Emergencies Leadership Group Latest Update - Monday 20 April 2020

Read the latest update from the COVID-19 Emergencies Leadership Group (ELG) established by DfC Minister, Deirdre Hargey MLA.  

The ELG has a number of themed areas of work and is active in smaller groups to operationalise activity.


Department for Communities is delivering measures to support provision of food and assistance to vulnerable groups. These groups include the 40,000 'shielded' group who are required to follow stringent self-isolating measures; vulnerable children and families who are entitled to free school meals and the wider group of vulnerable people in society who may struggle to get access to food supplies.

The Department is collaborating across all sectors to develop an approach that is as joined up and effective as possible, and to ensure a sustainable food supply chain is available throughout the course of this crisis. We have developed a model of delivery with Councils with regional supply. 

This support will allow a weekly box of goods to be delivered directly to the door of vulnerable people who have been notified to shield by their GPs, who cannot afford food and do not have access to local support networks. These boxes will also be available to those who are not shielding, but are in critical need of food.

During the short time the scheme has been operational, week 1 (W/C 6 April) 4,400 boxes were delivered to the 24 Council distribution centres. In week 2 (W/C 13 April) 9,420 boxes were delivered.

Focus remains on the following:

  • ​Delivery and distribution of food boxes to those who need them 
  • Minor refinements to box contents (ongoing), e.g. Dietary 
  • Looking at the options/need of a prepared food aspect of support 
  • Work on getting behind the local level process/detail and recognising and sharing lessons/good practice

Cooked Food - Regional Project

This strand is still being worked on and no model has been agreed yet.  Due to the inherent risk of providing cooked food to vulnerable groups, we have received valuable feedback and support from the Food Standards Agency and local EHO representatives.  We are still trying to map out the need, but general consensus is that this will be needed for the most vulnerable groups, including those with significant disabilities or the very elderly; those who are sick and living alone and families with children deemed to be at risk.  We are currently developing an options paper to be discussed by DfC this week. Any regional project on this will be a support to the essential work going on at a local level, though we need to get a better handle on what cooked food is currently being provided.  Group will be in a better position to update on progress by next week.

Community Helpline

Advice NI has implemented a recovery plan and this week has seen a significant improvement in the performance of the Helpline. There has also been a settling in demand in terms of the number of calls.

There is now clearer messaging in terms of the purpose of the Helpline and all the services that are being put in place. The Helpline does not validate whether a caller has a shielding letter or whether they are otherwise vulnerable and in food need: the call handlers will simply record what the caller has reported, that they are shielding/non-shielding, and that they are in need of support, for example, food delivery or a food parcel, with no other means of accessing it.  

There is a misleading perception that someone shielding or who is otherwise vulnerable and who has been identified by or self-referred to a Trust, Council or local organisation, has to be 'registered' with the Helpline in order to access food support. This is NOT the case and can result in frustration and delays for people, as they are merely referred back to the Council for food support.

More generally, the purpose of the Covid-19 services being put in place is to ensure that people, who otherwise would be left without help, have access to support. So it is about targeting the most vulnerable. For some it may be about help with delivery of medication. For others it is about accessing delivery slots for shopping, and where this cannot be done, then referrals can be put in place to enable delivery of shopping. And for some it will be about accessing support in terms of food parcels via the Council Hubs. 


Volunteer Now are temporarily pausing volunteer recruitment on our website from today, as we have almost 4,000 people registered and we are currently working through finding appropriate roles for them before any more are recruited. 

Volunteer Now continue to encourage groups to register opportunities and can help them to do this and also assist with screening volunteers, if capacity is an issue.  Email [email protected] 

 Volunteer Now are also encouraging groups to start to thinking about post-covid roles, which are longer term and may require training. Again these can be registered with them.  

Guidance has been updated to include information from the Food Standards Agency, the PHA Psychological First Aid, volunteer expenses and Furloughing.

Community and Voluntary Support for Pharmacies

The scheme has been established to co-ordinate the community and voluntary sector support for community pharmacies across Northern Ireland, and was formally launched by the Health Minister on 14 April.

 This support has two main elements:

  • Safe delivery of medication to people who cannot collect it themselves.
  • Assistance with queue management within the pharmacy setting

Community groups who meet the required criteria can register with CDHN and will be matched with pharmacies for either or both functions. 

Update on Progress:

To date, 152 pharmacies have signed up, 149 registration packs have been issued to community and voluntary sector groups and over 100 matches have been made. 

CDHN is developing an interactive map for use by HSC Trusts and local Council’s that will provide them with information regarding community pharmacies that have signed up for the scheme and their matched community or voluntary sector partner. The website will be live and operational within the next week. 

Covid-19 ID 

CDHN are working in partnership with FactCheckNI to deliver the COVID-19 ID project. The aim of the project is to improve people’s health literacy about COVID-19 by providing accurate and up-to-date information which will increase knowledge, understanding and confidence and enable people to make good health decisions.

 Please contact CDHN if:

  • You would like to receive official and fact-checked information
  • You have seen information about COVID-19 that you think should be fact checked
  • There is something you would like to know about COVID-19 and you cannot find it

The CDHN website has more detailed information on both pieces of work

Wellbeing in Isolation 

Work continues on developing the wellbeing proposal. Final conversations with potential partners are underway and we hope to commence work on this strand as soon as possible in the next week.

Share your COVID-19 support service

Organisations providing support to people and communities can share their service information here

> Share your support

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