Cornwall Council has helped the Merlin MS Centre to stay in touch with its clients virtually during the lockdown.

The charity has been using online tools to provide a clinical service and remote exercise sessions.

Sarah Snell, the charity's income generation manager, said: “When we closed the centre in March following government and Public Health England advice, we knew it was really important to keep in contact with our service users and volunteers, most of whom were having to self-isolate even before the lockdown.

“However, the charity had lost almost all methods of generating income both at the centre and in the community – they wrote to Cornwall councillors asking for support. Councillors were able to make donations from their community Chest Fund and in total they have donated £7510.”

Councillor Edwina Hannaford, Cornwall’s portfolio holder for climate change and neighbourhoods, said: “I would like to congratulate the Merlin Centre on their award from the National Lottery, and am delighted that Cornwall councillors from across Cornwall have been able to support them from their Community Chest.”

Sarah added: “Unfortunately, nearly all our reserves had been used up due to difficulties with a capital project so we couldn’t even ride out the pandemic by relying on cash reserves. We needed to furlough most of the team but wanted to keep a small cohort to carry out the contact and support service remotely, so we are incredibly grateful to have received this funding from our Cornwall Councillors.

“Communities have gathered, and this is brilliant, but our clinical team has a full understanding of the complex physical and mental needs of our client group - people with neurological and progressive conditions need specialist advice and guidance as well as practical support.

“It is important to recognise the role we have in supporting the effort of staff within the NHS and Social Care - we know if we cannot provide clinical advice then some of our service users may need to call upon the already over-burdened health and social care system.”

The charity’s Keep in Touch project ensures vulnerable clients are given regular contact and support by its clinical lead Mel for advice on their physical and mental well-being. She is also able to provide advocacy and signpost to other groups for essential supplies, medication or local support.

The team is doing daily online seated and standing exercise sessions, appropriate to the client group (or sending out programmes) and has set up a Facebook Support Group for sharing tips, experience and ideas as well as doing regular phone contact with volunteers.

The lockdown halted all methods of traditional fundraising such as holding events and income from the centre, including hiring out clinical rooms and conference space; running the onsite café and retail shop, also came to an abrupt halt. With bills and wages needing to be paid the charity, like many others, was facing a very worrying financial crisis.

Donations can be made via the charity's JustGiving page,