How has Crab helped the community?

Since the first Lockdown in March and through the hard work, personal risk and sacrifice of our amazing volunteers we have been able to help the most vulnerable residents in our community and continue to do so. We would like to thank all our volunteers profoundly for this. Without you we would not have been able to help so many.

Here is copy of a report we produced recently showing all the work we have been doing.

updated 18 November 2020 Activity Report

Crab Niton, an acronym for Community Response and Backup and the historic name for the village of Niton, was formed in mid March 2020 in response to the growing concern over the corona virus, Covid-19. The core management team led by Will Thurbin of Jon Boileau-Goad, John Stotesbury, Eleanor Bowen, Martin Ward and Vickie Ford established an operations room in the community library and a helpline which became active on 25th March only two days after the UK Government announced the lockdown measures.

The helpline and support services provided

Until lockdown measures began to be eased our helpline was open 7 days a week from 10am to 4pm with out of hours calls forwarded to a mobile phone. We created a roster of watchkeepers to staff the helpline and recruited over 100 local volunteers to provide services to our residents who were shielding and self-isolating. The services included:

  • Collection and delivery of prescriptions

  • Collection and delivery of food, including food parcels and hot dinners

  • Delivery of a wide range of random items from hearing aid batteries to newspapers to library books

  • Garden maintenance and window cleaning

  • Patient transport in our customised minibus – see below

These are the activity statistics from 25 March 2020 when the services became operational until 6 July 2020. The UK Government began easing the lockdown restrictions on 13 May and by 4 July most businesses had re-opened and social distancing had been relaxed. Demand for Crab Niton services understandably stopped.

Website and email

The website and email address were created at the outset to provide information, help and support to supplement the helpline. The website continues to be updated and will be for the foreseeable future at least until the threat of the virus is over.


Each volunteer signed a volunteer application form with their personal contact details and consenting to their data being held by the Niton and Whitwell Parish Council of which Crab Niton was formed as a working group. This was important because volunteers would then be covered by the Parish Council’s working group insurance. Each application was numbered and the volunteer was given a badge to wear when on Crab Niton duty so their identity could be verified.

Patient transport minibus

Crab Niton borrowed a minibus from a local community group and fitted a Perspex screen behind the driver so we were able to transport patients individually to hospital and GP’s appointments safely. All drivers were DBS checked, a service paid for by the Isle of Wight Council. At the height of the lockdown we were doing 3 trips a week, often to St Mary’s hospital in Newport, for residents who would otherwise not be able to safely attend appointments. The minibus service was so successful and popular that we would like to make it a permanent feature in the village if we can raise the funds and volunteers needed.

Crab Shack community Share Point

We created the Crab Shack, midway through lockdown, which was a small marquee in which we encourage people to deposit surplus food to share with those who were struggling. Initially we were receiving a number of donations of food but these have diminished over time. We have decided to fund the purchase of food for the Crab Shack ourselves from funds raised because there is hardship in the village and we expect this to worsen when furlough ends and more residents are made redundant. We also included a seed and plant swap to encourage gardeners to grow more in case of food shortages in the Autumn/Winter. This proved very popular and we will continue the Crab Shack after all the lockdown measures are lifted as long as people continue to use it.

Welfare visits and mental health Support

Many of the residents we have been supporting have complex needs, medical and emotional. We have worked with the local GP surgery to support those we have identified as needing help. Those we felt we could not support we referred to Council social services, in consultation with the resident who called for help. We created a small group of volunteers who were tasked purely to visit those residents identified as needing additional support and we provided that support via Crab Niton or by onward referral to other agencies. Our challenge following the easing of all lockdown measures will be to ensure those particularly vulnerable residents continue to be supported.

Support for Local Businesses

As well as helping residents we were concerned that local businesses would not survive the lockdown. Rural businesses are difficult to maintain and many on the Isle of Wight depend on summer business to fund them through the winter when the holiday makers have gone home. We created a business alliance called CRABBA which created a forum for businesses to share problems and solutions via a zoom call and online. We provided businesses with information about the availability of loans and grants and liaised with the Isle of Wight Council and the local MP, Bob Seely about help for specific local businesses which failed to qualify for the various government schemes.

To coincide with the easing of lockdown for pubs and restaurants we produced a shop and support brochure which we delivered to every household on 26 June urging residents to shop local first and help their local businesses bounce back from lockdown.

Working with other community groups

We have been working with two other community resilience groups, Crab Whitwell and Crab Chale, based in neighbouring villages. We have shared experience, supplies and many Zoom calls and all three groups have been the stronger for that. In June Crab Niton assumed the responsibility for the Crab Whitwell operations and continues to do so.

Face Coverings Early in the pandemic the core management team decided to encourage the sewing of face coverings, anticipating a shortage and advice from the Government and WHO that they would be required. At the time in mid April face masks were very difficult to buy and we did not want to divert supplies from the NHS so we asked for volunteers from our community.

As a result, within days, 27 “masketeers” responded to a call to sew face coverings and to date they created over 1000 which we continue to supply to local residents.


We have received funding from our Parish Council, from the Prince’s Trust and from donations.

Funds have been spent on creating the website and running the operations room, printing information leaflets, diesel for the minibus, food for food parcels and the Crab Shack and deliveries of hot dinners, supplies to make face coverings and the printing cost of the Shop Local brochure.

Our activity level from I July

We gradually reduced the helpline hours in line with the gradual reduction of calls.

We have moved our operations room out of the community library into a local building previously used for storage because the library was being prepared for reopening. By mid July we put Crab Niton into hibernation with the intention that the operations room would remain as a community resilience hub and be quickly scaled up should the need arise. We have recorded all the procedures we created in Standard Operating Procedure protocols for use in a second lockdown or any other village emergency

The Second Lockdown

On 31 October the UK Government announced that the second lockdown would start on 5 November for 4 weeks. The second lockdown is not as strict as the first. There is no shielding and vulnerable people are advised to take extra care but also to be independent and obtain their own supplies where they can do so safely. Also many more businesses are open and the schools and Universities are open. For Crab Niton this means we have a limited demand for our support services and fewer volunteers to call upon.

We are providing a helpline 5 days per week from 10am to 3pm but have so far had very few calls. We continue to be ready to respond should things change. We currently have 15 active volunteers. We are anticipating that Christmas and the winter will be difficult for many of our residents due to isolation from friends and family or due to financial difficulties arising from the lockdown and the pandemic. We are constantly looking for ways of supporting our residents and providing some winter cheer. To this end we are working on providing ready to cook Christmas dinners to our isolated residents or those unable to afford a Christmas dinner. We are also organising a village “secret Santa” to provide presents for the same vulnerable group of residents.

Activity Report updated 181120
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