ALMOST 350 calls have been made to the special Covid-19 helpline set up by Offaly County Council during the present emergency.
“The helpline co-ordinates the delivery of food, fuel and medicine to vulnerable people where their usual source of support has become unavailable,” staff officer, Brenda Corbet told members of Tullamore municipal district at their monthly meeting on Thursday afternoon last.
The helpline only deals with non-medical and non-emergency calls and refers callers to appropriate community supports or to the Gardaí or the HSE in the case of emergencies, stressed Ms Corbet.
She added that the total numbers of calls have been reducing in the last two weeks as people become more aware of who to contact locally to obtain services, and as the national and local media information campaigns become increasingly effective in delivering the message
Ms Corbet revealed that 20 per cent of calls to date related to deliveries of food, fuel or medicines.
Breaking down the calls she revealed: “Some 23pc of calls related to medical supports or HSE issues, 7pc of calls related to problems of social isolation, 2pc of calls related to Meals on Wheels services, 1pc of calls relate to Garda matters while 48pcof calls related to other general queries, with a large proportion being offers of support from people who wish to volunteer their services and help in some way.”
She added that an interagency Community Support Forum has met seven times to date, and will continue to meet regularly for the duration of the crisis. The members of the Forum are Offaly County Council, HSE, GAA, OLDC, An Garda Síochána, Alone, SVP, An Post, Offaly PPN, Local Link, Citizens Information Service, Túsla, IFA, Offaly Traveller Movement, Kildare Volunteer Centre (covering Offaly), Civil Defence, Offaly Library Service and Family Resource Centres.
“There is excellent co-operation and sharing of useful information between all of the agencies on the Forum,” stressed Ms Corbet.
She added that in April the Department of Rural and Community Development allocated €65,553 in Covid-19 Emergency Funding to Offaly County Council.
“The grants are for current or capital expenditure and priority is given to locally based community and voluntary groups in disadvantaged urban and rural areas of Offaly dealing with the Covid crisis, such as Meals on Wheels and other similar activities,” she outlined.
A total of 32 applications were received to date and have been assessed by an Evaluation Committee. Grants amounting to €60,950 were approved for payment. The balance of €4,603 will be allocated to additional applicants following assessment by the evaluation committee.
An additional package of support measures was launched by the Department of Rural and Community Development the weekend prior to the meeting, she outlined.
These grants are funded from the Dormant Accounts Fund, and administered by Pobal and by Social Innovation Fund Ireland and there are two funding schemes: - the Covid-19 Stability Fund and the Philanthropy Fund.
The Stability Fund has been developed to provide support to organisations who find themselves in particular difficulty and have seen their trading and/or fundraising income drop significantly during the crisis. Grants of €2,000 to €100,000 are envisaged.
The Philanthropy Fund – Innovate Together is targeted at the community and voluntary, charity and social enterprise sectors in Ireland who are innovating and adapting to the challenges presented by COVID-19. The Fund will be administered by Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI) on behalf of the Department with grants of up to €200,000 available.
The focus of the Fund will be on backing innovations which are already developed or are being developed during the crisis.
“The purpose of the Fund is to support adaptation and innovation in finding solutions to emerging needs,” stressed Ms Corbet.
Cllr Declan Harvey extended thanks to the council and its staff for all the help they had given to groups throughout the county.
He added that Meals on Wheels, St Vincent de Paul together with local GAA and soccer clubs had provided much-needed leadership and assistance to people during the crisis.