Limited use of technology is one of the many challenges the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) has faced as they repurposed their support in a matter of days in response to the lockdown ordered by the Government.
Service manager for the RVS in Kirklees, Fazila Aswat, said the Connecting Communities service, had been forced to step down many of its previous services aimed at tackling loneliness in older people, such as lunch clubs and pilates classes, and replace them with shopping support and befriending calls.
In the first week of lockdown, 308 isolated older people were helped.
Join our new coronavirus Facebook group for the latest confirmed news and advice as soon as we get it www.facebook.com/groups/yorkshirecoronavirusMs Aswat said: “Just a couple of weeks before the crisis began we were given £600 raised by a group of Huddersfield University students, which enabled us to help people who were really struggling.
“Some pensioners are cash only, and it’s part of their routine to draw out their pensions from the Post Office weekly and use it for their shopping - something they suddenly couldn’t do, and many didn’t even have cards to make payments. Being able to provide them with some staple items has made all the difference.”
It has also faced another challenge - a quarter of its usual workforce have had to step down as they fall into the over 70s category and now having to self isolate.
Many are now taking on roles as telephone befrienders - something the RVS has always had “huge demand” and a waiting list for.
Ms Aswat said: “Some people may not need help with shopping, but having someone at the end of the phone reminds them that humanity cares, and their emotional well being is looked after.
“It is incredible how quickly we were able to move, but galvanising our volunteers wasn’t hard as everyone was so eager to help.
“Beyond Kirklees, the third sector has been able to respond much quicker than other organisations as we already have the systems in place.”
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