Gillingham Town Council will act as an organisational hub, co-ordinating the work of community groups, in order to help people within the Gillingham Town Council boundary (Gillingham and Milton-on-Stour) struggling because of the coronavirus.
The hub is the latest addition to the council’s existing Gillingham Resilience Plan which also includes issues such as flood defences, and its formation was agreed at a meeting of the mayor, town clerk Julie Hawkins and community representatives on Friday, March 20.
‘The plan is that every home in the area will receive a card with contact details of a local person who can help if those within the property are elderly and vulnerable and, due to being ill or self-isolating, need help with shopping, the collection of prescriptions, even a chat on the telephone,’ says mayor Councillor Barry Von-Clemens. ‘The card is also for those under the age of 70 who are struggling due to the loss of work and those who need help with feeding themselves and children.’
Villages beyond the Gillingham Town Council boundary will not be part of the scheme. ‘People within this area should not have to travel out into villages,’ says the mayor. ‘And local parish councils are in the best position to know their own communities and their needs.’
At the meeting was Hannah Gibbons, manager of the Gillingham Food Bank, who explained that it has already seen people working on zero hours contracts needing their help. ‘Recently, a lady came in who usually works 37 hours a week but was told to stop after she had worked just four hours,’ explained Hannah. ‘What a lot of people don’t realise is that those on zero hours contracts can apply for sick pay – even if it is a zero hours contract, it is still a contract – although that does take time.’
The council aims to have the cards – one side pictured above- delivered as soon as possible (those already delivered by the Facebook-based Gillingham Support Group will become part of the plan) – so do look out for them. ‘It is not going to be easy – logistically it is an enormous task and it will take an enormous amount of work from the council and those in the community,’ says the mayor.
‘But we are determined that those people who need help know that it is there, and that they do not have to go through this crisis alone.’