This continues to be a very difficult time for everyone in Oxford, and many people have contacted my office with coronavirus-related concerns. It is very moving to see how our community has adapted to these new circumstances, and to see all of the support available in our city. This week, I want to use my column to outline some of the practical support available.
Oxford City Council has a dedicated response hub, set up to help people who are particularly vulnerable at this time. For those with urgent support needs, or who are particularly vulnerable because of age, health or mental health issues, the City Council’s Contact Centre team can help you get the support they need. Call them at 01865 249 811, or through the online form on the city council website. They can also help you if you need access to a food bank.
A number of my constituents have contacted me regarding difficulty accessing food and shopping. Registering as vulnerable on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable may help supermarkets to register you for priority booking slots. I am aware that supermarket delivery services are facing unprecedented demand, so if you are ‘shielding’ and are struggling to access these services, do get in touch with my office.
It is worth bearing in mind too that many local Oxford businesses have switched to online selling. You can find a directory of these shops here: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/businessesopenonline. If you are a local retailer who has recently started selling online and your name is not included in this directory, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have helped to set up Oxford Hub’s ‘Oxford Together’ scheme, which is available for people who need general help, including practical support like shopping. They also have a service aimed at addressing loneliness through phone check-ins. You can find out more, including signing up to volunteer (if you are healthy and low risk) at their website oxfordtogether.org.uk. If you are not able to use the online request form, you can ring 07957 105129 between 9am-5pm Monday-Friday.
I am aware that many people are applying to Universal Credit, for what may be the first time. While advice centres have suspended face-to-face appointments, they are still available to help. Citizen’s Advice Oxford have a range of information on their website, and you can also ring them at 0300 3309 054. For OX3 Residents, Barton Advice Centre is available at 01865 744165. And for OX4 Residents, Agnes Smith Advice Centre is at 01865 770206, and Rose Hill and Donnington at 01865 438634. These centres can also help with a range of other issues, including around housing and debt.
The Oxford City Council website has a range of information for local businesses and individuals, and you can also apply for a council tax reduction online, if you are now struggling to pay.
If you struggle in any way to access any of this support, please do get in touch with my office at email@example.com. If you cannot use email, you can call on 01865 595 790.