Swanage Neighbours is a neighbourhood network, coordinating the Swanage Community Coronavirus Response group, that’s been formed to share information and support each other during the coronavirus pandemic.
Our group is made up of community members from Swanage and the surrounding villages, who are coming together to volunteer their assistance, to help those who are self-isolating and people who are more at risk if they contract coronavirus.
We are able to put people in touch to help with neighbourly assistance like shopping, running errands or to have a friendly chat.
As a neighbourhood network, we cannot offer medical or government advice but will share recommendations from official bodies such as the World Health Organisation, NHS, UK Government, Dorset Council and Swanage Town Council.
How we were formed
In March 2020, it was clear that COVID-19, which had started in China and had now spread to Europe, was starting to affect the UK. At the time, Northern Italy in particular, was in the grip of the pandemic and there were shocking scenes of a country unable to cope with the speed of the spread of the virus. Italian hospital resources were overstretched and hundreds of people were dying everyday. Spain and its capital city, Madrid was starting to be impacted.
In the UK, there was a realisation that established government bodies may not be able to cope on their own with this new challenge and a network of COVID-19 mutual aid groups was formed by people in their communities to provide support for their vulnerable and self-isolating neighbours.
The Swanage Community Coronavirus Response group was created on Facebook and quickly hundreds of people in Swanage were volunteering to help their neighbours with jobs like shopping, dog walking and picking up prescriptions. At the same time, people were registering via our online form asking for assistance. It was now a task of matching up the volunteers with those who needed help.
With a strong belief in the kindness within our community, we have organised our volunteers into areas of Swanage, to create a resilient network that covers the whole of the town. We aim to ensure there are no gaps in our structure - everyone has someone to turn to.
We have four districts based on the parliamentary electoral areas, each with their own district coordinators:
Central Swanage - Coordinated by Sarah Shepherd and Sarah Brookes
Durlston - Coordinated by Clare Byford and Alan Dominy
Herston - Coordinated by Penny Payne and Lynda Johns
Ulwell - Coordinated by Niccie Wright
The district coordinators organise the road coordinators. We can put anyone who needs neighbourly assistance, in touch with someone who lives either in their street or nearby, who can help them.
The overall structure is overseen by a core admin team: Laura Rowan, Emily Gadd, Lynn Neads and Helen ffitch, who moderate the Facebook group, update the website, process the form requests, help the district coordinators and liaise generally with other organisations. In this task, they are aided by Olly Christmas, who provides IT support.
Swanage Neighbours operates under the umbrella of the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust (SPDT). This allows us to benefit from the insights and expertise provided by their Trustees.
To get in touch, please contact us