LOCAL authorities in the Tees Valley are seeking to reassure vulnerable and isolated residents they will not be forgotten during the coronavirus crisis with the launch of support hubs.

Darlington Borough Council is redeploying staff from non-essential services to open a seven days a week information and advice service for those who are self-isolating and can’t get help from family, friends or volunteers.

The move comes a day after its Hartlepool counterpart launched another support hub, which will be open six days a week, in partnership with other organisations.

While the Hartlepool authority said the hub highlighted the town’s “great tradition of coming together to support one another in times of need”, Darlington council leader Councillor Heather Scott said she wanted residents to know “their council is there for them at this incredibly testing time”.

She said the hub would play a vital role in identifying vulnerable people and help the council ensure that they get fed and whatever they need as well as provide links to reliable community organisations.

Cllr Scott said: “We have got to be very careful that the people offering help are genuine”, adding that unscrupulous people had already been preying on isolated people elsewhere in the Tees Valley.

She added: “We know there are a lot of worried people at the moment as we start getting to grips with coronavirus outbreak. I want people in Darlington to know that their council is there for them at this incredibly testing time. The hub will have limited capacity – we are only going to be able to help those most in need.”

She said while many council workers were working from home, others had seen their roles radically change to ensure there is somebody at the end of the phone to deal with the calls to the support hub.

Cllr Scott said the authority was also reducing the staffing of services such as grass cutting and garden waste collections, to bolster key services including household waste collections, as the authority braces itself for staff to be hit by the virus.

For the Darlington support hub, call 01325-405000 and for the Hartlepool support hub call 01429-272905.

Anyone who thinks they may have coronavirus symptoms, should visit 111.nhs.uk