VOLUNTEERS helping communities in southern Oxfordshire during the coronavirus pandemic have been praised for their dedication.

This week, local authorities are coming together for Volunteers Week 2020 to say a massive thank you to those who have played a vital role in doing their bit for neighbours in the crisis.

Within days of lockdown starting, charities and voluntary groups mobilised to help those in need.

As it became clear more support was required, hundreds of volunteers set up informal help groups in their communities to make sure the most vulnerable and isolated people were able to get help.

A joint statement of ‘heartfelt gratitude’ was published by South Oxford and Vale of White Horse district councils, it read: “There is no doubt these local heroes have saved lives in their communities – they have been the backbone of the country’s response to the crisis.

“Local volunteer groups have made an enormous difference to people who are having to self-isolate.

“They are carrying out tasks that in normal circumstances would seem simple such as doing the food shopping or picking up people’s prescriptions.”

More than 30 members of staff at the council were redeployed to work on a community support helpline to support the coordinated effort across the county.

So far, the helpline has referred 910 people to community groups for ongoing support.

The councils have also created a food hub, which has supplied meals for 783 people.

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Leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, Emily Smith, said: “I am extremely proud of the hundreds of local volunteers that have been helping their neighbours and some of our most vulnerable residents.

“I hope the work that we have been able to do as a council creates a long-lasting legacy of active community groups that support vulnerable and isolated residents far beyond this pandemic.”