Deputy leader of Harlow Conservatives: “Wellbeing of coronavirus volunteers must be a priority”

Communities / Wed 27th May 2020 at 09:59am

Wellbeing of coronavirus volunteers must be a priority

THE Deputy Leader of Harlow Conservatives has written an open letter to Essex County Council calling for a county-wide counselling service to help volunteers deal with the emotional impact of working with vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.

In his open letter to Cllr John Spence, the county lead for health and adult social care, Cllr Joel Charles discusses the challenges he has faced as a volunteer. One of the residents he was helping sadly passed away.

The issues confronted by volunteers highlight there is a greater need for additional support as those who are shielding will continue to need help even when the lockdown is eased.

Cllr Charles believes that some form of county-wide provision, in the form of professional counselling, would help volunteers manage emotionally challenging encounters on the doorstep.

Volunteers are the backbone of the coronavirus response effort and should receive the best possible support to carry out their role.

Cllr Joel Charles, Deputy Leader of Harlow Conservatives, said:

“Volunteers are working hard across the county to keep vulnerable people safe and well. The number of people volunteering, often for the first time, is good news but it also means that the right advice and support must be made available to deal with tragic situations faced during this pandemic.

“I have written an open letter to Essex County Council which aims to start a discussion about what additional support can be provided to volunteers on a county-wide basis.

“As volunteer myself, I have sadly dealt with some very tough situations over the last two months. Several volunteers have also shared their experiences with me and are keen to access more support. I look forward to discussing this matter further with Essex County Council to seek new ways to further support the wellbeing of coronavirus volunteers.”


Open letter to Cllr John Spence:

Dear Cllr Spence,

Re: Counselling support for Essex coronavirus volunteers

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your team at Essex County Council for continuing to coordinate county-wide efforts during the coronavirus outbreak. It has been encouraging to see the Essex Coronavirus Action Group network of volunteers, charities, faith groups, businesses and councils working together to help those most at risk during these uncertain times. I am one of many volunteers across the county who chose to get involved because I thought it was my responsibility to help those most in need.

As you know, volunteers are on the frontline in the community and are often faced with very challenging situations. The true reality of this pandemic was brought home to me recently when one of the individuals I was collecting shopping for sadly passed away. This public health crisis has had a profound effect on all of us and highlighted the importance of community resilience. Volunteers, some who have never signed up for such a role before, are finding it difficult to deal with the emotionally difficult situations they are coming across in their role. I, like all volunteers in Harlow, received comprehensive guidance before taking on my first task, but nothing fully prepares you for some of the issues that come up on the doorstep.

I have discussed the emotional aspects of volunteering with Rainbow Services, the charity coordinating volunteers in Harlow alongside the Essex action group, and senior district council officials in the town. They agree that some form of professional county-wide counselling service would be of benefit to volunteers. Is this type of support something Essex County Council would be able to provide?

Volunteers will be continuing to support vulnerable residents for several months to come. I know that you take seriously the wellbeing of volunteers and will be all too aware of the issues that are being confronted on a daily basis. Any offer of additional support would be most welcome. If it would be helpful, I am keen to discuss some of the specific challenges with you to help inform considerations about what action to take.

I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Cllr Joel Charles
Old Harlow Ward
Harlow District Council

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