De­liv­er­ies to pri­ori­tise vul­ner­a­ble shop­pers

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Sarah But­ler

Su­per­mar­kets are be­ing given ac­cess to a govern­ment data­base to help pri­ori­tise food de­liv­er­ies for el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble shop­pers who have been or­dered to stay at home un­der the govern­ment’s coro­n­avirus crack­down.

With all the big gro­cers’ online de­liv­ery slots booked up weeks in ad­vance, get­ting food to those self-iso­lat­ing was top pri­or­ity in a call be­tween in­dus­try bosses and the en­vi­ron­ment secretary, Ge­orge Eus­tice, on Tuesday.

Su­per­mar­ket bosses dis­cussed ways to ramp up de­liv­er­ies and pri­ori­tise or­ders from those in need, in­clud­ing work­ing on new ways to ex­tend de­liv­ery net­works such as team­ing up with lo­cal taxi com­pa­nies and take­away de­liv­ery firms.

Sains­bury’s and Waitrose said that next week they would be­gin writ­ing to ex­ist­ing online cus­tomers who were also on the govern­ment data­base to of­fer them a de­liv­ery slot.

Sains­bury’s said it was also work­ing on ways to se­cure de­tails for vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple liv­ing in Wales, Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land.

The su­per­mar­ket has al­ready used in­for­ma­tion from its Nec­tar loy­alty scheme to try to pri­ori­tise el­derly shop­pers online, proac­tively con­tact­ing 270,000 peo­ple. It also has a helpline that vul­ner­a­ble shop­pers can ring for help in book­ing de­liv­ery slots. How­ever, shop­pers told the Guardian that ac­cess­ing the helpline was dif­fi­cult be­cause of high demand.

Sains­bury’s ad­mit­ted that its cus­tomer care­line had been in­un­dated with re­quests from el­derly and vul­ner­a­ble cus­tomers, with one year’s worth of con­tacts in two weeks.

It said it had al­ready booked de­liv­ery slots for 115,000 el­derly, dis­abled and vul­ner­a­ble cus­tomers this week.

While many su­per­mar­kets have set aside spe­cial shop­ping pe­ri­ods for the vul­ner­a­ble and el­derly, the lat­est ad­vice to stay at home has in­creased the need for de­liv­ery ser­vices.

The govern­ment is also team­ing up with food service providers Brakes and Bid­food to put to­gether an emer­gency food par­cel scheme that could pro­vide essentials to 300,000 of the most vul­ner­a­ble of 1.5 mil­lion peo­ple iden­ti­fied as need­ing as­sis­tance.

The scheme, which could launch next week, is ex­pected to link up the de­liv­ery net­works of the food service com­pa­nies – which usu­ally sup­ply cater­ing busi­nesses and restau­rants – with lo­cal vol­un­teers and char­i­ties.

One in­dus­try source said it had quickly be­come ap­par­ent that food service firms had more ca­pac­ity to cope than su­per­mar­kets be­cause of lost or­ders from their usual clients, most of which have been forced to close un­der the virus con­trol mea­sures.

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