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“Ask for help now if you think you’ll need it this Christmas,” say councils.

With food banks and other support organisations running reduced or limited services over the Christmas period, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are urging residents to think ahead and get in touch now if they’ll need help with food or essential supplies.

The councils’ own Community Hub will be running a limited service and wants to make sure families like Andrew’s do not suffer this Christmas.  Andrew and his family had less than a day’s worth of food left in the house when his whole family had to self-isolate.

A Covid-19 breakout at his child’s school meant Andrew couldn’t go to work, which left him with no money for food or bills. He called our Community Hub for help.

Andrew is not alone in being left with little or no income for essentials as a result of Covid-19. The councils’ therefore want to encourage those in similar situations to access the support that’s available to make sure its residents aren’t left without supplies over the holidays. Andrew’s call resulted in an emergency food parcel and much more. He was signposted to Berinsfield Information and Volunteer Centre who assessed his financial situation and provided debt consolidation advice.

His housing advisor arranged a referral to the Didcot Baptist Church Emergency Foodbank, and the Emergency Help Didcot community group who arranged ongoing deliveries of food parcels. Andrew was also advised to apply for a Track and Trace grant, to relieve the financial pressure of not being able to go to work.

The Community Hub provides support to people who are in crisis as a result of the pandemic. Since April the team have received 1,300 requests for help and sent out 806 food parcels.

Our team of specially trained call-handlers also signpost people to foodbanks, community support groups, NHS services and other agencies who can help.

Cllr Maggie Filipova-Rivers, South Oxfordshire District Council’s cabinet member for community services, says: “We don’t want anyone to go hungry at any time, especially over the Christmas period. Like most organisations, we’ll be operating very limited services between Christmas and New Year to give our officers a well-earned break. Please do get in touch with our Community Hub this week if you can, if you think you are going to need extra support over Christmas.”

Cllr Helen Pighills, Vale of White Horse District Council’s cabinet member for healthy communities, says: “It’s been a difficult year and we know that for some people, Christmas could be a challenging time. Our Community Hub has been supporting people throughout the pandemic. Similarly, the team has been signposting those in crisis to other charities, support groups and agencies who can provide ongoing support. Lots of those organisations will also be taking a break over Christmas. If you think you may struggle over Christmas, please get in touch as soon as possible so that you can access the support you need.”

The council’s Community Hub will be running an emergency service for residents that need urgent food support from 24 December. The service will be available on Thursday 24, Tuesday 29, Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 December, from 9am-5pm, by calling 07919 381 605.

From 4 January the hub will be operating as normal and will be available between 8.30am – 5.30pm Monday to Thursday and 8.30am to 4.30pm on Fridays. In an emergency it’s best to call the hub on 01235 422600 but you can also email community support@southandvale.gov.uk<mailto:support@southandvale.gov.uk>.