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Good Neighbour Response Schemes in action - a close-knit community gets closer still

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Great Hockham lies on the eastern edge of Breckland, with a picture postcard village green at its centre, and a rather fine village sign showing scenes from Hockham’s history. 

In common with many such Norfolk parishes, it’s a close-knit community – and has become even more so during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Community-spirited individuals got together early in the crisis, determined to help and support the vulnerable residents in and around their village.  They contacted CAN via the Parish Council, knowing that through our existing Good Neighbour Scheme network we would be able to offer advice and practical support in setting up a structure, quickly and effectively. 

CAN Development Officer Tracey Allan fast-tracked them through essential safeguards such as Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks, volunteer training and management, insurance, and protection protocols for volunteers and residents alike.   

Great Hockham Good Neighbour Scheme has 26 volunteers on call, many of whom have affirmed that they would like to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.  Encouragingly, a good proportion of the volunteers were already accredited, being professionally involved in the health, caring or teaching professions. Several other volunteers are themselves self-isolating but have been able to participate by taking a turn in charge of the emergency phone 

Chris Garrod and Stella Lawrence, both themselves volunteers, are the main co-ordinators, both bringing their separate skills sets to the project.  

“Stella and I deal with the administrative and operational side and the other volunteers take charge of the emergency phone on a rota basis, answering calls for help and assistance from around the community” said Chris. 

“The existing cohesion within the community has been strengthened as our Good Neighbour Scheme volunteers have reached out to the 250 households in the area. No-one who needs help has fallen through the net.” 

There are ‘knock-on’ benefits. The village hall, like hundreds across the county, has had to close. But, after scrupulous disinfecting by the caretaker, individuals have been able to make use of the space. The local Yoga teacher has recorded sessions inside the hall for uploading to YouTube; likewise, a local drama student has been able to record a theatre presentation for his university thesis. There’s innovation for you. 

The nearest GP surgery and pharmacy is at East Harling. The Good Neighbour Scheme has collected more than 150 prescriptions and that, too, has been organised efficiently.  Minimising the risk of cross-infection and pursuing an environmentally sound policy at the same time, a member of the pharmacy staff ‘bulk delivers’ prescriptions to Great Hockham for individual delivery by volunteers – a definite reduction in carbon footprint. 

There’s more. The co-ordinators liaised with Tesco in Thetford to arrange early-in-the-day priority access to the supermarket, with the staff even helping the Scheme volunteers round up the right groceries!  

“Someone early on suggested cordoning off the village, much like in medieval plague times!” says Chris. “That might have proved difficult but, in reality, co-ordinated access in and beyond the community to supply the needs of self-isolating individuals and families has been essential.” 

Great Hockham’s achievement has been to spontaneously set up a highly responsive and effective Good Neighbour Scheme in an organised way. The medium term aim is to carry on doing what they are doing well during the pandemic  – and the long term ambition is to maintain the service with enthusiasm, continuing to help those vulnerable members of the community as and when needed.  

Visit Great Hockham Good Neighbour Scheme at www.greathockham.org/services 

And if you’d like advice and help in setting up a Good Neighbour Response Group or Scheme in your community, we are here to help. Call 01362 698216 or email [email protected] and read more here