In the 10th of a series of articles looking at the work of Age UK Redbridge, Barking and Havering, Janet West explains how they have risen to the challenge of coronavirus
We have worked hard keeping in contact with our service users over the last three months during these difficult times. For most of our services, such as advice and information, visiting, befriending, the Wanstead Activity Centre and falls prevention, we switched from face to face support to providing over 8,000 telephone befriending and over 1,000 welfare check calls, helping to identify immediate needs and putting in place timely support. We have dealt with a wide range of enquiries, from helping someone get a working fridge to replacing hearing aid batteries.
Additionally, our Di’s Diamonds service users have benefited from their own dedicated Facebook page and some online activities set up by the coordinators using Zoom. Indeed, technology has been more and more important in reaching out to people during these troubled times and this has had a hugely beneficial impact on our older residents. Additionally, Brenda, who runs our popular art classes from the Cherry Tree in Wanstead, has been offering support by phone and also opportunities for students to access her art class videos online.
Of course, not all of our service users have access to the internet, and for them, a regular friendly phone call has been crucial to their wellbeing. Having someone to talk to when you are feeling low and unable to go out has been warmly received. We have set up a shopping and prescription collection service for those in need and have been truly humbled with the offers of help we have received from the public.
Our staff have been working from home, which has presented many challenges, but I’m glad to say that, thanks to their dedication, we have managed to overcome these! Our phone lines are still being answered as the calls are diverted to staff at home to deal with and we are now in the process of preparing our offices for a hopeful return in July. Our Wanstead Activity Centre may need to stay closed for a little longer and services within the centre may need to change when we do reopen.
Finally, a story from James, one of our service users in receipt of the telephone befriending service and Ellie, the volunteer who has been ringing him every week, even reached the BBC and was featured on Radio 4. It’s great to know that our services are really helping people when they need it most. You can listen to Ellie and James’ story on our Facebook page.
If you would like to know more about our services, refer someone you know for support or join in our activities, please get in touch.