How good will of Norfolk people created volunteer ‘bottle neck’ for council

Andrew Proctor, new leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry

Andrew Proctor, new leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Neil Perry - Credit: Archant

Norfolk was so inundated with volunteers looking to help its coronavirus response that the county council’s system for vetting them was overwhelmed, a new report has revealed.

A report looking at the lessons learned from the pandemic so far will go before cabinet members on Monday, August 3, which covers a variety of issues experienced already.

And among these, it has been revealed that at the beginning of the crisis, so many people came forward looking to help that it created a “bottle neck” of people awaiting DBS checks - the checks carried out to determine if somebody is safe to offer their services.

As a result, it led to many people experiencing delays in being able to start volunteering in their communities.

The report also states: “The scale of uptake and task allocation of volunteers varied between district hubs and therefore the level of engagement with available volunteers varied across the county.

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“Whilst efforts were made to keep in communication with volunteers, many emails went to ‘junk’ folders and some individuals may have felt their efforts to help were unappreciated.

“It is important to note that no response activities were delayed and there was not an unmet need for volunteer resource that delayed any response.”

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The report also identifies that the council may need to continue redeploying staff members in different areas - for example librarians may need to be called on to distribute PPE to others.

Council leader Andrew Proctor said: “The response to the Covid-19 crisis across Norfolk has been remarkable, with communities, businesses and public services working together to protect everyone in Norfolk and keep Norfolk safe.

“It’s important to capture the immediate learning from our experience, so that we continue to provide the best possible services and support we can. A fuller, formal debrief will be carried out in future, when we are out of the crisis phase.”

Steffan Aquarone, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, though, has called for an independent enquiry to be held into how the county has coped with the crisis.

He said: “If the county council only speaks to itself in an echo chamber, it’ll only hear reassuring echoes.”

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