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‘It came far too late’: Norfolk’s ‘shielded residents’ reveal delays to government food deliveries during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 09:36 12 May 2020 | UPDATED: 12:27 12 May 2020

A new distribution centre has been created in Norwich for food and PPE. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

A new distribution centre has been created in Norwich for food and PPE. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council

Almost 24,000 Norfolk residents found themselves on the NHS “shielding list” after lockdown was imposed - but many have been waiting weeks for emergency Government food supplies.

A new distribution centre has been created in Norwich for food and PPE. Pic: Norfolk County Council.A new distribution centre has been created in Norwich for food and PPE. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

According to the Government, shielding is designed to “protect people who are extremely vulnerable to coronavirus” by asking them to remain indoors until at least the end of June - with those on the list entitled to food deliveries organised by both Government and local councils.

But testimonies from shielded residents suggest the process has not been quite so easy.

For Wendy Norton from Norwich, who has rheumatoid arthritis, her “shielding letter” arrived four weeks after it had been dated, meaning she was not eligible for priority online delivery slots or ‘Boris boxes’ for over a month.

“Luckily, I’m internet savvy, working from home and could organise my own orders from Veg Box, Bread Source and other local suppliers. But I didn’t receive my government food delivery until Monday, April 27,” she said.

“Nobody called me to say it was coming - someone just left it on the doorstep.

“It was definitely sufficient for a couple of weeks in lockdown, but it came far too late.

“If I hadn’t been able to organise my own food deliveries in that time, I’m not sure what I would have done.”

She added: “I have not left the house since the end of March and in all that time I’ve received one delivery.

“I think both councils’ and central government have been slow on this - the response has felt reactive and disorganised.”

Melanie Milligan, who lives on a top-floor flat in Norwich, said she'd found the process of getting a delivery okay, but wasn't sure how easy it would be for those on low-income and without access to the internet. Photo: Melanie MilliganMelanie Milligan, who lives on a top-floor flat in Norwich, said she'd found the process of getting a delivery okay, but wasn't sure how easy it would be for those on low-income and without access to the internet. Photo: Melanie Milligan

Stephen Evans from the Norfolk Resilience Forum said that everyone on the shielding list for Norfolk had been contacted about food provisions.

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He said: “We have made contact with all residents that are shielding, offering information on how to gain extra support if they need it. If we have missed anyone, please make yourself known to us.

“We urge any residents that should be shielding to remain at home. If any of these residents are in need of an emergency food box or any other supplies, they should call Norfolk County Council on 0344 800 8020.”

Melanie Milligan, who lives alone in Norwich, said that while the food box she received was “plentiful”, she too has only received one delivery, on April 27.

Wendy Norton, from Norwich, said she felt very unusual when she received a letter saying she was Wendy Norton, from Norwich, said she felt very unusual when she received a letter saying she was "clinically vulnerable" to the virus, especially since it arrived a month late and only after she contacted her GP surgery. Photo: Wendy Norton

Ms Milligan, who has been indoors since March on account of lifelong respiratory conditions, said: “I’m a dual national and saw the disruption which SARS brought to Canadian life in 2002-3 - so I stocked up at the beginning of March and took the decision to self-isolate from then.

“The delay to my delivery box would have caused problems for me if I hadn’t thought ahead and made those provisions.”

She said: “I received a call on my phone about five weeks ago which told me I was on the list and would hopefully get a delivery within seven days. When the delivery finally did come it was clearly a well-thought out mix of perishable and non-perishable food.”

But some people are still waiting for their first lockdown food package.

Wendy Norton, from Norwich, celebrated her lockdown birthday in style after her holiday was cancelled. Photo: Wendy NortonWendy Norton, from Norwich, celebrated her lockdown birthday in style after her holiday was cancelled. Photo: Wendy Norton

One woman from Sheringham, who does not want to be named, said her shielding letter arrived mid-April, but that she has not yet been contacted by either council or the Government.

“Presumably that’s because I’m part of a ‘second wave’ of shielded residents and there’s a bit of a backlog to go through”, she said.

She added: “I have no idea when they’ll get to me, and even though I’m at risk because I take immunosuppressants, that makes it really tempting to go out to the shops to get what I need.

“At the minute I’m making do with the food and drink that I have - which isn’t an awful lot. Luckily I don’t eat that much, but having to stay inside and rely on others is horrible.

One woman from Sheringham says she has not yet received a delivery and has had to rely on Facebook volunteers to do her shopping. Photo: SubmittedOne woman from Sheringham says she has not yet received a delivery and has had to rely on Facebook volunteers to do her shopping. Photo: Submitted

“So far I’ve been getting help with shopping from Sheringham Mutual Aid Facebook page.”


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