First-ever website for those shielding launched

A new interactive website, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, has launched across Peterborough for people who are shielding to help them combat loneliness during lockdown.

The new website launched by the Countywide Coordination Hub this week is a collaboration between Cambridgeshire Skills, City College Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Library Service.

The idea for the website was borne out of the fact that one of the challenges for people who are self-isolating is being able to keep busy in their own home.

The website will offer a set of leisure, pleasure and learning opportunities for shielded people to take part in. Additionally there are skills and courses within the site that will help users improve their skill set in their own professional environment.

This will include aligning the food deliveries from the hub to a healthy eating class, either online or via recipe cards for those that don’t have digital access. The food delivery from the hub will include all the ingredients needed to cook the meal that will be taught online or via the recipe card.

In addition, there will be sewing classes taught through instruction cards for those that have no internet access, which would include a delivery of materials and instruction to learn how to sew alongside the food deliveries.

This could take the form of, for example, learning to sew ‘scrub’ bags that can be donated to the NHS for their staff to use.

Pat Carrington, who is leading the project and passionately believes this will become an essential resource for those shielding, said: “The Open New Doors website has been designed specifically to the meet the needs of our shielded community.

“Practical activities teaching you to do things for yourself are key throughout the site, such as cooking and sewing sessions. A lot of attention has been given to teaching people new skills through enjoyment.

“In order to help with self-esteem and encourage new skills, we are giving people the tools and learning, through the site, to make a contribution at this time. For example, people will be able to make scrub bags in our craft section which will then be donated to the NHS.

“Additional to our own tailor made content are a host of external links to allow people to enhance their experience. One minute you can be navigating through the Natural History Museum and the next participating in live story telling for children.”

There is a section of the website which supports families of pre-school children to help their children prepare to start school in September. Activities are aimed at creating quality family time as well as ensuring children have a good skill set ready to start school.

For those people who do not have access to a computer, information that is on the website will be sent through the post.

The council has also made a bid for funding to set up a scheme where people can loan laptops or to supply those without digital access with tablets.

This will allow people to not only access the website, but engage with friends and family online and therefore limit feelings of loneliness with face to face contact.

Adrian Chapman, Service Director for Communities and Partnerships at Peterborough City Council, said: “We currently have more than 16,000 people on the shielded list, with around a third needing our help and support, and this is growing all the time. As well as providing deliveries of food and medication and offering a befriending service and meeting many other needs, we know that many people who are shielding need help and support to keep busy at home at this very difficult time.

“This new website will allow everyone who is shielding, regardless of whether they have told us they need help or not, to take part in a whole range of activities and sessions, whether it's cooking, learning a new skill or supporting our NHS by sewing masks and other items.”