Community lifelines are reaching out to needy in Wigan

There are plenty of people in Wigan currently getting by with a little help from their friends during the coronavirus crisis.
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But one civic-minded group of people has taken the idea to the next level and set up a mutual aid group covering dozens of streets and hundreds of residents.

Springfield Supporters was founded on Facebook by Emma Reid and now has more than 400 members, with nearly 80 streets fully involved and others having WhatsApp groups.

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The approach was adopted from fellow Springfield resident Angela Fell, who had set up a community support group through the social media app on her home street, Norbreck Crescent.

Emma Reid working on the websiteEmma Reid working on the website
Emma Reid working on the website

She then posted about it on the recently-established Wigan Covid Mutual Aid Group.

The groups provide somewhere for anyone who wants to be involved to get help with any everyday tasks they might require during the period of strict curbs on movement, while those not embracing the latest technology can be put on a phone list.

Angela says Springfield Supporters avoids the pitfalls of a set-up where a vulnerable person is given a single point of contact.

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She said: “It’s about a street all supporting each other rather than a one-to-one relationship. Emma has recruited a whole army of Springfield people to get involved.

“You don’t want to let any one person take on more than a couple of things, because there is the chance they will fall ill and not be able to do it.

“I wanted to invite everyone to the Norbreck Crescent group rather than those I felt may be more at risk, as we do not know who this virus will effect. One day we can be the helper and the next day in quarantine.

“We’ve had adult children practically in tears because it’s such a relief to know there are people on the street looking after each other and supporting their relatives.

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“We want to keep the support as local and neighbourly as possible. We want to build neighbourliness so that at the end of this local people have more friends and stronger relationships within their neighbourhoods.

“What I’ve loved about this is that before this we had hardly any community activity in Springfield, apart from the Book Cycle. We’ve gone from next to nothing to having nearly 80 streets covered.”

Angela says part of the idea behind Springfield Supporters, which is now being run by a four-strong team, is to reduce the number of referrals to Wigan Council, although they have set up links with the town hall to signpost anyone who has no support at all or more severe needs than the volunteer neighbours can handle.

They have also now written to ward councillors in the area asking for further support.

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So far the group has had its biggest successes in Springfield but the team is also attempting to get streets in Beech Hill connected using the same approach.

Tasks undertaken by the group include doing shopping for those most at risk or unable to get out of their homes and providing a buddy service for residents needing a chat and some psychological support.

Other people who have joined up include tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians while the groups also include a doorstep delivery service created by a resident who was forced to close their business due to coronavirus.

The groups have also been able to give roles which do not require going out to those shielding themselves or on longer, stricter lockdowns within their homes.

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Angela says the people involved are still discovering how much they can do to help each other and praised the scheme as very empowering at a difficult time.

She said: “Everybody on the street has said it is getting them back in contact with their neighbours.

“Everybody wants to help everybody else. We’re all learning and finding out about our neighbours. It’s old-style community spirit.”

To find out more or get involved, search for Springfield Supporters on Facebook.

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