Coronavirus: Seven ways Britons are helping the vulnerable - and how to get involved

Clare Sibthorpe, news reporter

When Michael was let go from his job due to cost-cutting measures linked to the coronavirus pandemic, he chose to reach out to others who may be finding it even tougher.

Instead of sitting at home all day feeling anxious about his uncertain future, the young father wrote and dropped off a letter to dozens of homes in the southwest London suburb of Clapham.

He offered to help older or ill people struggling with coronavirus symptoms by dropping off supplies, posting mail, putting out bins, walking dogs or simply making "a friendly phone call" - adding he would "absolutely refuse payment of any kind".

Speaking to Sky News, Michael - who chose not to share his last name or a photo to avoid publicity - said he had so far received requests from two older women who needed help with supplies.

"Some people are just unwilling to ask for help," he said.

"We just need to reach out before this escalates even more and break own these barriers, and say it's not a pride thing, it's a community approach.

"They are statistically more vulnerable and if you need to self-isolate please do stay home and ask for help, not risk going outside."

If, like Michael, you want to contribute to the humanity arising from this unprecedented crisis - or are looking for some positive news - here are seven ways Britons are helping make things a little easier for those in need.

"Neighbourhood response plans" and boredom boxes

Many communities across the UK are liaising on social media to co-ordinate running errands for older or vulnerable people.

One East Suffolk community has been creating "boredom boxes" full of puzzle books, magazines, crafts and books for those self-isolating.

It has also set up a "buddy system" where volunteers call up the elderly to check up on them and chat - and some councils have gone as far as organising whole "neighbourhood response plans" which divide towns into "cocoons" of support and organised activities.

Helping protect the homeless

Homeless people already endure many challenges, and charities have warned their exposure makes them more vulnerable to catching coronavirus.

If they do become infected, they face the difficulty of self-isolating while having no fixed address. To help those experiencing homelessness or at risk of falling into it, businesses across the UK have been employing them in roles such as jewellery making.

Free online courses and training the elderly

As more people swap their gym memberships and theatre outings with at-home workouts and online entertainment, artists and personal trainers are offering free online videos of their performances or workouts.

Several communities have also set up free courses for older people to understand how to video call their loved ones during isolation.

Making masks for hospitals

Earlier this month, NHS doctors warned there was a shortage of clinical masks and surgical protection supplies.

With the health system facing rapidly growing demand from coronavirus patients, some community groups are taking it into their own hands to help.

One, called London-Middlesex Medical Mask Makers, says it has received requests from local medical clinics to help make cloth masks in case they exhaust surgical mask supplies. Although they are not intended to be a replacement, it says "a fabric mask is better than no mask".

Members have also been making masks to deliver to members of the public who cannot find any to buy.

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Digital food banks set up to prioritise needs

Food banks have been running out of basics such as pasta and cereal as people stockpile because of coronavirus fears and some feel less inclined to donate.

In light of this, a number of start-up apps have launched which link up with a long list of food banks in the UK. They organise their donations via curated bundles with essentials that food banks need to provide vulnerable people with vital items.

Continuing to pay low-income earners

Not everyone has the means to provide much-needed financial assistance to their employees, but plenty are doing so despite not being legally obligated to.

Employment lawyer Rubel Bashir, from Slater and Gordon, said it was often "up to the employer's discretion as they do not have a legal obligation to pay staff on sick leave the full amount" during self-isolation, and yet many small businesses are dismissing this advice.

One mother tweeted a letter she sent to her self-employed cleaner, which said she was "100% committed to continuing to pay you each week even if coronavirus means you can't actually come".

Easing financial pressure off renters

The government has announced that all homeowners will be able to claim a three-month holiday from mortgage repayments if they are unable to pay because of coronavirus. Mortgage owners have no legal obligation to pass down this relief to renters - and many aren't. However, some are choosing to help out.

Many grateful renters had posted on social media posts to express gratitude for discounted rent they had been offered to ease financial pressure.