Wednesday 8th April 2020

As we hear news that our Prime Minister is in intensive care suffering from prolonged symptoms of coronavirus it is becoming increasingly apparent that this situation is going to continue for some time; possibly months rather than weeks.   

At Rural Action Derbyshire we recognise the enormity of the challenge we are facing in heading off this virus and applaud all those people who are battling tirelessly on the front line in nursing, caring and providing essential services in very difficult situations. 

Whilst we aim to provide business as usual we have to take steps to protect our workforce and not expose people unnecessarily to the risk of contracting the virus.  That is why all our staff are now home based and we have suspended all face to face contact.  However we are working hard to keep some activities going, albeit in a different way and responding to the crisis in whatever way we can. 

We have been working hard to secure resources for our food banks, community pantries and community cafes so that they can continue to help vulnerable and people who are struggling to get by.  We want to make sure that children have good food available to them over the Easter Holidays and that no child misses out.  We have received funding from Feeding Britain to help us achieve this with our partners.

We have been providing up to date advice and information to our network of village halls and community buildings and to foodbanks and community projects.

We have launched a new scheme for keyworkers in and around Derby who can apply to Wheels to Work for a free reconditioned bicycle to help them get to work without using public transport.  We have made 100 bikes available immediately and hope to scale up this scheme further.

We are looking to develop online resources around suicide prevention whilst we are unable to offer suicide awareness training, and our rural chaplaincy team are there to support individuals who are feeling the strain or need someone to talk to.

Finally, although the weather is warming up, we are still purchasing heating oil through our community bulk buying scheme, saving people money and helping those people who are more vulnerable to stay warm and well.

RAD trustees will be meeting as a Board for the first time in virtual reality using a video conferencing app and RAD staff have been having weekly video conferences to stay in touch and using software to collaborate on projects.   

Whilst working from home can have its challenges, there are also opportunities.   The lack of traffic means we can hear more birdsong and the air is less polluted.  For me it has meant the opportunity to be at home more during lambing time instead of rushing off for the daily commute to Matlock.  My dog is enjoying having some company during the day and I find myself doing more home cooking rather than relying on ready meals or takeout.

I hope that some good will come out of this crisis – people valuing our wonderful NHS as well as public sector workers and those working in the voluntary sector. Community resilience is talked about a lot, but it takes a crisis to bring out the best in people.  Let’s hope this renewed sense of neighbourliness and community lasts long after this virus has retreated into the distance.  

Beverley Parker - CEO