A NEW community support network is being set up in a Weymouth neighbourhood as residents pull together whilst staying safely apart.

Residents in Preston and Sutton Poyntz are coming together to support each other, to offer help with shopping, prescriptions and post.

The project has been organized by Littlemoor and Preston councillor Louie O'Leary, who set up a similar initiative in Littlemoor during the first lockdown.

Over 30 residents have volunteered to help, and 1500 leaflets will be distributed to households from January 18 onwards, to let people know that help is at hand.

The A5 leaflet contains information about businesses and groups offering support including local shops and food banks.

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It also informs residents of an innovative donation scheme, which enables residents to drop off food and supplies at a phone box, which will then be collected and distributed among local food banks.

That scheme has been set up by fellow Littlemoor and Preston ward councillor Tony Ferrari, who will leave a donation box at the Sutton Poyntz phone box every Sunday.

All the volunteers will be provided with masks and gloves, and will avoid coming into contact with other residents. Cllr O'Leary said: "Residents who are shielding and self isolating will be able to call on the group for support for a range of issues - big and small."

"After the success we had setting up the hub last time, which is now continuing as the Littlemoor foodbank at St Francis Church, I have turned my attention to Preston.

"During the last lockdown I did many prescription and shopping collections in Preston, but then it dropped off, so I don't want to miss anyone out this time."

Cllr O'Leary explained he has been given the go-ahead by the police, because lockdown rules permit volunteering as long as it is providing an essential service.

He added: "I spoke to Inspector David Parr, who said this sounds like very worthwhile work and will benefit many people."

It comes amid a rise in cases in Dorset. Latest weekly Covid-19 rates for local authority areas in England reveal that the rate of transmission in the Dorset Council area has increased to 337.4 per 100,000 people - up from 262.9 the previous week.

The rate of transmission in this part of the county is now almost ten times higher than it was just before Christmas.