Coronavirus: Call for Wales to match English volunteering scheme

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Cardiff city centre
Image caption,
Councils are co-ordinating the volunteer response in Wales, according to the health minister

An England-only volunteering scheme to help the vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis should be offered in Wales, Tory MPs say.

People can sign-up to help deliver food and medicines, phone the isolated and drive patients to appointments.

Welsh Tories say it should be UK-wide - and the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to raise the issue with the Welsh Government.

The Welsh health minister said councils are co-ordinating volunteers in Wales.

"In Wales we've already made arrangements for volunteers who want to help support health and social care at this time," Vaughan Gething said at a press conference earlier.

But that was dismissed as a "piecemeal operation" by one Conservative.

The GoodSAM website has been set up to recruit volunteers to help the 1.5m people in England who are most at risk from the virus, and are being "shielded".

Doctors and nurses will be able to refer people to the volunteers. Around 405,000 have joined so-far.

The scheme, which includes an app to find tasks to choose from, is looking for people who can:

  • collect shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating
  • provide transport to patients who are medically fit for discharge
  • transport equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites
  • offer telephone support to individuals at risk of loneliness

In Wales willing volunteers can contact their local councils, or register on the Volunteering Wales website.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The volunteer scheme is helping find people who can collect and deliver food

Councils "will coordinate volunteer input for those people who want to volunteer," Mr Gething said. "That information will be shared with the voluntary sector and indeed the NHS."

Mr Gething said the UK government scheme has been presented in the media as being UK-wide when "it is an England-only announcement".

Retired IT lecturer Peter Lager, from Rhyl, said he had tried to sign up through the GoodSAM website, but could not get any further because he lived in Wales.

"It seems a bit out of sorts, that I have to find out how to do it for Wales, [and] that there isn't something on the NHS site that directs me to the equivalent in Wales," he said.

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb said there was "lots of demand" from people in Wales to be part of the GoodSAM operation.

"Wales should be part of the main scheme from the get go," he said. "This emergency requires a joined up UK-wide effort."

'Piecemeal operation'

James Davies, Conservative Vale of Clwyd MP, said: "I don't have faith that a piecemeal operation relying on volunteers contacting their local council will be up to the job of managing the very difficult situation that may soon face us.

"I would strongly urge devolved administrations to allow this to become a scheme to cover the whole of the United Kingdom."

At Prime Minister's Questions, Montgomeryshire Conservative MP Craig Williams asked Mr Johnson to get on the phone to the Welsh Government "and say let's work together".

"In general the four nations of our United Kingdom have been working very, very well together," the prime minister replied.

"But we will get on to the Welsh Government this afternoon on the issue."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people of Wales to support the NHS, local services and their community during this very difficult time.

"It is important that people who do volunteer do so safely, without putting themselves or others at risk.

"People can register on the Volunteering Wales site."