North Tyneside Council’s team of Covid marshals have engaged with more than 2,000 residents and dealt with a wide range of issues in recent weeks.
Since hitting the streets in November to help people and give advice during the pandemic, while also providing a reassuring presence, the marshals have discussed everything from social-distancing, masks and general Covid-19 related queries.
But it’s not all been about the virus, with the marshals helping residents with queries about pot holes, fly tipping, play sites, fireworks, bins and even enquiries about the Metro.
Anything they haven’t been able to answer, they have taken details and passed the queries on to the relevant departments.
They have helped connect two rough sleepers to council services to try and get them help to get off the streets and were even given cakes by one resident. The marshals returned the favour though by giving the woman’s daughter, a nurse, some selection boxes and advent calendars for her to take to the hospital for the patients.
Even in challenging situations, such as patrolling in Tynemouth where there were some groups gathering during Christmas and New Year period, they still engaged with people offering advice and information.
The marshals have ensured that they have paid particular attention to Tynemouth and the Fish Quay in recent weeks due to the number of concerns from residents and visitors and have worked closely with the neighbourhood police teams to report in any areas of concern.
The marshals do not have enforcement powers – their role is to engage, encourage and explain the latest rules and public health advice to residents, businesses and visitors – but continue to work closely with police and other partners.
They have leaflets with key public health advice and information on support available from the council, partners and community to give out.
With a national lockdown now in place, the marshals will continue with their role as normal giving out information and advice about the latest restrictions around staying home unless for essential purposes.
They will be patrolling areas where there may be heavier footfall such as the coast where people might be heading for exercise, and in shopping areas to ensure social distancing while people queue for essential shopping.
Elected Mayor Norma Redfearn CBE said: “Our marshals have been carrying out a really important role over the past couple of months out and about around the borough where the need has been greatest.
“With another national lockdown now in place their presence continues to be vital in ensuring people stay home to help limit the spread of this terrible virus and protect lives.
“It’s great to hear how they’ve been involved in such a wide range of issues and helping out in any way they can, working with partners such as the police, while also providing much-needed reassurance at such an uncertain time for all.
“We are all extremely proud of what they have achieved in such a short time in helping keep North Tyneside a safe place and ensuring everyone does their bit.”
Marshal Nicola Whinham added: “This has been the most rewarding of jobs, busy and challenging, however, it has also established us as part of the community. We have become a very visual face of North Tyneside Council and have been very well received on the whole.
“Our presence is sometimes all that is needed to just remind people to wear a mask or socially distance or not to congregate in a group. We just want to ensure everyone’s safety and to protect our community from Covid but in a friendly and caring way.”
Inspector Nicola Seymour of Northumbria Police said: “We are grateful to the majority of people who continue to show resolve and adhere to the restrictions which are in place to protect our communities.
“Our approach remains to speak with members of the public and offer advice to those who have mistakenly broken the regulations.
“However, we have been very clear, we are committed to taking enforcement action against anyone who flouts the rules and puts lives at risk.
“The Covid marshals have played an important role in engaging with people about the restrictions and I thank them for their efforts. It is vital we all continue to play our part in following the restrictions which are in place – together we can make a real difference.”