A NETWORK established to support a town's community in the midst of the coronavirus crisis has launched a dedicated website allowing volunteers and vulnerable people to be "matched".

The purpose-built online platform enables the 4,500-strong Facebook group Coronavirus Support for the Vulnerable Darlington to use its community network and offer respite to residents in need while assisting the council in tackling the outbreak through automated and scalable processes - meaning they can help more people.

The Facebook-based network started a website in hopes of handling offers of help from volunteers more efficiently, which can now be matched with requests of support sent by vulnerable residents.

Stephen Morgan, 34, who runs Inner Tranquility on Neasham Road, has used his business as a base for the project.

He said: “Because of the large number of offers of help from volunteers and requests of support that we are receiving, we have built a website to automate the process and provide a scalable platform for our community, not only for the next few weeks but also over the long term.”

The website comes after less than two weeks of the group operating.

Nursery nurse Kimberley Scott, 28, who created the Facebook group is "pleasantly surprised" at Darlington's response to the initiative and its growth.

She said: “When I initially created a Facebook group less than two weeks ago, I had no idea how valuable it would become in bringing the community together during these uncertain times. We now have a team of volunteers who are completely dedicated to running this project.”

Businessman George Jabbour, 38, who has set up the policies and structure of the group, added: “The fact that we have become one of the largest groups in the country to tackle the coronavirus on a local level shows how kind-hearted and generous the people of Darlington are. This is why we are using our community-based network to support vulnerable people and would like to assist the council in tackling the outbreak.”

As the platform matches volunteers with residents requiring support, the group’s key priority is to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Complaints Handler James Knowles, 31, said: “Before any volunteer is allocated a task or a request of support, they are approved and vetted, and sign a confidentiality agreement to safeguard the personal data of others.”