A Caritas Response to the Coronavirus (updated 30th May)


To join a team of volunteers able to be called upon if a local charity needs help in an emergency, please register here and select ‘Covid-19 Response’ in your search criteria. 

If you are a charity in need of short-term volunteers due to the Covid-19 crisis, please cvs@rcdow.org.uk.

Those running social action projects linked with parishes or Catholic schools, can join our Facebook Group to hear advice and share ideas

On this page:

Empty shelves at Ealing Foodbank.

Foodbanks reporting shortages

In light of reports (such as that in the Guardian Newspaper,) of food bank stocks running low, Caritas Westminster is urging Catholic Communities not to forget the poor and vulnerable in this time of uncertainty over the Corona Virus.

Certain types of  food and other essentials, seem to be disappearing from our supermarkets as people “panic buy”. This may well include members of our own churches – people who would usually be selfless and generous, but have understandably become afraid in this uncertain time.

Families receiving a healthy lunch at a
Caritas Food Collective Holiday Club

We are also concerned that, should people need to self-isolate, or should schools close, this will result in many people being

unable to earn money (for example the self-employed or those in the “gig” economy.). Children who rely on school meals might also struggle. It is therefore vital that we step up our social action and our generosity – taking sensible precautions, but not shying away from volunteering and visiting – even if this is just to leave a food parcel on a doorstep. 

Anyone wishing to find a local food bank or other social action project, to donate items, can contact their parish priest or email the Caritas Food Collective cfc@rcdow.org.uk 

Anna Gavurin of the Caritas Food Collective says: “Whilst it is undersandable that people want their cupboards well stocked in this uncertain time, we mustn’t forget that hundreds of people rely on their local foodbanks – not just for food but also for hygiene items and toilet paper. We urge people to continue or even increase their generosity to foodbanks by donating items or money”

Whilst some supermarkets have responded to the high demand by restricting sales of some items it is unclear how charities such as homeless shelters, who need to buy in bulk, will be able to purchase enough items. 

Caritas Westminster invites all Catholics to remember those in need, as we are called to do during the season of Lent. This might also include volunteering, for example as a driver to collect food from suppliers, to to help at a homeless shelter or foodbank. As the needs develop we are looking for a bank of volunteers to call on. Find out more on the Caritas Volunteer Service website. Or subscribe to our list of stand-by volunteers.

Coronavirus and the Deaf community

Caritas Deaf Service is concerned that the messages regarding protecting people from the coronavirus are not reaching some of the most vulnerable people including the Deaf Community.

Deaf people are less likely to access information through the internet.  In the UK  there are limited opportunities to follow the television news in British Sign Language and Government statements are not routinely sign-interpreted. The Deaf Community might not be up to date with the latest news, and in a rapidly changing situation, this will leave them lacking the information they need to stay safe.

It is also difficult for the Deaf Community to access the NHS if this is expected to be done by telephone. The 111 service can be contacted by text relay, but the experience of Deaf people using this prior to the current situation has not been positive.

Deaf people can be very isolated at the best of times, and if events and social gatherings are cancelled this will only become worse.

Whilst we at Caritas Westminster are suggesting that parishes keep in contact with the housebound and isolated by telephone, please also have an option for having conversations by text message. Publicise the mobile phone number of a priest or volunteer who can help keep vital connections open with some of the most vulnerable people. This may also be helpful for people for whom English is not a first language – reading texts might be easier for them – it can also be cheaper to send text message than to make phone calls.

Sign Health have information on the corona virus available in BSL at SignHealth.org.uk/coronavirus/. For more information please contact Caritas Deaf Service on 07779 341136. 

Guidance to those who may be experiencing Domestic Abuse 

  • If you are in lockdown with someone who scares you, support is available. You can call the National Domestic Abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, at any time (this is for both men and women) 
  • If it is unsafe to speak on the phone, Women’s Aid have a live chat service www.womensaid.org.uk
  • If you are in danger, call 999.  If it is not safe to speak, dial 55 when prompted
  • If you cannot speak or hear to use the phone, you can register your mobile to text 999 (text REGISTER to 999 and reply YES)
  • If you are at risk, keep your phone, keys, bank card and other essential items with you at all times.  
  • You are allowed to leave your home to escape danger at any time.
  • If you are concerned that you might hurt someone,  you can call Respect on 0808 8024040 or visit their website www.respectphoneline.org.uk

Support for those who have experienced a bereavement

For advice on bereavement support and practical arrangements during this pandemic, please see below:

COVID-19 Information for families and carers in hospital

COVID-19 Information for families and carers in the community

Information for non-English speakers

For those in our communities who are migrants or asylum seekers, and who may struggle to access Government advice in English,

Doctors of the World are sharing advice for patients in 21 languages, which were produced in partnership with the British Red Cross, Migrant Help and Clear Voice. If the language you need isn’t there, check back in a few days as this is an on-going project.

General Advice for parishes

Caritas Westminster has produced a poster which can be displayed in churches, with ideas on how we can support each other during this difficult time. We know many parishes are already doing a lot. Please let us know what you are doing, if we can help in any way, and if you as an individual are able to join a stand-by team of volunteersDownload a pdf of the poster here.

We have also produced a postcard which can be filled in and put through peoples doors, letting the isolate know that there is a team of people in the Parish willing to help. You can download a pdf of the postcard here.

Useful Links

The latest guidance for parishes from the Catholic Bishops Conference can be found here.

And click here for a special message from the Cardinal (13 March) regarding care of the elderly.

The Westminster diocese website has a range of resources for spiritual life, while public worship is suspended. 

For further thoughts on how to act with compassion during this crisis, take a look at these golden rules written by the Anglican Bishop of St Albans.



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