Check in and chat with County Durham Together 

County Durham residents who have been left feeling lonely and isolated from the impact of coronavirus can now check in and chat to the team at County Durham Together.

The community hub has launched its chat service to combat the loneliness that can often be felt when shielding or self-isolating.

Durham County Council set up the hub alongside local groups, volunteers and charities, helping to support the county’s most vulnerable residents with access to essential food supplies, welfare and general advice.

More than 200 council staff have since been redeployed to work for the hub, where they’ve been answering phones and finding out how residents can be supported through the pandemic.

Their new ‘check in and chat’ service is open to anyone who needs to hear a friendly voice or for someone to chat and listen to them, as well as checking in to see if they are ok.

In addition to a wide range of mental health and befriending services already in place to support County Durham residents, hub staff will also be there to provide companionship to callers, discussing their interests or family stories in a bid to brighten their days.

The hub is also offering a reading service to callers as part of the council’s online library service Borrowbox.

A selection of books, alongside good news and local news stories from the library’s e-newspaper, e-magazine and economics collections are on offer for residents to listen to at home.

Fans of the reading service can also take advantage of a ‘lucky dip’ doorstep book offer which will see fiction, non-fiction or children’s books delivered to their door for them to keep.

Cllr Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “It is so important that we continue to follow the stay-at-home message, particularly for those who are most at risk of coronavirus, or those who are self-isolating. However, we understand that this can lead to loneliness and make people feel isolated from their communities.

“We hope that our ‘check in and chat’ service helps to combat those feelings. Whether it’s a friendly voice that you need, or for someone to check in, our teams are ready to talk and brighten your days. It would be a great opportunity to try our reading services too, to keep your mind occupied during the restrictions and find something that you enjoy.”

Anyone wanting to access the hub’s check in and chat or reading service should call 03000 260 260 or email communityhub@durham.gov.uk

Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “It is vital that we look after our mental health in the same way as our physical health. Given the current challenges that everyone is facing, it is natural to sometimes feel overwhelmed or to have ups and downs. But what is important is that we know that there are people there who can help and services offering extra support, so please don’t feel isolated or alone.”

More information on how to look after mental health and support services that are available can be found on the council’s website: www.durham.gov.uk/covid19mentalhealth

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