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Volunteers help vulnerable going ‘hungry’ as government food parcels go astray

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:20 27 May 2020

With the delivery company not taking back wrongly-allocated food parcels due to contamination, volunteers are stepping in to help redistribute and help those missing out. Picture: Matt Clemenson

With the delivery company not taking back wrongly-allocated food parcels due to contamination, volunteers are stepping in to help redistribute and help those missing out. Picture: Matt Clemenson

Matt Clemenson

As government-issued food parcels from the shielding programme are wrongly-allocated, Havering volunteers have stepped in to share out the unwanted boxes as well as make more for those in need who have missed out.

Faye Clay from Gidea Park has received three unwanted food parcels after declining help from the council. Picture: Faye ClayFaye Clay from Gidea Park has received three unwanted food parcels after declining help from the council. Picture: Faye Clay

Shelley Hart, of Havering Volunteer Centre, said residents have been referring themselves to the centre: “Some were down to one or two days of food left.”

Parcels delivered to the wrong people cannot be returned to the delivery drivers due to the risk of contamination.

Harold Hill Food Bank says that many people are trying to give the unwanted food parcels to it, but it does not accept fresh food.

Other centres have been trying to make arrangements so that the parcels do not go to waste.

Faye Clay from Gidea Park has received three unwanted food parcels after declining help from the council. Picture: Faye ClayFaye Clay from Gidea Park has received three unwanted food parcels after declining help from the council. Picture: Faye Clay

Havering Volunteer Centre (HVC) says it has had calls from residents who have received NHS food parcels but do not require them. The centre has been collecting these unwanted food parcels and redistributing them to people in need.

It says it has redistributed around 20 wrongly-allocated government parcels in the past two weeks and the team have made and delivered more than 540 emergency food parcels (in total) for residents who are self isolating and not receiving the government-issued parcels.

Shelley said: “We collect the parcels in a safe way. All our volunteers wear gloves and sanitise themselves and their vehicles before and after each collection.

“The food parcels are delivered here to our offices, we sanitise each item delivered and leave for 72 hours before we redistribute on.”

She said it is “very probable” that the reason the vulnerable who need shielding were not receiving food parcels is because the government lists had not been updated to match GP lists, as reported in the Guardian last month.

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The borough has 5370 residents in the shielding category with an additional 300 identified by GPs. The council is using grant funding for additional support to those missed off the list, having spent £400,000 with £250,000 to spend.

One Upminster resident said he had a received a parcel that was meant for a resident who used to live in his house.

Other residents who didn’t need the boxes took to social media to try and rehouse their food parcels.

Fay Clay, from Gidea Park, said her husband was marked vulnerable, and on being asked whether they’d like help, they declined but the boxes continued to arrive.

“My husband has marked online and has called the relevant people to remove us from the list but we’ve had two deliveries since,” she said.

The couple have received three unwanted boxes in total, the last two were accepted back by the delivery company. “I’m not sure it has stopped yet!” she said, “I hope so as it should be going to people who really need it.”

A government spokesman said: “Working closely with councils, the NHS and the food industry we have delivered over 900,000 parcels of food to clinically extremely vulnerable people through the shielding programme”.

“We are working quickly to support people who do not fall into the category of being clinically extremely vulnerable, but still need help getting essential food supplies and speaking to food retailers, delivery organisations and volunteer groups.

“Vulnerable people can refer themselves to the NHS Volunteer Responders programme by calling 0808 196 3646.”

Since the crisis began, the HVC has recruited an incredible 639 volunteers. The team are on hand to deliver prescriptions, food parcels, walks dogs or just a friendly chat.

If you have a food parcel gone atray or need help from the centre, they are contactable on 01708 922214 or email at volunteering@haveringvc.org.uk


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