A PARTNERSHIP between Malmesbury Town Council and Heals of Malmesbury has completed more than 800 tasks and delivered more than 4,400 free ready meals during lockdown.

The joint partnership was created in March to provide essential community support as the country went into lockdown due to the spread of coronavirus.

Now the immediate requirements for emergency action have reduced, the council and charity have added up the totals whilst also looking to the future.

Chair of the partnership, Malmesbury mayor Campbell Richie said: "We could see there was a need to support the fantastic work of relatives, friends and neighbours helping the most vulnerable members of our community and to provide the link where volunteers able to help those they didn’t already know could sign up.

"Malmesbury Town Council took an immediate step to ensure Heals, our local charity providing support to the most vulnerable members of our local community and with established contacts with other service providers, could increase its professional capacity to manage more complex needs through the pandemic.

"From this sprang the partnership co-ordination group to manage activities on a day to day basis, the helpline, our volunteer co-ordinators, and 100 volunteers providing help."

So far the partnership’s volunteers have completed over 800 one to one tasks of shopping, collecting prescriptions, and other help to individuals and families.

In addition, it has delivered over 4,400 free ready meals to those most at risk, managed a prescription service with the supported living units in and around Malmesbury, and provided refurbished computers and connectivity to 40 schoolchildren who otherwise couldn’t get online.

Mayor Ritchie continued: "From the start we have received great offers of help.

"The helpline provided by Virtual Business Solutions based at Brinkworth has been a great anchor point.

"The support of the Co-Op community team, Calcot@Spa, the Cartmel Bus team, Mindvision, Malmesbury Marketing, Atema Ltd, The Red Bull, Waitrose, and many others, including Junior Citizen of the Year, Ben Thornbury, has been extraordinary and the partnership could not have worked without them.

"It is also great that the Heals Emergency Hardship appeal has raised over £20,000 so far and this money is being put to essential good use."

The joint Malmesbury Town Council and Heals co-ordination team of Campbell Ritchie, Gavin Grant, Malmesbury councillor and chair of Heals, Paul Buckley, Heals general manager and Richard Spencer Williams, Malmesbury’s town clerk, was joined by Sherry Tolson, from the Co-Op, who organised the helpline number with the virtual business centre, the helpline coordinators and the volunteers, supported by Margaret Lamb, who made sure the volunteers were trained and have been kept fully involved throughout four fast moving months.

"We have probably spent more time working remotely together as a team over the last few weeks than we have with our family," mayor Ritchie said.

"I only met Sherry in person for the first time on June 12 when we were able to say thank you to the volunteers who had flawlessly delivered 1,800 ready meals supplied by Calcot@Spa over the 10 weeks of the peak of the lockdown."

Looking ahead, mayor Ritchie added: "The need to provide help to get shopping and deliver prescriptions has diminished but the requests to Heals to provide support in cases of economic social hardship is still growing.

"This is likely to continue for some time, particularly if unemployment increases.

"I am incredibly impressed by everything Heals has achieved in the last four months and we must make sure it has the resources to operate at this new higher level into the future.

"I am therefore very pleased that Malmesbury Town Council has agreed to continue its support for our direct Partnership with Heals until at least the end of September.

"Heals and partnership volunteers will also be continuing the delivery of 140 free meals a week until the end of August and the befriending support provided by partnership volunteers, which developed during the crisis, will also be continued.

"The Helpline – 01666815888 - will remain open for calls until at least the end of August.

"Unfortunately, the emergency is still continuing but it is great that the worst of the lockdown phase is hopefully behind us.

"When we can, I will be proud to host a civic reception at Malmesbury Town Hall to thank our volunteers, local businesses and others who have done so much to help keep the residents of Malmesbury as safe as possible during the Covid-19 emergency.

"There is much we can take forward from what the Malmesbury Town Council and Heals Partnership and our volunteers, our community groups and many others have achieved over the last few weeks."