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SSIA service for the isolated could become a permanent institution for the Skipton community

Skipton’s temporary service for the isolated in lockdown has mushroomed through the pandemic and could now become a permanent institution for the community

 Almost a year ago as the country faced an uncertain future and an unprecedented coronavirus lockdown Skipton Step Into Action was set up as the town’s answer to some residents’ most urgent needs.

As the group prepares to celebrate its first year in existence, much has changed including a successful bid for charitable status and the prospect of becoming a permanent feature of North Yorkshire’s network of volunteer-based assistance.

When the pandemic broke and the country was thrust into lockdown, it was set up to answer the immediate needs of the isolated and those shielding, who needed help with grocery shopping and medication deliveries.

But as months have passed the group has developed to become a cornerstone of the town’s volunteer response, with a popular and much needed ‘befriending’ service now running alongside the original deliveries.

That was set up as a telephone service and has evolved to now include ‘walk and talk’ sessions where volunteers can take a socially distanced stroll with someone needing company, along with face to face conversations on the doorstep.

Technology has also played its part, with Zoom meetings established, first for purely social purposes, before morphing into something more ambitious with guest speakers to help those attending with information in addition to companionship.

Some services are tailored to specific needs, like dog walking for a couple who found themselves too ill to take their pet out and volunteer Sue Leach, who cooked 15 Christmas dinners and delivered them with the help of others, leaving, she said, one man close to tears through his gratitude.

Sue became involved after moving to Skipton following her return to the UK with her husband after living in Jordan.

They had been looking forwards to getting involved in Skipton’s thriving social scene before the pandemic closed that down.

Instead, they have found themselves involved in volunteering duties, which Sue said had been personally rewarding as well as providing help vital to helping others get through the health crisis.

“I think people are really feeling it in this second lockdown,” she said.

“Yorkshire people are very resilient and I think people thought they could cope in the first lockdown because they could hopefully see the end but I think it has now hit people really hard, particularly in winter time.”

Some of those grateful for the help they have received have given encouraging feedback, with one telling Sue she hopes they remain long-term friends.

“It has gone beyond just dropping shopping off. I feel a strong bond, I am not just a delivery person dropping shopping off.”

“I get so much out of it. It helps me with lockdown and puts things into perspective; lets you know how lucky you are,” she said.

Photography & Article by Paul Whitehouse and Richard Jemison from NYCC Team North Yorkshire.

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