More than 550 volunteers from Reading have been supporting vulnerable people locally during lockdown through a local Mutual Aid organisation.

Reading Mutual Aid is helping elderly residents and those with existing health conditions by delivering groceries and medicine, supplying teaching resources and even taking poorly pets to the vet.

The group is part of a wider network of businesses, charities and volunteers helping provide support to local residents during lockdown.

Volunteer Anagha Panse, who is a ward coordinator with the group, said: “Everybody in the community has come together. Everyone’s helping each other and it’s really heart-warming to see.”

Furniture giant Ikea has been helping the group deliver food while local Indian restaurant Yaadgaar, on the Oxford Road, has been among those providing free meals.

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Reading Mutual Aid is also working with community groups such as Whitley CDA and homeless charity New Beginnings Reading, which is providing free meals.

The group deals with around 50 daily user requests and has never turned one down.

Mrs Panse described how the group has helped and built trust with one elderly resident with an existing medical condition.

She said: “She had a specific medical request and couldn’t pick up and her prescriptions.

“She couldn’t leave the house. Her doctor couldn’t visit her. We had to get her doctor to call her to convince her that we were a genuine organisation that were helping her.

“Since then there’s been no looking back and we help her with food and medicine requirements weekly.”

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The group was created at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak and is part of a national network of Mutual Aid groups.

It has grown from dealing with a few daily requests to having a hotline staffed by six volunteers, taking referrals from the council and helping with hospital outpatients. It has helped more than 500 service users in total.

Leema Sadia, another volunteer with the group, said the group hope to offer help with maternity clothes, class packs for children, resources for children.

For vulnerable people with no means of getting any food, the group has been putting together donation boxes of essentials and providing weekly deliveries. The group has no formal funding and so a Go Fund Me page is used for this.

Mrs Panse said: "This is not a charity; this is what we call solidarity. Helping people who ask for help.

“And I am certain that will still be there even when this pandemic is over.”

To contact Reading Mutual Aid call 07380248606 or email, or for more details