Jo and Chris, from Faringdon, have been crowned South West’s Neighbour of the Year 2020, as part of Co-op Insurance and Neighbourhood Watch’s search for the UK’s best neighbours.
Jo and Chris have hugely helped their neighbour, Jane, whose husband sadly passed away due to COVID in early April. Jo shopped for Jane, returned her late husband’s medications to the chemist, and checked in on her.
Jane, who nominated Jo and Chris for the award, said: “Jo and Chris, who live next door, have been my rock, my helpers, and my friends. They have fed me, cried with me, talked with me, helped and reassured me constantly. Jo and Chris have gone beyond anyone else to keep me sane during the very worst time of my life. If I’m not sure of anything, they’re there for me.”
Jo and Chris Hickling, South West’s Neighbours of the Year, said: “We were just being good neighbours, just being there for Jane. If you need something, there is always someone on our street you can go to for help – whether that’s baking a cake or visiting someone on their own. We’re delighted to have been recognised for that.”
The Neighbour of the Year award celebrates neighbours who look out for others, are sociable and friendly, offer practical help and are kind, caring and respectful. In its third year, the number of entries increased by a staggering 100 percent from 2019.
Ellis German, Home Insurance Executive at Co-op Insurance said: “We’re so proud of Jo and Chris – they’re an excellent reminder that there are those on our doorsteps who need us more than ever. All the judges agreed that they were the worthy winner of the South West Neighbour of the Year 2020 award.”
This year the awards are being back by actress Catherine Tyldesley, who played Eva Price in Coronation Street, who said: “It’s heartening to see that neighbours like Jo and Chris exist and are being recognised for the great work they’re doing to create communities where everyone feels safe and part of something.”
This year’s winners are announced as new data from Co-op Insurance and Neighbourhood Watch warns that the surge in neighbourliness seen in the Spring hasn’t been sustained, as pandemic fatigue sets in across the UK.
During the peak of the first national lockdown in April, data from Co-op showed a spike in neighbourliness, with almost three quarters (75%) of adults in the South West said they knew which of their neighbours was classed as high risk.
After seven months of pandemic restrictions, this figure has seen a dramatic fall, with only a quarter (27%) of adults in the South West revealing they know which of their neighbours are at risk.
“With the Co-op, we really urge everyone to be as supportive of each other as possible and be truly vigilant. It will be a very challenging Christmas for so many of us.”
Ellis added: “Our latest research is cause for concern as we start to see neighbourliness plateau. The length of time of the pandemic, the personal impact on everyday lives and the shorter days and colder weather are all key reasons for why we’re seeing this.
“We’re urging people to band together and keep up neighbourly spirits this winter, especially with neighbours who are vulnerable or alone, whether that’s by having a friendly chat over the garden fence, checking in to see if they need food or medicine dropping off or by keeping in touch online.”