First grant from Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund

The Wiltshire Community Foundation’s fund to help voluntary groups tackle the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has grown to £107,000 in less than a week.

More than £50,000 has been donated to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund locally and another £50,000 has come in from the National Emergencies Trust’s Coronavirus Appeal, which is distributing the more than £14 million it has so far raised through the UK’s 46 community foundations.

One of the first recipients of money from the fund is the Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living, which urgently needed £3,580 to buy laptops for staff forced to work remotely. The Devizes charity supports more than 2,000 vulnerable people across the county living with physical disability or mental health issues.

CEO Geraldine Bentley said: “Many of these people rely on personal assistants going in each day. We were inundated with people who were worried about what would happened if these PAs went down with the virus so we had to put a resource pack together and just be available so that all the staff could support people with those real concerns and real issues that were occurring for them.

“It has been extremely busy, and we have had to rethink the way we work so having the laptops will really help.”

She said her staff had to step in when one 91-year-old lady’s carer had to self-isolate to make sure Wiltshire Council provided another daily visitor. They did the same for another couple in their 90s, one with dementia, whose carer became ill. The CIL team is also sending an hour a day on the phone with one young mum suffering severe anxiety.

“We have contracts with Wiltshire Council, the CCG and the Primary Care Network. The people we support are unable to support themselves. They employ personal assistants themselves directly and they are suffering very high levels of anxiety if their assistant goes down with the virus because they don’t have the back-up of an agency.

“We are also supporting people with low level metal health issues and drug and alcohol addiction and we still want to be in touch with them by email to let them know what resource is available online, so it is hugely important to us that Wiltshire Community Foundation is able to support us.”

In the coming days the Foundation is processing more applications for funding from groups tackling mental health issues, homelessness and poverty but interim co-chief executive Fiona Oliver said any voluntary group providing immediate relief for those affected by the pandemic can apply.

“We are tremendously grateful for the generous support we have received so far,” she said. “I think while many groups are dealing with immediate need there are those still coming to terms with what this crisis will mean for them in the long term. We will be talking to groups to see if we can help address these issues.”

To find out more about grants available click here and to donate to the fund click here.

Pictured: Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living direct payment advisor Graham Wickens and direct payment team leader Louise Maddox supporting clients by phone