Lockdown: Feeding the Leys

In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Oxford City Council and Oxford Hub set up a city-wide series of Local Response Hubs to make sure the needs of local people are met, particularly the most vulnerable residents.

Since March 27, Blackbird Leys Community Centre has been the South Locality Response Hub, offering support to people who have received a letter from the NHS identifying them as high risk, anyone who needs food bank support, people without local support from friends or family, those with physical and mental health needs and vulnerable people and their families.

Support includes welfare checks, prescription collections, supporting with food distribution, and working with local community organisations to support their work and ensure there is ongoing support for local residents. There have been 636 requests of support from the local community and 200 weekly food boxes delivered to homes on the Leys.

Delivery of food boxes

The charity SOFEA has been supplying food boxes which have been personalised for the recipient and distributed to addresses in The Leys from Rose Hill Community Centre. These boxes contain store cupboard essentials, dried and tinned food, plus a bag of vegetables or fruit. The boxes are delivered by Oxford City Council employees directly to the door; the driver knocks, leave the items at the door and steps two metres back until they are confident that someone is home and has taken safe delivery of your food.

Any personalisation required to the boxes is added to the customers profile which then allows nappies and other items to be added to their food box. The staff based at The Leys Hub are now predominantly working through welfare checks on the most vulnerable residents, collecting prescriptions, developing community links and building relationships to enable the local community to be supported in the future. The staff across the hubs assist with packing the food boxes at Rose Hill if they are short staffed.

Shielding letters

Government food parcels are still being distributed to those who have received a shielding letter from the NHS. If you have received a letter and would like to receive a free food parcel, or alternatively, you are currently receiving one and no longer need it, you can request or cancel the box online by registering at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or by calling 0800 028 8327. Once registration is complete you will also receive priority shopping slots with your chosen supermarket.

The Hub has also been working with Agnes Smith Advice Centre and moved by the amazing support they are offering residents. Agnes Smith specialises in helping people who have issues with money and debt, welfare benefits or housing and their leaflets has also been distributed to every house within Blackbird Leys.

Welfare checks

As well as collecting and distributing food, collecting prescriptions and liaising with volunteers, staff at the hubs have been going out and visiting any residents who may be shielding, vulnerable or elderly and could not be reached via alternative methods to carry out welfare checks. As with the food deliveries, these welfare checks adhere to social distancing guidelines but offer an opportunity to check, in person, whether shielding residents need additional support.

How to get help if you need it

Residents who need support are urged to call the central number 01865 249811, between the hours of 9am–5pm to discuss any of the following areas of support:

  • Urgent supplies of medicine, food, sanitation or products
    for a baby or infant
  • Picking up shopping
  • Feeling lonely
  • Connection to a support group
  • Reminder call to take medicine

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Leys News acknowledges support and financial assistance from : A2 Dominion, Catalyst Communities Housing Association, Green Square, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire Community Grants, The Blackbird Leys Parish Council.