From the start of the pandemic all of our group activities had to stop and we could no longer accommodate elderly people visiting us in the office, or allow our staff to visit them in their homes. The need to provide the help and support to vulnerable and isolated people during the current crisis was evident.
From early on we discovered that people were turning to us in desperate need of help. Self-isolation for our elderly clientele brought many problems, particularly those without immediate family support, so very rapidly we received requests for help with shopping, collecting and delivering prescriptions, posting letters and parcels, signposting to local services or simply talking. All contact has been by telephone as very few of our service users are email users.
We had to very quickly adapt our working practices to provide such services and as our existing volunteers were all, in themselves, amongst the most vulnerable we very quickly needed to identify and recruit a body of volunteers, induct them and equip them with appropriate guidance and PPE.
We immediately started to liaise with Voluntary Action Leicester who have been invaluable to our organisation in supporting us to identify and recruit volunteers by supplying contact details for people kindly offering their help. The success of this exercise resulted in us having a bank of 32 local volunteers on whom we could call to go out to the individuals and provide the help they require.
Once our team of volunteers were in place, we were able to publicise our services by printing over 10000 leaflets and putting one through every letterbox in the area.
In April 2020 we made contact with the social Prescriber at the local Health Centre, who asked if he could pass on our details to those that he was identifying as needing a friend to talk to. With the team of volunteers already on board we were able to react to this quickly, and it has resulted in a befriending service that currently has over 70 clients.
After noticing the effect on the wellbeing of many people caused by isolation, we quickly decided to put together a magazine which is both informative and interactive. This has developed into a community Magazine and has enabled people to provide their own ideas including poetry, stories, gardening, recipes etc. Again with the help of our volunteers we are able to hand deliver the majority of the magazines and are currently delivering to over 200 people.
More recently with the vaccine program in place, we have been providing lifts to covid vaccination centres using our minibus, adapted for disabled use, to offer lifts for people who have no other means of transport. Our adapted working practices have resulted in the need to increase our office time and the number of hours worked by our current staff.
However we would not have managed to deliver these services without our wonderful team of volunteers, many of whom are still offering their support despite returning to work.
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If you’re inspired to get involved in volunteering, you can find out more on our VAL Volunteering website.
If you’re a voluntary, community or social enterprise organisation who wants more support with recruiting or managing volunteers, you can get in touch with us via:
0116 257 5050