VULNERABLE people who have needed to 'shield' during the coronavirus lockdown will still be able to get help, as preparations are being made for a second wave of infection.

Local councils across the UK have had a large amount of responsibility for helping people who could not leave their homes during the pandemic.

In Oxfordshire, the county council and various district councils have been providing food and medicine deliveries and social support for those who received shielding letters from the Government.

Now, as the lockdown eases, the county council's performance scrutiny committee has heard that the services which were set up quickly to help vulnerable people are likely to change.

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The council’s director customer and culture Mark Haynes told the committee that it had worked to ‘make sure no one could slip through the net’ during the lockdown.

To do this, a Covid helpline had been set up which ran seven days a week.

This had allowed the county council, along with district councils and voluntary organisations in Oxfordshire to make sure it had helped people who were stuck in their homes.

But Mr Haynes added: “There a number of things we need to move on to, but what I think the shielding helpline has provided us with is a really great opportunity to make sure that those customers and residents who are vulnerable: we cater for them.

“It became quite apparent early on that the number and the email address we have, we will keep running.”

He said that running the helpline in the same way in the future could possibly nurture some people to become dependent on it, and that though it would carry on running, some things would be done differently.

In one example, he said that food parcels which had been delivered by council staff would now instead come directly from supermarkets and added that several supermarkets had signed up to a scheme to guarantee this would happen.

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He also said that as the track and trace system develops, different kinds of people might need help from the support line instead.

Mr Haynes report to the committee also added that the council was preparing for the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus, and added this would likely come during the autumn or winter, when other ‘pressures’ including seasonal flu would be having an impact on the NHS and care sector.

Conservative committee member Nick Carter asked what Oxfordshire might be able to do to manage a local lockdown, if one became necessary.

One has been put in place in Leicester in recent weeks as the rate of Covid-19 infection had increased in the city.

Mr Haynes said he did not know what powers the county council had to enforce something similar to that, but added he would check.