Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Time to organise our local community to address the corona virus

It is now clear that, as a community, we are going to change the way we live for the next few weeks/months.  We need various things organising, a local hardship fund, street level contacts for elderly and disabled neighbours, to ensure supplies. Protocols agreed for visiting/dropping deliveries for such people.

Many people want to do something, but are scratching their heads as to exactly what. I met with friends last night, and we discussed the matter. What we want to do is to take a few small, practical measures, that will hopefully make a big difference. It might even make us have a better community going forward.

Here is a list of practical suggestions.

1) Set up a street level WhatsApp group to stay in touch with neighbours - I live in Millway, so we talked last night about setting up a Millway group. Use this to make sure neighbours are looked after. Some elderly neighbours will not be internet savvy, so I suggest that we drop in a note giving your phone number and ask them to call you if they have any concerns. If each resident did this for one or two elderly/vulnerable neighbours, we could ensure that they are ok. We could also use it to swap cups of sugar, etc if any of us are short.

2) Pledge a small amount of money for a street level hardship fund. In my road, there are 120 homes. If each pledged a donation of £20 towards the fund, that would mean there was £2,400 available if anyone in the road was in urgent need. I hope this should never be needed, but it would give those who are terrified of not being able to feed themselves or afford soap/toilet rolls etc a degree of reassurance.

3) Why not offer to place orders on Deliveroo or other services for elderly neighbours, if they are having trouble cooking or getting supplies and do not know how to use such services.

4) Looking after pets. Many people who live alone have pets. Make sure that these are being looked after. This will most likely be a big worry for those self isolating.

5) Social media. Facebook and Twitter can be a massive help or the devil incarnate when it comes to crisis management. Posting alarmist messages etc does not help, please be mindful of what you post and what effect it had. There is no point posting "Be nice" if the next message you post is a diatribe against a friend or neighbour.

6) Respect rules introduced for greater social good. This morning, I was walking my dog past Iceland, during a period designated for exclusive shopping for elderly and infirm. I am sorry to report that it appeared that this was being completely ignored. Just imagine if it was your mother or grandmother being affected.

7) Loneliness is a major problem for those self isolating. Keep in touch with friends and neighbours. Have daily phone calls to check in. If you are aware of elderly neighbours birthdays, etc, make an effort to drop in a card (observing sensible protocols).

We also need to organise a co-ordinated effort to support our local businesses as best we can. For example, if you normally go for a curry at The Mill Hill Tandoori on a Friday night, but wish to avoid restaurants, order a takeaway. Many such restaurants only have licences for alcohol sales on site, but these should be relaxed to allow deliveries, so that they can deliver a bottle of Cobra or wine with the food, without risk of prosecution. 

The Barnet Eye has been talking to members of various political parties, including the Lib Dems, UKIP, Labour, The Greens and the Conservatives about how we respond as a community.

The consensus is that Barnet Council are now behind the curve and need to step up. The last message on their website (as of 8.35am on 18.3.2020) was posted on Friday.

I would suggest that Barnet Council licensing committee and the Police should issue such advice. I wrote to the leaders of Barnet Council this morning suggesting the following changes

I hope you are all keeping well. I was wondering if you could let me know the arrangements for businesses to take advantage of the governments rates relief proposal which was announced yesterday? I understand that the practical logistics will take a few days to sort out, but as a member of the Federation of Small Business, I would like to give an update to local members and other businesses of progress for hard pressed businesses, as to how and when this will be available.

If I may be so bold, there are two other measures I would like to suggest that may assist businesses (sadly not mine)

1. A temporary change to licensing laws, allowing restaurants that do not have off licences to supply alcohol with Deliveroo etc meals
2. A temporary relaxation of planning rules, allowing restaurants and pubs which do not have consent for delivery, to deliver food/drinks etc

These are unprecedented times and we need to be flexible to support businesses. It would be great if Barnet Council could lead the way. Now is the time to come together

There are other things that need to be done. I have volunteered for the Mill Hill Churches Homeless shelter this Sunday, doing an overnight shift at John Keeble Church, making sure the homeless have a place to sleep. Although there is a slight increase in my personal risk profile, if we do not support such schemes, we are throwing those at the bottom of the pile in our society under a bus. This morning I noted that the coffee bars in the Broadway were doing a brisk trade. If we can get a coffee, we can help the homeless.

I would welcome all other ideas as to our local, personal response. I will try and keep this blog updated as the ideas roll in.

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