A virtual community hub, including a dedicated helpline (Freephone 0800 587 4695), has been set up by Belfast City Council to support residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The hub will provide assistance to Belfast residents, to help coordinate the distribution of food parcels in partnership with Department for Communities, as well as providing advice on jobs and benefits, practical assistance such as collecting prescriptions, and offering emotional support and a listening ear if needed.

The council is working closely with a range of community, voluntary and statutory providers across the city to deliver this resource to ensure the needs of residents and communities can be supported during this time. The helpline will be manned by council staff and volunteers and will operate from 9am to 5pm each day.

The community hub will also help to coordinate the distribution of £735,000 emergency funding announced by Belfast City Council earlier this week. 

In a joint statement, party group leaders said: “It’s so important that we do everything we can to work together to help those in our society who are most vulnerable and need our help, and to reassure them that they are not alone.

“This dedicated community hub will provide support for all our residents, providing practical help and assistance, as well as offering emotional support to anyone who may be feeling anxious during these uncertain times – whether that be about food provisions, or loss of income or queries around claiming benefits.

“The council is working closely with the Department for Communities in the distribution of food parcels in the Belfast area and the hub will particularly assist with any questions residents may have about this service.

“We would once again like to pay tribute to all the people from the community and voluntary sectors who are helping to support vulnerable individuals within our communities. Please continue to look out for each other, especially those neighbours who are older or more vulnerable.”

As well as the community helpline, a dedicated email has also been set up for Belfast residents covid19@belfastcity.gov.uk

Residents will receive a leaflet about the new community helpline service in the coming days, via post.

• For more information on Belfast City Council’s response to COVID19, visit the council website www.belfastcity.gov.uk/covid19

• Further details on the Department for Communities Food Parcels Distribution Service can be found at www.communities-ni.gov.uk/news/hargey-announces-thousands-benefit-food-parcels-service

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