Covid-19 Community Support Initiative Launches

Northumberland National Park has launched its own Neighbours initiative to provide support to vulnerable and isolated residents of the Park during the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Park undertook a consultation with key members within the community to shape a programme to provide essential support for its rural communities, many of which are struggling with resources, finances and logistics. The plan includes a website that will allow residents to request support, and then be matched to existing services in their area.

Services that will be supplied will range from supply chain options for food and pharmacy goods to farming support and companion contact. Services will be coordinated and implemented by National Park staff with support from trained volunteers. Roles for staff and volunteers will include home delivery, administration and producer / wholesale supply chain support.

The Park will support established community hubs based in Falstone and Harbottle and there is the potential to extend to other communities within the Park. The Neighbours initiative has been developed in conjunction with Northumberland County Council’s Communities Together project, which launched recently to support the most vulnerable people in the county.

Tony Gates, Chief Executive, Northumberland National Park Authority says: “This is an unprecedented time for all of us, and many of our residents are isolated and vulnerable, therefore we must do what we can to support and provide for our isolated communities.

“It is essential that we care for our residents and protect the National Park to emerge from the current crisis in as strong a position as possible. We have therefore refocussed some of our staff and financial resources to support our rural communities at this time”

Cllr Cath Homer, the council’s cabinet member responsible for community and voluntary sector support in Northumberland, said: “This is a fantastic initiative and will be a much-needed lifeline for those most at need in Northumberland’s rural communities.

“Through our own Northumberland Communities Together we will be doing all we can to support the team at Northumberland National Park in getting what people need, where they need it most.

“It is another incredible example of how communities across our county are pulling together at this difficult time to protect our most vulnerable and at-risk residents.”

Carl Earsman from Falstone Tea Rooms says, “Following the outbreak of Covid-19, we as Tearoom, needed to follow the government guidelines and close to the public.  With the help and support of Northumberland National Park we have set up a community shop, providing essential produce for the parish of Falstone. The National Park Authority has rallied round and have helped us with printing flyers and sourcing produce.

Karen Wilkinson from The Star Inn in Harbottle says, “We would like to thank the Northumberland National Park team for sourcing and delivering some essential items to our village shop at the rear of The Star Inn in Harbottle. We also appreciate the cash ‘n’ carry collections too. This work is hugely appreciated by us and the local villagers throughout the Coquetdale Valley”.

We are still in the early stages as a shop but the community response has been amazing and we have been able to help the most vulnerable families along with the rest of the parishioners.”

The pandemic has made for a particularly trying time for upland communities as they are in the middle of their lambing season which brings extra logistical complications and anxieties.

Those looking for information on Northumberland National Park Neighbours should visit https://www.northumberlandnationalpark.org.uk/nnpn/