eligibility criteria in response to the impact of the pandemic and extend the area within which grants can be made.
Grants from the Moorhouse fund, which is administered by the County Durham Community Foundation, totalling almost £10,000 have been quickly approved and awarded to six local projects within the last few weeks after being identified by local councillors as suitable projects to support.
Other beneficiaries so far include Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington, the food bank at the Kings Church in Darlington, homelessness relief project The 700 Club, food redistribution charity The Bread and Butter Thing and Firthmoor & District Community Association, which is working to look after older and vulnerable people within the local area.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “This is a great idea that will give Sadberge’s older residents the chance to still see their family, friends and neighbours, and we’re very pleased to have been able to support it.
“We’re grateful for the support of the chair of the Moor House Wind Farm Community Fund Committee, Councillor Brian Jones, and the other members of the local community fund panel who agreed to move quickly to support these projects, which are making a huge local difference.”
The Moor House wind farm will generate more than £750,000 of local community funding over its 25-year lifespan and has been operational since the start of 2018.
It generates over 36,470 MW of green electricity every year, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of more than 9,350 homes, and by doing so, displaces almost 12,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network per annum.