This week is Volunteers’ Week – the annual celebration of all the wonderful people who go above and beyond to help others.
Volunteers really are the backbone of our city and support people to an extent which many will never appreciate. Charities, support groups, leisure attractions such as Nene Valley Railway – none of these would be able to meet the demand they do without an army of loyal volunteers.
But in recent weeks the coronavirus pandemic has shone an even brighter light on these volunteers, including the many who have so willingly signed up to help others during these most difficult times.
There are hundreds of people across our city who are supporting people who are in need, collecting medicines and food and doing other good deeds. In Castor and Ailsworth in my ward, five residents got together and set up a COVID-19 support group and recruited more than 80 volunteers in just five days. That’s an incredible achievement.
There are well established networks too which have had to call on even more support from volunteers to meet demand. Peterborough Foodbank has long been supported by a dedicated group of volunteers, but the service has recruited an additional 80 volunteers to help it cope with a 98% increase in the numbers of people being fed compared with the same time last year.
Our support for people who are most in need through the Peterborough COVID-19 Support Hub could not have been delivered without volunteers. Many are providing emotional support for people struggling with isolation, whilst others are collecting and delivering food and medicines or supporting organisations such as Family Voice by packing and delivering food parcels.
Even now as restrictions begin to ease, the work of the volunteers remains vital. For example, to begin re-opening our city in a manner that is safe, volunteers will be taking up marshalling and information support roles, ensuring that the crucial social distancing and safety measures are adhered to.
And as people continue to shield from the virus, the volunteers supporting the Countywide Coordination Hub will be vital to ensure this group of people has the support it needs.
So please, if you know someone who is volunteering, take time to show them how much you appreciate their efforts this week.
This evening I will be joining (virtually!) Acting Police and Crime Commissioner, Ray Bisby, for a Clap for Volunteers at 8pm in support of the invaluable contributions our volunteers continue to make to support people during Covid-19. Please join in too.
You can also share your thanks on social media using #ClapforVolunteers and #PboroTogether
Update on social distancing measures
The lockdown measures have been reduced further this week, with people now allowed to meet in groups of up to six people in outdoor settings, including gardens, whilst maintaining social distancing of 2 metres.
It comes as a relief to people like my wife Barbara and I, who have longed to be able to spend time with our children and grandchildren.
People who are shielding from the virus have also been told that they can go outdoors with members of their own household, or if they live alone, with one other person from another household who is isolating.
And of course, children in reception and years 1 and 6 were able to return to school and early years settings this week across many parts of the city. I would like to thank every school and early years setting for the extensive efforts they have gone to in order to make this return as smooth and safe for the children as possible.
We have also seen the launch of NHS Test and Trace which, in theory, will allow us to track every case of the coronavirus to thwart its spread in our communities.
The more people who use this system correctly, the more effective it will be at stopping the spread of the virus and the safer it will be for you and your loved ones and the faster we can lift the lockdown. So please use it.
More information about how the system works and what we need you to do is available at www.peterborough.gov.uk. Alternatively, if you develop symptoms, please call 119.
Online Booking system for Household Recycling Centre
When the Household Recycling Centre at Fengate reopened last month, I promised I would review the situation for vans and trailers as soon as possible.
So, I am pleased to say that on Wednesday we reopened the site to vans and trailers, however visits need to be booked in advance at www.peterborough.gov.uk.
The online booking system is a temporary measure and will allow us to stagger access for these vehicles throughout the day, limiting queues and ensuring continued access to everyone who needs to make an essential visit.
You can rest assured the council will continue to work hard to keep its residents safe and well and to keep the city moving.