In this blog, Lucy, one of our Service Delivery Officers, tells us about an amazing COVID-19 volunteer response service that’s been set up in Eastbourne to support the most vulnerable members of the community there. They are called; ‘East Sussex Volunteers’ (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“As soon as the government movement restrictions and isolation guidelines were introduced I realised that many of the residents who live in the two Eastbourne Retirement Living Schemes that I manage, would be in need of some additional support.
Many needed food and essential things picking up for them (for example; prescription collections - where the pharmacy didn’t have the facility to deliver). Their private cleaners, used by several residents for their own cleaning, washing and bin emptying chores had to stop their visits and, as many residents either don’t have any next of kin, are housebound or vulnerable it quickly became obvious, that I wasn’t going to be able to do everything that they needed doing, all by myself.
I was also worried about the wellbeing of the few residents I know in my schemes who often feel quite isolated at the best of times. I was all too well aware that a long period of self-isolation would pose further concerns and a great deal of upset for them.
So, after a few unanswered appeals for support, I took to social media and found, on Facebook, the East Sussex Volunteers group. From their page introduction I was reassured to read that any volunteers that they take on, who needed to be in direct contact with any recipient (albeit at a social distance), would have had to be DBS cleared prior to being appointed. I eagerly emailed them to explain my situation and role and that I knew of a number of residents with different needs based over two properties. Due to the urgency of my request you can imagine my joy to hear the ‘ping’ of a new message as their reply flew into my inbox after just 30 minutes.
The email was from the groups Admin, and fellow volunteer; Nikki who asked me to list what needs the residents had and where they were located. She then set about matching each resident up with appropriate, designated volunteers.
By the time I had obtained requests (and permission from each resident who needed additional help, to forward on their contact details) I had complied a long list for Nikki:
Five residents required shopping
Two needed prescriptions collecting on a weekly basis
Two needed their washing to be done each week
Four needed their rubbish taken out and put into the bins
And, three needed additional daily welfare calls – just to chat to someone to break up their day.
By the end of the day I received a long reply from Nikki to tell me which volunteer had been paired up with each resident, along with their contact details. Nikki sent emails to each volunteer asking them to contact me before contacting their pairing, to introduce themselves - so that I could provide them with any additional information that they might need.
This vital support system is now in full flight, servicing our residents and it’s running like a dream!
The three ladies, who receive the additional 30 minute afternoon welfare calls from volunteers each day, are really enjoying their conversations and being able to chat to someone new. Also, whilst carrying out my usual welfare calls to the residents recently, I heard that one resident, a gentleman of 85, had unfortunately suffered a fall the day before our call and had only just come back from A&E that morning. He was under strict instructions from the medical staff, to stay indoors and rest up but he explained that he had no food whatsoever in the flat and asked if I could help. I contacted Nikki straight away and within two hours he had a full fridge of food - delivered by Nikki herself! This particular resident has since been paired up with a regular volunteer from the group to continue his support and he told me that he feels ‘very special’ to have been paired up with the volunteer he has - the former MP of Eastbourne, Mr Stephen Lloyd.
Stephen contacted me later to let me know that he had been in touch with the resident again to arrange another shop for him and that they’d just had a really lovely, enjoyable chat.”