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  1. ITV Report

Coronavirus: Thousands join volunteering effort to help vulnerable

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith

Amid all the distressing news around coronavirus, there is some positivity to come out of it as communities rally together.

One newsagent in Stenhousemuir has been handing Covid-19 parcels to local residents, costing themselves £4,000 in the process.

The packages help the most vulnerable people in the area during testing times.

"I think people should follow us and give things out becuase it's a virus, it can affect anybody, so it time to help each other not to overprice," shopkeeper Asiyah Javed told ITV News.

Websites such as covidmutualaid.org have also been set up for volunteers to help the most at need with tasks.

Overall, thousands of Britons have joined local Facebook groups offering food and support for elderly and vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.

The groups, named Covid-19 Mutual Aid, have been set up in most London boroughs, cities including Manchester, Newcastle and Birmingham, as well as smaller towns throughout the UK.

Some groups have received several thousand members in recent days as more and more people self-isolate to prevent the spread of the virus.

In one group, users shared a printable postcard which could be dropped in to neighbours’ letterboxes, with offers to pick up shopping, post mail or even just join them for a "friendly phone call".

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know:

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The National Food Service (NFS), an organisation aimed at tackling food insecurity, is now stepping in to offer the volunteers safeguarding training to help with issues such as data protection.

Louise Delmege, director of NFS Bristol, said: "I’ve been amazed by the quick response of the mutual aid groups. These have sprung up so quickly and are already forming into well-organised and thoughtfully co-ordinated groups.

"It’s fantastic to see so many people engaging with this, including a huge number who have never considered self-organised working before."

However, she warned there was a risk that well-meaning volunteers could inadvertently share others’ personal details in an attempt to help.

"I’m aware that many members are new to community work and don’t have any experience with safeguarding or data protection," she said.

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She added: "I’ve witnessed some groups starting open lists of people’s contact details. This is really dangerous as lists of vulnerable people are a goldmine for scammers."

Many of the offers to help are aimed at those over the age of 70, who may be asked to self-isolate for up to four months in the coming weeks.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday that the growing virus outbreak meant "the elderly and vulnerable" would be asked to "shield themselves by self-isolating".