West Sussex community’s response to coronavirus crisis has been extremely heartening

Many of us are beginning to adjust to a new way of life, having spent several weeks in lockdown.

Paul Marshal, leader of West Sussex County Council SUS-200331-163647001
Paul Marshal, leader of West Sussex County Council SUS-200331-163647001

I have been extremely heartened by the community response to the crisis with people setting up local groups to help people in their area, neighbours keeping an eye on those who can’t get out to do their shopping and a huge number of volunteers coming forward to help in any way they can.

The county council has been working with our district and borough partners to set up community hubs to make sure those people who are vulnerable, or have been made vulnerable by Covid-19, get the support, supplies and help they need. It offers support seven days a week with the help of a team of volunteers.

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Every Thursday we clap for carers. This weekly ritual is a public way we thank all those who are at the frontline in the fight against the virus.

The county council has run a social media campaign to highlight the great work all staff across the care sector do to support the most vulnerable people in our society including our care workers, social workers and occupational therapists.

These are the people who continue to visit vulnerable children, their families and older people who need our support.

When we clap together we also clap for all those working in our emergency services who keep us safe. We clap for all those who work in councils – county, district, boroughs, towns and parishes, who keep the roads moving, the rubbish collected and disposed of, the community areas open and thriving, the streets clean, provide education for our children and support homeless people.

We clap for the supermarket workers, the delivery drivers and all those involved in making sure that all our basic needs continue to be met.

This moment of communal appreciation is where we all come together – however we have been affected by the outbreak.

It demonstrates how strong we are as a community and how we are all united in supporting one another through the current crisis.

We will continue to promote the work all key workers perform. If you are on social media, look out for the hashtag #WestSussexTogether.

I have also been heartened by the response of local businesses who, in the face of such adversity have quickly adjusted and found new ways to keep going.

Cafes and restaurants turning to takeaway services, local garden nurseries delivering directly to customers, personal trainers giving classes over the internet, a range of businesses turning to online services.

And there are those who are staying open despite the risks, the local shops selling vital provisions to rural communities across the county.

There is no getting away from it, times are tough for a lot of people. Some have lost jobs, some have been furloughed, some were about to start new exciting careers only to have job offers withdrawn and cancelled.

The Government is providing a huge amount of financial support to businesses and individuals and local councils at all levels are doing all they can to make sure people get the right information and know what help is available.

We cannot underestimate how tough this is for some people. It’s easy to imagine when you are experiencing personal difficulty of whatever shape it takes, that you are alone.

However, the community spirit demonstrated in the weekly clap for carers, and the resilience that’s been shown by many businesses across West Sussex, demonstrates that we are a community that is strong and determined.

We have the power to overcome many of the things that are thrown at us during this crisis. We will recover and re-build and we will do that by working together through local partnerships and harnessing the spirit that we see every Thursday at 8pm up and down the streets of West Sussex.

When we are in a position to open up fully for business again, the spirit that has kept us going through this challenging time will be at the heart of rebuilding our local economy. I know each and every one of us will be there to play our part.

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