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News Report Page 9 of 11
Publication Date:-
News reports located on this page = 3.

Thousands of "Street level" WhatsApp groups set up as communities pull together

"STREET level" messenger groups are springing up across the UK as communities forge new relationships to help each other through the Coronavirus self isolation crisis. Messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are being conscripted to connect whole streets worried about how to survive self isolation and loneliness. Young and old are uniting to help those without and those needing help and support at their time of need.   "A neighbour set up a group and we now have 10 of 12 houses on the street subscribed." explains Jonathan Ratcliffe who lives on Windermere Avenue, Menston, Yorkshire.

Ratcliffe who is currently running national office agency Offices.Co.UK, from home, has been in self isolation since Monday juggling work and family life. "We haven't been to the shops this week, life is testing let's say; John down the road asked on WhatsApp if anyone needed anything, and 30 minutes later we had bread, bananas and paracetamol; it really helps moral." explains Ratcliffe.

Being able to draw on neighbours for help and social interaction is going to become a hallmark of the efforts needed to get the country through the next 12 weeks. "No 1 knows where this is going and who might need help. We have a 10 week old baby with a heart condition, and so we are being extra careful. My neighbours help now will be paid back twice over when we are out of isolation; it's lovely knowing that there is support on our doorstep should we need it." adds Ratcliffe.

Other groups have sprung up locally in Menston supporting streets and even whole estates.  1 such group has been set up covering Moorfield Avenue in Menston by resident David Williams:- "We are in the process of setting up a WhatsApp group to cover our street (Moorfield Avenue). We started by dropping a note through everyone's door, so they knew who to text to join the group. We are then identifying those who need to self isolate and pairing them up with people who can help out so people can self organise as much as possible but also stay in touch as things develop."

Zoe Edwards who lives in the centre of the village added:- "We have done similar on our road although tricky when some people don't use or have WhatsApp. We are trying to keep in touch with those people separately."

The Windermere Avenue group:-

10 houses have joined out of 12.
18 people have joined the group.
Age ranges from 38 to 75.
1 house currently in self isolation.

Resident Alison Wilson in Menston is using the platform to forward plan a big party to celebrate the community spirit locally in Menston. Ratcliffe added:- "Once this is over, we need a massive big street/village party to cheer ourselves up and thank everyone for their kindness and community spirit. Creating support groups now is really important. Being able to ask for help should you need it is going to be a lifeline for many people, young and old; the love and support I've seen on our street for neighbours has been humbling."

Rise in Coronavirus fraudsters offering support to elderly for cash upfront

ELDERLY and vulnerable residents self isolating are at risk of being exploited by strangers and cold callers posing as helpful neighbours in order to scam them, the Local Government Association has warned. The LGA, which represents Councils across England and Wales, is concerned that fraudsters are playing on the fear created by the Coronavirus and the need for the elderly and vulnerable to reduce social contact. It is urging residents not to accept services from strangers or cold callers; whether in person, on the phone or online; who offer to run errands, collect prescriptions and do shopping and ask for cash upfront, or a credit card and its PIN.

Councils have already seen a number of Coronavirus related scams involving fraudsters knocking on the doors of the elderly and impersonating either Council officers or health officials offering mandatory Coronavirus testing. The intention of these fraudsters is to manipulate and gain the trust of the elderly and vulnerable in self isolation simply to execute more elaborate scams, gain access to their property or access their savings.

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has already identified dozens of reports of Coronavirus related fraud in which the victims have lost a total of ₤800,000. The LGA says that not only are those self isolating at risk of falling victim to fraudsters who could simply take their cash and not return, but by letting people into their homes unsuspecting victims are also at greater risk of catching the Coronavirus. Other scams have included:-

Phishing e-mails offering quack remedies, vaccination kits or bogus medical advice.

'Price gougers' selling in-demand items such as facemasks and hand sanitizer at inflated prices both on fake websites and legitimate online marketplaces, with victims often paying upfront and never receiving the kit.

Criminals exploiting pandemic panic to assist in burglary or fraud by impersonating:- Government, Council or Medical Officers.

Scam emails pretending to be charities encouraging residents to donate or travel companies asking for information about cancelled holidays, often to secure unsuspecting victims' payment details or steal their identity.

Advertisements for "money mules" playing on the fears of the financially insecure, which are often part of more serious organised criminal networks including fraud and drug gangs.

The LGA says that while the vast majority of concerned residents offering to help the elderly and vulnerable in their neighbourhood are genuine, well wishers will have the most impact by turning their focus to helping their immediate neighbours or neighbours they already know, making donations to food banks, or appealing to established services in their Councils, the NHS or local charities.  Anyone who is stuck without food or medical supplies, or is lonely as a result of their self isolation and does not have any friends and family or neighbours that they know in the area, should in the 1st instance contact their Council. As Councils become the next emergency service, they are already working with voluntary and community groups, as well as newly established neighbourhood support groups, to identify where help is needed and the best, most secure route to providing this. Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:- "By tricking elderly and vulnerable people in self isolation to part with their cash, fraudsters are playing roulette with the lives of those most at risk. Keeping the elderly and those with underlying health conditions safe is every Councils' top priority and Councils will do everything in their power to prosecute fraudsters and seek the toughest penalties for criminals taking advantage in this despicable way. Councils have plans in place for dealing with the very challenging circumstances presented by the coronavirus and will continue to review how best to use their staff and mobilise community resources to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable are given the support they need."

Rates holiday for the nursery sector 'very welcome' says FSB Merseyside and Cheshire

THE Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the announcement by the Treasury that private day care nursery providers will get a 12 month rates holiday to help the sector survive the corona storm. FSB has been actively lobbying Government for more help for the sector, which has endured a nightmare few years due to underfunding for the 30 hour 'free' element they are asked to deliver for the state, compounded by punishing business rates. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has confirmed Thursday all nurseries in England will now be exempt from business rates for 12 months from 1 April 2020, rates being one of the biggest costs for many providers due to their large building footprint.  Phil McCabe, FSB Development Manager in Merseyside and Cheshire, said:- "Nursery owners were absolutely aghast by last week's Budget that saw a number sectors given rate relief, but nothing for nursery providers. There was further angst earlier this week when again there was no mention of rates relief for the sector in the emergency 'corona' Budget on Tuesday, so this new development is very welcome. This will prove an important lifeline for many nurseries already treading a fine line between surviving hand to mouth or going bump. But as a sector this does not mean they're out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, and they will need more financial help during this crisis."

The Government has said the Coronavirus Bill, which is before Parliament on Monday, would give powers to instruct childcare providers to close, keep open, or even change staff ratios, but that further measures would be in the offing to help nurseries survive. Phil McCabe said:- "The facts are that when a state funded education provider closes, the funding taps from local Government remain open. Private day nurseries, for which a large part of their funding comes from parents, won't be so lucky. If tots aren't going to nursery many parents simply won't pay.  So, while it's right that the Government has agreed to keep paying providers for the 30 hours of 'free' element; and which we expect Councils will honour – they need to come up with something extra to plug the ensuing funding gap many nurseries will consequently face. For those providers ordered to open under the new powers of the Coronavirus Bill, there will need to be additional assistance. This needs to be communicated sooner rather than later as many nurseries will be closing for the foreseeable as of this evening. Just how many reopen when this is all over remains to be seen."

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