How Yorkshire's coronavirus Mutual Aid online groups are helping the vulnerable

Yorkshire and the Humber has contributed over 70 of the more than 1,000 volunteer groups that have launched in the space of a week to help isolated people during the pandemic.

An army of people have joined coronavirus Mutual Aid online groups to deliver goods to those unable to leave home in their areas.

Eleven help groups have set up in Sheffield. Picture: Simon Hulme.

Eleven help groups have set up in Sheffield. Picture: Simon Hulme.

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Within days of the first Facebook page launching in south London, a UK-wide network of organisations has now formed - some of which have thousands of members already.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, all corners of the region are represented from cities, market towns and rural outposts.

Eleven groups have set up in Sheffield under the Mutual Aid banner, while nine were operating in Leeds, seven in the East Riding and five in Craven.

These include #ViralKindness Heeley, a group which posts through the messaging platform WhatsApp to help people in the Sheffield area, and the Ingleton and District Covid-19 response group, which posts on Facebook about assistance available in the Yorkshire Dales.

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Users of the groups have described them as a vital boost with NHS services likely to be stretched in the coming weeks.

Though people in need of them are being urged to be wary of potential scammers, especially when handing over money.

Co-ordinator for the national Covid-19 Mutual Aid umbrella group Kelsey Mohamed, 28, said the response had been 'overwhelming'.

"It shows us what's possible when we prioritise simple compassion," she said.

"People are self-organising with incredible efficiency, respect and creativity."

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Many of the groups formed through a templated leaflet being delivered through letterboxes in a particular area.

Dieticians, therapists and dementia specialists were among some of the people offering their services for free.

Ms Mohamed, from Islington in north London, said: "This isn't a crisis like any that we have experienced in our lifetimes.

"Solidarity rather than charity is what's required. It's down to the basics now - food delivery, picking up prescriptions, and just checking in.

"This is a great leveller as everyone is affected and often the best answer to meeting immediate needs can be found very locally.

"We are already up and running in most major cities and over 1,500 Facebook groups have formed in the last week."

She also believes that networks like Mutual Aid are going to change society for the long-term

"The cracks in the infrastructure of organisations that were already struggling to meet the needs of the most vulnerable are opening wider as resources run low and employees need to work from home. We are coming together to fill some of those gaps as best we can.

"Many people who are self-isolating also have caring responsibilities, so one neighbour helped out a 60 year-old who normally delivers his 93 year-old dad's weekly shop by doing it for him, and I was able to pick up a prescription for a friend's granny who lives round the corner."

But there are concerns criminals could take advantage of informal set ups to exploit the vulnerable.

Mutual Aid is advising its groups to check up on who is offering help to make sure they have done the right thing.

It comes after Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington last week appealed for volunteers to be telephone befrienders, shoppers and meal delivery drivers to ensure the wellbeing of self-isolating older people during the coronavirus outbreak.