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SPAR Extends Shopping Support to National Charities

June 11, 2020

Charities supported by SPAR

Following the success of the shop and pay structure for people who are shielding introduced with Royal Voluntary Service under the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme last month, over 700 SPAR stores in England and Wales are now also supporting volunteers for three additional national charities in order to support other vulnerable people.

Recognising how difficult it can be for older people who are too scared to go out and shop, or those who might need help in terms of accessibility, SPAR has provided a list of stores that are able to work with charities in order to help vulnerable customers who cannot get out to shop for themselves.

As this move is a first for convenience retailing, along with RVS, volunteers are now working with Marie Curie, Parkinson’s UK and RNIB, who can use designated SPAR stores to shop for vulnerable people.

With the help of Defra, SPAR has contacted a number of national charitable organisations to see how the convenience store chain could help those who are frightened or confused. As a result a number of independent SPAR stores and company-owned SPAR stores serviced by SPAR wholesalers A.F. Blakemore, Appleby Westward and James Hall & Co have extended their shop and pay services to include volunteers from other charities.

SPAR UK Managing Director Louise Hoste said: “It is hugely important for those who are vulnerable to have access to food and deliveries. As our stores are situated in local communities, we are in an ideal position to actively promote how people can shop by using their volunteer network.

“When we heard how much pressure these charities are under trying to deal with the huge increase in the number of enquiries they are receiving, we extended our help to allow their volunteer networks to shop with ease in our stores.”

By instigating useful payment processes to support volunteers in participating stores, the seven charities taking part are encouraging their volunteers to use their local SPAR stores for their shopping.

SPAR stores have proven to be a lifeline for people who are extremely vulnerable or self-isolating and unable to get to the shops. Many have introduced a telephone ordering or home delivery service. 

The government is encouraging those who are vulnerable and need help accessing food to refer themselves to the NHS Volunteer Responders programme to be connected with a local volunteer who can shop on their behalf.

Sam Ward, Director of Services and Deputy CEO for Royal Voluntary Service, said: “Due to the success of the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, we are delighted to confirm that we are working with more charities to ensure the people they support are able to access the service. We can’t thank SPAR enough for actively promoting safe shopping for vulnerable people.”

Tom Heron from SPAR’s national charity partner, Marie Curie, said: “Marie Curie see huge potential in utilising SPAR’s partnership with the Royal Voluntary Service, and we are exploring how the NHS Volunteer Responders service could benefit by enabling volunteers to shop on the behalf of terminally ill people unable to go to the shops.”

Laura Cockram, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Parkinson's UK, said: “At the start of lockdown, we were inundated with calls from people with Parkinson’s who were having trouble getting online deliveries or were unable to get to supermarkets. Volunteers and initiatives like this are essential to ensure people have enough to eat, so it is fantastic to see SPAR welcoming volunteers to help people with Parkinson's at this difficult time. In February of this year, SPAR started to work with Alzheimer’s Society and a number of SPAR store staff have joined the Dementia Friends movement."

Helen Foster, Director of Operations at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “The stark reality is that the 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. In March and April alone, we received over 7,500 calls to our Dementia Connect Support Line from people desperately needing support. We’re delighted that SPAR have included people with dementia, and unpaid carers in this scheme, making it easier for our Dementia Advisers to signpost our service users to the NHS Volunteer Responders, who are closely working alongside SPAR to access shopping.”

This week (8th -14th June) is Carers Week and SPAR is supporting the campaign by using social media to drive the awareness of carers who may need support with their shopping needs in local communities. The group is urging people to pledge their support on the Carers Week website and have circulated ACS guidance to its retailers on how to recognise and support carers.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Being able to access food quickly and easily has been especially important to unpaid carers during this pandemic. Many are caring for someone who has been shielding, or they will be shielding themselves, so getting food and other supplies from the shops has been a more tricky task than usual. We are pleased that during Carers Week support is being extended so that unpaid carers and those they support can easily get the supplies they need.” 

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