Corona-crisis creates Coronaheroes as Mancunian communities unite to help virus victims

It can often take a crisis to bring out the best in people, and that has certainly happened in Oldham where a group of ‘Coronaheroes’ have organised to help neighbours affected by Covid-19. 

The Facebook group, which was created by Julie Stansfield on Friday, has already reached over 1630 members and spawned many other Coronahero groups across the country, as Julie told MM,

“There are Coronaheroes all over the UK now. I think over 500 groups,” she explained.

Julie, from Lees in Oldham, is the Chief Executive for In Control, a national charity providing support to people for a variety of reasons, whether it be a disability, ill health or old age. 

It was a discussion at work with Karen Saville – who receives continuing health support for her husband – which led to the creation of Coronaheroes.

“[I was] talking to Karen Saville about her individual plans and we discussed what would happen for people with no family or friends.”

Karen added: “We need community Coronaheroes, so I set it up based on her idea and the response was amazing.”

A message about Coronaheroes was put on a local community Facebook page and the response was overwhelming, with people rushing to offer their help: possibly as a reaction to deaths in Greater Manchester now reaching five. 

It can be easy to be cynical these days, with political and social issues cutting a divide through the country, but was Julie surprised by the response?

“Yes and no. I believe that people want to help but often don’t know how to, so I’m not surprised that there are wonderful people out there. 

“The surprise was how quickly people responded! Which is great.”

We are still in the early days of the pandemic so time will define how the group functions day to day, but the plan is that people who can help, and people who need help can be paired up via a register. 

Help on offer ranges from walking dogs, buying groceries or collecting prescriptions to simply having a chat with an isolated person over the phone. 

Hayley Gill, from Lees in Oldham, signed-up after seeing a post on her local community’s Facebook page.

“I just thought taking a dog for a walk or buying some extra things in the shop would be easy for me to do and could actually really help someone who is struggling.”

There are now similar groups popping-up across the UK and it is likely that they will become increasingly important as the virus takes hold of the country.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is likely that people aged over-70 will be asked to self-isolate for up to four months in the next few weeks. 

This will inevitably leave many people isolated and reliant on friends, family and members of the community willing to help each other out. 

Julie is also in contact with the Association of Adult Directors of Social Services (ADASS) and NHS England to try and link the work of the group in with statutory efforts which will be under immense pressure, she told MM.  

As well as managing Coronaheroes, Julie will be running a national webinar on Tuesday with the help of In Control.

The webinar is a response to fears she was hearing from people who have personal health budgets and are anxious about how coronavirus will affect them and their care during this time.

“Some raised their concerns about what to do if they or their support staff need to self-isolate.”

It is an uncertain and scary time for everyone, but it warms the heart to know that there are so many people in our communities who are willing to pull together and help their neighbours during this crisis. 

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