AN EMERGENCY planning group came together to help out the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was the biggest test to date for the Kendal-based group formed in 2017.

"It [a pandemic] was something that we'd thought about but, of course, when it actually happens, it never happens the way you think it's going to happen," said Hazel Belshaw, coordinator for the Kendal Community Emergency Planning Group (KCEPG).

In conjunction with Kendal Integrated Care Community and individuals willing to lend a helping hand, KCEPG organised a team of volunteers to go out and offer support to the most vulnerable.

Cards put through letterboxes offered assistance with tasks - such as shopping and mail delivery - to people who were self-isolating.

At its peak, the group had a roster of 250 volunteers.

Reverend Jonny Gios, of Gateway Church in Highgate, Kendal, was also involved in organising the team of volunteers.

He felt the community had 'come together like never before'.

"It wasn't like the floods [in 2015], where it was maybe a couple of months," he said.

"It's been 14 months of intense working and joined-up thinking."

Mrs Belshaw offered a number of 'best estimate' figures that indicated the success of the group. The majority of the data was recorded between April and November 2020.

  • Number of people supported: 185
  • Number of shopping deliveries: 354
  • Number of prescriptions delivered: 265
  • Number of dogs walked: 48

KCEPG itself was formed in 2017, with the main focus being coordinating a response to potential future flooding events. Other emergencies - such as pandemics - were considered, however.

It received backing in the form of funding from the Cumbria Community Foundation and Kendal Town Council.

A 'coordinator' - Mrs Belshaw - was then recruited to keep the emergency plan up to date, recruit volunteers and arrange relevant training.

Such responses are not without their challenges, however. The periods of furlough during lockdown gave rise to a situation - possibly unique - in which huge swathes of people were off work.

"The only thing going forward is how you keep your volunteers," said Mrs Belshaw.

"Last April/May, everyone was off work."

The number of volunteers on KCEPG's books has now dropped from 250 to 180, and many of those are not active, although the number of people needing support has decreased dramatically with the rollout of the vaccine programme.

Going forward, said Mrs Belshaw, the plan is to merge the Covid volunteers programme into a 'good neighbours' scheme, similar to one that has been operating in Kirkby Stephen and surrounding areas since 2016.

Volunteers in Kirkby and the Upper Eden area help with tasks such as prescription collection and shopping.

According to, the programme currently has 26 fully-inducted volunteers and 38 clients.

The plan for KCEPG is for it to become independent and be registered as a charity this year to help with applying for funding.