THE ALTON Mutual Aid group – set up several weeks ago by Labour councillors, members and other volunteer groups, such as the Alton Community Cupboard – aims to support the needs of people who are housebound because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Since its launch the group has grown massively, with nearly 100 people from across Alton volunteering.

Alton Lions, Alton Community Cupboard and members of the public have joined in to support those in need.

More than 70 calls for help have already been answered and this number is growing every day.

All volunteers have been ID checked by Bookers & Bolton Solicitors and data is being protected by their practice manager and East Hampshire district councillor Paula Langley.

The group has a handbook that ensures all volunteers know how to work safely, with confidentiality and safeguarding at the forefront of all the work it is doing.

Leaflets have been distributed by an army of volunteers throughout Alton and the surrounding areas which includes the group’s contact number (07466 304501) and email ([email protected]).

People who need help can call the hotline and their call is logged.

Each area of Alton has a key co-ordinator who accesses the spreadsheet and then allocates the job to a volunteer to follow up.

Calls have ranged from shopping and prescription requests to a friendly chat for those feeling lonely or isolated.

Penny Hames, of Alton Community Cupboard, has been working with local GP surgeries and pharmacies to make the collection and distribution of medication as safe and smooth as possible, and the Mutual Aid Group are now offering support to the overwhelmed pharmacy staff.

Making sure people get their much-needed prescriptions is a vital role.

For those who are running out of cash, some volunteers have a contactless card machine ensuring shopping can be bought and paid for safely.

All users have to do is tap their card on the machine left on the doorstep with their shopping.

Waitrose and Aldi supermarkets in Alton are both letting volunteers who are shopping for others jump the queue.

Cllr Paula Langley said: “It is truly heartwarming to see the fantastic response and everyone using the service has expressed their thanks to those involved.”

There is a Facebook page where people have been leaving messages of support and thanks alongside useful information:

Radian were the first to offer funding to the Mutual Aid group and this has allowed them to buy card machines, print leaflets and volunteer badges, among other things.

Cllr Gideon Cristofoli added: “This crisis has highlighted the desperate need for the adoption of policies that look after the many, not the few. Our hope is support continues for those in need once this crisis is over.”