A NON-DIGITAL coronavirus lifeline for vulnerable people in some of Barnsley’s most rural communities has been set up by a local MP.

Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, has acquired a freephone number which people can call if they need help amid tightened up restrictions on residents’ movements.

Those who are not well-versed in computers or social media can call the number and speak to Miriam or one of her staff.

The number is only for residents in the Penistone and Stocksbridge constituency and should not be used for routine matters.

Miriam has also weighed in to support calls for the concessionary fares time threshold for the elderly to be changed so pensioners can get to early morning supermarket sessions for free.

Those with passes will now be able to use them before 9.30am on any bus or tram in South Yorkshire any day of the week.

Miriam said: ”Having been in London I don’t want to risk infecting people, so everything is being done via the phone and email.

“This is a real challenge for everyone. All our lives will change. It is a tough time.”

The MP has spent the last few days calling as many community groups as possible to see what they are doing and if there is any way she can help.

Miriam said many villages they are well on with getting volunteers to help out, generally using social media.

“Even people who are fit and healthy might need help in terms of loneliness,” she said.

Her main concern is that elderly people are more likely to be isolated digitally and may be unaware of efforts which are going on.

So from this week the freephone will be manned between 9am and 5pm.

“We are spreading the word as far as we can so elderly people have the number,” she said. “They can then call me or my team and we will forward their request for help to the relevant group. If someone is lonely but doesn’t need practical help we have a team of people ready to call and make friends.”

Miriam stressed that the helpline is not for casework but purely issues connected with the virus.

“Everyone is being asked to make choices which will make life harder but we have to do this to save lives,” she said. “We have to tell children that even though they are not so much at risk, if they spread the virus more vulnerable people will end up in hospital. So it has serious consequences for us all.”

Miriam said members of a public transport working group in Thurgoland had been helping to bring about the concessionary fares action.

“They were part of the campaign which resulted in South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive changing the rules,” she said. “And this means elderly people can now get to supermarkets which open up early specially for them.

“It was a combined effort, but the Thurgoland group was very much involved.

* The coronavirus helpline number is freephone 0800 955 4002.